Distinct votes limit effect of 'Argo,' 'Les Miserables' wins

The Golden Globes don’t dictate how Oscar voters should choose, any more than Abraham Lincoln would influence Django Freeman.

Members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences might see all and hear all — but they act independently. So Sunday’s eyebrow-raising Golden Globes results, rather than influencing the Academy Awards, could simply be symptomatic of the schizophrenia running through this year’s awards season.

Instead of settling into a pair of de facto leaders, as has been the case over the past three years with “The Hurt Locker” and “Avatar” (2009-10), “The King’s Speech” and “The Social Network” (2010-11) and “The Artist” and “The Descendants” (2011-12), the 2012-13 awards season continues on its splintered path.

After riding high following last Thursday’s Oscar nominations, “Life of Pi,” “Lincoln” and “Silver Linings Playbook” encountered renewed feelings of insecurity over Globes weekend. But the flames of “Argo” and “Les Miserables” reignited after omissions from the directing category dimmed them.

Dogged by controversy, “Zero Dark Thirty” seems to be on its own journey, though the zany flow of the season hardly guarantees we’ve heard the last from that film.

The danger lies in taking discrete events and deciding they are tea leaves to be interpreted.

In an Oscar race that could turn on just a small number of votes, for example, one could argue that Sunday’s Globes kudofest served as a rallying cry (not to mention free advertising) that will kickstart a two-minute drill for “Argo,” whose popularity among both critics and mainstream auds made it a non-polarizing contender in the first place.

At the same time, there’s little reason to think that the simple act of winning Golden Globes for director and drama picture will change the fate of “Argo” at the Oscars, where it is already eliminated from the directing race, essentially leaving it with a ranking of no higher than No. 6 in the best-picture competition because no film has won best picture without a directing nom since 1989.

Logging ‘Lincoln’ votes

The simplest explanation is the most logical: AMPAS voters value the film differently than HFPA voters did. They liked the movie, but they liked others more.

The biggest winner at the Globes, with three trophies, was “Les Miserables.” But the film doesn’t even have Oscar nominations in writing or directing, which hampers its hopes for a resurgence at the Dolby Theater.

Then there’s the movie tops in nominations from both the Academy and the HFPA, “Lincoln,” which settled at the Globes for (in its case) the bare minimum — a lead drama acting nod for Daniel Day-Lewis — and nothing else except a stunning appearance by President Bill Clinton to present the film. The moment came across as either affirmational aplomb or desperate overkill, though, depending on where at the Beverly Hilton you were sitting.

But after handing “Lincoln” nominations in virtually every category of note, will Academy members suddenly rewrite their Gettysburg Address because of what four score and seven foreign journalists proclaimed? The same could be asked of “Silver Linings Playbook,” the only other 2012 film with picture, director, screenplay and acting nominations, whose Globes weekend followed the same form.

Helmer race is key

Four of the past 20 picture winners at the Globes from 2002-11 — “Chicago,” “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King,” “Slumdog Millionaire” and “The Artist” — won an Oscar for best picture, and none did so without an Oscar directing nom.

If there’s a warning sign for “Lincoln” and “Silver Linings,” it’s that one organization could love a pic at the nominations stage but leave it when the final voting comes due. If it happened once, it could happen twice.

But that was always possible. For all the love bestowed upon “Argo” and “Les Miserables” at the Globes, nothing’s really changed in the Oscar competition. Having lots of nominations doesn’t guarantee anything, but it sure beats the alternative.

The gamechanger in the Oscar race, if there is to be one, is yet to come. From Jan. 26 through Feb. 2, we’ll learn the winners of the Producers Guild, Screen Actors Guild and Directors Guild Awards — three organizations with major footprints within AMPAS. Should those orgs line up behind one film, before final Oscar balloting begins Feb. 8, that might test the Academy’s inclination to go its own way.

However, we could just as easily end up with different winners from every organization. And, in fact, there would probably be no more appropriate outcome for 2012’s highly diverse and competitive year in film.

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