It’s fashionable to say that the Golden Globes are irrelevant when it comes to the Oscar race. Indeed, the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. is a collective of roughly 90 international journalists often off on their own trip and sometimes influenced by swag and access. But what they do have is a primetime network show in the thick of the awards season, providing both a marketing opportunity for films in play and a chance for prospective Oscar winners to dust off their acceptance speeches.
Moreover, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences made the Globes more relevant this year by pushing the voting window for the Oscars entirely into January for the first time in more than a decade. For years, the Golden Globes were held after phase-one voting closed, but this year the show aired just as Academy members sat with ballots in hand, with nearly a week of voting ahead of them.
With that in mind, do you think Meryl Streep, angling for a spot in a hotly contested race for best actress, might have locked in a bunch of votes after her stirring Cecil B. DeMille Award acceptance speech? Or do you think Isabelle Huppert’s surprising drama actress win and lovely remarks might have endeared her to voters trying to decide how to make sense of the category?
And what about the voters who might have left that “Nocturnal Animals” screener lingering at the bottom of the stack? Do you think Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s stunning victory for supporting actor might convince them to give it a look? Bet on it.
The “La La Land” sweep, meanwhile, could come across to some as overkill — or, conversely, it might indicate a bandwagon that voters don’t want to miss. But it was an incredible display of strength in the race at precisely the right moment.
So disregard the impact of the Golden Globes if you must, but know that this year, more than ever, they are in a position to influence the Oscars. It’s not a 2+2=4 equation. It’s not that the HFPA’s choices are bound to be repeated by the Academy. But the Globes provided a unique opportunity, and certain contenders seized it.
On the TV side, Emmy voting is still months away, and similar to the Oscars, the Globes’ track record for predicting the more prestigious Television Academy awards has been notoriously spotty. The HFPA, after all, prides itself on recognizing the hottest new shows — witness the prizes in the past few years for “Mozart in the Jungle” and “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” — often at the expense of truly praiseworthy shows.
Yet somehow the Globes may have done both this year: singling out the best of a crowded season — perhaps one of the most competitive in years — while setting a course for the Emmys.
That the HFPA would anoint Netflix’s “The Crown” as best drama is a no-brainer, to be sure — it has every element that would appeal to voters, with its formula of British history, international cast, and prestige drama allure. The series’ destiny as Emmy frontrunner is now cemented (though it will certainly face competition from NBC’s ever-more-popular family drama “This Is Us”). “The Crown” star Claire Foy should bank on frequent-flier miles for more trips to the U.S.
HBO’s “Westworld” will have to contend with the genre label that bedeviled “Game of Thrones” for years. And with politics dominating the headlines, the stage is set for the ever-prescient “Homeland” to make an awards-season comeback. With reigning champ “Game of Thrones” out of the running, the field is wide open for a new winner. And we have yet to see what’s in store from FX’s “Taboo” and Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale,” which recently screened for critics and may prove to be contenders.
“Atlanta” was one of the season’s most critically praised series, so its win wasn’t entirely unexpected — but given the Globes’ reputation for mercurialness, it was far from a sure thing. Singling out Donald Glover’s paean to black life in Atlanta by awarding it best comedy and actor shows that the HFPA is paying attention, and there’s no question the Emmys will follow suit. The half-hour field is perhaps one of the most crowded: Witness “Better Things,” “Insecure,” “Black-ish,” “Silicon Valley,” “One Mississippi,” “Search Party.” And we haven’t seen the final season of “Girls” or the latest from the political masterminds at “Veep.”
The Globes also offered gratifying TV wins on the acting front, making history with Tracee Ellis Ross’ win — and recognizing a show in its third season, defying the tradition of always celebrating the new.
Of course, it wouldn’t be the Globes without some head-scratchers: Billy Bob Thornton, who previously won for “Fargo,” added to his trophy collection for “Goliath” — a fine lawyer show, but not at the top of anyone’s list. Ditto the acting sweep for “The Night Manager” over “The People v. O.J. Simpson” (save for Sarah Paulson).
But because of the awards calendar, we’ll be looking at a new crop of limited series come Emmy time, and the competition looks to be fierce. The migration of talent from the drama camp to the limited-series space has been a stampede: From HBO’s “The Young Pope” and “Big Little Lies” to Showtime’s “Guerrilla” and “Twin Peaks” to FX’s “Feud” and “Fargo,” we’ll have an A-list roster of nominees to consider.
But if there’s one takeaway from the Golden Globes, it’s this: Viola Davis needs to make every introduction.