With television ratings up to record levels — 27 million viewers tuned in last year — the Golden Globes is on its way to becoming something more than just a good weather report for the Oscar season.
Still, who could argue that the Globes’ popularity has come in large part because its choices so often match up with Oscar’s?
“It’s still one of the three or four major awards … that you get on the road to Oscar,” a studio marketing exec says. “The timing has changed a little bit and their voting period and nominations don’t overlap anymore with the Oscars, but that seal of approval helps films get momentum.”
The perception of the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn.’s Golden Globes as a key Oscar barometer starts with the picture race, where the Globe winner in either the drama or comedy/musical category has taken the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Science’s pic prize 17 out of the last 20 years. In fact, in the last five awards seasons, the Globes and the Oscars have matched up every time.
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Over the last 10 years, the only mismatch was in 1996, when the Academy went for “Braveheart,” while the HFPA picked “Sense and Sensibility” for drama and “Babe” for comedy/musical. In its 61 years, the HFPA’s picks have had approximately a 77% correlation with Oscar’s picture winner.
A Globe-Oscar correlation also exists — and seems to be becoming more firm — in important categories like lead actress. Historically, the winner of one of the Globes’ two actress categories follows up shortly with an Oscar 66% of the time.
However, this sync-up has occurred four out of the last five years. The only difference of opinion occurred three years ago, when the Academy selected Halle Berry for “Monster’s Ball,” while the HFPA went with Sissy Spacek (“In the Bedroom”) for drama and Nicole Kidman (“Moulin Rouge”) in comedy/musical.
The fact that the HFPA breaks up film categories across drama and comedy/musical lines has some bearing on its congruity with Oscar. Association members choose two winners in areas like pic and lead thesps, which means that if one doesn’t end up matching the Academy’s ultimate choice, the other often will.
This split has opened the door to winners who never sniffed Oscar (Twiggy, anyone?), just as Globe awards such as New Star of the Year — abandoned in the mid-1980s — allowed a similarly hollow made-for-TV cavalcade.
Still, the two-category dynamic doesn’t explain the parallel thinking of late in supporting actor/actress — an area in which the HFPA merges comedy and drama into one trophy.
Historically, the Globes have had only about a 50% correlation with the Oscars in supporting actor. But the two kudofests have matched up four out of past five years. They last differed in 1999, when the HFPA went with Tom Cruise for “Magnolia,” while the Oscar went to Mi-chael Caine for “The Cider House Rules.”
The recent synchronicity in this area is even more uncanny, given that – in a typical year – several actors in the sup-porting race at the Globes aren’t even nominated come Oscar time, as has been the case recently with Caine (“Little Voice”) and Gene Hackman (“The Royal Tenenbaums”).
In the supporting actress category, the Globes’ honorees traditionally haven’t matched Oscar well — only 38% of the time, in fact. Over the last 10 years, however, the Globes have kept a 60% correlation to Oscar in this category, backing such future Oscar winners as Jennifer Connelly, Angelina Jolie and Mira Sorvino.
The industry’s general perception that the HFPA has backed the right horses in recent years has been a key factor in the growing credibility of the Globes, says Lions Gate distribution prexy Tom Ortenberg.
“If you take a look at this year’s slate, there’s a lot of terrific films and performances that the HFPA has recognized,” he notes. “I think they should be proud of their selection. As a distributor, certainly we didn’t get everything we were hoping for, but it’s hard to argue (with their choices).”
But while being seen as a bellwether has boosted the Globes’ rep, HFPA voters don’t match Oscar across all categories. Only once in the last five years has the winner of either of the Globes’ lead actor categories gone on to win an Oscar that year, too — Sean Penn won both prizes last year for “Mystic River.” (Historically, however, the Globes and Oscars match up in the lead actor category 72% of the time.)
Meanwhile, the Directors Guild of America’s kudofest remains unchallenged as a forecaster of Oscar’s helmer category. The Globes’ choice for director matches the Academy’s only about half the time. Martin Scorsese, Robert Altman, Ang Lee and Milos Forman have been among the directors in recent years to collect a Globe but to go Oscar less weeks later.
While the announcement of the Golden Globe noms is generally considered the official start of the entertainment awards season, HFPA officials certainly don’t play up any ties to Oscar.
“I think there’s no getting away from the fact that on many occasions the Oscar results have mirrored the Golden Globe results, but we regard the two awards as being totally different,” HFPA board member Lawrie Masterson says. “We certainly never refer to the Golden Globes as being an Oscar predictor or an Oscar bellwether. It’s something that other people have started saying with great regularity, but it doesn’t come from us. We think our awards stand alone.”
This assessment is shared on the studio level. “Personally, I don’t think that the Globes or anybody else should be judged on how they correlate to the Oscars, but rather as to the quality of their selection,” Ortenberg says.
(Entertainment reporter Sharon Knolle is a contributor to Variety, In Touch and Life & Style Weekly.)