Golden Globe Winners Aren’t a Bellwether of the Oscars, but May Help TV

Peter Farrelly Green Book Golden Globes Win
Paul Drinkwater/NBC

With the 76th annual Golden Globe Awards in the books, there’s an urge to sift through the tea leaves and decipher what it all means, not just for the Oscars, mere weeks away, but also for the Emmys, as the TV awards apparatus begins churning to life this month on its march to midsummer nominations.

The biggest takeaway from the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn.’s film winners was how immune they ultimately were to impassioned criticism of their nominated offerings. Both Bryan Singer’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” and Peter Farrelly’s “Green Book” have come under heavy fire this season. “Rhapsody,” centered on Queen frontman Freddie Mercury, has been knocked for what some critics consider a craven, high-gloss approach to Mercury’s legend. “Green Book,” meanwhile, has been called on the carpet by family members of its own subject, Don Shirley (played by Mahershala Ali), for being an inaccurate account of the pianist’s relationship with bodyguard and driver Tony Vallelonga.

But none of that made a difference to HFPA voters, who went with their hearts on two films they adored. Notably, though, while Farrelly was a gregarious presence onstage Sunday night, Singer was not in attendance, nor was the director’s name uttered in any acceptance speech. When the producers of “Bohemian Rhapsody” headed backstage to address press queries, they refused to answer whether the embattled filmmaker, who was fired from the production and replaced by Dexter Fletcher with weeks left on the schedule, would share in the spoils. That drama is unlikely to go away anytime soon, as the celebrated film continues down the awards path.

What to make of the fate of other contenders? When nominations were announced in December, you could catch a whiff of which movies voters actually liked and which ones left them lukewarm but were nominated lest they seem out of step with the season. “A Star Is Born” qualified, with curious misses in the supporting actor (Sam Elliott) and screenplay races. “Black Panther” did as well, with no recognition outside of best picture save for the music categories. On Sunday, “Star” was surprisingly snubbed except for best song, for “Shallow,” while “Black Panther” came away empty-handed.

Instinctively, awards-watchers will declare that these and other films, like “BlacKkKlansman” (also denied any Globes), now are on the ropes concerning their Oscar hopes. Such pundits would be forgetting, of course, that a group of roughly 90 international journalists is vastly different from an organization comprising some 8,000 industry professionals, as the Academy continues to alter its ranks drastically. It’s a mystery, frankly, how this year’s class of nearly 1,000 new voters might impact the status quo.

Contenders that weren’t even nominated by the HFPA, like “First Reformed” star Ethan Hawke or Damien Chazelle’s “First Man,” are still very much alive, with passion to be harnessed.

So it’s folly to use the HFPA’s list of winners as a crib sheet for the Oscars. What the Golden Globes do accomplish is giving a PR boost for the victors. It’s a chance for Regina King to take the stage and make an impression despite being ignored by SAG-AFTRA for her performance in “If Beale Street Could Talk.” It’s a chance for Rami Malek to charm with a speech that could put him neck and neck with best actor contenders Christian Bale and Bradley Cooper. And it’s a chance for animated hopeful “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” to fully assert itself against a giant like Disney-Pixar.

Oscar voters sit with ballots in hand until Jan. 14. So for those the HFPA awarded this year, it was invaluable TV time at a key moment.

Speaking of TV, the small screen ironically may benefit most from this year’s Globe film winners. There’s plenty of talk these days about the blending of the two mediums, and the emergence of limited-run series with 10 or fewer episodes has allowed performers and producers to effortlessly glide between both. That seems even truer in 2019, as top film award talent could also be next season’s top TV award contenders.

At one of the Globes after-parties, a network executive marveled at HBO’s big win, and he wasn’t talking about “Sharp Objects” star Patricia Clarkson. Rather, it was Ali’s supporting actor nod for “Green Book,” which came just a week before the premiere of “True Detective,” Season 3 — featuring the actor front and center — on HBO. The cable network also has King lined up to star in “Watchmen” later this year.

Over at Netflix, already celebrating a strong night with three TV wins and two on the film side, execs had to also be cheering for Olivia Colman. She won the Globe for her portrayal of Queen Anne in “The Favourite” and will next be seen as Queen Elizabeth II in Season 3 of “The Crown.” And Malek is still best known as Elliot in USA’s “Mr. Robot,” which is expected to return for its fourth and final season this year.

It’s a long way from the days when TV stars aspired to become movie stars but never vice versa. Now it’s a two-way street. During their opening monologue, Globes hosts Andy Samberg and Sandra Oh poked fun at the old Hollywood notion, still common albeit no longer as prevalent, that TV is the inferior medium.

“I am seeing that Jim Carrey is sitting up front tonight in the movie section, even though he’s nominated for a TV show,” Oh said. Quipped Samberg, pointing to the rear of the Beverly Hilton ballroom: “That’s not going to work. I’m so sorry, Jim, but we’re going to have to ask you to vacate the movie section to go sit with the TV folk.”

Carrey, of course, started in TV before moving on to a blockbuster film career. Like many who took that path, he didn’t look back — until Showtime’s “Kidding.” Ditto Michael Douglas, who starred in the series “The Streets of San Francisco” in the 1970s, then turned to film. He later guest starred on TV series and even made the TV film “Behind the Candelabra.” But it wasn’t until Netflix’s “The Kominsky Method,” which earned him a comedy lead actor Globe, that he was ready to return to episodic TV. “I owe all of this to one man out there, Mr. Chuck Lorre,” Douglas said while collecting his prize. Few could have predicted Douglas would one day win a major award by starring in a show from the guy mostly known for raunchy multicamera sitcoms.

It probably shouldn’t be a surprise that the HFPA likes to blur the line between film and TV, as most of its membership writes about both. But trying to find a deeper meaning to the group’s winning TV choices may be a tougher chore. For example, “The Americans” was worthy of its accolades as best drama series. But it’s not like the Globes to award a show in its final season. The HFPA is not overwhelmingly sentimental toward retiring series and fancies itself forward-thinking and the first to crown new ones.

The group also rarely goes for repeat wins but fell hard for “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” star Rachel Brosnahan. Still, the rule held steady in the comedy series category, where “Maisel,” last year’s winner, was bested by “The Kominsky Method.”

That unpredictability defines the Golden Globes, for better and for worse.