It was a big evening at the Los Angeles Beverly Hilton Hotel last night, as Hollywood stars and prestige directors packed the banquet hall for the 70th Annual Golden Globe awards, the first major award show of the season. Held by the HPFA (Hollywood Foreign Press Association), the Globes have long stood alongside the Oscars as one of the biggest Hollywood parties of the year. And this year, with the big night following the Oscar nominations for the first time in recent memory, the stakes felt distinctly higher than usual.
Television stars Tina Fey and Amy Poehler were on hand to bring a level of comedy to the event, working through their hosting duties with more off-the-wall laughs and star-mocking jokes than the recent batch of Oscar hosts have been able to muster. The ladies’ lighthearted comedic timing, coupled with memorable acceptance speeches and an awards slate that handily spread the wealth throughout the year’s most popular prestige pictures and TV shows, made this Golden Globes broadcast one of the most entertaining award shows I can ever remember watching. I only hope the Oscars carry the same level of energy and anything-can-happy spontaneity.
Ben Affleck’s historically-driven Argo and Tom Hooper’s musical epic, Les Miserables, were the big winners of the evening, with the former picking up the top two prizes (Best Picture – Drama and Best Director) and the latter stealing trophies for Best Actor – Musical or Comedy (Hugh Jackman), Best Supporting Actress (Anne Hathaway) and Best Picture – Musical or Comedy. Undoubtedly, Affleck and Hooper were feeling a bit vindicated by the strong showing for their passion projects, especially after last week’s Academy Award nominations left them both outside of the Best Director field.
Their victories came largely at the expense of Steven Spielberg’s historical drama Lincoln, which, after scoring 12 Oscar nominations on Thursday, went home with only a single Globe last night—for Daniel Day Lewis in the titular role. Similarly bested was Ang Lee’s visionary adaptation of Yann Martel’s bestselling novel, Life of Pi, which only scrounged a trophy for Best Original Score.
Elsewhere, recent buzz-films like Zero Dark Thirty and Silver Linings Playbook each got on the board in the Best Actress categories (Zero Dark Thirty’s Jessica Chastain was the victor for Drama, while rising star Jennifer Lawrence won in the Comedy/Musical category), setting up nicely for the battle that will play out between them at the Academy Awards. And Jodie Foster, only 50 and already with 47 year of acting experience under her belt, received the Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award (hilariously presented by Robert Downey Jr.) and gave a classy, cryptic and confessional acceptance speech that is already being touted as legendary.
On the television side of things, the awards for dominated by Premium Cable offerings, with nary a network hit in sight. Showtime’s Homeland converted its Emmy success into a showering of Golden Globes love, while HBO’s Girls was clearly the HPFA’s favorite breakout series of the year. And finally, HBO’s success was doubled by Game Change, a made-for-television movie that charts Sarah Palin’s involvement in the 2008 Presidential Election.
But with all of that reported and done, the real question is how much these Globes results could do to change the awards season status quo? I think not much. Despite the continued support Argo has received from nearly every corner of the film industry (it won Critics Choice Awards for Best Picture and Best Director last Thursday), its victory at the Globes is hardly an indicator that it’s headed for a golden night at the Oscars. Despite the wide-ranging belief that the Golden Globes serve as an early barometer for Oscar odds (largely because of the glitz, glamour and scope of the party they take place during), the Hollywood Foreign Press is borderline insignificant, a collective of roughly 100 entertainment journalists with no Academy overlap. To put that in perspective, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences is made up of nearly 6,000 artists and professionals, people whose talents and works span every aspect of filmmaking.
As might be expected from the differences between these two parties, the films they choose as the best of the year don’t always match up: in the past decade, only four Best Picture winners at the Golden Globes went on to seize the top prize at the Oscars (Chicago, The Return of the King, Slumdog Millionaire and last year’s victor, The Artist). Other years, the HPFA have gone for bigger hits (James Cameron’s Avatar) or more critically-adored favorites (The Social Network, Brokeback Mountain) than their Academy counterparts. So while last night’s surprises—Argo’s twin victories or a pair of unexpected awards for Django Unchained (Christoph Waltz won Best Supporting Actor, the night’s first award, while director Quentin Tarantino took home Best Screenplay)—might have made for a terrific, unpredictable awards show, I’m not ready to predict repeat performances at the Oscars just yet.
The events that will put a shape on this awards season, however, are on their way. Both the Producers Guild and the Screen Actors Guild will present their awards the weekend after next, while the Directors Guild will throw their hat into the ring on Feb. 2. If any or all of those groups go for Argo or Affleck, that will pretty much tie up the Best Picture race (while also keeping the director battle completely in the dark). If they opt instead for Spielberg’s Lincoln or David O’Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook (or even for something else: Les Miserables or Zero Dark Thirty, perhaps), then we can expect the Oscars to follow suit. Or maybe they will all go in different directions, paving the way for the most exciting and unpredictable Oscar night in history. Personally? I’d be on board for the last option.