The Golden Globes are history - which means it's time to start handicapping the Oscar race in earnest.
Judging by Sunday's awards show, A Beautiful Mind should earn itself a passel of Oscar nominations when the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announces its Oscar finalists for 2001 films Feb. 12. That was obvious going in, however: Director Ron Howard's film, loosely based on the life of Nobel laureate John Forbes Nash Jr., was one of the best-reviewed films of the year. Winning four Globes, more than any other film, will only help its chances for Oscar glory.
Baz Luhrmann's Moulin Rouge, whose three awards earned it runner-up status among Globe-winning films. Critical opinion on that film has been almost evenly divided between those who love it and those who hate it - one critic for Time magazine picked it as among the year's best films, while the other chose it as the absolute worst. Such a polarization usually does not bode well for a film's Oscar chances, but its performance at the Globes could sway some academy voters.
And then there's the potentially ignoble fate awaiting Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, which came away from the Globes empty-handed and may very well suffer the same fate on Oscar night when it comes to the major awards. The academy has a long history of nominating epic sci-fi and fantasy films but not actually awarding them the best picture Oscar (think A Clockwork Orange, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Star Wars). Jackson and his film deserve better (although it's hard to weep too copiously for a film that has earned nearly $250 million at the box office).
Not that the Globes are an automatic predictor of Oscar success. Last year, the Foreign Press honored Ang Lee (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) as best director, while the academy went with Stephen Soderbergh (Traffic). Among actors, Globes went to Tom Hanks (Cast Away) and George Clooney (O Brother, Where Art Thou?); Russell Crowe (Gladiator) got the Oscar. Likewise, among supporting actresses, the Globes (Kate Hudson, Almost Famous) and Oscars (Marcia Gay Harden, Pollack) parted company.
The Foreign Press also dilutes its award by splitting it in two, awarding one Globe for the best drama, another for the best comedy or musical (the same split is made for the actor and actress awards, though not for director, screenplay, supporting actor or supporting actress). As is frequently the case, Almost Famous, last year's winner for best musical or comedy, did not make the Oscar cut; neither did the winner for 1999, Toy Story 2.
The argument can also be made that the Globes really shouldn't have so much influence when it comes to how academy members think and vote. Until recently, the Globes had a reputation that was strictly second-rate, and their history betrays more than the occasional hint of an award that has been unduly influenced by PR machines or other, even-less-discreet factors (how else to explain how Pia Zadora once won for being the most promising new actor?).
Plus, there are only around 100 voting members of the Foreign Press Association, far fewer than the 5,739-member pool drawn on by the academy. Why should such a small group wield such a heavy influence? Other groups, such as the National Society of Film Critics, also give out awards, but nobody consults them to see who's going to win the Oscar.
Then again, perhaps the Globes' influence shouldn't be a mystery at all. Because they are awarded before academy members are required to send in nomination ballots, they help to spotlight performances that may have been forgotten. And academy members who are really lazy and haven't seen most of the year's films may decide to take the Globes' word for a picture's or performance's quality.
The Globes are, after all, televised, something few of the other awards presentations can claim. That alone gives them visibility, and as far as credibility goes ... hey, at least the Foreign Press didn't honor Julia Roberts for 2001, as the People's Choice Awards did earlier this month. Roberts is a lovely woman, a fantastic actress and a movie star without peer, but her work for the year just past - The Mexican, America's Sweethearts and Ocean's Eleven - will hardly go down in movie lore.
Still, the afterglow of the Golden Globes is as good an excuse as any to attempt some serious prognostication of the Oscar nominees. Here are some things to consider in the major categories.
Picture: A Beautiful Mind is and always has been a lock; likewise, The Lord of the Rings and In the Bedroom (which also was nominated among dramatic films) should make the cut. Moulin Rouge could sneak in, but a better bet may be Mulholland Drive, director David Lynch's twisted look at the Hollywood dream factory; although such against-the-mainstream fare doesn't usually get academy attention, Lynch has been nominated twice before. Other possibilities include Robert Altman's Gosford Park and, if the academy is feeling frisky, Shrek. And don't be surprised if the French-language Amelie shows up; audiences love it, and critics can't seem to praise it enough.
Actress: Both Globe winners, Sissy Spacek (In the Bedroom) and Nicole Kidman (Moulin Rouge) are likely Oscar candidates. Also look for Halle Berry (Monster's Ball), Audrey Tautou for Amelie and Judi Dench for Iris. Dark-horse candidates include Tilda Swinton for The Deep End, Renee Zellweger for Bridget Jones's Diary and Naomi Watts for Mulholland Drive.
Actor: Russell Crowe won the Globe for A Beautiful Mind, and he might just repeat when it comes time to give out the Oscars. Academy voters may not be willing to move him into Tom Hanks territory by giving him two Oscars in a row, however, which could open the door for Billy Bob Thornton in Monster's Ball or Will Smith in Ali. Other possibilities include Tom Wilkinson (In the Bedroom), Denzel Washington (Training Day), Sean Penn (I Am Sam) and - if the academy can remember back to January 2001 - Jack Nicholson (The Pledge). Two long-shot candidates: John Cameron Mitchell for Hedwig & The Angry Inch and Brian Cox for L.I.E.
Director: The academy has been ignoring Ron Howard his entire career; the least he deserves this year is a nomination. If he doesn't get one, expect calls for a Congressional investigation. Globe winner Altman should get a nod, too, and may very well go in as the sentimental favorite, especially if Gosford Park is up for Best Picture. Other names to look for: Todd Field (In the Bedroom), Jackson (Lord of the Rings), Lynch (Mulholland Drive), Baz Luhrmann (Moulin Rouge) and Ridley Scott (Black Hawk Down).