On the road to Oscar, there are probably no two more high-profile, and thus important, stops than the SAG Awards and the Golden Globes. We probably should also throw in the Critics’ Choice Awards as well, since the latter has an uncanny track record of matching the final Oscar results, and all three of these shows are televised (the CCAs are moving to The CW this year and will follow the Globes by just four days on January 11). The other thing they all have in common is that they combine film and TV prizes and bring together both parts of the industry in that way.
On the television side of the equation, and in terms of their impact on the Emmys, the Globes and Critics’ Choice honors tend to push the envelope and reward whatever is the hot new thing TV-wise. SAG, on the other hand, tends to be two or three beats behind, often picking the same shows year in and year out, although that might be changing on the basis of the Netflix triumphs last year for Stranger Things and The Crown.
Certainly, the deep pockets of Netflix, as well as Amazon—and, for television only, Hulu—are changing the game, and the effect is felt everywhere. In terms of TV, I expect the Globes and CCAs to embrace much of what they have done previously with returnees like the aforementioned winners, along with Westworld, Emmy-winner The Handmaid’s Tale, This Is Us, Better Call Saul, Veep, Black-ish, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Transparent and so on. But in an effort to influence Emmy down the line, don’t be surprised to see another Big Four Network breakout hit like The Good Doctor score key nods, or HBO’s The Deuce, or Netflix’s acclaimed Ozark.
On the comedy side, there could be love for the Emmy-snubbed HBO hit Insecure, the Epix hit Get Shorty, Amazon’s offbeat I Love Dick; and from the Big Four, CBS’ very smart and funny Big Bang Theory spinoff Young Sheldon, at least for its star Iain Armitage. Perhaps, too, NBC’s successful return of Will & Grace.
Of course, more urgently, all eyes will be on these precursor award shows to indicate what the real pulse of the Oscar race will look like.
It isn’t always easy to figure out, especially as it relates to the Globes, because they split their Best Picture awards into separate Drama and Comedy/Musical categories, thereby spreading the love more widely. Similarly, the Critics’ Choice Awards has numerous subcategories like comedy, sci-fi, and action but, unlike the Globes, reserves its greatest award for an overall Best Picture.
In the case of SAG, there is an Outstanding Cast award, which is interpreted as their version of Best Picture—but because it focuses on an ensemble, it doesn’t always compute. Last year’s winner was Hidden Figures, which took the prize over favorites La La Land and Moonlight. All three, though, were eventually nominated in the Oscars’ Best Picture category.
Looking at the all-important Globes competition this year, it would appear to signal a wide-open race in both of its marquee Picture categories, something that appears likely for the Oscars as well, as nothing has firmly broken through to lead the pack. Leading the charge will be Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk on the Drama side, and Universal’s Get Out in Comedy/Musical, even though I am not sure I am comfortable calling the latter horror/thriller movie a comedy. That is where the studio has positioned this low-budget Blumhouse smash. But this goes against public statements from its writer-director Jordan Peele, who disagreed with the comedy designation, even facetiously calling it a “documentary” to further make his point about its serious nature.
Of course, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association prides itself on being the final arbiter. Certainly Get Out perhaps uncomfortably qualifies as a bitingly clever, but very dark comedy in some aspects, so assuming this is where it lands, it takes on front-runner status. But Globe voters who got pounded for nominating and then selecting the decidedly unfunny The Martian a couple of years ago might not want to drift back into that kind of controversy. It will be interesting to watch what happens as Get Out, no matter how you categorize it, has been on a roll this nascent awards season.
This kind of recognition for a movie that opened last February is unusual, and with July release Dunkirk on top of pundit predictions as a nomination lock in Drama, it upends the common wisdom that you have to be released in the fall to be able to play in the awards sandbox. So far 2017 is proving a different model is doable as well. For Drama, other strong contenders for the Globes, as well as the CCAs, are Call Me by Your Name, The Shape of Water, Steven Spielberg’s The Post, Darkest Hour (which is kind of the flip side of Dunkirk), Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, The Florida Project, Molly’s Game, War for the Planet of the Apes (helped into the game with a big push from Fox), Logan and perhaps Paul Thomas Anderson’s Phantom Thread.
Netflix remains an unknown, particularly at the Oscars, but is likely to get a warm reception at some of the earlier awards shindigs for Dee Rees’ powerful Mudbound. SAG in particular had no problem at all with Netflix’s first big foray into the Best Picture waters two years ago with Beasts of No Nation, giving it significant attention and awards, so expect Mudbound to be a strong contender, perhaps convincing the Academy it is time to stop looking at Netflix as a threat.
On the Comedy/Musical side of the Globes, in addition to the aforementioned Get Out, you can count for sure on A24’s Lady Bird, which has steadily gained momentum since opening in early November, and looms as a real possibility to take it all for Greta Gerwig’s solo directorial debut. A Globe win in this category for either of these two films can set up a serious Oscar run for Best Picture.
In the ever-changing demographics of the Academy, little indie-like darlings like these films, and recent triumphs like Moonlight, Spotlight, and 12 Years a Slave, have proven it is much easier to break through for the little guy. A sweep through the Globes, CCAs and SAG can obviously be a real plus, even if having a Globe for Comedy/Musical doesn’t appear to carry the same weight as the Drama winner. Last year, La La Land was the dominant movie after its romp through these shows, though it didn’t have the cachet of a Drama win like Moonlight. But the old rule applied, even after Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway mistakenly announced La La Land as Oscar’s Best Picture winner, when in fact it was Moonlight that prevailed.
Other possibilities include the strong Amazon summer hit The Big Sick, Battle of the Sexes, I, Tonya, The Disaster Artist, Downsizing (never count out Alexander Payne), and Victoria & Abdul.
Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver has been submitted in the Globes Comedy/Musical category, not so much as a comedy but more as a musical, because the soundtrack is wall-to-wall pop tunes, mostly with the word “baby” in their lyrics. Not really a musical, but if the HFPA goes along, that is where you will see it. More traditional musicals such as Disney’s Beauty and the Beast and the holiday release of Hugh Jackman’s P.T. Barnum opus, The Greatest Showman—both movies where the actors actually sing—are also strongly in the mix.
What is key about all of these early awards is that their nominations are all prominently advertised during the key period when Academy members are watching their screeners most intently. And this year, both the Globes, which happen on January 7, and the Critics’ Choice Awards, which occur on January 11, take place as Oscar nomination balloting is still going on. In fact, the Globes winners are announced just two days after Oscar voting opens, which gives them the potential to be more influential than usual. We’ll see if those all-important Oscar voters are influenced by any of the early birds.