When the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences abruptly moved the 2020 Academy Awards ceremony up to early February, panic set in among those other awards shows that often serve as bellweathers for Oscar’s grande finale. Stung by record low ratings for the 2018 telecast, hosted for the second year in a row by Jimmy Kimmel, an Academy Governor told me, “We have to do something.” Thinking they were losing their audience by being the last in a long line of ceremonies, where often we see the same winners and hear variations on the same speeches, AMPAS suddenly withdrew the already announced date of February 23rd, 2020 and instead declared February 9th, 2020—a full two weeks earlier than normal (the show will move back to the end of February in 2021 and 2022). That was problematic for BAFTA—perhaps the most prestigious of the pre-Oscar shows. But working with Motion Picture Academy officials, BAFTA moved to February 2nd (Super Bowl be damned), just one week ahead of the Academy Awards. Since final Oscar ballots are due only two days later, the impact of BAFTA wins will be smaller than usual (but then, they haven’t agreed on a Best Picture since 12 Years a Slave in 2013).
The Golden Globes, Critics’ Choice, and SAG Awards have not significantly adjusted their broadcast dates with this Academy move, but they are giving nominees little room to breathe, with successive Sunday dates of January 5th, 12th, and 19th, and there are a whole bunch of guild shows in their midst too. SAG had originally planned on January 26th, but that put them directly in The Grammys’ line of fire, and anything earlier would be in the heart of the holiday season (also a no-no). So crunched is this season, anything later would run smack into the BAFTAs, the Super Bowl, and Oscar territory.
For those precursor awards, gauging their winners’ influence on Oscar voters is a tougher call than ever, since, due to the earlier date, the Academy will conduct nomination voting in a very condensed window—January 2nd to 7th—just five days. That means ballots are due only two days after the Globes, and well ahead of Critics’ Choice and SAG. Of course, those key precursor groups still may have influence on their nomination choices, because those will be announced before the holidays, when Academy members will likely still be busy cramming in as many screeners as possible before their deadline. A Globe, CCA or SAG nomination could push a screener to the top of that pile, or that list of downloads.
I actually happen to think the nominations that come from these three groups could be more important in such a short season. Oscar voters have little time to get to all these movies as it is, and need help in separating the must-sees from the rest of the pack. Studios have already been slow to get contenders into Academy voters’ hands, so there will be a lot of last-minute viewing, and the heavily-advertised endorsement of nominees in the three televised precursor awards ceremonies can’t hurt.
In terms of past track records, it can be a mixed bag. Looking at last year, the Globes fared better than any of the others, with a particularly high average mirroring eventual Oscar winners. Keeping in mind that they split drama and comedy/musical into two separate categories, the Globes’ two big Motion Picture winners were Green Book (comedy/musical) and Bohemian Rhapsody (drama). The former went on to win three Oscars, including Best Picture, Screenplay, and Supporting Actor for Mahershala Ali, just like the Globes, while the latter won four Oscars, including Rami Malek’s Best Actor, and a Best Picture nomination. The Favourite’s Olivia Colman and Regina King were also big Globes and Oscar winners, as was Alfonso Cuarón for Director and Foreign Film. “Shallow” from A Star Is Born won Best Song, and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse was Best Animated Film. The Globes inevitably had influence on the Oscars.
However, SAG and Critics’ Choice–both usually more reliable in matching Oscar–were a bit off last year with a track record of 50% or less. It is all cyclical because the year before, the Critics’ Choice matched Oscar winners 90% of the time, and is often in line with Academy tastes.
Top contenders for the Globes’ Motion Picture (drama) this time around are the Netflix trio of The Irishman, Marriage Story, and The Two Popes, with all three quite realistically landing those nominations. Universal’s upcoming Sam Mendes WWI drama 1917 is a good bet, even sight unseen as of this writing. Honey Boy, The Report, Ford v Ferrari, Little Women, Dark Waters, Just Mercy, and A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood are all probably near the top of the pack. As for box office behemoth Joker, it is anyone’s guess where that one may land with the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, but starting with its big win in Venice, it has been very strong with international critics and audiences, so it stands a decent enough chance of an appearance on Globes night. And can Downton Abbey escape its TV roots to land big time in the Globes movie contest?
On the comedy/musical side of things, Quentin Tarantino’s much-loved Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood joins Jojo Rabbit, Rocketman, Dolemite Is My Name, Hustlers, Booksmart, and Knives Out. Universal’s Cats, derided by some after its first trailer dropped, will get a big push for Globes love from Universal, and could be a factor here as well, but is another unknown quantity. Of course, some of these films are stretching the definition of ‘comedy’, but as many an awards strategist keeps telling me, if The Martian can do it, anyone can. There are elements of comedy in a lot of the dramas, like The Two Popes and Marriage Story, and conversely, there is a lot of drama in Rocketman, so go figure.
SAG’s Outstanding Cast award is often thought of as their version of Oscar’s Best Picture, but as last year’s results proved, they rarely are in sync with one another. Last year Black Panther took it, while Oscar Best Picture winner Green Book wasn’t even nominated. For this year’s lineup, look for The Irishman, Marriage Story, Parasite, Bombshell, Knives Out, Little Women, Avengers: Endgame, Ford v Ferrari, 1917, and Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood as likely possibilities.
The categories to watch at all three shows will be the wildly competitive and star-filled Best Actor and Supporting Actor races. In the Lead Actor contest, Adam Driver, Joaquin Phoenix, Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonathan Pryce, Robert De Niro, Adam Sandler, Eddie Murphy, Antonio Banderas, Christian Bale, Paul Walter Hauser, Mark Ruffalo, Robert Pattinson, Taron Egerton, Michael B. Jordan and more make this a Solomon’s Choice if ever there was one. And for Supporting it may be even worse, with Brad Pitt, Anthony Hopkins, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, Tom Hanks, Shia LaBeouf, Jamie Foxx, Willem Dafoe, Tracy Letts, John Lithgow, Timothée Chalamet, and many others vying for very few slots. Will the Globes, SAG, and Critics’ Choice help narrow the field and apply some clarity?
All three of these shows also hand out numerous awards in the TV field, with the Globes usually going for the newest and freshest names around, and SAG often lagging behind the Emmys. Critics’ Choice is usually throwing in the edgiest names as contenders. However, with the Emmys recently surprisingly awarding new blood like Fleabag, Killing Eve’s Jodie Comer, Pose’s Billy Porter, When They See Us star Jharrel Jerome and other breakouts, these groups will have their work cut out to remain even half as hip. Of course, getting cool choices didn’t exactly help the Emmy ratings this year, and the next ceremony is a long way off, so, unlike the influence on the Oscars, gauging the effect of Globe, SAG, and CCA wins on the Emmys is murky at best. And with the Globes now regularly besting Emmy in the ratings game, does it really matter anyway?