We learned very little from the 72nd annual Golden Globes ceremony on Sunday night, which is to take nothing away from the joy of the occasion and its proud championing of independent cinema.
The Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) kept three titans of the independent space happy, bestowing a trio of awards on each of IFC Films, Fox Searchlight and Sony Pictures Classics (SPC).
Privately, IFC Films will rightly feel its audacious undertaking Boyhood is in the driving seat for top honours at the Academy Awards after earning best drama, best director for Richard Linklater and best supporting actress for Patricia Arquette.
All three wins were expected and I would be surprised if this triple whammy (and surely a fourth for Sandra Adair’s editing) is not repeated on February 22 when the Academy hosts its 87th Oscar jamboree.
Only Selma, a near-shutout at the Globes, would on paper appear to be a strong rival for best picture.
The film is building up a head of steam Stateside both critically and at the box office. Culturally and historically Ava DuVernay’s tale speaks to Americans and arouses within Academy voters that familiar sense of duty to act as purgers of Hollywood’s collective guilt over dark episodes in the country’s past.
But first let’s see whom the Academy nominates on Thursday (January 15).
Searchlight earned three awards at the Globes – best comedy or musical actor Michael Keaton for Birdman and said film’s Alejandro González Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris and Armando Bo for screenplay, plus best comedy or musical for Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel.
SPC was rewarded for a typically strong portfolio, taking best foreign language feature for Leviathan, best dramatic actress for Julianne Moore in Still Alice and best supporting actor for JK Simmons in Whiplash.
Again, all three are front-runners for Academy Awards success, although Andrey Zvyagintsev’s Russian ordeal has a magnificent rival in Pawel Pawlikowski’s Ida from neighbouring Poland.
There was no joy on the night for The Imitation Game or Foxcatcher. Don’t rule out the former’s Oscar chances with Harvey Weinstein thumping the tub, although its best chance at this stage may be for Alexandre Desplat’s score. Foxcatcher looks like a long shot for anything, sadly. It is a formidable, icy monument but far too unsettling for recognition.
Keaton is many people’s bet to prevail at the Oscars and he would deserve the prize. However Eddie Redmayne’s triumph in the HFPA’s best dramatic actor category for Focus Features’ The Theory Of Everything confirms the British youngster’s arrival among the elite and sets up a two-horse race that is hard to call.
Many of Sunday’s winners look like they are headed for Oscar glory, but this year such dovetailing is a coincidence and it would be overlooking the intricacies of the awards process to hail the HFPA’s choices as a perennial harbinger of Oscar success.
Globes nominees tend to cover most of the field and Academy voters had already cast their final nominations ballots by the time the HFPA’s awards show came around.
Campaign strategists will make a lot of capital from their Globes winners and it would be unreasonable to suggest their noisy efforts will not permeate at least the thinking of undecided Oscar voters by the time the latter mail their final ballots.
However on the whole the two voting groups are very distinct. Whereas the Globes spring from the prejudices of 90-or-so non-US journalists, the Oscars reflect the bias of 6,000-odd Academy members, 90% of whom are American.
Culturally these groups are vastly different, which is why a Selma or even an American Sniper could sneak into the Academy’s thinking. Angelina Jolie may well receive some love for Unbroken, which, like American Sniper, the HFPA completely ignored.
Whatever the outcome, the overlap this year between the Globes winners and several of the likely Oscar front-runners reflects the ongoing strength of the independent space.
In these times of endless franchises and vacuous studio blockbusters, the triumph of films made for way, way less than $150m that demand acclaim and turn a profit at the box office in the process was perhaps the biggest success of Sunday night.