Of all major showbiz awards, the Golden Globes can be the most befuddling to forecast: How to get inside the heads of 81 elusive, mysterious members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn.? Nonetheless, clear voting patterns emerge from studying past wins. Here are some handy-dandy tips:
THE BIG SCREEN
The Oscar factor: Comparisons to the Oscars can be tricky because the Globes have two separate groups of film awards -- drama and comedy/musical -- but voters like to try to get a jump on the Academy Awards with their drama votes. So, if juggernauts like " No Country for Old Men," Forest Whitaker for "The Last King of Scotland" and Helen Mirren for "The Queen" are blasting through the early film critics' awards and seem Oscar-bound, it's a pretty safe train to hop for the Globes. Over the last 64 years, the academy has rubber-stamped one of the Globes' two best picture awards 42 times. Only a few of those were in the musical/comedy genre ("Chicago," "Shakespeare in Love").
This year: Most Oscarologists believe Oscar's best picture winner will be either "Slumdog Millionaire" or "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button." "Button" may have an edge at the Globes because it's a longer movie (159 minutes versus 120) with bigger scope. Globers adore epics so much that they've preferred them to the eventual Oscar best picture champs over the last four years: "Atonement" (2007), "Babel" (2006), "Brokeback Mountain" (2005) and "The Aviator" (2004) compared with Oscar champs "No Country for Old Men," "The Departed," "Crash" and "Million Dollar Baby," respectively.
Music vs. laughs: In the Globes race for best musical/comedy picture, a successful tuner usually trumps comedy -- "Dreamgirls" (2007), "Chicago" (2003), "Moulin Rouge!" (2002) and "Evita" (1997). Even if a nominee is mostly narrative but has lots of music, that still counts ("Walk the Line," 2006). If two are nominated, like "Sweeney Todd" and "Hairspray" last year, go for the more artsy ("Sweeney").
This year: "Mamma Mia!" can't lose. Stars of the triumphant tuners also usually catch a ride in the acting categories as did Johnny Depp with "Sweeney Todd" last year. In the drama races, bet on the Oscar favorites, with one caveat. At the Oscars, the parade of lead actress winners often looks like a beauty pageant. Globe voters love to embrace mature actresses. Thus Sissy Spacek ("In the Bedroom") beat eventual Oscar champ Halle Berry ("Monster's Ball") in 2001. Also, Globers don't slap male heartthrobs. Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise and Leonardo DiCaprio have Globes but no Oscars.
On the other hand: Remember, focusing on the hottest new stars is the chief job of Globe voters, who are journalists reporting on the current Hollywood scene for newspapers in such places as Stockholm and Cairo. In past years, they gave early, crucial pushes to eventual Oscar champs Hilary Swank ("Boys Don't Cry") and Charlize Theron ("Monster").
This year: The comedy/musical races are easy to forecast: Meryl Streep ("Mamma Mia!") and Javier Bardem ( "Vicky Cristina Barcelona"). Drama races are wide open head-scratchers.
THE SMALL SCREEN
Here is where most of the hottest new stars shine. Another strong bias in these categories: cable TV shows.
The shows: Unlike the Emmys, the Globes aren't afraid to skew young ("Party of Five" won best drama series of 1995) or quirky ("The X-Files" won best drama three times at the Globes, never at the Emmys). In the race for best comedy, voters like to get campy in an upscale way: recent champs were " Ugly Betty," "Extras" and "Desperate Housewives" (twice).
This year: HBO's new "True Blood" and "In Treatment" have the best shots for best drama series. Since no new, wacky comedy is nominated, it may be time for voters to play catch-up with " 30 Rock," which hasn't yet won.
The actors: In the acting races, hip veterans in new shows look good: Gabriel Byrne ("In Treatment"), Debra Messing ("The Starter Wife") and Anna Paquin ("True Blood").
This year: There's a surprising lack of hot rookies nominated, probably due to the writers strike derailing many new TV series in development. January Jones scored her first bid in the lead race for " Mad Men," which returns as a nominee in hopes of repeating its victory as best drama series. And Jones is sexy and glam in that way Globe voters like. But Jones is nominated against Anna Paquin, who is all that and more: She won an Oscar ("The Piano"). Trump?
Tom O'Neil writes the Gold Derby blog at TheEnvelope.com.