The Golden Globes as Oscar’s crystal ball

Golden Globes. Sunday night. Imagine this scenario at the Beverly Hilton:

Sometime after co-hosts Tina Fey and Amy Poehler engage in a little wordplay about gravity and their formal wear and belt out a parody of some song from “Mary Poppins” (maybe “I Love to Laugh” with a dance line of call girls from “The Wolf of Wall Street” high-kicking in the background), Robert Redford wins the Globe for lead actor drama. The Hollywood icon takes to the stage and delivers a beautiful, moving speech. The television cameras pan the ballroom. Everyone’s a little verklempt. Even studio chief Harvey Weinstein’s choking back tears, though probably for all the wrong reasons.

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Redford’s heartfelt acceptance speech reminds everyone why they love and admire him. Oscar momentum is clearly on his side. The academy is this shy of engraving his name on the trophy.


Then, Thursday morning, the Motion Picture Academy announces its nominees for lead actor: Bruce Dern, Leonardo DiCaprio, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Tom Hanks and Matthew McConaughey.

No Redford. No Oscar. Just plenty of bad headlines sporting some pun from Redford’s movie “All Is Lost.”

Can’t happen, you say. Probably not, even though academy members have displayed a strange aversion to watching “All Is Lost” the last few months, making it the least-seen film featuring a lead actor contender. That’s a problem, one that can be overcome, provided enough voters love Redford and/or his superb work in the film.

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Still, the Beverly Hilton ballroom may be the one place to see Redford, who was overlooked by the Screen Actors Guild and the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) this awards season. What else should you be watching closely at the Globes on Sunday night? A few elements of intrigue:

Will “12 Years a Slave” become the movie in “trouble”? There’s no overlap between the 85 journalists in the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. and the 6,028 academy members voting for the Oscars. The only thing that the Globes can do to influence that event is provide a stage for a contender to give a great speech that lodges itself in Oscar voters’ brains and sticks there until they mark their final ballots. Last year, the Globes show came after Oscar nominations had been announced, and when “snubbed” Ben Affleck won director for “Argo,” it seemed to start the ball rolling for that movie to eventually take the best picture Oscar.

This year, if Globes voters follow their penchant for spectacle (“Avatar” instead of “The Hurt Locker”) and go with “Gravity” over “12 Years a Slave” for best picture drama, it could be a small signifier, particularly if “Gravity” director Alfonso Cuarón wins as well. That scenario would raise the stakes for the Producers Guild of America honors on Jan. 19. Should “Gravity” win there too, you’d see Oscar pundits pulling out their erasers and moving Cuarón’s visually stunning outer space survival story to the top of their lists, particularly because 17 of the past 24 PGA winners have gone on to win the academy’s best picture, including the past six in a row. “12 Years a Slave” needs to take the PGA or the Globe award to avoid being viewed as an early also-ran.

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Will “American Hustle” continue its ascendancy? The Globes’ best comedy/musical picture category has long been filled out by runts of the awards-season litter, subpar movies such as “The Tourist,” “Burlesque,” “Red” and “Alice in Wonderland” (all four in one glorious year!) whose HFPA junkets, one suspected, must have compensated for the shortcomings seen on screen. This year, though, there were a number of hybrid comedies, including “Her,” “Inside Llewyn Davis” and “Nebraska,” sardonic films that tackled such weighty subjects as aging, human connection and the suffering of the artist. Not exactly LOL stuff. Moe, Larry and Curly would have felt as out of place in these films as that cat on the subway in “Llewyn Davis,” though the boys probably would have enjoyed the hijinks at Stratton Oakmont in “The Wolf of Wall Street,” particularly during those dwarf-tossing parties. Nyuk, nyuk, nyuk!

For all the considerable merit on display in those nominated movies, the Globe will likely go to David O. Russell’s con artist romp of reinvention, “American Hustle.” And with its A-list cast — Jennifer Lawrence, Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper and Amy Adams — it’s easy to imagine “Hustle” taking the Screen Actors Guild film ensemble award Jan. 18 as well. Should Russell’s movie win again the next night at the PGA Awards, it’ll be “Argo” all over again. With the way it hits that sweet spot between the serious history lesson contained in “12 Years a Slave” and the popcorn thrills of “Gravity,” “American Hustle” would start to feel like the inevitable best picture Oscar winner.

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While on the subject of inescapable winners, can anyone stop Cate Blanchett? No. Though the Globes voters, like everyone else, knows that no one, this side of Tom Hanks, gives a better speech than Sandra Bullock.


Will Redford have company in the Globe-winning snub club? There could be as many as three Globe winners sidelined by the academy. HFPA favorite Leonardo DiCaprio, a nine-time Globe nominee, is the favorite to win lead actor comedy/musical for his high-wire hedonist in “The Wolf of Wall Street.” If Redford wins an Oscar nomination, DiCaprio probably won’t. Or they could both be bypassed in favor of Forest Whitaker (“The Butler”) or Joaquin Phoenix (“Her”).

Four-time Globes nominee Adams, meanwhile, appears poised to win her first Globe for her steely, sexy turn in “American Hustle.” For months, it has been widely assumed that the Oscar actress slate would be comprised entirely from past winners — Blanchett, Bullock, Emma Thompson, Judi Dench and Meryl Streep. It’s possible that lineup sticks. However, the BAFTA snub of Streep, coupled with the mixed reviews given “August: Osage County,” could indicate that the 17-time nominee might be given the year off. Not to worry, though. Streep has three movies coming out later in 2014, including one (“The Homesman”) in which she plays an insane woman and another (“Into the Woods”) where she sings. Resistance is futile.

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