Golden Globes 2011 Reactions …

brent johnson looks at one of the biggest award shows of the year …

A statistic got stuck in my brain shortly after The Social Network was named the best drama of the year at last night’s Golden Globes:

Of the last six films to win Best Picture (Drama) at the Globes, only one has gone on to take the top statuette at the Oscars. That was Slumdog Millionaire two years ago.

This awards season, one of the main focuses has been the battle between The Social Network and The King’s Speech. Which will take home the coveted Academy Award for Best Picture: David Fincher’s riveting, affecting Facebook drama or Tom Hooper’s charming, touching ode to a British king and his struggle with a stutter? Network has been the critics’ darling so far, wracking up prizes from journalist groups. But Speech is the kind of film Oscar loves: historical, human, British.

Network’s win last night immediately made me think it’s the clear Oscar front-runner. And it might be.

But that statistic keeps nagging me …

For years, the Globes have been thought of as the great Oscar prognosticator. And often, it’s been true. Dozens of Globe winners go on to become Oscar Winners. The Godfather. Rocky. Ordinary People. Amadeus. Forrest Gump. The English Patient. Gladiator.

But in the last few years? Globe winners have included The Aviator. Brokeback Mountain. Babel. Atonement. Avatar. All became Oscar runners-up.

The streak has led many critics to question whether the Globes really predict Oscar at all. For one thing, the Globes are voted on by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association — a collection of journalists who often favor flashy, star-studded films or who simply like picking surprises. The Academy Awards, meanwhile, are voted on by members of a collection of actors, actresses, directors, writers, producers and technicians — who sometimes see the craft of filmmaking from a more nuanced, insider point of view. Plus, politics play a big role: Which actor has never won before? Who kisses the most arse?

That’s why it’s sometimes smarter to look to the awards given out by the guilds — unions for actors, directors, writers, producers, etc. — to better determine what the Academy is thinking. For example, True Grit lost some steam recently when the Coen Brothers’ were left out of the Best Director’s race at the Directors Guild Awards. David O. Russell was nominated for The Fighter instead. Thus, it’s likely Russell will score the Oscar nod, too. The Screen Actors Guild is even better at predicting the Oscars — because the actors’ branch is the biggest branch of the Academy. Whoever is nominated there has a strong shot at the Oscars, as well.

This year, the question is: Will The Social Network dominate the Academy Awards, even if critics don’t vote? Or will The King’s Speech climb ahead because the actors’ branch loved the grandeur and poise of the film’s three leading actors? We’ll find out next month.

Until then, here are my other thoughts on last night’s Globes. (Again, I will only talk about the film winners, since I don’t watch enough TV to wax about it.)

BEST PICTURE (COMEDY)
The Kids Are All Right
This category was a complete waste this year, but it did do something valuable: It establishes Kids as a major contender for one of the 10 Best Picture slots at the Oscars. Good to see it. More films like this— acting-heavy, smallish, with an underscored message — should get major awards-season attention.

BEST ACTOR (DRAMA)
Colin Firth, The King’s Speech
As wonderful as Jesse Eisenberg is in The Social Network, I now can’t imagine Firth not winning his first Academy Award. And he deserves it. He’s brilliant in Speech.

BEST ACTRESS (DRAMA)
Natalie Portman, The Black Swan
Critics all over the place are saying the Oscar could very well go to Annette Bening for The Kids Are All Right. She’s a mighty actress who has never won before. But more and more, I have a feeling Portman will take it for her gripping, emotional, toe-crushing performance in Swan. It just calls for such dedication — like DeNiro in Raging Bull. But with ballet slippers instead of boxing gloves.

BEST ACTOR (COMEDY)
Paul Giamatti, Barney’s Version
Another lame category. But at least it went to Giamatti, an underrated actor I truly, truly like.

BEST ACTRESS (COMEDY)
Annette Bening, The Kids Are All Right
No surprise here. Now it’s just a question if she’ll win next month.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Christian Bale, The Fighter
He deserves it for giving the most memorable, hard-hitting performance of the year. The Oscar is his to lose now. (By the way, the scene where he sings The Bee Gees’ ‘I Started A Joke’ to calm his crying mother after she found him at a crack house? So good.)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Melissa Leo, The Fighter
I was a tad surprised here. Many critics and bloggers have been saying her co-star, Amy Adams, is gaining steam for her against-type role as a tough New England barmaid. But Leo has the momentum now. And I think
she’s better in the film anyway — playing an overbearing, clueless mother with vigor.

BEST DIRECTOR
David Fincher, The Social Network
Even if the Academy doesn’t give Best Picture to Network next month, it’s likely Fincher will still win Best Director. He turns the origin of Facebook into a tightly wound, masterfully paced thriller.

BEST SCREENPLAY
Aaron Sorkin, The Social Network
I’m sorry. Say all you want about Inception being awesome and far-out and mind-bending. Sorkin’s screenplay is sharp, witty, funny, culturally relevant — and in love with words. His words dance, stab, shimmer and slap. It’s by far the best piece of film writing this year — if not the past five or six.

OTHER THOUGHTS:

-I love Ricky Gervais. And his comedy last night as host was as cutting and clever as ever. But did he take it too far? He seemed to piss off a lot of people. Tim Allen especially. It was almost uncomfortable to watch. Then again, that same discomfort is what makes The Office so masterful.

-Speaking of Sorkin’s ability with words, his speech was the best of the night — especially when he implored everyone to look at the talented women in the room, and then how proud he is of his daughter for choosing to be smart like them. It was a nice moment in a world where Jersey Shore exists.