At Sunday’s Golden Globes, the biggest front-runners also are the least likely.
One is Birdman, starring Michael Keaton as a fondly remembered but somewhat faded Hollywood star, playing a version of himself. The other is Richard Linklater’s Boyhood, which follows an unknown Texas kid (Ellar Coltrane) for more than 10 years as he grows into a man before our eyes. Neither seem like the usual Globe contenders — they’re not glossy biopics or message movies — yet they’re leading the competition. Birdman has seven nominations, more than any other movie, while Boyhood has five.
Will these two worthy movies win? Given the often unpredictable Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the mysterious group of journalists who bestow the awards, anything is possible. (Remember when Atonement won over Eastern Promises, Michael Clayton and No Country For Old Men?)
And while the Globes are an imperfect predictor of the Oscars, tonight’s winners will go into the Academy Awards six weeks from now looking that much stronger. A Birdman win seems an easy call, partly because it’s nominated for best comedy or musical, a category that allows the Globes to honor overlooked genres. Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel could contend, but Birdman already has accolades from many other critics’ groups. The tougher call is Boyhood, which is up for best dramatic picture, the Globes’ equivalent of the best-picture Oscar. Boyhood may come across as a small-scale family drama, but its making was a heroic undertaking, filmed for a few days each year with largely the same cast. It’s a decade-spanning epic that not even the most epic-minded directors ever achieved. Could the Globes wave that aside?
They certainly could, and that probably would mean a win for The Imitation Game, which also has five nominations. This compelling film stars Benedict Cumberbatch as British mathematician Alan Turing, whose cryptography work during World War II greatly hastened the Nazis’ defeat and helped birth the modern computer.
If Cumberbatch wins for best dramatic actor, he’ll head into the Oscars with an almost unstoppable momentum. The same goes for best dramatic actress, where Julianne Moore, giving an impeccable performance as an Alzheimer’s victim in Still Alice, seems the clear front-runner.
What all this spells for the Oscars remains to be seen when nominations are announced Thursday. Will Eddie Redmayne sneak in for The Theory of Everything? Will Jennifer Aniston’s surprising nomination for best dramatic actress (Cake) translate into Oscar gold?
Two movies that seemed like awards bait — Angelina Jolie’s World War II drama, Unbroken, and Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper, starring Bradley Cooper as an Iraq War veteran — aren’t in the running at all, though there may be room in the Oscars’ best-picture category, which allows 10 nominees.
For now, the only truly safe prediction is that Globes co-hosts Tina Fey and Amy Poehler will make jokes about tipsy celebrities. And this year, the Sony hacking scandal will also be fair game.
This will be the third year in a row Fey and Poehler have hosted the show, and they’ve said it will also be their final time.