Golden Globes: What '12 Years a Slave' victory means for Oscar race -- ANALYSIS

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A kind of hopelessness had set in at the Golden Globe viewing party hosted by Fox on Sunday night. The mood only got worse and worse as the show went on. The overall sense going into the ceremony was that members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association were not major fans of Fox Searchlight’s harrowing 12 Years a Slave. 

Still, there were a few chances … all of them lost. Almost.

Lupita Nyong’o’s supporting actress chance fell to American Hustle’s Jennifer Lawrence. The screenplay nod for John Ridley — Spike Jonze took that for Her. Michael Fassbender lost supporting actor to Jared Leto for Dallas Buyers Club, and even the original score award skipped over Hans Zimmer for All Is Lost‘s Alex Ebert.

Then the final two devastating losses: Gravity‘s Alfonso Cuaron bested Steve McQueen for director, and Dallas Buyers Club‘s Matthew McConaughey defeated Chiwetel Ejiofor for Best Actor.

There’s no crossover between the Globe voters of the HFPA and those who cast ballots for the Academy Awards, and whatever nominees will be announced this Thursday in the Oscar race were sealed last Wednesday when first-round voting closed. But the Globes do have a kind of psychological influence over the race. A win is a win, especially on a live national broadcast, which can drive millions of new viewers to the theater.

Losing again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again was crushing for the 12 Years a Slave crew. By the time the final award was presented — Best Drama — many at the Fox event were only half paying attention. They had passed the other stages of grief and  settled on “acceptance.”

Then, the unthinkable — Johnny Depp opened the final envelope and the title he read reversed the whole night: “12 Years a Slave.”

The first roar from the crowd was one of shock. The cheers came later. It felt like a true Rocky moment. (More Rocky II, actually, the one where the victory isn’t just symbolic.) The Golden Globes managed to simultaneously make 12 Years a Slave the underdog and the winner.

The film will surely get a Best Picture nomination on Thursday. That was never in question. But amid all the burgeoning passion for American Hustle and the abiding admiration for the technical achievements of Gravity, the Globes win shows that even a voting body that has sometimes grumbled about the disturbing intensity of 12 Years a Slave — as some Academy members have done — can’t deny the deep emotional power of its story.

12 Years a Slave needed some adrenaline, and got it — at literally the last moment.

So what patterns can we glean from the other film honors presented Sunday?

WITHER MERYL

Earlier in the week, Meryl Streep pulled a kind of Tonya Harding move on Emma Thompson at the National Board of Review dinner. Streep, who is campaigning this season for August: Osage County, agreed to present the best actress award to Thompson for Saving Mr. Banks, a film about Walt Disney’s combative relationship with Mary Poppins author P.L. Travers. Streep’s willingness to do this was seen as a shockingly magnanimous gesture, considering she is competing against Thompson in the same category this season.

Then in her remarks, Streep savaged the legacy of Walt Disney — remarks that were at first widely cheered for their boldness, and then later painfully and thoroughly debunked. It happened just as fears within the August: Osage County camp reached their peak that Streep — who has a record 17 Oscar nominations, and three wins — was falling out of the Best Actress race amid broad ambivalence toward the film.

Listen, all y’all, was it sabotage? Only Streep knows for sure. But her comedy/musical actress defeat at the Globes to American Hustle‘s Amy Adams — the actress most likely to take her slot in the Academy race — shows Streep has reason to be nervous and desperate. Thompson didn’t win either, of course, but her place on the nominee list is much more assured, along with Judi Dench for Philomena, and Cate Blanchett for Blue Jasmine, and Sandra Bullock for Gravity.

Blanchett won the Globe for dramatic actress, and remains the frontrunner for the Best Actress Oscar.

REDFORD SINKS

Another iconic performer in danger of dropping off the Oscar list is Robert Redford for the seafaring survival drama All Is Lost, and although he was rumored to have a strong shot at the Globe win for dramatic actor, he lost the trophy to Matthew McConaughey for Dallas Buyers Club, which has been out for months, but is just now seeing a groundswell of support build around it.  A charming and funny speech by McConaughey also helped his cause. Meanwhile, Redford — who hasn’t been out much on the campaign trail — missed out on a key chance to make an impression.

Leonardo DiCaprio won the comedy/musical actor award, which doesn’t necessarily mean much for the Oscar race — he’s a latecomer, and The Wolf of Wall Street is an extremely divisive movie among Academy members. But if anyone can take Redford’s spot, it might be him. The Globes ceremony might be considered an Oscar wake-up call for Redford, but there’s not much he can do about it now. With nominations voting closed, he’s already either in or out.

SUPPORTING PERFORMERS

Jared Leto’s depiction of a charismatic transgender prostitute in Dallas Buyers Club made him the frontrunner for the supporting actor Oscar, and after his win at the Globes he still is. That’s the thing about being a front-runner — you’re expected to win everything. The race only starts to change if you don’t.

Jennifer Lawrence’s Globe might create the impression she is also well ahead of the pack in the supporting actress race. She stands a good shot, even though there’s a lot of enthusiasm in the Academy for Nyong’o. If Lawrence keeps up the momentum, she could easily find herself with back to back Academy wins after claiming Best Actress last year for Silver Linings Playbook.

EW’s PRIZEFIGHTER SCORE CARD

Earlier in the week, I published a list of predictions for the Globes — and in this game I think it’s always nice to stay accountable. So how’d I do?

Out of 14 movie categories, I got nine correct. But out of the five I missed, I correctly listed the eventual winner as the “Possible Surprise” in four of them. I was completely wrong only in one category — original score.

In the Best Film races, I got American Hustle right for musical/comedy, but in drama thought Gravity would win over 12 Years a Slave.

Given how inscrutable the HFPA can be, I’ll take it.

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