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The Oscar Watcher’s Guide to the Golden Globes

Is award-season momentum a thing? We forecast how Sunday’s results for award hopefuls like Damien Chazelle, Viola Davis, and Casey Affleck could have ramifications on February’s Academy Awards.

(Getty Images/Ringer illustration)
(Getty Images/Ringer illustration)

The Golden Globes are this Sunday, and we can expect … the usual. It’ll be a livelier affair than the Oscars. The winners will be drunker. And the speeches will be much the same. The Golden Globes aren’t 100 percent accurate predictors for the Academy Awards that follow next month, but they’re consistent enough to make awards season straightforward and inconsistent enough to keep things interesting.

This year, in some categories, it could get really interesting. Moonlight could somehow sweep (I would like that a lot). Natalie Portman could somehow squeak one out for Jackie (I would not much care for that). Here is a look at which Golden Globe categories to pay most attention to in the run-up to the Academy Awards.

The Best Picture front-runners will win.

There’s no reason to think that Damien Chazelle’s La La Land, which has built steam as a Best Picture front-runner for both the Globes and the Oscars, won’t win Best Picture (Musical/Comedy) on Sunday night. Its closest competition, Oscar-wise, is probably Moonlight, which has been winning a healthy number of critics’ group awards. But this is the Golden Globes. The sunny, jazzy L.A. musical isn’t up against Moonlight for Best Picture; it’s up against Deadpool. (Moonlight is nominated in the Drama category.) How much of La La Land’s Oscar momentum is going to be thanks to lack of competition at the Globes? The film will appear to sweep things when it’s not up against any real competition.

Damien Chazelle will triumph.

The bigger question is whether Moonlight can topple La La Land in the director category. Can Barry Jenkins, on his second feature, beat Chazelle, who’s on his third, and whose last movie (Whiplash) made him a familiar figure in the Academy Award conversation? (The movie won three Oscars, including those for Editing and Supporting Actor.) I don’t think so. At the Oscars, the director category is often paired with Best Picture, unless the two favorites are substantially different (a handsome technical accomplishment versus a well-written, actorly powerhouse). Moonlight and La La Land are different — but not that different. When Chazelle wins here, it’s our sign that La La Land will go on to win it all at the Oscars.

Root for Annette Bening while you have a chance.

Thankfully, the division between Comedy/Musical and Drama for the top acting categories at the Globes means you get to have two favorites. In this case, in Comedy/Musical, Annette Bening seems like a safe bet for her very wise, warm turn in 20th Century Women. It’s the best performance of her career — the kind that you knew she had in her after The Kids Are All Right (2010), for which she was nominated for both an Oscar (which she lost) and a Golden Globe (which she won). Once again, I don’t think it’s enough to propel her to the Oscar win; that’ll probably go to Isabelle Huppert, for Elle, who’s likely to win Best Actress (Drama) on Sunday thanks to the momentum of a fabulous year. If she doesn’t, count on Bening.

Mahershala Ali, Casey Affleck, and Viola Davis are all locks.

These are simple. Whatever happens here, expect the Oscars to follow suit. And what happens here has already been happening elsewhere.

Ali and Affleck have swept everything else. That may be surprising in Affleck’s case, due to recently reignited controversy over sexual assault lawsuits he settled in 2010. I suspect that won’t change anything; Hollywood could very well think that, because the suits were settled, it’s old news.

Davis seems like a sure thing, too, because she’s having such a moment. Her performance in Fences is astonishing. Accordingly, she’s everywhere. She just got a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, she’s nailing her interviews (which matters: Awards season is really just Hollywood’s version of election season), and she has historical momentum from two other tremendous Oscar-nominated performances (Doubt, The Help). Plus — she gives the best acceptance speeches. Everyone wants to hear her speeches.

Kenneth Lonergan has a better chance to win a Globe than an Oscar.

Manchester by the Sea, written by the famed playwright and accomplished filmmaker Lonergan, has been pegged as an Oscar front-runner for Best Picture, alongside Moonlight and La La Land. I suspect, in that category, that the competition will be steep. Lonergan’s skill and reputation as a writer might carry him Sunday night in the Best Screenplay category, however, and I’m rooting for an Oscars repeat. I think it can happen. He’s up against Chazelle, for La La Land, but I’m not sure anyone who’s seen Chazelle’s movie would say its strength is the script, really. And among the other nominees, Moonlight probably stands out more, in the awards conversation, as a feat of direction (despite its rich source material), Hell or High Water is probably too familiar, and why is Nocturnal Animals here?

The musical will win for music.

You can’t spell “musical” without “music” — I don’t think voters give these categories much thought, so the logic does end up looking this literal. A congratulations is likely due, in this case, for La La Land — but Original Song could maybe sneak over to Lin-Manuel Miranda, for Moana. It’s low-key an interesting category for that reason. Miranda is a towering figure on Broadway, but how much sway does he have in Hollywood? Part of me thinks he’s a Randy Newman in the making (oh God), but the other part of me feels like … no. The implications for the Oscars aren’t clear — three of the past six winners of Best Original Song at the Golden Globes went on to win the Oscar, and in many years the nominees are drastically different. On the other hand, it’s La La Land vs. the Hamilton guy. We’ll likely see them square off again.