La La Land is singing a happy tune heading into awards season.
The film also earned acting nominations for its two electric leads, Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, who fill out a formidable acting slate that includes long-predicted hopefuls like Natalie Portman (Jackie), Casey Affleck (Manchester By the Sea), Viola Davis (Fences) and Mahershala Ali (Moonlight), along with a few big surprises: Jonah Hill (War Dogs), Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Nocturnal Animals) and Simon Helberg (Florence Foster Jenkins).
But what bearing do the nominations have on Hollywood’s top prize — the Oscars — and how is the 2017 race shaping up?
The Globes’ golden picks continue to illuminate a playing field that has La La Land singing and dancing all over it: Damien Chazelle’s romantic, whimsical ode to Los Angeles is proving to be the film to beat this awards season, having nabbed the best picture prize at last night’s Critics’ Choice Awards, as well as the New York Film Critics Circle’s top award. The film also made the cut for AFI’s top 10 movies of 2016.
The Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which votes on the Golden Globes, also anointed three other strong contenders: the emotional coming-of-age film Moonlight, which earned six nominations, including best motion picture drama and best supporting actress (Naomie Harris); the wrenching drama Manchester By the Sea, which appears, at the moment, to have locked down Affleck as a best actor front-runner; and the inspiring real-life story Lion, which nabbed four nods including best drama, best supporting actress (Nicole Kidman) and best supporting actor (Dev Patel).
One other film that got an especially good boost: under-the-radar thriller Hell or High Water, which nabbed nods for best motion picture drama, best supporting actor (Jeff Bridges) and best screenplay.
The Globes also solidified Mel Gibson’s comeback, lauding his gritty World War II opus Hacksaw Ridge, starring Andrew Garfield, with three nominations — including a best director nod for Gibson himself.
But while the Globes famously pile on the flash — and train the spotlight on deserving contenders — they’re by no means an accurate bellwether of Oscars’ final victors. For one thing, the Globes split up their best picture and lead acting races into drama and comedy/musical categories, thereby allowing more nominees to sneak in — contenders who might otherwise be far off Oscars’ radar.
(Case in point: In a year that might feature stronger acting contenders in drama than comedy/musical, deserving actors will likely get shut out in one race, while lower-profile performances will get recognized in an attempt to fill a category’s nominations quota.)
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Over the last few years, the Globes has also had a hit-or-miss track record when it comes to predicting eventual Oscar winners. In the past, a Globe win almost certainly signaled an Oscar lock: From 1992-1997, the Golden Globes accurately foreshadowed every Best Actor Oscar winner, from Al Pacino in Scent of a Woman to Jack Nicholson in As Good as It Gets.
But in the last two years, it failed to crown the film that would eventual win an Academy Award for Best Picture, despite having two categories with which to do it.
In 2015, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association named Boyhood its best drama and The Grand Budapest Hotel its best musical/comedy — both would eventually lose to Birdman. And earlier this year, both The Revenant and The Martian emerged triumphant at the Globes — but Spotlight would go on to nab the Oscars’ top prize.
All said, this year’s Globe nominations have provided a telling road map for how the Oscar race might run — expect La La Land to keep singing, watch out for Moonlight to shine, and don’t count out a strong Mel Gibson rebound. But as history has proven time and again — see: Crash, Shakespeare in Love, Roberto Benigni — the finish line, come Oscar night, is still anybody’s to claim.