When Aaron Taylor-Johnson won Best Supporting Actor for Nocturnal Animals over the perceived front-runner Mahershala Ali (who has won nearly 30 critics awards for his role), it set in motion a series of surprises, broken records, and history-making wins at last night’s Golden Globe Awards. Taylor-Johnson’s nomination was already a shock on its own but to win? Historically, that puts him in a phenomenal position to earn an Oscar nomination on January 24th. The last time a supporting actor winner at the Golden Globes didn’t get an Oscar nomination was Richard Benjamin for 1975’s The Sunshine Boys. Here’s the catch, though; the film, which also won the Globe for Best Film – Comedy or Musical, put George Burns and Walter Matthau in the Lead category and, amazingly, they both won. But the Oscars saw things differently and while Matthau was nominated for Best Actor at the Academy Awards George Burns was put in Supporting and he won. So what does all of that mean for Aaron Taylor-Johnson? It means that while he has a bit of history on his side it comes with the caveat of that year. While this has his raised profile (which happened right in the middle of the Oscar nomination voting period) and he could even receive a BAFTA nomination tomorrow, he’s certainly not locked but he should be taken seriously.
The moment La La Land won Original Score and Original Song (many had predicted one or the other) it was being set up for a full sweep. But when the Screenplay category came and it didn’t go to Moonlight or Manchester by the Sea, the deal was done. La La Land, with its seven wins, is now the most-rewarded film in the 74-year history of the Golden Globes, besting the six award haul of 1975’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Now, what most pundits will instantly chime in and say is, ‘Well, critics/journalists aren’t Oscar voters,’ and yes, that is true. But the film was already the frontrunner for the Best Picture Oscar going into last night’s show and this simply solidified that the film is likely to be the first real sweep since 2008’s Slumdog Millionaire. If you needed more likely evidence of that you need to look no further than Meryl Streep’s incredible, rapturous Cecil B. DeMille speech. No, she wasn’t lauding La La Land but celebrating and protecting the rights and importance of art and artists (as Golden Globe winner Viola Davis did in her intro of Streep). It wasn’t simply a condemnation of President-Elect Donald Trump (although it was a scathing takedown), it was a call to arms against hatred and Hollywood will want to protect its own, especially a film about coming to Tinseltown to make it as a big star. Speaking of that screenplay win though, the last musical to win a screenplay award and Best Picture was 1958’s Gigi. That film picked up seven other Oscars. Also, the last film to win BFCA and Golden Globe Screenplay and lose the Oscar screenplay was 2009’s Up in the Air.
So what does this mean for Moonlight? While it may seem like quite an uphill battle to topple La La Land it’s not entirely out of the realm of possibility. Just a few years ago, 12 Years a Slave was the most-nominated film going into the 2013 Golden Globes race and managed just one win award. It just happened to be the top award of the night – Best Motion Picture Drama. In another eerie similarity, Mahershala Ali’s loss at the Globes mirrors Lupita Nyong’o that year, losing to Jennifer Lawrence in American Hustle. Nyong’o went on to win the Best Supporting Actress Oscar and the film won Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay. There is definitely a scenario that exists where Moonlight can nearly replicate that. It’s virtually locked for Adapted Screenplay since it was moved there by the Academy. That moves it out of the way of La La Land and Manchester by the Sea. Ali, if he picks up SAG and BAFTA (if he’s nominated there) can then win at the Oscars. Best Picture is definitely the tougher get but if Moonlight wins the SAG ensemble (where La La Land isn’t even nominated) at the end of the month (which I’m predicting it will) we could absolutely see it happen. Obviously, there is still PGA and DGA to consider but after last year’s chaos of three different films winning the top three guilds we know that anything can happen. But, even in that mess, it was SAG ensemble winner Spotlight that came out on top.
Drama Best Actress gave us the other big shock of the night when Isabelle Huppert (Elle) beat Natalie Portman in Jackie. Coming after her film won Foreign Language Film (where it’s not eligible at the Oscars) at first felt like, ‘Oh, ok, Huppert isn’t winning but this is the way to reward her.’ It gave director Paul Verhoeven a chance to laud Huppert for her performance and her bravery. But the HFPA wasn’t simply done there. Their love of Huppert and this performance took her all the way to stage. Huppert now has the critics’ trifecta of New York/Los Angeles/National Society of Film Critics plus the Globe for Drama. Sally Hawkins did this as well (for Happy-Go-Lucky) but her Globe win was in Comedy and she stands as the actress ever to do that and not be Oscar nominated. No actress in history has won the trifecta plus the Drama Globe and not been Oscar nominated. Despite not being nominated for SAG and ineligible at BAFTA, this still puts Huppert in an extraordinary position. That said, it also makes Emma Stone (also a Best Actress winner last night in the Comedy or Musical side) one step closer to SAG, BAFTA and Oscar wins over Natalie Portman (Jackie), who was supposed to be formidable competition. Huppert is also the first woman to win this award for a foreign language film performance since Liv Ullman in 1972’s The Emigrants.
The acting wins for Casey Affleck and Viola Davis were expected and just serve to light the path to their eventual Oscar victories. Denzel Washington could still give Affleck good chase, especially if he triumphs at SAG where he’s never won.
The next two weeks of guilds and parties will also tell us quite a bit about who’s still serious, who needs to step up there game and who can rest easy a bit.