A year ago, the Golden Globes brought sharp focus to what ultimately proved to be a predictable Academy Awards season.
This time, the Globes have left the road to the Oscars a fuzzy one.
Potential Oscar front-runners Hilary Swank of the boxing saga “Million Dollar Baby” and Jamie Foxx of the Ray Charles film biography “Ray” came away with lead-acting prizes at Sunday’s Globes.
But the Globes were a split decision for perpetual Oscar also-ran Martin Scorsese, whose Howard Hughes epic “The Aviator” won for best drama, yet missed out on the directing honor, which went to Clint Eastwood for “Million Dollar Baby.”
Globe wins for underdogs Clive Owen and Natalie Portman, co-stars of the sex drama “Closer,” leave the supporting-actor Oscar categories wide open. Morgan Freeman of “Million Dollar Baby” and Cate Blanchett of “The Aviator” had been viewed as more likely favorites.
Add in lead-acting Globes for two other Hollywood veterans, Leonardo DiCaprio as Hughes in “The Aviator” and Annette Bening in the theater farce “Being Julia,” and the Feb. 27 Oscars could be an anything-goes scenario across the board.
The Oscars last year followed the Globes’ lead to the letter. All four acting recipients preceded their Oscar triumphs with Globe wins, while “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” followed its dominant night at the Globes with a clean sweep of its 11 Oscar categories, including best picture and director.
Bening won the musical or comedy actress Globe for “Being Julia,” playing a gleefully vengeful 1930s stage diva. It was the first awards-worthy role Bening has had since “American Beauty” five years ago, when she was the front-runner, but lost the Golden Globe dramatic prize and the best-actress Oscar to underdog Swank for “Boys Don’t Cry.”
Not wanting to jinx her Oscar chances, Bening sidestepped a question backstage at the Globes about what she would wear to the Oscars. “Trick question,” Bening quipped.
Swank, playing a fighter whose life turns tragic, won the dramatic-actress Globe for “Million Dollar Baby.” She downplayed the potential Oscar rematch with Bening.
“I don’t really see it as competition,” Swank said. “Annette’s amazing, and she was so gracious to me five years ago when we were both nominated. She gave me good advice and she was gracious, and she’s an inspiration.
“I think it’s just unfortunate that things are seen as winners and losers, because in the end, the performances all speak for themselves and make everyone, I think, a winner. I’m just honored to have my name mentioned with her.”
Like Swank and Bening, lead-actor winners Foxx and DiCaprio seem poised as chief Oscar contenders. DiCaprio, who won for dramatic actor, normally would have the inside track at the Oscars, which favors Globe drama winners.
But Foxx, the Globe winner for actor in a musical or comedy, probably will emerge as the Oscar favorite. His role as Charles goes head-to-head with DiCaprio’s turn as Hughes for heavy-duty drama, and his portrayal was an uncannily spot-on emulation of the singer, who died last year.
“It’s a beautiful thing for Ray and everything he leaves us,” said Foxx, who had a record three Globe nominations but lost the other two, supporting movie actor for “Collateral” and TV movie or miniseries actor for “Redemption.”
'Aviator' now the front-runner
“The Aviator” was the top Globe winner with three trophies. With its grand scope, weighty drama and vibrant re-creation of early Hollywood, “The Aviator” now is positioned as a possible front-runner for the best-picture Oscar, an honor that has eluded Scorsese.
The filmmaker behind “Raging Bull,” “GoodFellas” and “Gangs of New York” also has never won the directing Oscar, potentially giving him the sympathy vote among members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
Yet best-picture and director honors often are divided at the Oscars. Scorsese could end up in such a split with Eastwood, a best-picture and directing Oscar winner for “Unforgiven.”
A major production from perennial Oscar contender Miramax, “The Aviator” was on the awards radar for a year or more before its debut last December. “Million Dollar Baby” crept up quietly, coming just a year after Eastwood’s acclaimed “Mystic River,” which won acting Oscars for Sean Penn and Tim Robbins.
Like “Mystic River,” “Million Dollar Baby” may have benefited from arriving without the fanfare that precedes many big Oscar hopefuls.
“This picture’s the same way,” Eastwood said. “Let people discover it for themselves and see if they like it, and if they do, then it builds its own life.”