Oh, those sly Golden Globes voters, once again tossing gold-plated monkey wrenches into Academy Awards races that appeared sewn up.
Sunday night, the Globes beat the academy to the populist punch by voting Avatar as 2009's best dramatic film, and The Hangover — the highest grossing R-rated comedy ever — as the year's best musical/comedy.
Two films that so far haven't been factors in awards handicapping are now solid bets to be nominated for best picture. And the best picture momentum that Up in the Air and The Hurt Locker amassed during the awards season is stalled.
Nobody really expects The Hangover to take its place among the all-time great films by winning but Avatar, with its groundbreaking technical brilliance, historic ticket sales and James Cameron's hubris, is a possibility.
Oscar nomination ballots are due back to the academy this Saturday. That gives voters six days to consider how much advice they'll take from the Globes results.
In some regards, winning a best picture Globe is a kiss of Oscars death. Since 2000, only four Globes winners for best drama (and no musical/comedies) later won the best picture Oscar (Slumdog Millionaire, The Return of the King, Gladiator and American Beauty).
But with the academy's efforts to popularize its selections, Oscar voters with five extra slots to fill in the best picture race may parrot the Globes out of necessity, nominating a sci-fi epic and frat boy comedy that weren't likely candidates two months ago.
The influence of Sunday's Golden Globes results didn't end there. After weeks of George Clooney (Up in the Air), Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker) and Colin Firth (A Single Man) cornering best actor awards from critics groups, Jeff Bridges' win as best dramatic actor for Crazy Heart vaults him to the top of the heap, as Mickey Rourke's Globes win last did for his work in The Wrestler.
On the other hand, Robert Downey, Jr.'s best comedy actor win for Sherlock Holmes is simply Globes voters sucking up to a popular personality, as the group is known to do. Downey won't be a factor at the Oscars at all, unless he's presenting an award.
But we have a barn burner on the horizon in the best actress competition, with comedy winner Meryl Streep (Julie & Julia) and drama winner Sandra Bullock (The Blind Side) on a collision course that's impossible to predict right now; the automatic contender vs. an established star finally hitting her stride. Precious star Gabourey Sidibe and Carey Mulligan of An Education are now relegated to being fashionable picks happy to just be mentioned alongside Streep and Bullock.
The Globes did establish Precious star Mo'Nique and Christoph Walz of Inglourious Basterds as veritable locks for the supporting role Oscars, with only next Saturday's Screen Actors Guild awards remaining, and Oscar ballots due before that show begins. They've been practically unbeatable throughout awards season.