15 Times the Golden Globes Were Smarter Than the Academy Awards
Here are 15 examples of the Golden Globes getting it right while the Oscars got it wrong.
Here are 15 examples of the Golden Globes getting it right while the Oscars got it wrong.
Francis Coppola on the set of Apocalypse Now (Photo: UA); E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (Photo: Universal)
There’s certainly been no shortage of dubious calls when it comes to the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, that assemblage of foreign journalists who annually hand out the Golden Globe awards. The Tourist, the critically reviled 2010 dud starring Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie, earned a Best Motion Picture (Comedy or Musical) nomination. Pia Zadora nabbed Best New Star honors for 1982’s Butterfly, the same movie that earned her Razzie Awards for Worst New Star and Worst Actress. Scent of a Woman beat Unforgiven and The Crying Game for the 1992 Best Motion Picture (Drama) statue. In all these instances, there were accusations of bribery once it emerged that the studios behind these films footed the bills for all-expenses-paid junkets. Yet even away from the payoffs, there have been controversies. In the most recent round, everyone was aghast when Sia’s Music, slammed for its offensive portrayal of autism, landed a Best Motion Picture (Comedy or Musical) slot. And so it goes.
But buried in all these gaffes is the fact that, more times than not, the Globe voters actually get it right, frequently honoring what indeed are the finest film achievements of the year. And in a few instances, their ultimate selections have even turned out to be superior to the ones made by the members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Here are some of those sensible selections — 15 times the Golden Globes got it right and the Oscars got it wrong.
15. BEST ACTOR: JIM CARREY (THE TRUMAN SHOW) OVER ROBERTO BENIGNI (LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL)
Already a box office star thanks to such comedies as Ace Ventura: Pet Detective and Dumb and Dumber, Jim Carrey turned his attention to more dramatic fare when he took a pay cut in order to secure the leading role in 1998’s The Truman Show. More serious than his previous pictures yet still graced with many comic moments, the film cast Carrey as Truman Burbank, a normal guy whose entire life serves as fodder for a hit TV series.
Carrey earned stellar reviews for his fine performance, and even though the movie was a summer release, the buzz that he might nab his first Oscar nomination sustained itself right into the year-end awards season. After he won a Golden Globe for Best Actor (Drama), the odds only increased. But while the movie picked up nods for director Peter Weir, scripter Andrew Niccol, and supporting actor extraordinaire Ed Harris, Carrey was snubbed.
Among those who did make Oscar’s roster was Roberto Benigni, who became Hollywood’s Flavor of the Month thanks to writing, directing and starring in the popular Italian import Life Is Beautiful. A Holocaust seriocomedy that somewhat works until it devolves into an inferior episode of Hogan’s Heroes, it inexplicably snagged Benigni the Best Actor Oscar over a formidable field that included Gods and Monsters’ Ian McKellen and American History X’s Edward Norton.
As for Carrey, he appeared in a few more weighty endeavors (Man on the Moon, The Majestic) but has yet to score a nomination from the organization.
14. BEST PICTURE: E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL AND TOOTSIE OVER GANDHI
An excellent year for cinema, 1982 found itself represented during awards season by a trio of films that landed on countless 10 Best lists and divided up the major critics’ awards amongst themselves. Yet while members of these organizations had to debate which of the three worthy contenders deserved Best Picture honors, Globe voters never had it so easy, with the abundance of categories allowing them to select Steven Spielberg’s E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial for Best Picture (Drama), Sydney Pollack’s Tootsie for Best Picture (Comedy or Musical), and Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi for Best Foreign Film (back in the period when British productions could compete for this award).
As expected, all three led in total number of Oscar nominations, but the dynamic was changed following the actual ceremony. E.T. went 4-for-9 (all technical victories), Tootsie mustered only 1-for-10 (supporting actress Jessica Lange), and Gandhi scored a whopping 8-for-11, including Best Picture. While the sweep mentality had often been in effect with the Oscars, Gandhi’s domination proved particularly vexing to some journalists. The New York Times’ film critics were especially incensed, with Vincent Canby writing, “E.T. and Tootsie are films. Gandhi is a laboriously illustrated textbook,” and Janet Maslin noting, “The Oscar seems to have been confused with the Nobel Peace Prize.”
Even Spielberg, whose E.T. had become the top-grossing film in history, got in a jab: “The tendency is for important films to win over popcorn entertainment. History is more weighty than popcorn.”
13. BEST DIRECTOR: FRANCIS FORD COPPOLA (APOCALYPSE NOW) OVER ROBERT BENTON (KRAMER VS. KRAMER)
The critical and commercial smash Kramer vs. Kramer was the big Oscar winner for 1979, taking awards for Best Picture, Best Actor (Dustin Hoffman), Best Supporting Actress (Meryl Streep), and, for Robert Benton, Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay. Benton, a veteran filmmaker with an impressive track record — other credits as writer and/or director include Bonnie and Clyde, Superman, and Places in the Heart — was a sound selection on the Academy’s part. In hindsight, though, it appears that the HFPA made the better choice by handing its Best Director prize to Francis Ford Coppola for his Vietnam War saga Apocalypse Now.
Even if one felt Coppola didn’t deserve the award for crafting a hallucinatory masterpiece that retains its frightful power after repeat viewings, he almost should have been honored just for making it out of the production alive. His challenges were tremendous: He partially financed the picture with his own money and eventually had to mortgage his house and vineyard; he had to contend with one star (Martin Sheen) suffering a heart attack during production and another (Marlon Brando) showing up noticeably overweight and subsequently throwing endless tantrums; he helplessly witnessed his sets get destroyed by typhoons; and he had to wrestle with a shooting schedule that was supposed to take less than two months but instead took 16 months. Given all these woes, the only thing Coppola deserved more than an Oscar was a vacation.
12. BEST ORIGINAL SONG: “THE WRESTLER” (THE WRESTLER) OVER “JAI HO” (SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE)
With music by A.R. Rahman and lyrics by Gulzar, the song “Jai Ho” has enjoyed a healthy afterlife following its employment in 2008’s Slumdog Millionaire. It won the Academy Award for Best Original Song. It became a YouTube sensation, utilized in scores of badly choreographed home videos. And it was co-opted by the Pussycat Dolls, who added English lyrics and released their own version titled “Jai Ho! (You Are My Destiny).”
Certainly, “Jai Ho” was a decent selection by Academy members who are often more apt to recognize cookie-cutter ballads. And yet, Bruce Springsteen’s “The Wrestler,” from the Darren Aronofsky film of the same name, is a song that’s impossible to dismiss. Springsteen had already won an Oscar for “Streets of Philadelphia” (from 1993’s Philadelphia), and he seemed likely to repeat for another haunting tune — this one serving as the background sound for the battered and broken down fighter magnificently played by Mickey Rourke. But to the shock of prognosticators, “The Wrestler” wasn’t even nominated.
At least “The Wrestler” didn’t leave the awards season empty-handed, as it snagged the Golden Globe for Best Original Song. It also managed to earn a Grammy Award nomination for Best Song Written for a Motion Picture, Television or Other Media, although it lost to — yes — “Jai Ho.”
11. BEST ACTRESS: WHOOPI GOLDBERG (THE COLOR PURPLE) OVER GERALDINE PAGE (THE TRIP TO BOUNTIFUL)
“I didn’t want to be a Hollywood actress who every so often does a Broadway play,” Geraldine Page was once quoted as saying. “I wanted to be a Broadway actress who every so often does a movie.” Page’s standing as one of the greats of the stage bears that out, but while she was never a box office draw, the adoration afforded her by her peers in the film industry was evident by the fact that she amassed eight Academy Award nominations over a 32-year span.
Page was winless after seven nominations and seemed poised to become one of Oscar’s biggest losers until she was given one last shot with a Best Actress bid for 1985’s The Trip to Bountiful. With sentiment and history on her side, it was almost inconceivable she would lose, even though most of the year-end buzz was centered around Meryl Streep, superb in Out of Africa, and Whoopi Goldberg, excellent in her first major role in The Color Purple.
Unlike Academy voters, the HFPA members didn’t feel like they owed Page anything — they had handed her a pair of back-to-back Globes in the ‘60s — so they opted to go with the newcomer over the old-timer. Certainly, Page delivers a lovely and touching performance as a sexagenarian yearning to revisit her childhood home, but Goldberg’s turn is even more memorable. As a long-suffering woman contending with misogyny and violence in early 20th-century Georgia, she beautifully telegraphs her character’s humiliating defeats and ultimate triumphs.
10. BEST ACTOR: AL PACINO (SERPICO) OVER JACK LEMMON (SAVE THE TIGER)
Like Cary Grant and James Stewart, Jack Lemmon was one of those special actors who could oscillate between drama and comedy with the greatest of ease. He earned the Best Supporting Actor Oscar in only his second year in film for his uproarious turn in 1955’s Mister Roberts, but a talent as enormous as his clearly warranted a leading-man statue at some point. Yet his Best Actor bids for sensational turns in Some Like It Hot, The Apartment and Days of Wine and Roses went unanswered, so by the time he snagged another nod for 1973’s Save the Tiger, voters were more than ready to honor him.
Lemmon is solid as a middle-aged businessman disillusioned with life, but neither the film nor his performance rank among his career high points — at any rate, there were several better performances that year, including that of Golden Globe winner Al Pacino in Serpico. Like Lemmon, Pacino had to wait years to nab his Best Actor Oscar, his coming for a hammy, “Hooah!”-filled turn in 1992’s ridiculous Scent of a Woman. An Oscar for one of his signature roles would have been far more satisfying, and with Serpico, he was gifted with one such part. He’s suitably scruffy and scrappy in his depiction of the real-life Frank Serpico, an undercover NYPD cop who’s ostracized within the force once he starts fighting the corruption running rampant among his fellow officers.
9. BEST ACTRESS: KATE WINSLET (REVOLUTIONARY ROAD) OVER KATE WINSLET (THE READER)
Category fraud is a constant when it comes to the Oscars — for recent examples, there’s Carol’s Rooney Mara and The Danish Girl’s Alicia Vikander, leads who were absurdly shoehorned into Best Supporting Actress slots even though they racked up as much screen time as their co-stars (Best Actress nominee Cate Blanchett and Best Actor nominee Eddie Redmayne, respectively).
Occasionally, though, AMPAS members ignore the studios’ bet-hedging wishes and make the proper call. That happened during the 2008 campaign, when Kate Winslet had two Oscar-friendly titles in competition. Figuring Winslet was a lock for a Best Actress nod for Paramount’s Revolutionary Road, The Weinstein Company pushed her for Best Supporting Actress for The Reader.
Anyone who’s actually seen The Reader recognizes that she’s clearly the lead alongside Ralph Fiennes, but an embarrassing number of organizations took the bait, including the HFPA. This split allowed Globe voters to honor her not once but twice, handing her Best Actress for Revolutionary Road and Best Supporting Actress for The Reader. To their credit, Academy voters dismissed this shameless stunt and nominated her only once, and in the correct category. Unfortunately, her Best Actress bid, which she won, was for The Reader, and although she’s fine in that film (even if it does often play like an art-house version of Ilsa: She Wolf of the SS), she’s absolutely smashing as a troubled suburban housewife in Revolutionary Road, directed by then-husband Sam Mendes.
8. BEST ORIGINAL SCORE: THE MISSION OVER ‘ROUND MIDNIGHT
Whenever an esteemed music critic or aficionado puts together a list of the greatest motion picture scores, it’s a safe bet that Ennio Morricone’s work on 1986’s The Mission will find its way onto the list. As but one example, a 2012 Variety poll of 40 active film composers (including Pixar regular Michael Giacchino and Coen regular Carter Burwell) placed it in the number one slot, above such masterpieces as John Williams’ Star Wars score and Bernard Herrmann’s Psycho theme.
Morricone has long reigned as one of the very best in the business, but he had to wait until recently to finally win his first Academy Award, for his terrific score for 2015’s The Hateful Eight. While many back in ’86 had assumed he would win Best Original Score for The Mission — thus replicating his success at the Globes — the victor was actually Herbie Hancock for his jazz-infused work on ‘Round Midnight. Hancock’s win led to an outcry from critics and even some members of the Academy’s own Music Branch, since the picture’s soundtrack was almost entirely comprised of jazz standards that had been around for decades. In fact, only 12 of the 133 minutes that made up the film included original work by Hancock.
Morricone himself was miffed — “Theft” was how he described the situation in interviews — and the Academy immediately decided to tighten up the rules pertaining to “scores diluted by the use of tracked (inserted music not written by the composer) or pre-existing music.”
7. BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: KAREN BLACK (THE GREAT GATSBY) OVER INGRID BERGMAN (MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS)
Karen Black’s performance as Jack Nicholson’s doting girlfriend in 1970’s Five Easy Pieces was a sensation, and it nabbed her various critics’ awards as well as a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress. She tied for the Globe with 70-year-old Helen Hayes, honored for her turn as a feisty stowaway in Airport. Despite a performance that was described by the New York Times‘ Vincent Canby as, “let’s face it, just a teentsy-weentsy bit terrible,” Hayes was nevertheless the sentimental favorite at the Oscars and beat Black for the statue.
Four years later, Black was back in the winners’ circle, copping another Globe for her supporting stint in 1974’s The Great Gatsby. Pouring her soul into the part of the tragic Myrtle Wilson, she outshone a grotesquely miscast Mia Farrow (as Daisy Buchanan) and even leading man Robert Redford (Jay Gatsby), making another Oscar nomination seem entirely plausible. Instead, she was ignored outright by the Academy.
To add insult to injury, that year’s Supporting Actress Oscar again went to a sentimental favorite for a routine performance: 59-year-old Ingrid Bergman, cast as one of the many suspects in Murder on the Orient Express. Bergman was one of the greats, but she hardly needed another Academy Award, as she had already won two Best Actress statues in earlier decades.
6. BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: KLAUS MARIA BRANDAUER (OUT OF AFRICA) OVER DON AMECHE (COCOON)
Art-house audiences knew Austrian actor Klaus Maria Brandauer from his central turn in 1981’s Oscar-winning Mephisto, but general moviegoers had only seen him as the villainous Largo in the unofficial 007 entry Never Say Never Again. Thus, he made quite the impression when he burst onto the scene as Meryl Streep’s unfaithful husband in 1985’s exquisite Out of Africa. Picking up a few critics’ prizes as well as the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor, Brandauer seemed like a lock to win the Oscar.
Don Ameche, on the other hand, was merely part of the large ensemble of Ron Howard’s sci-fi hit Cocoon and was completely MIA during awards season — he didn’t even score a mention from the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films (that Saturn nod went to co-star Hume Cronyn). Ameche’s Oscar nomination was seen as a sentimental gesture on the part of the Academy — a hearty “thank you” for 50 years of screen credits, and an example of the nomination being the reward. Instead, Ameche surprised the pundits by actually winning the award.
The scene in Cocoon in which Ameche’s elderly character breakdances was arguably the movie’s most famous, so who knows — maybe Academy voters were inadvertently honoring his stunt double rather than the venerable actor himself.
5. BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM: CYRANO DE BERGERAC OVER JOURNEY OF HOPE
The Golden Globes ceremony for 1990 was basically a lovefest for Gérard Depardieu, who famously delivered his acceptance speech while inebriated. The actor was already a superstar in Europe when he made his first American movie, Peter Weir’s Green Card. That same year also found him starring as the title character in an excellent French adaptation of Cyrano de Bergerac. Green Card won the Globe for Best Motion Picture (Comedy or Musical), Cyrano de Bergerac won for Best Foreign Language Film, and Depardieu himself won Best Actor (Comedy or Musical) for Green Card.
When the Oscar nominations rolled around, Green Card was only represented by a solitary bid for Weir’s original script, but Cyrano de Bergerac managed five nods, including Best Foreign Language Film and Best Actor. Yet all positive stateside buzz for Depardieu came to a crashing halt once TIME magazine unearthed a 1978 interview in which the Frenchman admitted that he participated in a number of rapes while still a boy. Many have long claimed that the actor’s words were mistranslated and that he “witnessed” rather than “participated” (for its part, TIME still stands by its story), but the damage was done.
While Depardieu was never really expected to beat Reversal of Fortune’s Jeremy Irons for Best Actor, Cyrano de Bergerac was the odds-on favorite in the Foreign Language category. Instead, the controversy surrounding its leading man might have possibly aided in its loss to an inferior picture: Journey of Hope, a Swiss production about Turkish immigrants.
4. BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: THE QUEEN OVER LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE
It was mostly gloom and doom when the nominees for the 2006 Best Original Screenplay were announced, with the line-up including Babel, Letters from Iwo Jima, Pan’s Labyrinth and The Queen. Small wonder, then, that the little summer sleeper with the cheery, feel-good disposition would swoop in and swipe the gold from its heavyweight competition.
In crafting his script for Little Miss Sunshine, Michael Arndt (whose subsequent credits include Inside Out and Star Wars: The Force Awakens) adroitly mixed up effective comic shtick with moments of great insight. The result was an endearing effort about the members of a dysfunctional family coming together to support its youngest (Abigail Breslin) as she competes in a kids’ beauty pageant. Little Miss Sunshine is a delight, but at heart, it is yet another road picture about bickering family members. Peter Morgan’s script for The Queen, on the other hand, is a complete original, as worthy of the Oscar as it was of the 15 critics’ prizes and Golden Globe trophy it snagged during its award-season reign.
In the wrong hands, a film about the reaction of Queen Elizabeth II (Oscar-winning Helen Mirren) to the tragic death of Princess Diana would have been either too dull or too exploitative — a positively dreadful experience either way. Instead, Morgan’s deft script tackles the true-life tale in a vibrant and witty manner. Bonus points, too, for the hilarious line in which someone describes the members of the royal family as “freeloading, emotionally retarded nutters.”
3. BEST DIRECTOR: MARTIN SCORSESE (HUGO) OVER MICHAEL HAZANAVICIUS (THE ARTIST)
Martin Scorsese has won three Golden Globes as Best Director, most recently for 2011’s Hugo. That’s a better batting average than the one he holds with the Academy, which has honored him only once. After ignoring him for approximately 30 years, the group finally rewarded him for 2004’s The Departed, yet a solitary statue seems like insufficient compensation in return for a career that has birthed so many classics.
Certainly, Hugo provided the Academy with a perfect opportunity to add to his mantle. With a plotline that largely focuses on real-life visual effects pioneer Georges Méliès (Ben Kingsley), this adaptation of Brian Selznick’s novel The Invention of Hugo Cabret feels like the sort of motion picture for which Scorsese should have won. After all, he’s as much a film fan as a filmmaker, and his passion for classic cinema and his efforts toward film preservation are almost as renowned as his screen credits. What better way to honor the man than by honoring a movie that in its own way champions and preserves the medium’s rich heritage?
Interestingly, Scorsese lost the Oscar to someone who also helmed a movie dealing with cinema’s shimmering past: Michael Hazanavicius, whose black-and-white effort The Artist was an homage to Hollywood’s silent era.
2. BEST PICTURE: THE SOCIAL NETWORK OVER THE KING’S SPEECH
The Social Network, David Fincher’s scintillating 2010 film about Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg), joined Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List and Curtis Hanson’s L.A. Confidential as the only movies to ever win Best Picture honors from all four major critics’ groups (NY, LA, National Society, and National Board), and it further aped Schindler’s List by also winning the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture (Drama). Yet despite the recent Best Picture Oscar victories by the progressive likes of No Country for Old Men, The Departed and The Hurt Locker, there was a general feeling that The Social Network was just too hip, too modern, and too edgy to appeal to the old fogies in the Academy.
Enter The King’s Speech, the entertaining yet resolutely old-fashioned drama about the vocal impediment of King George VI (Colin Firth). Director Tom Hooper’s period piece was exactly the sort of tasteful, conservative film that typically wins the approval of seasoned Academy members, and the radios that played a central role in the film were doubtless more familiar to aged voters than the new-fangled computer contraptions at the core of The Social Network.
Fincher’s Facebook flick still managed to win three awards come Oscar night, but it was bested by The King’s Speech’s four, including the coveted statue for Best Picture.
1. BEST PICTURE: BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN OVER CRASH
Brokeback Mountain, Ang Lee’s stellar 2005 adaptation of Annie Proulx’s short story, earned rave reviews for its sensitive depiction of the love affair between two cowboys (Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal) in 1963 Wyoming. Heralded as a groundbreaking film for LGBT representation in mainstream cinema, the film cleaned up during awards season, climaxed by its win at the Golden Globes. Given its record-breaking collection of trophies and plaques, an Oscar for Best Picture seemed inevitable.
Yet at least one Hollywood insider had earlier seen the writing on the wall. Before the nominations were even announced, LA Weekly writer Nikki Finke predicted that Paul Haggis’ Crash would beat Brokeback Mountain for the Best Picture Oscar, citing conversations she had around town. “I found horrifying each whispered admission to me from Academy members who usually act like social liberals that they were disgusted by even the possibility of glimpsing simulated gay sex,” she wrote. Some members actively confirmed her statement: 80-year-old Tony Curtis told FOX News that he had no intention of watching the “gay cowboy movie” — “Howard Hughes and John Wayne wouldn’t like it,” he added — while Entertainment Weekly quoted 89-year-old Ernest Borgnine as saying, “I didn’t see it and I don’t care to see it.”
On Oscar night, the lamentable upset indeed occurred, with Crash — incidentally, the least critically praised of the five Best Picture nominees that year — winning the top award. In a post-Oscar column, Finke summed up the situation perfectly: “Brokeback lost for all the Right’s reasons.”
I must admit I was happy when Don Ameche won. I know it was an ensemble film but he brought such dignity, humanity and class to his role I would wish I could be the man if I live that long as his character. He and Gwen Verdon made a sexy older couple.
Excellent point, Rob. Thanks for sharing!