What Does the Split Say?

gravity 12 years hustle split

Last night the Golden Globes decided to go with a 3-way Split, awarding their two Best Picture awards to 12 Years a Slave and American Hustle, while giving Best Director to Alfonso Cuarón for Gravity.

When it comes to the Oscars, Picture/Director splits are very rare and hard to predict (though it did happen last year). In the vast majority of cases Best Picture and Best Director go hand in hand. This makes sense: if you believe a film is really “best,” then you have to know that the director is a huge part of that.

Example: Back in 2011, by the time the Oscars rolled around, those of us reading the tea leaves had all bowed our heads to the stupid-but-inevitable fact that The King’s Speech would beat The Social Network for Best Picture, but many of us, myself included, held out hope for the vastly superior David Fincher to prevail in Director anyway. That was a bad bet – the voters liked TKS better and they rewarded director Tom Hooper for it.

So naturally it would seem to make sense that this tendency would hold true for the Golden Globes as well, right? Well, I decided to go do a little research. The results surprised me…

14 out of the 33 years the Globes have been around, they’ve awarded Best Director to a film that didn’t win Best Pic in either Drama or Comedy/Musical. Almost 50%. In fact is 50% if you just look at the last 10, when the 3-way split happened 5 times. So then the question becomes why. What the difference? What makes the HFPA more willing to “spread the wealth” than the Academy?

The more I think about it, the only answer that makes sense is the dual categories. With two Best Picture options but only one Director, they are guaranteed to have a split EVERY YEAR, in at list one of their favorite films. So if they’re comfortable not awarding one of the directors, maybe that makes it feel more OK to pass over the other one too.

So does the Globes split give us any insight into how we should expect the rest of the season to play out? Well with a 50% track record that doesn’t really seem to match up with Ocsar, the answer would seem to be no. But this year, within in the context of other awards and nominations we’ve seen so far, I do think there’s a take-away to be had.

Among the nominations and awards from various critics’ groups, 12 Years and Gravity appear to be neck and neck, with Hustle not far behind. Among the industry guild nominations so far, Hustle has hit the mark with as many if not more groups than any other. Gravity may seem behind on the guild side, but it was never going to get a SAG Ensemble nomination, and the popular opinion seems to be (however incorrectly) that its Screenplay is just as sparse as its cast and similarly unwarranted of recognition, just based on structure.

All this is to say we have a real 3-way tie on our hands. And the Globes split just confirmed it. In previous years it may not have meant much. In 2008 for example, neither Sweeney Todd nor The Diving Bell and the Butterfly were ever going to with the Oscar, and Atonement was already losing steam to No Country for Old Men. The Globes just wanted to be contradictory that year, for whatever reason. But this year their split seems to reinforce the fact that we have a real race for once. There’s no good way yet to predict which of the 3 will ultimately prevail.

And that’s exciting! This is the kind of thing that makes following the awards races fun. It’s been a long time since there was this kind of uncertainty in the Best Picture race. In various acting and other races? Sure, that happens fairly regularly. But not in Best Picture.

In a week, when the Oscar nominations come out, we may know more. And shortly after that, when the guilds begin announcing their winners, it may be all over but the shouting. But until then, I choose to embrace the uncertainty and enjoy it while it lasts. We don’t get this very often. It’s fun!

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