LOS ANGELES — The Golden Globes are nothing if not maddeningly mixed in their messaging. Expect more of the same Sunday night, when caustic British comedian Ricky Gervais returns to host the 77th edition of the awards show at 8 p.m. Eastern time on NBC.
It could be a watershed moment. For the first time, a Netflix movie viewed mostly on TV sets and mobile devices, “The Irishman,” is expected to win the best drama prize.
But the givers of the Globes, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, also hand out a trophy for best comedy or musical. An old-fashioned studio movie, “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood,” is likely to win that contest.
Can a moment be half a watershed?
The foreign press association, which has fewer voting members than your local PTA, does like to have it both ways — right down to the way they plan the festivities at the Beverly Hilton. Citing the climate crisis, the group will serve a meal consisting entirely of plants (mushroom “scallops,” cold beet soup).
The flowers came by jet from Ecuador and Italy, though.
Yes, the Globes operate in their own little universe. The prizes are not taken seriously as markers of artistic achievement, but Hollywood covets the red-carpet spectacle, which comes during nomination balloting for the Academy Awards. (Voting for the Oscars started Thursday and concludes Tuesday; nominations will be announced Jan. 13.) Studio marketers will use Globe wins to promote winter films. NBC, which broadcasts the ceremony live, makes a fortune on ad sales.
Over the last 10 years, the Globes and the Oscars have agreed on best picture winners only 50% of the time — although they did match last year, when “Green Book” was the big winner at both ceremonies.
Here is what to watch for during this year’s show:
Netflix has a chance to dominate.
Streaming video services collected 50 nominations, a 100% increase from last year. Netflix went into the night with 34 nods, including six for Noah Baumbach’s searing “Marriage Story,” the most of any movie, and five for “The Irishman,” Martin Scorsese’s leisurely gangster yarn. Another Netflix drama, the well-reviewed two-hander “The Two Popes,” was recognized in four categories.
But the hard-campaigning streaming giant has spoilers from traditional studios in its midst. Competing against the three Netflix films for best drama are “Joker” (Warner Bros.), which portrays the DC Comics villain as sharing the psychological traits of real-life mass shooters, and “1917” (Universal), Sam Mendes’ visually stunning World War I epic.
Be prepared for audible gasps in the room if it doesn’t go Scorsese’s way.
Netflix also has a shot in the comedy category with the Eddie Murphy vehicle “Dolemite Is My Name.” But legacy studios are represented by Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood” (Sony), the Nazi satire “Jojo Rabbit” (Fox Searchlight), the whodunit “Knives Out” (Lionsgate) and the musical fantasia “Rocketman” (Paramount).
Renée Zellweger and Joaquin Phoenix are likely to win.
Nothing is certain when it comes to the Globes, but Renée Zellweger is as close to a sure thing as it gets. She is nominated for best actress in a drama for her heartbreaking portrayal of a middle-aged Judy Garland in “Judy.” Other nominees in the category are Cynthia Erivo (“Harriet”), Charlize Theron (“Bombshell”), Scarlett Johansson (“Marriage Story”) and Saoirse Ronan (“Little Women”).
On the men’s side, Joaquin Phoenix should be prepping his sure-to-be-awkward acceptance speech for his demented transformation in “Joker.” He’s up against Christian Bale (“Ford v Ferrari”), Antonio Banderas (“Pain and Glory”), Adam Driver (“Marriage Story”) and Jonathan Pryce (“The Two Popes”) for best actor in a drama.
Nail-biters include supporting actress, where Jennifer Lopez, nominated for her savvy stripper in “Hustlers,” will square off against Laura Dern, who plays a fancy divorce lawyer in “Marriage Story.” The category is filled out by Margot Robbie (“Bombshell”), Kathy Bates (“Richard Jewell”) and Annette Bening (“The Report”).
Murphy is the favorite to win best comedic actor for playing a washed-up blaxploitation actor in “Dolemite.” But some awards handicappers were expecting an upset, with either Taron Egerton (“Rocketman”) or Leonardo DiCaprio (“Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood”) called to the stage. Other candidates in the category are Daniel Craig (“Knives Out”) and the young Roman Griffin Davis (“Jojo Rabbit”).
Ellen DeGeneres and Tom Hanks will receive accolades.
In recent years, stars like Oprah Winfrey and Meryl Streep have appeared on the Globes stage to accept lifetime achievement awards and have unleashed cris de coeur about politics and sexual harassment. This time around, the foreign press association seemed poised to make a statement about a need for niceness. The lifetime achievement honorees are Tom Hanks and Ellen DeGeneres, both of whom are more known for uniting than dividing.
Will ‘Parasite’ be honored?
The foreign press association was beaten to a pulp on social media for putting forward an all-male slate of director honorees and overlooking women like Greta Gerwig (“Little Women”) and Lulu Wang (“The Farewell”), among others. The lack of awards recognition for female filmmakers is a problem that extends beyond the 88-member foreign press association; women could also be excluded by Oscar voters this year.
But with giants like Scorsese and Tarantino in the mix, there has been little oxygen left for any other filmmakers on the awards trail.
Globe voters, however, could throw a curve ball and award the best director trophy to Bong Joon Ho for “Parasite.” Bong, the 50-year-old Korean filmmaker, created a genre-defying gem that dazzled critics. Globe rules bizarrely restrict foreign-language films from competing in best-picture categories, so honoring Bong’s direction would be the next-best available option. “Parasite” is also a shoo-in for best foreign film.