Numlock Awards Supplement: Guide to the Golden Globes

The Numlock Awards Supplement is your one-stop awards season update. You’ll get two editions per week, one from Not Her Again’s Michael Domanico breaking down an individual Oscar contender or campaigner and taking you behind the storylines, and the other from Walt Hickey looking at the numerical analysis of the Oscars and the quest to predict them. Look for it in your inbox on Saturday and Sunday mornings. Today’s edition comes from Walter.

The Golden Globes have some very specific uses.

Sometimes, if you work in a breezy environment, and you have lots of papers on your desk, you will need an item with some heft to weigh all those papers down. This is an excellent use for a Golden Globe.

Other times, you want to predict the Academy Awards. Maybe you’re antsy, and are willing to take the opinions of a random assortment of fewer than 100 members of the foreign press even remotely seriously for one second. This isn’t such a good use for a Golden Globe!

But if you want to get Amy Adams to show up to your party, implying that there may be a Golden Globe in it for her, it may work. Perhaps she has more than two doors that need to stay open in her home. Or perhaps Amy Adams would like to be on television the day before Oscar voting starts.

Actually, that last one is a pretty good use for a Golden Globe.

The Globes divide their picture and lead acting categories into Drama and Musical/Comedy. The directing award, and the awards for the supporting performers, are not divided by genre. In the chart below, you can see how often the winner of the Golden Globes for a given category (D for Drama, C for Comedy) went on to win in the corresponding category at the Oscars:

A couple of things pop out.

  • First off, the Globes would be a way more accurate indicator if they dropped the arbitrary distinction between Drama and Musical/Comedy.

  • The Globes are getting better lately at predicting the acting Oscar winners, and given my shift to valuing what-have-you-done-for-me-lately prizes I think it’s worth assigning them even more credibility when it comes to acting prizes.

  • The Golden Globes are actively bad at picking Best Picture.

In the past 15 cycles, the men and woman who won Best Actor and Best Actress Oscars won 28 Golden Globes. That’s remarkable, but the issue is that with the split between Drama and Musical/Comedy, that’s anywhere from a 13 percent category success rate to an 80 percent success rate. It’s better than the 25-year rate, but it’s still tough to draw too many conclusions from that.

The real crux of the Globes is that they set up guardrails for the rest of the season, and (as Michael said) primarily send a message to the Academy about who to nominate.

To make this a political analogy, the Globes aren’t so much a presidential primary election, but kind of closer to the Ames Straw Poll. That is a meaningless event electorally. It’s effectively a GOP fundraiser in Iowa, and is sort of a hybrid county fair and vote. But mainly, it’s an indicator at how good a Republican is at retail campaigning in Iowa. Some presidential aspirants blow that event off. Some empty the tank and get ultra shameless. It’s messy, and some candidates drop out after flunking it. But it sends a definitive message to actual voters who matter in the eventual caucus: here’s who’s serious about playing the game.

I pulled how many Golden Globe nominees were also nominated at the Oscars. Here’s what I found:

In general, most of the nominated Dramas will have a ticket to ride to the Oscars. We’ll probably see one or two of the actors actresses nominated in the drama categories not make the big dance, and we’ll probably see one or two of the actresses nominated in the comedy category make it. Only since the expansion of the Oscars’ Best Picture category to more than five nominees has the Best Musical/Comedy Motion Picture award been remotely relevant. But if the past several years are any indicator, this batch of Supportings will be our Oscar contenders, with 1 to 3 tweaks probably.

In the past 50 years, the eventual Best Actor winner was a Golden Globe nominee 48 times, 43 of which are in the Dramatic category. Women are less hamstrung by category: the eventual Best Actress was nominated 49 out of the past 50 cycles, 35 times in Drama and 14 in Musical/Comedy.

Overall, enjoy the evening but realize that the predictive power of forecasting a winner here isn’t really what these awards are for. The Oscar nomination ballots go out tomorrow. The Golden Globes are that last-second pitch to those voters. There’s a long Oscar season to come: voting lasts a week, and nominees get announced the following week. The Globes will be a distant memory by the time we hit February, especially if the Roma campaign (boxed out at Globes’ Best Picture due to arcane rules about foreign language films) has anything to say about it.

The paperweights allocated tonight mean nothing by themselves. The real point of the Globes is if seeing someone graciously accept that paperweight changes a nomination ballot when the real games begin tomorrow.