5 Burning Questions About This Year’s Golden Globes

Will the HFPA send a message to the studios this year, or will it be another big, messy party?

Golden Globes statuette

As showtime for the 73rd Annual Golden Globes approaches, Ricky Gervais is no doubt hard at work figuring out who to mock. The Beverly Hilton caterers are making sure they have enough champagne on hand to keep everybody loose. And awards hopefuls are carefully crafting acceptance speeches to sound as if they’re off-the-cuff and ad-libbed.

We’ve already predicted what’s going to happen in the film and TV categories, and we’ve asked and answered a bunch of questions about the Globes themselves. So now let’s turn to a few questions about this year’s ceremony, and what we might see on stage and in the audience on Sunday night.

1. Can “Mad Max” continue its rampage through awards season?
While “Ex Machina” and “Sicario” are among the films that have shown surprising strength with critics and guild awards this season, few films have stormed into the race the way George Miller‘s “Mad Max: Fury Road” has. While it was once thought likely to be overlooked in the shadow of another action-oriented film from a notable director, Ridley Scott‘s “The Martian,” the film is second only to “Spotlight” in critics’ awards, and it comes into the Globes with nominations for both picture and director.

It’s not a favorite in either of those categories, but it’s not a long shot, either. And if “Mad Max” could manage to grab an award or two — Best Director is a real possibility — the big, bruising action flick could continue its makeover into an awards-season darling.

2. Could Globe voters help strike a blow against category fraud?
That term has been bandied about a lot lately, with Fox submitting “The Martian” and “Joy” in the comedy category, the Weinstein doing the same with “The Hateful Eight” and Focus and Weinstein campaigning for Alicia Vikander in “The Danish Girl” and Rooney Mara in “Carol” in the supporting-actress category.

Unlike the Academy, which doesn’t divide things into separate comedy and drama categories and lets its voters decide whether a performance is lead or supporting, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association has a committee that makes those decisions. The committee put Vikander and Mara into Best Actress, where they were both nominated, and ruled that “Hateful Eight” is not a comedy but “Joy” is.  But it also allowed “The Martian” to compete as a comedy, which to some was the most egregious misrepresentation of all.

Some Golden Globes voters have been openly annoyed at the comedy status of “The Martian,” and it’s clear that a win for “The Big Short” would be partly a rebuke to Fox for submitting “The Martian” as a comedy, and partly a rebuke to the HFPA committee that allowed the studio to get away with it.

(Granted, it would be a more pointed rebuke if “The Big Short” hadn’t suddenly gotten so much momentum that it might well have won regardless.)

Could that cause a studio to think twice about trying to slide a movie into the wrong category for the sake of easier competition? Hope springs eternal.

3. Where will the bold, daring choices come from?
Unless voters cross us up and go for Saoirse Ronan or Michael Fassbender or Paul Dano (all of which would be pretty cool choices), it’s safer to look for surprises in the TV categories.

After all, that’s where Globe voters love to stay ahead of the curve, and where they’re diametrically and refreshingly opposed to Emmys voters’ habit of giving trophies to the same show year after year after year.

In other words: a weird new TV show like “Mr. Robot” has a lot better chance of getting onto the stage than a weird new movie like “Anomalisa.”

4. Will we have another Best Picture that doesn’t win any other awards?
Two years ago, the Golden Globes had a rare situation: “12 Years a Slave” won the last award of the night, Best Motion Picture, Drama, after losing in the other six categories in which it was nominated. And then last year, “The Grand Budapest Hotel” won Best Motion Picture, Comedy or Musical, after going 0-for-3 with its other nominations.

With its emphasis on above-the-line categories, the Globes cast a narrow enough net that they’ll get occasional films that can be called the big winner of the night even though they’ve only won one award.

But it seldom happens, particularly in the drama category, where “12 Years a Slave” was only the third film to turn the trick in the last 25 years, after “Bugsy” in 1992 and “Babel” in 2007.

“Spotlight” could possibly wear that odd crown this year in the drama category, and “The Big Short” could do the same in comedy. The former film is the favorite to win Best Motion Picture, Drama, but its only other nominations are for Best Director, where Tom McCarthy isn’t favored to win, and Best Screenplay, its best shot for a second trophy.

“The Big Short,” meanwhile, has the advantage of two actors nominated in the less competitive comedy category, along with a screenplay nod — but if Steve Carell and Christian Bale split the vote and “Spotlight” or “Steve Jobs” or “The Hateful Eight” or “Room” takes screenplay, it too could be a one-win big winner.

The bottom line: One film will probably go home with only a single award on Sunday night, and be very happy about it.

5. Who’s going to get sloppy?
Let’s face it: The talk before, during and after the Globes won’t be about who won what, but about who did what. It’ll be about who Ricky Gervais insulted and how they took it, and about who talked too long and who seemed a little tipsy from drinking all that free booze that fills every table inside the Beverly Hilton.

If you want to be honest, this is the most important burning question surrounding the Golden Globes: Who’s going to be remembered for something they shouldn’t have done?

And that’s a question nobody can answer until Sunday night.