Golden Globes Voters Muddy Awards Waters With Nods for Big Studios, Micro-Indies

Voters served their major-studio masters but also recognized indies like “Spotlight” and “Room,” but they’re unlikely to impact the Oscar race much

Last Updated: December 10, 2015 @ 7:37 AM

The Golden Globes nominations helped “Carol” and “Mad Max: Fury Road” and Will Smith and Paul Dano, and they hurt “Bridge of Spies” and “Brooklyn” and Johnny Depp and Michael Keaton.

But let’s get this straight: Given the uncertainty of this year’s awards race, it’s going to be tempting to overestimate the importance of the choices of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.

“Carol” leads all movies with five nominations? We have a new frontrunner!

Depp and Keaton didn’t get nominated even though everybody thought they would? They’re in big trouble!!

Dano and Michael Shannon scored supporting-actor nods over anybody from “Spotlight”? Book their stylists for Feb. 28!!!

No, that’s over-reacting. Let’s relax, take a breath and remember: These are the choices of 90-odd members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. They bear little resemblance to the people who vote for the Oscars or the guild awards, even though they sometimes like many of the same movies. No Oscar voter worth the ballot would admit to being influenced by them, and few will even pick up a screener just because the HFPA says it’s worth watching.

They’re just a group of journalists (though you can find journalists who resent that assessment) whose opinions seem to carry more weight because they get three hours on NBC every January, and movie stars show up to their party. And those stars show up because, well, they get three hours on NBC every January.

So Oscar voters might nominate “Spotlight” and “The Revenant” and “Carol” and “Mad Max” in January, but not because Globe voters nominated them in December.

That said, Thursday was an odd morning of mixed messages and muddied waters. Presumed frontrunner “Spotlight” got nominations for picture and director, but none of its cast members were singled out with noms.

The film’s Mark Ruffalo did get a nomination — but it was for the overlooked indie “Infinitely Polar Bear” in the comedy-actor category, not for “Spotlight.”

Voters liked leading actress Saoirse Ronan in “Brooklyn,” supporting actor Mark Rylance in “Bridge of Spies” and leads Eddie Redmayne and Alicia Vikander in “The Danish Girl,” but those movie themselves didn’t make it into the best-picture category.

Vikander and Rooney Mara (“Carol”) both made it into the drama-actress category, after the Globes smartly refused to accept Focus Features’ and the Weinstein Company’s respective designations of them as supporting actresses — and then the voters found room for Vikander in supporting anyway, giving her a surprise nomination for playing a comely cyborg in “Ex Machina.”

Steve Jobs” got four nominations, tying it with “The Big Short” and “The Revenant” and putting it second to “Carol” overall, but it was shut out of the Best Motion Picture – Drama category.

And “Mad Max: Fury Road” kept up its strong run that began with the National Board of Review and continued with the past week’s critics awards, but with no nominations anywhere except picture and director.

Overall, it was a decent morning for the HFPA, which over the past couple of years seems to have fallen out of the habit of making the kind of ridiculous nominations for which we all loved to mock them.

They served the major-studio masters who wine and dine them all year by nominating “The Martian,” “Mad Max” and “The Revenant,” among others, but also embraced smaller movies from little companies without a lavish history of HFPA schmoozing: A24’s “Room,” Open Road’s “Spotlight,” Broad Green’s “99 Homes,” Roadside Attractions’ “Love & Mercy,” Bleecker Street’s “Trumbo.”

Here’s a sign of the times: Five years after being widely mocked for nominating Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie for the lamentable “The Tourist,” the HFPA didn’t even give Depp a nomination for playing Whitey Bulger in “Black Mass,” as had been widely expected.

And while they may have been courting a big movie star when they nominated Will Smith for “Concussion,” his nomination came at the expense of Depp and Tom Hanks (for “Bridge of Spies”), so it hardly counts as star-smooching.

Globe voters didn’t give a lot of direction to what appears to be a wide-open Oscar race — but then, that’s not their job. Their job is to tell us what they like and who they want to see at their TV show, which they did.

Oh, and in the Saoirse Ronan pronunciation sweepstakes, the Irish actress’ record now stands at 1-1. Anthony Mackie took a long pause but got her name right while announcing the Screen Actors Guild nominations on Wednesday, but Dennis Quaid muffed it badly on Thursday during the Globes announcement.

The Globes will take place on Sunday, Jan. 10. That gives the HFPA a month to train a presenter to say SIR-shah.