Bohemian Rhapsody's big Golden Globes win on Sunday night was the first real blow to Black Panther as award season gets underway, raising doubts among fans whether the Marvel Studios blockbuster is still a serious Oscars contender. After all, the Golden Globes are widely considered a good predictor of the Academy Awards. Except, here's the thing: They really aren't.
Grossing nearly $1.35 billion worldwide and earning almost-universal acclaim, director Ryan Coogler's feature emerged early as the best hope yet for a superhero movie to be nominated for, and just maybe win, the Academy Award for Best Picture. Oh, sure, the same thing was said a year earlier about James Mangold's Logan, but Black Panther had the added benefit of the Disney marketing machine, and a "significant" budget, for a "For Your Consideration" campaign -- a first for Marvel Studios.
Of course, that plan was almost immediately complicated by the controversial announcement by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences of a "popular film" category, seemingly tailor-made to keep features like Black Panther out of the running for Best Picture (the proposed rules change was promptly delayed). Undeterred, Disney put the film up for 16 categories, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Actor, and Best Supporting Actor and Actress.
Black Panther has already racked up 171 nominations, and 49 wins, in competitions ranging from the Saturn Awards to the Critics' Choice Movie Awards to the British Academy of Film and Television Arts. But after receiving three Golden Globe nods, and becoming the first superhero movie to be nominated for Best Motion Picture - Drama, the 18th Marvel Cinematic Universe release was snubbed by Sunday's ceremony, much to the dismay of fans.
The Golden Globe Awards are typically a raucous affair, where alcohol flows freely, and winners create made-for-social media moments with (typically) unscripted humorous or heartfelt moments. Think of them as the unruly younger sibling of the Oscars who sneaks booze from the liquor cabinet before joining the family for a formal dinner. They're unpredictable, and often fun, but in the end the Golden Globes reflect the tastes of the 93 members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, and sometimes not much else.
In 2013, FiveThirtyEight examined 16 awards, from the Golden Globes to the Directors Guild of America to BAFTA, over a span of 25 years, to determine how well they served as a predictor of the Oscar for Best Picture. The Golden Globe Awards came in sixth, with a success rate of 48 percent. That's certainly not bad, but if you're looking for a little help with your office Oscar pool, you'd do far better to keep an eye on the Directors Guild Awards, with their 80 percent success rate. (The five feature film nominees will be announced Tuesday by the DGA.)
Glancing at the past five years, we can see the winner of the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture - Drama aligned with the Academy Award for Best Picture only twice, with Moonlight and 12 Years a Slave. Part of the problem, as Vox points out, is structural: the Golden Globes splits its Best Picture award into two categories, one for drama and the other for comedy/musical. It does the same for actor and actress, but not, curiously, in the categories for supporting roles, or for director. On the other hand, the Oscars break screenplay into original and adapted categories, but the Golden Globes do not.
So, we shouldn't place too much stock in what Sunday's Golden Globes ceremony may say about Black Panther's Best Picture prospects. Given the history with superhero films at the Academy Awards, where they've been largely relegated to categories for technical achievement, there remains plenty of reason to be skeptical about the Marvel blockbuster's odds. However, few industry observers are likely to place money on Bohemian Rhapsody, or even Green Book, to walk away with Oscar gold, and certainly not based on their Golden Globe victories.
Besides, if we've learned anything in recent years, it's not to bet against Marvel Studios, or the determination of Wakanda.
Nominees for the 91st Academy Awards will be announced Tuesday, Jan. 22. The winners will be presented Sunday, Feb. 24, during a ceremony broadcast on ABC.