Is Green Book now the Oscar frontrunner? It’s complicated.

The 76th Golden Globe Awards were handed out on Sunday, January 6, 2019 — about two weeks before the nominations for the 91st Academy Awards are set to be announced on Tuesday, January 22. (The awards take place February 24.)

The Golden Globes are known to be an oddball ceremony, partly due to their open bar. This year, the big winners in the film categories were Green Book, Bohemian Rhapsody, and Roma. Green Book led the night with three wins: Best Screenplay, Best Comedy or Musical, and Best Supporting Actor for Mahershala Ali. Bohemian Rhapsody and Roma followed with two wins apiece: The former won Best Drama and Best Actor in a Drama for Rami Malek, and the latter won Best Director and Best Foreign Language Feature.

Meanwhile, four other films took home acting awards: If Beale Street Could Talk’s Regina King won Best Supporting Actress; Vice’s Christian Bale won Lead Actor in a Comedy or Musical; The Favourite’s Olivia Colman won Lead Actress in a Comedy or Musical; and The Wife’s Glenn Close won Lead Actress in a Drama.

Brian Currie, Nick Vallelonga, and Peter Farrelly won the Golden Globe for Best Screenplay for the movie Green Book.

Brian Currie, Nick Vallelonga, and Peter Farrelly’s Green Book won three awards at the Golden Globes on Sunday night.
Paul Drinkwater/NBCUniversal via Getty Images

It’s tempting to take any film’s high trophy count at the Golden Globes as evidence that the Globes function as an “Oscar predictor.” That’s a natural assumption, because the Globes have so much in common with the Academy Awards: The awards honor movies (in addition to television) with a glitzy, star-studded televised ceremony. Plus, they take place less than two months before the Academy Awards and kick off the awards season that culminates in the Academy Awards.

But is there anything to the idea that Globes results predict the eventual Oscar winners?

(Quick clarifying note: The awards that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences hands out are called “Oscars” for reasons that are disputed. But “Oscars” and “Academy Awards” are generally used interchangeably to refer to the ceremony.)

No — because the Golden Globes aren’t set up to be an Oscar predictor.

Walt Hickey, writing at FiveThirtyEight, noted that in 2013, the Golden Globes had a success rate of only 48 percent in predicting the Oscars’ eventual Best Picture winner. That’s not abysmal, but it’s not great either.

One of the issues is structural: The Golden Globes give out two Best Picture awards — one for drama and one for musical or comedy — while there’s only one Best Picture Oscar. The awards for Best Actor and Best Actress are also split into the Drama and Comedy/Musical categories at the Globes, but the Supporting Actor and Actress categories — along with Best Director and Best Screenplay — are not.

Similarly, while the Oscars split out screenplays by Best Original Screenplay and Best Adapted Screenplay, the Globes lump them all into one category.

This disparity means it’s virtually impossible for the Globes to “predict” wins in a meaningful fashion. The Globes nominations do tend to track near the Oscar nominations (though there are always a few outliers). And beginning with the 2010 Oscars, up to 10 movies could be nominated for Best Picture, making it technically possible for all 10 Golden Globe Best Picture nominees (in both the Drama and Comedy/Musical categories) to also earn a Best Picture nod at the Oscars.

Sometimes, the results of the Globes track moderately closely to the Oscar results. In 2017, for instance, the powerhouse La La Land broke records by winning seven awards at the Globes, including Best Motion Picture (Comedy or Musical); it later won six of the 14 Oscars it was nominated for. And Moonlight, which took home the Best Motion Picture (Drama) award at the Globes, was the eventual Best Picture winner at the Oscars — though not until after a historic SNAFU.

But as an Oscar predictor, the Globes are still fairly inaccurate. The 2018 Best Picture winners at the Globes were Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (in the drama category) and Lady Bird (in the comedy category) — but both missed the major awards at the Oscars. And two years prior, in 2016, The Revenant won the Golden Globe for Best Drama, beating out eventual Oscars Best Picture winner Spotlight. The year before that, eventual Oscars Best Picture winner Birdman was bested by The Grand Budapest Hotel for Best Comedy at the Globes.

There are plenty of other categories at the Globes, of course; the Globes have a much better track record when it comes to predicting the Oscars Best Actor and Actress winners. In January 2016, Jason Bailey found at Flavorwire that over the past decade, the Globes had a nearly 90 percent accuracy rating for predicting the acting awards, versus Best Director (40 percent) or Best Picture (50 percent).

76th Annual Golden Globe Awards - Press Room

Alfonso Cuarón won Best Director and Best Foreign Language Film for his movie Roma.
Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images

But if you’re looking to win your Oscar pool this year, you’re best off also checking who ultimately wins the top prizes at the various guilds: The Directors Guild of America (DGA) and Producers Guild of America (PGA) are typically the strongest predictors of the eventual Oscars Best Picture winner; the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) is usually the place to check for performance frontrunners (alongside the BAFTAs and the Globes); the Writers’ Guild (WGA) helps predict the screenwriting awards; and so on. FiveThirtyEight’s prediction model from 2016 has a great rundown.

No — because the people who vote for the Golden Globes don’t overlap with the people who vote for the Oscars.

The reason for the overlap with industry-specific awards is simple: A high percentage of the people who vote for the Academy Awards also belong to guilds like the DGA, PGA, SAG, and WGA. So people’s votes often overlap, disparate categories notwithstanding.

The people who vote for the Golden Globes, however, are an entirely different group, and they’re not industry voters. The Hollywood Foreign Press Association hands out the Golden Globes, and there is virtually no overlap between the HFPA and the Academy.

In brief: The membership of the HFPA never surpasses 100 and is ostensibly made up entirely of journalists based in Southern California who work for foreign publications — though even that status is hard to verify in a few cases. Currently, its membership hovers around 90. That small membership means it’s known for being unpredictable, and it’s sometimes accused of letting publicity and favors skew the results.

The Academy, on the other hand, is made up of around 8,000 members, all of whom work or previously worked in the filmmaking business in some capacity or another — actors, directors, producers, screenwriters, and more. Academy voters still skew overwhelmingly white, male, and over 60, but new rules instituted in 2016 (after the #OscarsSoWhite controversy) are changing that.

But then again, maybe.

The thing about awards buzz is that it’s generated by journalists and critics, and also by the way film studios try to market their films to voters. A great deal of this happens through the distribution of screener discs for major films, which are sent to people who belong to major voting bodies (guilds and critics’ circles, as well as the Academy) to help ensure they can watch everything and aid them in filling out their ballots.

76th Annual Golden Globe Awards - Show

Regina King took home the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress for her work in If Beale Street Could Talk on Sunday night.
Photo by Paul Drinkwater/NBCUniversal via Getty Images

In 2019, voting members of the Academy must submit their Oscar nomination ballots by Monday, January 14 — eight days after the Golden Globes. And given how busy everyone is at the end of the year, it’s reasonable to bet that plenty of Oscar voters still have a stack of screeners sitting on the coffee table as you read this.

So while they’ve probably watched the favorites by now — BlacKkKlansman and A Star Is Born and Green Book and Black Panther — a Golden Globes win for an underdog like If Beale Street Could Talk might push a voter to give the film a look before submitting their ballot. And thus, Regina King or Glenn Close, both of whom have been part of awards conversations but not frontrunners in their respective categories (Best Supporting Actress and Best Actress) may still have a chance; you never know.

That means that while the Golden Globes aren’t “predictors” for the Oscars, they can influence the Oscars. A surprise win at the Globes, if it inspires enough Academy members to watch a film they haven’t yet seen, or to reconsider a film or performance they had forgotten about, could give a film the extra nudge it needs.

And in 2019, this matters, because at this point it’s anyone’s guess as to what will happen at the end of February when Hollywood convenes for the Oscars. Will Best Picture go to a solid consensus choice, like the high-earning, critically praised A Star Is Born? Or to a film that feels like it’s from an earlier Hollywood era, like Green Book? Will the Academy celebrate a film with bad reviews but rabid fans, like Bohemian Rhapsody? Or will it follow critics’ groups and make the more artistically daring choice of a foreign language film like Roma? Will the Academy shower 2018’s top earner Black Panther with the big prize, or reward a more niche choice like If Beale Street Could Talk, The Favourite, or even BlacKkKlansman?

Nobody really knows. Green Book’s big night at the 2019 Golden Globes could be an indicator of future success, or it may not have any bearing at all. Other films that won big at the Globes may enjoy a boost. And that’s what keeps the Golden Globes — the weirdest awards of the season — worth watching.