Ah, The Golden Globes. Once a year, we stop to ponder why this odd ceremony continues to attract such furious attention. Professional awards such as the Screen Actors Guild and the Directors Guild of America offer more accurate pointers to Oscar success.
Nonetheless we will judge the sureness of Saoirse Ronan's path to an Academy Award by her performance on Sunday night. We will ponder the television awards as if they tell us anything about the Emmys.
We will, in this territory, do these things mostly via social media, as the TV stations ceased broadcasting the event on this side of the Atlantic some years ago.
Voted upon by around 90, largely obscure members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the Globes have gained the status of an institution without ever becoming fully respectable. That’s one of the things we like about them.
In recent decades, the ceremony – still the second-most watched film awards show in the US after the Oscars – has gained a justified reputation for juiced-up informality. The red carpet is fun. Since Ricky Gervais re-invented the hosting job in 2010, the show has been characterised by an irreverence you rarely experience at the Oscars.
This has, however, presented organisers of the 75th edition with a problem. Seth Meyers, this year's host, will need to reference the fetid Weinstein scandal and the satellite outrages that it kicked up.
He will be expected to make jokes about those abuses. But he will need to convince audiences that the target of his humour is the abusers and not the abused.
“As far as talking about anything in the news right now, it seems like this year more than ever Hollywood has its own internal politics that obviously deserve to be talked about,” he told People magazine.
The HFPA will have confidence that Meyers, a smart man with a flexible mind, can handle the job, but, as the scandal advanced, they must have wished they'd selected a woman. Or two women. Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, who last hosted in 2015, would surely have felt more comfortable with this incendiary material. Count on at least one guest presenter to badly misjudge the mood.
Black dress protest
The scandal has already caused some sartorial controversy. A number of female nominees have said they will wear black in honour of those abused. This led Rose McGowan, one of the actors who came forward with accusations of mistreatment, to sling abuse about on Twitter.
"Actresses, like Meryl Streep, who happily worked for The Pig Monster, are wearing black @GoldenGlobes in a silent protest," she wrote. "YOUR SILENCE is THE problem. You'll accept a fake award breathlessly & affect no real change. I despise your hypocrisy."
Streep issued a statement politely pointing out that she was ignorant of Weinstein’s worst excesses (the presumed Pig Monster). McGowan offered a sort of apology.
Wry amusement greeted the news that, in solidarity, some fearless male guests would be wearing black to, ahem, a black-tie affair. Oh well. The fewer white dinner jackets we see at any formal event the better.
Saoirse Ronan’s chances
None of which should distract us from the gongs themselves. This is the most unpredictable awards season in many years.
Saoirse Ronan arrives at the Globes in a presumed four-way tie for the best actress Oscar. Her performance as a mildly miffed, amusingly rebellious teenager in Lady Bird has won unbroken raves. By one measure, Greta Gerwig's autobiographical comedy is the best received film ever on review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes.
Ronan is, at the Oscars, expected to be up against Frances McDormand as a bereaved mother in Martin McDonagh's Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri, Sally Hawkins as a lonely mute woman in Guillermo del Toro's The Shape of Water and Margot Robbie as disgraced skater Tonya Harding in I, Tonya. Streep with probably take the fifth Oscar nomination for playing publisher Kay Graham in The Post, but that doesn't feel like a winning turn.
It is to Ronan’s advantage this weekend that the Globes divide some categories into “drama” and “comedy or musical”. She thus has, among the four key competitors, only Robbie to beat on Sunday night. Lady Bird and I, Tonya compete as musicals. McDormand will square up against Hawkins and Streep in best drama actress.
It looks as if only those mentioned above can win, but, with such a small, eccentric electorate, almost anything can happen. Do not forget last year when Aaron Taylor Johnson, who didn't even get an Oscar nomination, won the Golden Globe for best supporting actor. (If you are willing to abandon patriotism, Robbie is available at a very fair 5/1 for the Globe. Ronan is as tight as 2/9 with one mean bookmaker.)
With that in mind, we cannot rule out Globes wins for the other two Irish contenders, but they have a fight on their hands. Nora Twomey’s The Breadwinner, the tale of a girl forced to pose as a boy in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, is a welcome nominee for best animated feature. Produced by Cartoon Saloon in Kilkenny, the picture is also a likely Oscar contender, but Pixar’s Coco, a more high-profile release, is regarded as a strong favourite in both competitions.
Catriona Balfe receives a third Golden Globe nomination in the best actress on a TV series (drama) category for Outlander. It is, however, hard to imagine anybody beating Elisabeth Moss, face of the zeitgeist in The Handmaid's Tale, to that award.
Martin McDonagh, the celebrated London-Irish writer and director, has a strong chance of taking best screenplay for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. That battle is surely between him and Greta Gerwig.
Elsewhere, expect Gary Oldman to win best actor (drama) for his role as Winston Churchill in The Darkest Hour and Laurie Metcalfe, still fondly remembered from the sitcom Rosanne, to win best supporting actress for playing Saoirse's mum in Lady Bird. The Handmaid's Tale, an adaptation of Margaret Atwood's dystopian novel, and delicious hyper-soap Big Little Lies should boss many of the TV prizes.
Awards pundits will be desperately seeking some clues as to the Oscar best picture race from Sunday’s results. Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk is a default favourite with some tipsters for the shallow reason that, among the main competitors, it looks most like a traditional “Oscar picture”: historical, serious, epic. Steven Spielberg’s The Post also satisfies many of those criteria. Mind you, following victories for films such as The Hurt Locker and Moonlight, the Oscars no longer seem immune to smaller pictures. Lady Bird and Three Billboards have a good chance at the wards that matter. So does Jordan Peele’s brilliant satirical horror film Get Out. All those pictures are up for Globes in either drama or comedy/musical.
We’ll know more on Monday morning. But not much more.