Golden Globes 2013: 'Argo' and 'Django Unchained' Surge Ahead

Christoph Waltz and Jamie Foxx in ‘Django Unchained’/Photo © The Weinstein Co
Christoph Waltz and Jamie Foxx in ‘Django Unchained’/Photo © The Weinstein Co

Sunday night’s Golden Globes ceremony played out like an alternate reality Comi-Con, where masters of the universe mingled among themselves, complimenting each other on their ingenuity, passion, and commitment to pop culture’s cause. Only at the Globes, those titans and demi-gods weren't sporting threadbare homemade costumes and papier mache masks -- they came decked out as the extreme fantasy version of ... themselves. This display of power and influence crystallized the moment Bill Clinton glided onto the stage to deliver his implied endorsement of “Lincoln,” meant to reinforce the prevailing assumption that Steven Spielberg’s granular look at presidential politics will need a flatbed truck to haul away its trophies.

But power dynamics did not play out as planned at Hollywood's annual pre-Oscar prom. There’s an argument to be made that merit trumped might last night, filling the Golden Globes’ winner’s circle with more long-shot contenders than establishment favorites. The first big surprise of the evening came when Christoph Waltz scored the award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting role over his “Django Unchained” confrere, Leonardo DiCaprio, whose flashy role as an effete sadistic plantation owner had been touted as his best work since “The Departed.” The Hollywood Foreign Press, which oversees the Globes, has always taken them upon themselves to reward the superstars whose work often goes overlooked by Oscar, which is why no one expected DiCaprio to go home empty-handed.

Then came Quentin Tarantino’s Best Screenplay win, which had the whole Beverly Hilton ballroom doing double takes. Even the notoriously humility-challenged “Django Unchained” writer-director seemed caught off-guard when his name was called instead of Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, Tony Kushner, whose refined script for “Lincoln” had long made him the pacesetter in that race. After muscling his way to the stage, Tarantino winged it through a rambling speech before ending a solipsistic digression about his “process” saying, “This is a damn surprise and I like surprises.”

The midsection of the show played out pretty much according to what Vegas oddsmakers had predicted. Jennifer Lawrence was widely expected to claim the Best Actress in a Motion Picture Comedy for her feisty and fearless role in “Silver Linings Playbook” as an unbalanced widow who uses promiscuity to shield her intense vulnerability. It was a spellbinding performance that stood little chance of falling prey to a late-breaking surge by one of her august competitors – two Dames (Judi Dench and Maggie Smith) and default winner, Meryl Streep.

The other acting categories also stuck to the script laid out by the the growing cadre of awards Nostradamuses (Nostradami?). Anne Hathaway floated up to the stage, oozing gamine charm and looking like a modern-day Audrey Hepburn as she accepted the Best Supporting Actress award for her anguished rendition of Les Miserables’ besieged street urchin, Fantine. Likewise, pulse-racing thrills went missing when Hathaway’s “Les Miz” colleague Hugh Jackman won Best Actor in a Comedy or Musical and when Daniel Day-Lewis uttered his stentorian thanks for the Best Actor in a Drama trophy. And Jessica Chastain has had a dramatic acting award in the bag since critics began polishing their celebratory odes to her acting versatility and virtuosity in “Zero Dark Thirty.” The only big disappointment here is that Paul Thomas Anderson’s “The Master” didn’t receive its due props for a film that amounted to a master-class in modern movie acting.

The Hollywood Foreign Press saved the big bombshell revelation for the end. And we’re not just talking about Jodie Foster’s genuinely moving speech for the Cecil B. DeMille Award for Lifetime Achievement, unveiling one of her most intimate truths about growing up famous, her desire for privacy around her sexual identity (which she insists has never been a secret among friends and family), and what it’s like to step into the next unknown phase of her career.

The night's big reveal arrived just on cue as the winner of night’s biggest award was announced. Bill Clinton doesn’t just show up at any cheesy awards show to throw his weight behind a film unless it seems as destined to win as he was back in '94. So when “Argo” swooped in and snatched the trophy right from Lincoln’s bony grasp, twitter exploded in a display of shocked and bewildered awards junkies. “Lincoln” had it in the bag. Steven Spielberg is the godfather and kissing the ring – in the form of awards love – has become a time-honored tradition. How could this happen?

As we mentioned in last week’s Oscar nominations post, this topsy-turvy year has laid the groundwork for major upset. We previously predicted “Silver Linings Playbook” stood the best chance of unseating “Lincoln.” But now it looks like “Argo” has re-entered the fray, making this an exciting three-way race.

What are your thoughts on how the Globes may or may not have expected the Academy’s voting? Which dark horse contender would you most like to see stage a last-minute surge? Which snubs and losses irked you most?