As Ricky Gervais joked on Sunday night, the Golden Globes are like the Oscars, only without all the esteem. The Oscars are chosen by 6,000 movie-industry professionals; the Globes by about 90 full- and part-time journalists whose organization has a mixed record when it comes to integrity and taste. Still, the Globes and Oscars do seem to have similar preferences often enough that the Globes have become a measure of an Oscar-hopeful's momentum. Last night's Globe winners do provide some hints as to how the Oscar race is shaping up. Here are some key takeaways from the 2012 Globe winners' list.

1. The night's biggest winner? Harvey Weinstein. He was already known as king of the Oscar campaigners, having orchestrated victories for movies from 1998's "Shakespeare in Love" to last year's "The King's Speech." The indie mogul earned two new nicknames last night from grateful winners: "The Punisher" and "God." Thanks in part to Harvey, The Weinstein Company took home six prizes, more than any other studio, including three for putative Oscar front-runner "The Artist," both Best Actress prizes (for Meryl Streep and Michelle Williams) and even Best Song for a tune Madonna admitted she tossed off at the last minute. It takes some serious clout or campaigning savvy to pull that off. Who else could convince the Hollywood Foreign Press Association that "My Week With Marilyn" was actually a comedy, thereby opening up a space for Williams to win? Not that Williams isn't a worthy contender for her astonishing performance as Marilyn Monroe, but when it comes time for the Oscar nominations, she's probably most voters' third choice at best. Or was until last night. Going into the Globes, Weinstein's movies and stars had plenty of momentum, but after last night, they're now the ones to beat.

2. The HFPA likes to spread the wealth more than the Academy does. In part, that's because they want to attract stars to their live, televised cocktail party, and they don't want too many of them to go home empty-handed. So the Globes' 14 movie trophies were spread among 10 films and such A-listers as Madonna and Steven Spielberg (for "The Adventures of Tintin," an animated movie that plays much more to international tastes than to domestic ones) who are less likely to take home similar prizes on Oscar night.

3. It's down to "The Artist" vs. "The Descendants." Both films picked up Best Picture prizes last night, in the comedy and drama categories, respectively. But at the Oscars, where there is no such division, only one can win. Before last night, "The Artist" had been the favorite, racking up critics' prizes along the way. But the Best Picture - Comedy winner at the Globes seldom repeats at the Oscars, since the Academy tends to look down its nose at comedies. So "Descendants," which had some momentum but not as much as "The Artist," could be seen as the front-runner. The fact that neither won Best Director (which went to "Hugo"'s Martin Scorsese) doesn't bode well for either film, as Best Director and Best Picture usually go hand in hand.

4. George Clooney, Jean Dujardin, and Christopher Plummer passed the Speech Auditions. Remember Gervais' joke: the Oscars are classy, and the Academy would like to hear its winners deliver classy speeches. To the extent that the Globes speeches count as auditions for Oscar speeches to come, those who acquitted themselves best were Best Actor contenders Clooney and Dujardin and Best Supporting Actor frontrunner Plummer. Clooney managed to display both the graciousness and sense of entitlement that are his due as the current king of Hollywood. Dujardin wittily introduced himself to the Academy and to most of America. And Plummer delivered an eloquently hammy set of thank-yous that should remind the Academy that the 82-year-old Shakespearean is long overdue for his first trophy.

5. Octavia Spencer confirmed her front-runner status. The "Help" star didn't do herself any favors with her speech, which started off on a lofty emotional note but devolved into a dry laundry list of obligatory thank-yous. Still, her victory serves as reminder that she's had the Best Supporting Actress category pretty much sewn up since August. Also confirming its front-runner status was Iranian domestic drama "A Separation," which won on merit even though the starry-eyed Globe voters had a chance to give the prize to red carpet goddess Angelina Jolie. Now, it's not as if Oscar voters will pick these winners just because Globe voters did (it's worth remembering that ballots for Oscar nominations were due last Friday, two days before the Globe ceremony), but they'll feel better about voting for them as consensus choices now that the Globes have clicked "Like" on them as well.

6. It's Meryl Streep vs. Viola Davis, according to the Applause Meter. Sure, Streep won the trophy for Best Actress in a Drama, and sure she's likely to earn a record 17th Oscar nomination for playing Margaret Thatcher -- and sure, she hasn't won an Academy Award in three decades. Still, both the "Iron Lady" prime minister and the "Help" housemaid received equally enthusiastic cheers from the audience of their peers when their names were read as nominees. And those cheering actors and filmmakers in the Globes audience are often Academy voters. Even Streep singled out her friend Davis (both were Oscar-nominated for their roles in "Doubt" a few years ago) for praise during her acceptance speech. Right now, a Davis win seems like an upset, but it wouldn't be unprecedented. Ten years ago, Halle Berry lost the Globe but went on to win the Screen Actors Guild award and the Oscar. Davis could be the first black performer since Berry to win an Academy Award for Best Actress; even viewers who found "The Help" more patronizing than uplifting have praised Davis' work in the film. Whether voters want to make history or simply reward a towering performance, it's easy to imagine loud cheers for both Streep and Davis at the Oscars, too.
CATEGORIES Movies