2015 was a noteworthy year for cinema purely in terms of variety, when it came to the year's most critically-acclaimed film releases. Something like the Steven Spielberg historical drama, Bridge of Spies earned the applause and admiration that one expects when a prestigious Spielberg picture is produced nowadays (which is not to say the film doesn't deserve it, per se), but even revivals of decades-old pop franchises like Star Wars and Mad Max were equally enthusiastically received (more so in certain cases) as the year's general crop of arthouse offerings, auteur efforts, and Oscar-baiting end of year dramas.
The Hollywood Foreign Press Association intends to honor the best of the best in film and television alike during the upcoming 73rd Golden Globes Awards Ceremony, though the current awards season race is pretty open when it comes to movies. As such, it'll be trickier than usual to accurately predict which nominees (films, actors/actresses, and behind the scenes talent) will walk away as the winners in their respective categories.
Nevertheless, we'll take a shot at guessing who and what will take which awards - using a very un-scientific and more than a little subjective method - while at the same time offering some thoughts on who (and what films) should be recognized at the 2016 Golden Globes.
Motion Picture, Drama
Predicted Winner: Spotlight
There's not a clear front-runner in the awards season race (culminating with Oscar night) in 2016 like there has been in some years past, but Tom McCarthy's docudrama on the Boston Globe's investigation of the Catholic Church's sex abuse coverup has gained momentum of late. The HFPA's own Best Drama selections generally aren't too surprising (with recent winners including Boyhood and 12 Years a Slave) and McCarthy's film boasts that perfect combination of topical subject matter and critical darling status that suggests it will take home the big prize (and maybe then some) at the Golden Globes.
Should Win: Mad Max: Fury Road
George Miller's Mad Max sequel is the sort of genre fare that typically doesn't even get nominated for Best Drama at the Golden Globes, much less stand a chance of winning over the traditional contenders. Nevertheless, Fury Road is the rare franchise revival that has transcended its origins (an "Ozploitation" action film series) during awards season, having been recognized by the National Board of Review and the Critics Choice awards, among others. While the HFPA could well surprise, Fury Road is still unlikely to land a Best Drama win at the Golden Globes, for the reasons mentioned.
Potential Upset: Carol
Director Todd Haynes' period drama about the love affair between two women has earned more than its fair share of critical acclaim for everything from its leads' performances to its art direction, yet Carol remains a dark horse candidate when it comes to the overall awards season race. The movie has been recognized by the Toronto and Austin film critic circles and racked up multiple nominations at events like the Independent Spirit Awards, so it's not outside the realm of possibility that it could sneak it and take the Best Drama prize at the Golden Globes.
Should’ve Been a Contender: Brooklyn, Sicario
Brooklyn and Sicario are among the films nominated at the 2016 Producers Guild Awards and there's a reasonable chance that both of these critically-acclaimed titles will be nominated for Best Picture at the 2016 Academy Awards too. However, it's a competitive year in the drama category, so it was inevitable that not every critical darling would make the cut at the Golden Globes with only five slots available.
Motion Picture, Musical/Comedy
Predicted Winner: The Martian
Some have taken issue with the idea that The Martian is a "comedy", but the good-humored tale of one astronaut's efforts to stay alive (while he's trapped and alone on the red planet) is one of 2015's most widely acclaimed movies, in addition to being a major commercial success (with a worldwide box office take that sits close to $600 million). Competition in the comedy category isn't as strong as the drama line-up either, which makes director Ridley Scott's space adventure the obvious pick to win here at the Golden Globes.
Should Win: The Martian
Joy isn't generally regarded as being filmmaker David O. Russell's best work, while neither Trainwreck nor Spy necessarily breaks the mold when it comes to the comedy moviemaking approach of directors Judd Apatow and Paul Feig, respectively. By comparison, it is widely agreed that The Martian is Ridley Scott's best work in several years, in addition to being an impressive piece of storytelling solely on its own terms. Again, it's difficult to imagine that The Martian won't be crowned Best Comedy by the HFPA (and with good reason), when all is said and done.
Potential Upset: The Big Short
The Best Comedy contender that does have a chance of sneaking in and taking the prize away from The Martian is The Big Short, Adam McKay's inventive comical take on author Michael Phillips' decidedly complicated non-fiction book about those who foresaw the 2007 housing market collapse. It's perhaps a long shot but then again, so was the idea that the director of Anchorman would deliver a film that will likely end up being nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards, for that matter.
Should’ve Been a Contender: Inside Out, The Hateful Eight
Yes, Pixar's Inside Out is nominated for Best Animated Feature, but it would have been nice to see the HFPA nominate the critically-acclaimed computer animated movie for Best Comedy too - seeing as that doesn't carry the qualifier of being the best animated film of the year. And if both The Martian and the decidedly serious Joy count as "comedies", then so does Quentin Tarantino's darkly funny single-setting western/murder mystery, The Hateful Eight.
Best Director, Motion Picture
Nominees: Todd Haynes (Carol), Alejandro González Iñárritu (The Revenant), Tom McCarthy (Spotlight), George Miller (Mad Max: Fury Road), Ridley Scott (The Martian)
Predicted Winner: Ridley Scott
Filmmaking legend Ridley Scott has yet to win either a Golden Globe or an Oscar for directing, despite being nominated in the past for such films as Gladiator (which was crowned Best Drama at the Golden Globes in 2001). Scott not only has the benefit of an esteemed filmmaking career under his belt, but his directorial work on The Martian is widely considered to be among the best for 2015 film releases in general. For these reasons, it's easy to imagine that the HFPA will recognize Scott for his direction on Golden Globes night.
Should Win: George Miller
Whether you feel Mad Max: Fury Road is vastly overrated or worthy of the praise that it has received during the awards season thus far, there's no denying that the film manages to impress simply from a directorial perspective. George Miller spent years fine-tuning the movie's action-driven plot and visual design; as a result, Fury Road feels surprisingly intimate for a movie that was made on a nine-figure budget and features nearly as many car crashes/explosions as it does lines of dialogue. That's quite the accomplishment, on its own.
Potential Upset: Alejandro González Iñárritu
Alejandro González Iñárritu's Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) won Best Director at the 2015 Academy Awards, but Iñárritu was only recognized for his contributions to the film's script, not his direction, at the Golden Globes that year. The Revenant was in many ways an equally ambitious undertaking by the filmmaker, but because the western revenge thriller isn't generating the same buzz as Birdman, Iñárritu's winning for The Revenant would be somewhat unexpected - even after the HFPA didn't recognized his directorial work on Birdman last year.
Should've Been a Contender: Denis Villeneuve (Sicario)
Villeneuve's horrifying drama/thriller about drug crime on the U.S./Mexico border has been criticized for certain flaws with its screenplay, but the direction on Sicario very much packs a punch - and is arguably as much (if not a bigger) highlight of the film than the direction on such performance driven features as Spotlight. Sicario could end up edging one of those films out for a Best Director nod at the Oscars this year, for related reasons.
Best Screenplay – Motion Picture
Nominees: Emma Donahue, Room; Tom McCarthy/Josh Singer, Spotlight; Charles Randolph/Adam McKay, The Big Short; Aaron Sorkin, Steve Jobs; Quentin Tarantino, The Hateful Eight
Predicted Winner: Tom McCarthy/Josh Singer
Spotlight, as mentioned before, is the current front-runner in the Best Drama category - and though the film is well-directed, arguably the screenwriting and performances are its strongest elements. Both Sorkin and Tarantino are revered screenwriters who have been honored by the HFPA in the past and in turn present strong competition, but neither Steve Jobs nor Hateful Eight are widely regarded as being as inventive from a storytelling perspective as some of their previous work.
Should Win: Tom McCarthy/Josh Singer
Emma Donahue successfully turned her own Room source novel into a proper cinematic narrative, while Charles Randolph and Adam McKay managed to adapt a very un-cinematic book into a unique filmgoing experience. Nevertheless, the Spotlight screenplay by McCarthy and Singer does an excellent job of doing what the best investigative journalists do: telling the story without going overboard on the embellishments.
Potential Upset: Charles Randolph/Adam McKay
Randolph and McKay's script for The Big Short - complete with fourth-wall breaking, financial market jargon delivered in the screwball comedy style, and special celebrity cameos that are simultaneously funny and informative - certainly bucks convention in a good way, as many have noticed. If there's one area where The Big Short has the best shot at snagging an award on Golden Globes night, it's arguably in the area of screenwriting.
Should've Been a Contender: Drew Goddard, The Martian
While there's a reasonable chance several people who worked on The Martian will be honored during the 2016 Golden Globes ceremony, screenwriter Drew Goddard (who adapted Andy Weir's The Martian source novel) will not be among them. Goddard's adapted script deserves credit for effectively carrying over the wit and humanism of Weir's book, while at the same time stream-lining its scientific know-how and making the story more cinematic. Not to worry though, Goddard's a shoo-in to land a Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar nomination.