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Golden Globes: What wins for 'The Revenant,' 'The Martian' could mean for Oscars season

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Courtesy Twentieth Century Fox/AP

(Read caption) 'The Revenant' stars Leonardo DiCaprio.

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The film “The Revenant” won the Golden Globe award for best dramatic movie, a victory that many industry watchers found surprising. 

Those behind the Golden Globes, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, split the biggest movie prize into two categories: best comedy or musical and best drama. While some nominees in the best comedy or musical prize, such as this year’s winner, “The Martian,” can be thought of as contenders for the Best Picture Oscar as well, the best drama prize is often watched closely as a possible indicator for what’s in the lead when it comes to the Oscars race. 

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While “Revenant” was considered a fairly sure thing for a Best Picture nod, many had thought the movie “Spotlight,” which stars Michael Keaton and Rachel McAdams, was the best bet for the Golden Globe best drama prize and that nominees like “Room” and “Carol” were also strong contenders.

Instead, “Revenant” taking the prize and “Revenant” director Alejandro González Iñárritu winning the best director award means that an Iñárritu film may be in the lead for the Oscar Best Picture prize for the second year in a row. (Mr. Iñárritu’s movie “Birdman” won Best Picture last year and Iñárritu won the best director award.) 

Meanwhile, the comedy or musical award went to the film “The Martian.” Some found it baffling that “Martian” was in the category at all, considering the movie isn’t exactly a laugh-a-minute film despite the many wisecracks of the protagonist portrayed by Matt Damon. But “Martian” taking the comedy or musical prize will no doubt increase its chances of scoring a nod for the Oscar Best Picture.

What do these two movies, both of which had their Oscars chances strengthened by their Golden Globe wins, have in common? Both have been movies that have attracted audience interest. “Martian,” which tells the fictional tale of Mark Watney, an astronaut who becomes stranded on Mars, became one of the highest-grossing movies of 2015. “Revenant,” which depicts the true story of a man named Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) who is wounded by a bear in the wilderness, opened in limited release at the end of 2015 and just expanded this past weekend. But its early numbers already showed that audiences would turn up ­and when it expanded this past weekend, it scored impressive box office numbers, coming in second for the weekend behind only “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” 

But “Martian” is a crowd-pleasing film suitable for most ages (those old enough to hear protagonist Mark’s language, anyway) with a hopeful message about humanity, as Mark’s co-workers band together to get him home, with some taking personal risks to do so. 

“Revenant,” by contrast, is an incredibly violent film that many critics have said can be difficult to watch. Plot points involve the treachery of protagonist Hugh’s companions, one suggesting they murder the wounded Hugh because he is delaying them, and Hugh seeking revenge on those who betrayed him. 

The Academy has selected both feel-good tales and darker stories as Best Picture in the past. We’ll see as awards season goes on which the Academy will favor this year.