On the surface, it seems like Bohemian Rhapsody might possess a kind of magic that few other movies could match. After topping the box office in multiple countries that criminalize homosexuality, the Freddie Mercury biopic went on to reign supreme as the highest-grossing LGBTQ film in Hollywood history. Not even middling reviews could stop audiences from going (radio) gaga over the film in cinemas, and now Bohemian Rhapsody seems to have won over the industry too, receiving two awards at the Golden Globes this week.
While Rami Malek’s win for his portrayal of Mercury wasn’t particularly surprising, many were shocked to see Bohemian Rhapsody beat out better-received films like Black Panther and If Beale Street Could Talk for the accolade of Best Motion Picture (Drama). Not only did Bohemian Rhapsody receive the weakest reviews of the bunch, but many in the LGBTQ community were also disappointed by the film’s portrayal of Mercury’s sexuality — and the less said about original director Bryan Singer, the better.
Despite all of the controversy, this double win makes it more likely than ever that Bohemian Rhapsody will also be recognized by the Academy Awards. Given that the cast has also been nominated by the Screen Actors Guild Awards, history tells us that the much-maligned biopic will almost certainly become a contender for Best Picture come February, alongside other favorites such as Green Book and well, The Favourite.
What still remains unclear though is whether Bohemian Rhapsody has what it takes to break free and secure the win. As Freddie himself once sang, “It’s a hard life,” and the biopic that tells his story will surely have a “long hard fight” on its hands too.
Both Best Film winners at the Golden Globes are usually guaranteed a nomination each year, but only nine of these have been awarded the Oscar since 2000. Although part of this has to do with the way that the Globes split Best Film across two categories (Drama and Musical/Comedy), the Globes also possess a populist streak which undoubtedly came into play here regarding this year’s surprise win.
Despite the film’s popularity, high box office earnings rarely translate to clear wins in the major Oscar categories, and what’s popular among the Golden Globe voters might not be so well liked by the Academy voters. After all, the voting pools that both ceremonies draw on don’t overlap too much, so the Oscar voters might have different favorites entirely, something which we’ve seen play out numerous times before.
Although a double win at the Globes helped propel Bohemian Rhapsody into the headlines at a crucial moment during the Academy’s deliberation window, publicity of this kind could also harm the film’s chances further come February 24. Remember when James Franco was snubbed by the Academy last year following his controversial Globe win and the sexual harassment claims that followed? The backlash that Bohemian Rhapsody is currently facing could derail any chance the film might have of taking home the Oscar for Best Picture.
In Bohemian Rhapsody, we watch Queen perform the song “We Are The Champions,” but in real life, it might be Freddie and Co. who bite the dust thanks to some pretty stiff competition from the likes of A Star Is Born and Roma. In fact, Roma could be the one to beat, despite some snobbery among cinephiles who resent its Netflix origins. At the Golden Globes, foreign language movies aren’t eligible to compete in the Best Film categories, and that’s why Roma wasn’t pitted against Bohemian Rhapsody there, but anything goes at the Oscars, and Alfonso Cuarón’s track record with the Academy isn’t to be trifled with either.
If I were a betting man, I’d say that Bohemian Rhapsody is unlikely to beat any of the aforementioned movies at the Oscars, and it looks like other betting men and women agree too. Oddschecker reports that the odds of it winning are unfavorable at around 5/2, and Gold Derby currently ranks Bohemian Rhapsody in ninth place with odds of 18/1. If these particular predictions are to be believed, then it’s currently a tight race between Roma and A Star Is Born, leaving Bohemian Rhapsody to languish almost out of sight completely.
Of course, the show must go on, and there’s still plenty of time for Bohemian Rhapsody to surprise us yet again by stealing the show completely. Freddie Mercury didn’t play by the rules, so it’s to be expected that a biopic based on his life might not either.
The 91st Academy Awards will take place at the Dolby Theatre on February 24, 2019.