How Ava DuVernay (‘Selma’) could pull off stunning Golden Globes upset

Boyhood” and “Birdman” are the frontrunners to win Golden Globes for Best Drama Picture and Best Musical/Comedy Picture, respectively, and likewise their filmmakers occupy the top two slots in our predictions for Best Director. But we could be underestimating a major wild card: Ava DuVernay (“Selma“).

Henry Sanders (‘Selma’) on race in Hollywood and ‘importance of voting’ [Podcast]

Richard Linklater (“Boyhood”) leads our Best Director predictions with 4/5 odds, and challenger Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (“Birdman”) follows close behind with 2/1 odds. But even though they helm the Globes favorites for Best Picture, that doesn’t mean voters will automatically grant one of them the directing honor.

Picture/Director splits are common at the Globes, which, unlike the Oscars, often make a point to spread the wealth. Just last year, the Globes awarded Best Picture to “American Hustle” (Musical/Comedy) and “12 Years a Slave” (Drama), but awarded Alfonso Cuaron for directing “Gravity.”

In 2011, Picture prizes went to “The Artist” (Musical/Comedy) and “The Descendants” (Drama), while Best Director went to Martin Scorsese for “Hugo.”

In 2007, the Best Picture winners were “Sweeney Todd” (Musical/Comedy) and “Atonement” (Drama), with Best Director going to Julian Schnabel for “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.”

Carmen Ejogo on playing Coretta Scott King for a second time in ‘Selma’ [Exclusive Video]

Such splits benefit Globes voters if they wish to be strategic. They’re often valued for influencing and predicting the Oscars, and they can hedge their bets by splitting their prizes among different films. For instance, they were wrong about Best Picture in 2006, awarding “Dreamgirls” (Musical/Comedy) and “Babel” (Drama). But they still got out ahead of the academy by picking Scorsese as Best Director for “The Departed,” which did end up winning Oscar’s top prize.

That’s where DuVernay might come in. With “Boyhood” and “Birdman” appearing solidly ahead in the Best Picture races, the Globes could anoint “Selma” a third top Oscar prospect by awarding DuVernay in the directing race. We know the Hollywood Foreign Press are fans of the film – it has four nominations, including Drama Picture and Drama Actor (David Oyelowo) – and Best Director could be their best chance to send it away with a major victory, though it’s also out front to win Best Original Song for “Glory.”

What’s more, it’s a chance for the HFPA to make history and thereby throw down the gauntlet for other awards groups. DuVernay is only the third black director nominated by the Golden Globes – following Spike Lee (“Do the Right Thing”) and Steve McQueen (“12 Years a Slave”) – and the first black woman. Only one other woman has ever won the award: Barbra Streisand for “Yentl.”

Oscars news: Ava DuVernay responds to ‘Selma’ controversy

With stellar reviews and unexpected modern cultural relevance, “Selma” is considered a top contender for Oscars despite snubs by SAG and the Producers Guild – possibly due to late DVD screeners – so the Globes have a chance to give the film a pivotal boost the way they did for “Argo” in 2012 by awarding Ben Affleck their Best Director prize after he was left out of the Oscars lineup. Affleck ended up getting a pretty nice Oscars consolation prize: Best Picture.

DuVernay currently ranks third in the Globes race for Best Director with 14/1 odds. Could she pull off an upset? Use our drag-and-drop menu below to make your predictions, or click here to predict the rest of this year’s Globe races, as well as the SAG Awards, Critics’ Choice, Oscars, and more.

More News from GoldDerby