Comedy, Music Get Their Due
Awards season can be so serious: Death itself haunts at least a dozen of this year's top contenders. But, thankfully, the Golden Globe Awards offer plenty of comic relief from the surrounding cinematic gloom. For while Oscar is notoriously resistant to comedies and often skeptical about musicals, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which votes for the Globes, sets aside separate categories for comedies and/or musicals. This year, with nominations scheduled to be announced Dec. 13, the HFPA is free to choose from a full-fledged musical like Les Miserables or even an R-rated hit comedy like Ted. And there also are plenty of films that aren't as easily classifiable but have enough music or comedy to merit consideration. Not Fade Away, for example, has plenty of music, since it follows a garage band in the early '60s, but it strikes an entirely different note from the '80s-set Rock of Ages. This year's comic performers range from the gentle eccentrics of Moonrise Kingdom to the self-absorbed, upper-middle-class Angelenos of This Is 40. Time, then, to lighten up and consider the possibilities.
Some years, there's not a genuine movie musical in sight, but that's not the case this season as Les Miserables gets ready to barricade itself in the multiplex on Christmas Day. And that means Hugh Jackman, a past nominee in this category for the 2001 time-travel comedy Kate & Leopold, is a virtually guaranteed nominee for singing his way through 19th century Paris as the bread-loving Jean Valjean. While the HFPA isn't as generous with its supporting acting categories as it is with best picture, actor and actress -- its supporting actor and actress races have five slots each, which must accommodate drama, comedy and musical -- a few of Jackman's Les Mis brothers-in-arms, especially Eddie Redmayne, could squeeze into that category.
Because the Globes definition of a musical is fairly elastic, hopefuls range from Rock of Ages (which might result in supporting noms for such Globe favorites as Alec Baldwin or Tom Cruise) to Not Fade Away (with a nom for James Gandolfini's dad character) as well as Any Day Now, an indie about a gay couple in the '70s fighting for custody of an autistic teen. It's fairly dramatic stuff, but since Alan Cumming plays a cabaret performer and belts out a couple of tunes, that puts the film in the musical camp.
On the comedic side of the equation, Silver Linings Playbook's Bradley Cooper is expected to be one of the season's major players for his performance as a bipolar man on the verge of another nervous breakdown. Robert De Niro, who plays his superstitious dad, is courting supporting honors as well.
But there also are plenty of other possibilities. Jack Black has gotten some of the best reviews of his career as a lethal funeral home director in the dark comedy Bernie; the same goes for Matthew McConaughey, who could squeeze into a supporting slot for commanding a corps of male strippers in Magic Mike. Colin Farrell, a Globe winner in 2009 for Martin McDonagh's In Bruges, could get a callback for the same director's Seven Psychopaths. Mark Wahlberg holds his own against a foul-mouthed teddy bear in Ted. And to cap off a political year, Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis play dueling small-town politicians in The Campaign, while Sacha Baron Cohen satirizes Middle East tyrants in The Dictator.
There also are any number of veteran actors on the scene: Bill Murray, acting presidential in Hyde Park on Hudson; Bruce Willis, as the local sheriff in Moonrise Kingdom; Tommy Lee Jones, enduring a long-term marriage in Hope Springs; and Billy Crystal, reluctantly playing grandfather in Parental Guidance.
And since the HFPA also loves to reward stars, it could even reach out to Johnny Depp -- a double comedy nominee two years ago for The Tourist and Alice in Wonderland -- for the retro horrzor of Dark Shadows.
As is the case with this year's dramas, when it comes to comedies and musicals, actresses just haven't been gifted with as many plum parts as have the guys -- with a handful of notable exceptions.
Jennifer Lawrence, a Globe drama nominee two years ago for Winter's Bone, proves her comedy chops playing a not-so-merry widow determined to reignite her romantic life in Playbook. And Anne Hathaway, a two-time Globe nominee, is getting plenty of shouts of "Brava!" for her heartbreaking vocalizing in Les Mis.
When it comes to the Globes, you never can discount Meryl Streep. With 26 nominations and eight wins, most recently for last year's The Iron Lady, she could be nominated yet again for playing one half of a marriage in Hope Springs. Speaking of favorites, Maggie Smith, who's likely to earn another nomination for TV's Downton Abbey, also could appear among the film nominees for either Quartet (in leading) or The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (in supporting) -- and the latter film about a group of seniors getting down with the natives in India could bring Judi Dench, as its lead actress, her 10th nomination. Shirley MacLaine, who won the Globe for most promising newcomer in 1955, has more than fulfilled that promise, but she could be back again, too, for playing a mean, old widow in Bernie.
Although she didn't earn any Globes love for her appearances in The Fockers franchise, Barbra Streisand has a shot for her upcoming mom-and-son road movie The Guilt Trip. Bette Midler could receive a call for gamely playing a modern-day grandma in Guidance. And if the HFPA wants to corral a few more stars, they could toss noms to Julia Roberts for camping it up as the evil queen in Mirror Mirror and Penelope Cruz for playing a prostitute with one of those proverbial hearts of gold in To Rome With Love.
And don't forget Leslie Mann. She's hoping to score her first Globes nom for starring as a Brentwood, Calif., mom looking to recharge her marriage in hubby Judd Apatow's This Is 40.