Commentary: Good news is there's a Globes show to handicap

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Golden Globes: It just doesn't feel as though a year has passed since the 65th annual Golden Globes were scuttled by the Writers Guild of America's strike.

Now with Sunday's 66th Globes on the horizon, it's hard to believe that a year ago the buzz wasn't over who was going to win but whether there'd be an event at all and who if anyone would dare to cross the promised picket lines. Happily, this year we're back to speculating about the likely winners and can once again enjoy Hollywood's best party night of the year.

Not only is there talk about who's got the best chance of taking home one of the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn.'s new and improved Globe statuettes but there's also interest in seeing how or if the Globe results and Oscar nominations match up. With Academy nominations ballots due back by Jan. 12, of course, there's not going to be much impact from Jan. 11's Globe wins, but there's always a strong influence from the Globe nominations back in December when Academy voters were packing for their winter vacations.

From the looks of the Globes' best picture-drama nominees, there's a strong chance that we'll see at least three matches with the Oscar best picture noms. "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," "Frost/Nixon" and "Slumdog Millionaire" have all been building the kind of awards profile that indicates they're being embraced across the board. On the other hand, "The Reader" and "Revolutionary Road" have resonated less dramatically with other key groups, which have instead favored "The Dark Knight," "Milk" and "Doubt" (about which more shortly).

Because of the volume of awards bestowed by so many groups across the country since early December, it's difficult to remember who's won or been nominated for what. Spread sheets and charts are an awkward way to track the results and since the awards are reported in terms of what group gave them it's hard to get a sense of how individual films have done overall. Moreover, the daily news cycle tends to give equal weight to every group's announcements, but the fact is that some groups are far more important than others. A few such groups have proven to be particularly reflective of how Academy members are likely to vote.

With that in mind, let's look at the awards results to date on a title by title basis for the Globes' five best picture-drama nominees, focusing not only on their other best picture nods but also on how they're shaping up in terms of other key races that tend to influence Oscar's best picture race. For instance, films that have best picture Oscar noms and also are in the best directing race generally have a better shot at winning best picture than nominees that are "orphans" because they don't have a directing nod. It's also widely believed that for a best picture Oscar nominee to win it must also have a best film editing Oscar nomination, although it doesn't actually have to win for editing.

Here's a quick look at the Globes' five best picture-drama nominees, assessing how they've fared in the nominations by key groups like the Globes (GG), Producers Guild of America (PGA), Directors Guild of America (DGA), Screen Actors Guild (SAG), Writers Guild of America (WGA), Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA) and the wins awarded by the New York Film Critics Circle (NY), Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LA) and National Board of Review (NBR). The BFCA wins, by the way, were still to be announced when today's column was filed.

(1) "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" received best picture nominations from the GG, PGA, SAG and BFCA. The BFCA also nominated the film for best acting ensemble. David Fincher received a best director nod from the GG (his first), the DGA (it's first for directing a feature, but he won in 2004 for directing commercials), BFCA and won NBR's best director award. Brad Pitt received best actor noms from the GG, BFCA and SAG. Taraji P. Henson received a best supporting actress nod from SAG and BFCA. The film's screenplay received nods from the GG, WGA (adapted) and BFCA and was tied with "Slumdog Millionaire" as the NBR winner (adapted).

"Benjamin" is shaping up as a strong competitor, particularly with its PGA and SAG noms. Pitt won the best supporting actor Globe in 1996 for "Twelve Monkeys." It's very good news that Fincher's a DGA nominee. The fact that he's never been Oscar nominated could be helpful now since Academy members might think it's time he was.

SAG's best actor nod to Pitt and the WGA's adapted screenplay nom are two other good signs. Screenwriter Eric Roth won the best adapted screenplay Oscar in 1995 for "Forest Gump" and was Oscar nominated in 2000 for his adapted screenplay for "The Insider" and in 2006 for his adapted screenplay for "Munich." Neither of "Benjamin's" film editors, Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall, has been Oscar nominated in the past.

(2) "Frost/Nixon" received best picture noms from the GG, PGA, SAG and BFCA. Ron Howard received a best director nod from the DGA (he won in 1996 for "Apollo 13" and in 2002 for "A Beautiful Mind" and was nominated in 1996 for "Cocoon"), GG and BFCA. Frank Langella received best actor nominations from the GG, SAG and BFCA. The film's screenplay received nods from the GG, WGA (adapted) and BFCA.



"F/N" is looking strong, also having been embraced as a best picture nominee by the PGA and SAG. It helps Howard that he's attracting key directing noms like the DGA and that he's a high profile well liked director. He won the best directing Oscar in 2002 for "A Beautiful Mind" and shared in its best picture Oscar win for producing it with Brian Grazer. Howard's received five Globe noms over the years, but has never won.

Langella's SAG nomination is helpful, particularly because he's never been Oscar nominated and actors make up the Academy's largest voting branch. There could be sentiment among actors that it's time the Academy finally recognized the highly regarded 69 year old Langella. His only previous Globe nomination, by the way, was in 1971 as most promising male newcomer for "Diary of a Mad Housewife." He's won three Tony Awards over the years, including one for his performance on Broadway as Richard Nixon in "F/N." What could also work in Langella's favor with Academy members is the widely known story about how he almost wasn't cast to play Nixon in the film because he wasn't a big boxoffice name.

Screenwriter Peter Morgan was Oscar nominated in 2007 for his original screenplay for "The Queen," for which he won the best screenplay Globe. The film's editors, Daniel P. Hanley and Mike Hill, have previously been Oscar nominated for their work on three of Ron Howard's movies -- in 1996 for "Apollo 13," in 2002 for "A Beautiful Mind" and in 2006 for "Cinderella Man." If their work resonates again with Academy members that could definitely help "F/N's" best picture prospects.

(3) "The Reader" received best picture noms from the GG and BFCA. Stephen Daldry received a best director nod from the GG, but he didn't get a DGA nom. Kate Winslet received best supporting actress nominations from the GG, SAG and BFCA. The film's screenplay received a GG nom.

It doesn't help that "Reader" didn't resonate with SAG and PGA best picture voters and that Daldry hasn't attracted more nominations. On the other hand, Daldry's done well in the past with Academy voters, having been nominated in 2001 for "Billy Elliot" and in 2003 for "The Hours," for which he also was a Globe nominee.

Screenwriter David Hare was Oscar nominated in 2003 for his adapted screenplay for "The Hours," for which he also was a Globe nominee. It's encouraging that film editor Claire Simpson won the Oscar in 1987 for editing "Platoon" and was Oscar nominated in 2006 for editing "The Constant Gardener."

Winslet is showing good strength in the supporting actress category. She's a five-time Oscar nominee -- in 1996 for "Sense and Sensibility" (supporting), in 1998 for "Titanic" (lead), in 2002 for "Iris" (supporting), in 2005 for "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" (lead) and in 2007 for "Little Children" (lead). Clearly, Oscar voters like Winslet enough to keep nominating her. This could be the year they reward her with her first Oscar win. Winslet's previously been Globe nominated five times, but has never won.

(4) "Revolutionary Road" received a best picture GG nomination. Sam Mendes received a best director nod from the GG, but didn't get a DGA nom. Leonardo DiCaprio received a best actor GG nomination. Kate Winslet received best actress GG and SAG noms. The film's screenplay was not nominated by any of the groups covered here today. Winslet's Oscar and Globe pedigree is outlined above in "The Reader" notes. DiCaprio didn't get a SAG nod, but he's done well in the past with Academy members who nominated him in 1994 for "What's Eating Gilbert Grape" (supporting), in 2005 for "The Aviator" (lead) and in 2007 for "Blood Diamond" (lead). DiCaprio won the best actor Globe in 2004 for "Aviator." He's been Globe nominated previously six times, including his win in 2005 for "Aviator."

"Revolutionary" doesn't have the benefit of PGA or SAG best picture nods. Mendes hasn't scored big in directing contests to date, but he certainly resonated with Academy members in 2000 when he won the best directing Oscar for "American Beauty," which won the best picture Oscar. Mendes also won the best directing Globe for "Beauty." Screenwriter Justin Haythe has never been Oscar or Globe nominated. It's encouraging that film editor Tariq Anwar was Oscar nominated in 2000 for editing "American Beauty."



(5) "Slumdog Millionaire" received best picture noms from the GG, PGA, BFCA and SAG and was NBR's best picture winner. Danny Boyle received best director nods from the DGA (his first), GG, BFCA and was LA's best director winner. Dev Patel received a best supporting actor nom from SAG. The film's screenplay received noms from the GG, WGA (adapted), BFCA and was tied with "Benjamin Button" as the NBR winner (adapted).

"Slumdog's" strength includes its PGA and SAG best picture noms and the DGA nod to Boyle. Boyle's never before been Oscar or Globe nominated nor has Patel. "Slumdog" doesn't have the high profile star nominees that its four best picture Globe competitors do to help attract votes from the Academy's actors branch. On the other hand, SAG's nod certainly indicates that actors liked "Slumdog" a lot.

Screenwriter Simon Beaufoy was Oscar nominated in 1998 for his original screenplay for "The Full Monty," but has not been previously nominated for a Globe. Film editor Chris Dickens has never been Oscar nominated.

Meanwhile, we should keep in mind that although "Milk" and "The Dark Knight" didn't make the Globes' best picture race, they both received Producers Guild of America nominations and their directors -- Gus Van Sant and Christopher Nolan, respectively -- are both DGA nominees. That level of acceptance suggests either or both films could crack Oscar's best picture and director lists.

"Knight" has the additional benefit of support for the late Heath Ledger's supporting actor performance, which has brought him such key noms as the Globes, SAG and the BFCA. A best picture Oscar nomination for a mainstream hit like "Knight" that so many people have actually seen would almost certainly boost ratings for the Academy Awards telecast, a fact that Oscar voters are likely to be well aware of.

"Milk" also has a Screen Actors Guild ensemble cast (best picture) nod as does "Doubt." Sean Penn, who plays slain San Francisco gay rights activist Harvey Milk, has received a ton of best actor noms (including SAG, GG and BFCA noms and wins from NBR and NY and LA critics) and is widely expected to be a frontrunner in Oscar's best actor race where his strongest Oscar competition is likely to be "Frost/Nixon's" Frank Langella.

"Doubt" is another film that didn't make the Globes' best picture list, but did score a major best picture nod from SAG as well as a BFCA best picture nom. It doesn't help that it didn't land any big directing noms for John Patrick Shanley. On the other hand, its stars have done very well with nominations -- including Meryl Streep (SAG, GG, BFCA) Philip Seymour Hoffman (SAG), Amy Adams (SAG, GG) and Viola Davis (SAG, GG, BFCA) -- and that can be helpful with the Academy because actors account for so many votes.

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