Golden opportunities

A new animation category and multiple nominees signal an exciting and unpredictable Golden Globes race.

It's an embarrassment of riches this year for a number of actors and directors who find themselves in the giddy position of being nominated for two -- and in one instance, three -- Golden Globe Awards.

As the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn.'s selections for the 64th annual Golden Globe Awards would suggest, there is indeed a surfeit of talent, if not a surfeit of the talented. And that means that on Monday, when the Globes are handed out at the Beverly Hilton and telecast on NBC, the stiffest competition for the competitors might be coming from ... themselves.

"It's a bit alarming to be up against myself," says Helen Mirren, heralded for playing two Elizabeths (in Miramax's "The Queen" and HBO's "Elizabeth I") and one investigator (PBS' "Prime Suspect: The Final Act"). "It's a bit upsetting, actually. You'd like to see the honey be spread a bit more widely. But really, what an amazing honor."

The Globes are indeed an honor, but the ceremony is laced with a bit of, well, weirdness. It's often proclaimed as a powerful portent for the Academy Awards and can help the popularity of a U.S. TV series abroad, but, as HBO CEO Chris Albrecht puts it, "The one thing that's predictable about the Globes is that they're unpredictable."

Clearly. Albrecht is grateful that the 14 nominations bestowed upon his network put it at the front of the pack (followed closely by ABC, with 11), but he thinks that "it's always off when someone doesn't nominate (HBO's) 'The Sopranos' for best series," he says. "And when (HBO's) 'The Wire' doesn't get nominated, you think, 'OK, it's not the kind of thing the Globes gravitate to.' You remember, even when you look at the critics' awards for films, L.A. responds differently than New York. Each group has certain subjective tendencies that are unique."

As Dana Walden, co-president of 20th Century Fox Television, points out, for every "Wire" that gets passed over, there's an inclusion of a show like Showtime's freshman series "Dexter." "The Globes have a great tradition of recognizing wonderful work even if the show is in the first season," she says, "and that's good for business because it gives us all different opportunities to tout our shows."

This year, the unique nature of the Globes plays itself out most obviously in two movie categories. First, who could have guessed that two U.S.-produced films -- Mel Gibson's "Apocalypto" (Buena Vista) and Clint Eastwood's "Letters From Iwo Jima" (Warner Bros. Pictures) -- would be nominated in the best foreign-film category? "That's wonderful for Mel and Clint," says Picturehouse president Bob Berney, whose company is releasing the Globes-nominated "Pan's Labyrinth." "And it's absolutely wonderful that 'Pan's' got in. But in a way, I feel like it lowered those slots for best foreign film to three from five."

Second, the HFPA has added a new feature animation category,
recognizing that animated features are "important components to the studio lineup," HFPA president Philip Berk says. In the category's inaugural year, Buena Vista's "Cars," Warners' "Happy Feet" and Sony's "Monster House" have been nominated. "I can't tell you how thrilled I am that the HFPA thinks there are enough quality films to give this award, and I'm so proud of the industry," says "Cars" writer-director John Lasseter, who also serves as chief creative officer at Pixar and Disney Animation Studios.

Lasseter thinks the attention could help boxoffice returns, something Miramax president Daniel Battsek seconds. "With 'The Queen' well into its run and Roger Michel's 'Venus' just beginning (it opened in limited release Dec. 21), it's just great timing," he says. "It's great what we've achieved so far, and it's great to see there's still plenty of potential (for boxoffice)."

Adds Berney: "For those of us who waited to open films, it calls attention to them. With films like 'Pan's Labyrinth' or (Paramount/DreamWorks) 'Dreamgirls,' it can make an enormous difference."

Especially come Oscar time. "I don't think anyone thinks it's about taking what the Golden Globes decides, stamping an Oscar on it and calling it a day," says producer Mark Gill, former chief of Warner Independent Pictures. "But the Globes might be two-thirds right, which is still awfully good. Even so, that doesn't mean there won't be surprises."

And that's precisely what makes the evening one of the year's most festive industry gatherings. "People have parties in every corner of the Beverly Hilton," Lasseter says. "It's just really, really fun."

Following is a brief look at the TV and film nominees joining in on the celebration.

FILM

Motion Picture (Drama)
Babel (Paramount Vantage)
Bobby (MGM/The Weinstein Co.)
The Departed (Warner Bros. Pictures)
Little Children (New Line)
The Queen (Miramax)
"Queen" and "Departed" would seem like the two to beat. "Departed" director Martin Scorsese is an HFPA favorite, and his film "The Aviator" won best picture two years ago, but "Queen" could steal the crown. Still, don't count out "Babel," which scored the most nominations of any movie, with seven overall.

Actress, Motion Picture (Drama)
Penelope Cruz, "Volver" (Sony Pictures Classics)
Judi Dench, "Notes on a Scandal" (Fox Searchlight)
Maggie Gyllenhaal, "Sherrybaby" (IFC Films)
Helen Mirren, "The Queen"
Kate Winslet, "Little Children"
It's a dame detente between Dench and Mirren. This is Mirren's fifth nomination since 2000 -- she last won in 1997 -- while it's Dench's fourth (she won in 2001). "I'm incredibly proud of 'The Queen' because, in many ways, it was a surprise performance for me," Mirren says. "I never thought in a million years I could play that role, but it was surprisingly easy."

Actor, Motion Picture (Drama)
Leonardo DiCaprio, "Blood Diamond" (Warner Bros. Pictures)
Leonardo DiCaprio, "The Departed"
Peter O'Toole, "Venus" (Miramax)
Will Smith, "The Pursuit of Happyness" (Sony)
Forest Whitaker, "The Last King of Scotland" (Fox Searchlight)
One of the strongest categories, this one's worth hedging if there's a betting pool involved. Whitaker's performance as Ugandan dictator Idi Amin has topped the U.S. critics' lists this year, making him the front-runner. DiCaprio's double nomination could work for -- or against -- him, and there's always the chance Smith and O'Toole could surprise with their late-in-the-season performances.

Motion Picture (Musical or Comedy)
Borat (Fox)
The Devil Wears Prada (Fox)
Dreamgirls (Paramount/DreamWorks)
Little Miss Sunshine (Fox Searchlight)
Thank You for Smoking (Fox Searchlight)
There's nothing funny about this competition, with each hopeful proving to be a strong contender. Says "Smoking" star Aaron Eckhart: "We wanted people to see the fun we were having behind the scenes, so for that to translate makes me very happy." "Sunshine" has the glow of a winner, but the underdog "Borat" might have the last laugh.

Actress, Motion Picture (Musical or Comedy)
Annette Bening, "Running With Scissors" (Sony)
Toni Collette, "Little Miss Sunshine"
Beyonce Knowles, "Dreamgirls"
Meryl Streep, "The Devil Wears Prada"
Renee Zellweger, "Miss Potter" (MGM/The Weinstein Co.)
This vote is likely to be widely split. Bening, Collette and Knowles each has a solid chance, but the accolades that have been mounting for another stellar Streep performance can't be ignored. May the best woman win.

Actor, Motion Picture (Musical or Comedy)
Sacha Baron Cohen, "Borat" (Fox)
Johnny Depp, "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" (Buena Vista)
Aaron Eckhart, "Thank You for Smoking"
Chiwetel Ejiofor, "Kinky Boots" (Miramax)
Will Ferrell, "Stranger Than Fiction" (Sony)
"I was surprised by my nomination, but I'm so happy, especially given the people I'm against," Eckhart says. "I'm in such good company." Depp has been consecutively nominated for the past four years, for 2003's "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl," 2004's "Finding Neverland," 2005's "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" and now "Dead Man's Chest," while the unsung Ejiofor is perhaps the most surprising of all the nominations. The goodwill shown toward Ferrell with his nomination last year as a supporting actor in "The Producers" could carry over, and Eckhart's got the heat of his Film Independent Spirit Award nomination. But this race might be Baron Cohen's to lose.

Supporting Actor
Ben Affleck, "Hollywoodland" (Focus Features)
Jack Nicholson, "The Departed"
Eddie Murphy, "Dreamgirls"
Brad Pitt, "Babel"
Mark Wahlberg, "The Departed"
Pitt's performance in "Babel" seems to have the industry applauding the loudest, but Murphy's gaining heat, and Nicholson is ... Nicholson. Given the unpredictability of the Globes, it's impossible to rule out sleeper Affleck, or even Wahlberg, who has the misfortune to be going head-to-head with his co-star.

Supporting Actress
Adriana Barraza, "Babel"
Cate Blanchett, "Notes on a Scandal"
Emily Blunt, "The Devil Wears Prada"
Jennifer Hudson, "Dreamgirls"
Rinko Kikuchi, "Babel"
Their movies might be the latest to the party, but Blanchett and Hudson are emerging as the performances to beat. Still, it would be unwise to overlook Blunt (the HFPA certainly didn't, also nominating her as best supporting actress in a TV drama for BBC America's "Gideon's Daughter") or the two strong contributions to "Babel."

Director
Clint Eastwood, "Flags of Our Fathers" (Paramount/DreamWorks)
Clint Eastwood, "Letters From Iwo Jima" (Warner Bros. Pictures)
Stephen Frears, "The Queen"
Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, "Babel"
Martin Scorsese, "The Departed"
Scorsese won for "Gangs of New York" in 2003 and was nominated for "The Aviator" in 2005, but he's in extraordinary company, even if Eastwood is taking up two seats. Too bad they can't shoot it out backstage.

Screenplay
Guillermo Arriaga, "Babel"
Todd Field & Tom Perrotta, "Little Children"
Patrick Marber, "Notes on a Scandal"
William Monahan, "The Departed"
Peter Morgan, "The Queen"
A Globe nomination eluded Arriaga for 2000's "Amores perros" and Todd Field for 2001's "In the Bedroom," so this could become recompense; on the other hand, "Notes'" Marber was nominated for 2004's "Closer" but didn't win. This is the first nomination for "Departed's" Monahan, as well as the first nom for "Queen's" Morgan, who also wrote "The Last King of Scotland."

Foreign-Language Film
Apocalypto (Buena Vista)
Letters From Iwo Jima
The Lives of Others (Sony Pictures Classics)
Pan's Labyrinth (Picturehouse)
Volver
The inclusion of "Apocalypto" and "Letters" makes this one of the tightest races, since they're joining a selection of films that have been snagging festival and critics' awards throughout the year.

Animated Film

Cars (Buena Vista)
Happy Feet (Warners)
Monster House (Sony)
With no precedent, it's an open race between the feathered, the frightening and the fast.

TELEVISION

Television Series (Drama)
24 (Fox)
Big Love (HBO)
Grey's Anatomy (ABC)
Heroes (NBC)
Lost (ABC)
"Lost" and "Grey's" duked it out last year, with "Lost" emerging victorious, but they face strong competition now from "24," which has received four consecutive Globe nominations (it won in 2004) and walked off with the drama series Emmy in August. But the Globes love a newcomer, giving "Heroes" a chance to step up to the podium.

Actress (Television Drama)

Patricia Arquette, "Medium" (NBC)
Edie Falco, "The Sopranos" (HBO)
Evangeline Lilly, "Lost"
Ellen Pompeo, "Grey's Anatomy"
Kyra Sedgwick, "The Closer" (TNT)
Arquette and Sedgwick faced off last year, losing to Geena Davis for ABC's canceled one-season wonder "Commander in Chief." This is Falco's sixth consecutive nomination (she's won twice), but Pompeo and Lilly have the allure of being first-timers. However, that might or might not matter.

Actor (Television Drama)
Patrick Dempsey, "Grey's Anatomy"
Michael C. Hall, "Dexter" (Showtime)
Hugh Laurie, "House" (Fox)
Bill Paxton, "Big Love"
Kiefer Sutherland, "24"
The two strongest candidates are Sutherland, who took home the Emmy in August, and Laurie, who snared the Globe a year ago for his stellar work in "House." But Dempsey's Dr. McDreamy can't be ruled out, while Hall and Paxton also could surprise. Says Fox's Walden of Sutherland's inclusion, "I'm thrilled to see that in an effort to keep things fresh, they're not dismissive of the work of longtime great performers."

Television Series (Comedy)
Desperate Housewives (ABC)
Entourage (HBO)
The Office (NBC)
Ugly Betty (ABC)
Weeds (Showtime)
"Ugly Betty" has the first-time nominee edge but faces some stiff competition. "Office" grabbed the comedy series Emmy in 2006, while "Housewives" has won in this category two years running. This is the third consecutive series nomination for "Entourage," while "Weeds," meanwhile, earned star Mary-Louise Parker a best actress trophy a year ago (she's up again this year) over four "Housewives" leads.

Actress (Television Comedy)
Marcia Cross, "Desperate Housewives"
America Ferrera, "Ugly Betty"
Felicity Huffman, "Desperate Housewives"
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, "The New Adventures of Old Christine" (CBS)
Mary-Louise Parker, "Weeds"
Cross and Huffman have lost their colleagues Teri Hatcher and
Eva Longoria in the race this year -- all four were nominated in 2005 -- leaving room for lauded newcomer Ferrera and veteran Louis-Dreyfus, who won the Emmy in '06 and earned her lone Globe in '94 for "Seinfeld."

Actor (Television Comedy)

Alec Baldwin, "30 Rock" (NBC)
Zach Braff, "Scrubs" (NBC)
Steve Carell, "The Office"
Jason Lee, "My Name Is Earl" (NBC)
Tony Shalhoub, "Monk" (USA Network)
Lee and Braff have both been nominated previously, while Carell earned the Globe in 2006, and Shalhoub won the Emmy in something of an upset over Carell. But keep an eye on Baldwin, a longshot who could sneak in and take the prize.

TV Movie/Miniseries
Bleak House (PBS)
Broken Trail (AMC)
Elizabeth I (HBO)
Mrs. Harris (HBO)
Prime Suspect: The Final Act (PBS)
"Elizabeth I" took the Emmy from the Masterpiece Theatre production "Bleak House," but "Suspect" -- which, like "Elizabeth I," stars Helen Mirren -- also can't be ruled out. "Mrs. Harris," the Annette Bening docudrama about murderess Jean Harris, earned 12 Emmy nominations, and Walter Hill's "Broken Trail" garnered its two stars, Robert Duvall and Thomas Haden Church, Globe nominations as well.

Actress (TV Movie/Miniseries)
Gillian Anderson, "Bleak House"
Annette Bening, "Mrs. Harris"
Helen Mirren, "Elizabeth I"
Helen Mirren, "Prime Suspect: The Final Act"
Sophie Okonedo, "Tsunami: The Aftermath" (HBO)
Mirren has the upper hand -- make that hands. "It was by far the most demanding role I've ever played," Mirren says of "Elizabeth I." "It required every ounce of ability I had, and I gave it everything I had, so it's amazing to be recognized for it."

Actor (TV Movie/Miniseries)

Andre Braugher, "Thief" (FX Network)
Robert Duvall, "Broken Trail"
Michael Ealy, "Sleeper Cell" (Showtime)
Chiwetel Ejiofor, "Tsunami: The Aftermath"
Ben Kingsley, "Mrs. Harris"
Bill Nighy, "Gideon's Daughter" (BBC America)
Braugher got the Emmy nod, but veterans Duvall and Kingsley figure to score big points with voters, as will Nighy. This is very much a wide-open race, and it's anybody's guess which of these guys will ultimately get the nod. But keep an eye on Nighy.

Supporting Actress
Emily Blunt, "Gideon's Daughter"
Toni Collette, "Tsunami: The Aftermath"
Katherine Heigl, "Grey's Anatomy"
Sarah Paulson, "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip" (NBC)
Elizabeth Perkins, "Weeds"
Perkins was nominated last year, as was Heigl's "Anatomy" colleague Sandra Oh. Blunt is the first to admit that her honor for "Gideon's Daughter" is a surprise, if only because "we got overlooked at the Emmys and had no idea how many people had actually seen it." But it's a fact that BBC America projects always earn greater attention from the HFPA.

Supporting Actor
Thomas Haden Church, "Broken Trail"
Jeremy Irons, "Elizabeth I"
Justin Kirk, "Weeds"
Masi Oka, "Heroes"
Jeremy Piven, "Entourage"
This is Piven's second Globe nomination for playing "Entourage's" scheming agent Ari. The younger crowd might have to fight to hold their own against Irons, however, who won the Emmy and could ride the momentum supplied by star Mirren for "Elizabeth I." But Piven, an Emmy winner in '06, could pull off a surprise.


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