Strong Globes contenders have already begun to emerge
"The Lovely Bones"
The film, of course, went on to win best picture at the Oscars.
This year, not one but three contenders remained largely unseen -- Clint Eastwood's "Invictus," Peter Jackson's "The Lovely Bones" and James Cameron's "Avatar" -- and that doesn't include the Weinstein Co.'s "Nine," which was just beginning to be screened at press time. All this leaves the current Globes race with an element of mystery far greater than a year ago when "Slumdog Millionaire" rode its post-Toronto buzz to a sweep of the top awards.
Further complicating predictions is the uncertainty about how to define at least one major contender, Jason Reitman's "Up in the Air." Paramount has submitted the movie as a drama, usually a far more competitive category than comedy/musical, but the movie could equally compete in the latter category. Ultimately, the members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. will decide for themselves -- and they've been known to reject studio definitions and categorize actors and pictures as they see best.
Their decisions will affect which pictures become the ones to watch in the all-important Oscar race, which now -- like the Globes -- will have 10 nominees as opposed to five in years past. But anyone expecting the Oscars to be a mirror image of the Globes will likely be disappointed; after all, the motion picture Academy's board of governors deliberately chose not to go the Globes route by refusing to divide its top 10 choices between comedies and dramas.
Here's where some of the key races stand right now.
Motion picture -- drama
Motion picture -- comedy or musical
"Julie & Julia"
Best actor -- drama
Jeff Bridges in "Crazy Heart"
Best actress -- drama
Carey Mulligan in "An Education"
Best actor: comedy or musical
If you thought the lead actress drama category was thin, wait until you look at the comedy/musical category, where insiders can barely come up with five contenders. Possible nominees include Daniel Day-Lewis playing Fellini's alter-ego Guido in "Nine," Bradley Cooper in "The Hangover," Matt Damon as the corporate con-man in "The Informant!" or Nicolas Cage in "Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans," which is being pushed as a comedy. Otherwise, it's anybody's guess.
Best actress: comedy or musical
Here there's no contest: Meryl Streep will win this award. In fact, her biggest competition might be herself in "It's Complicated," which is permitted under Golden Globe rules (just three years ago, Leonardo DiCaprio was nominated for both "The Departed" and "Blood Diamond"). Does anyone else have a shot? Sandra Bullock had one of her biggest years ever, with "The Proposal" and "The Blind Side," and she'll probably be nominated for one of them; and there's a chance the HFPA might consider Marion Cotillard for lead, playing Day-Lewis' mistreated wife in "Nine."
Best supporting actor
Austrian actor Christoph Waltz, who won the best actor award at Cannes for his turn as a diabolical Nazi in "Inglourious Basterds," is contending in support here -- even though for a brief time the Weinstein Co. toyed with pushing him in the lead category -- and he seems a front-runner. Competition may come from Peter Sarsgaard in "An Education"; Christopher Plummer who plays Tolstoy in "The Last Station"; "Up in the Air's" Jason Bateman; Christian McKay, who scores a triumph portraying boy genius Orson Welles in "Me and Orson Welles"; Alfred Molina is drawing acclaim for "An Education" and Zach Galifianakis, who stole "The Hangover" from that terrific ensemble. While Alec Baldwin is receiving a push for "It's Complicated," the HFPA may consider him a lead in that film. Matt Damon could get a nomination here, depending on the size of his role in "Invictus"; same for Stanley Tucci in either "Julie & Julia" or "Lovely Bones."
Best supporting actress
She keeps saying she's a comedian, not an actress, but that shouldn't impede Mo'Nique's chances of locking a nomination and likely a win for her unflinching portrayal of an abusive mother in "Precious." Voters love to honor new faces in this category, and another strong contender is Anna Kendrick in "Up in the Air," who plays the hotshot young executive tutored by George Clooney. Kendrick could find herself nominated with co-star Vera Farmiga, who has a smaller but very difficult role as Clooney's lover. Look for one of "Nine's" strong female class to make an appearance -- either Marion Cotillard or Penelope Cruz would seem likely, unless the HFPA decides to push Cotillard into the lead category. And this may be where the HFPA rewards Sigourney Weaver for enduring countless hours of blue-screen work with James Cameron on "Avatar."
Some of the best-known directors in the business (Clint Eastwood, Peter Jackson and James Cameron) will contend with two relative newcomers, Jason Reitman ("Up in the Air") and Lee Daniels ("Precious"). With "Invictus," "Bones" and "Avatar" still unseen, that leaves room for other contenders, should they fail -- and those could include some strong female helmers in the form of Kathryn Bigelow ("The Hurt Locker"), Jane Campion ("Bright Star") and Nora Ephron ("Julie & Julia"). But the real woman to look out for is Lone Scherfig, the Danish director of "An Education."
Forty years ago Frederic Raphael was nominated for an Oscar for his script for "Two for the Road," one of the first romantic dramas that dared to tell its story out of chronological order. Now Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber look to follow in that tradition with their smart script for the indie hit "(500) Days of Summer," one of the very few originals of note this year. The Globes, unlike the Oscars, include both original screenplays and adaptations in the same category, and that means the "Summer" duo could face tough competition from Brit novelist-turned-screenwriter Nick Hornby, who took a wisp of a short story and turned it into "An Education." Other leading contenders include Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner for their adaptation of Walter Kirn's novel "Up in the Air"; "Precious" adapter Geoffrey Fletcher; the late and much-loved Anthony Minghella, one of several writers who worked on bringing the stage musical "Nine" to the screen; as well as the leading movies in the two picture categories. This is where Quentin Tarantino is also most likely to get nominated for "Inglourious Basterds."
Best animated film
This is one of the strongest and most competitive categories of the year. In fact, it could be argued that animated films surpassed the live-action entries of 2009. Disney/Pixar's "Up," with it senior citizen appeal and its imaginative computer animation, seems like the movie to beat. But there's a lot of support for Henry Selick's "Coraline" and "Fantastic Mr. Fox," in which director Wes Anderson translates the wry sensibility of his live-action movies to the field of animation. Sony could contend with "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs." But a more interesting match-up looms between "Up" and another Disney movie, "The Princess and the Frog," because the latter is one of the rare hand-painted movies to go up against the new Pixar digital technology. And "Princess" has the added novelty of being Disney's first animated movie with a black lead character.