risky business

Enjoy the Globe noms before Oscar heats up

Clint Eastwood and Leonardo DiCaprio might as well enjoy the dual nominations they each received Thursday from the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. while they can. Because the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' rule book ? as well as practical realities ? are going to prevent a repeat performance when the Oscar nominations are announced Jan. 23.

For one thing, the Oscar rule book forbids an actor receiving two nominations in the same category. Thus, it is far more likely that DiCaprio will earn recognition from the Academy's acting branch for his turn as a Boston undercover cop in Martin Scorsese's fall hit "The Departed" ? which has gained serious momentum from critics groups ? than from his leading role in Edward Zwick's politically charged African drama "Blood Diamond," which opened poorly to tepid reviews.

But as director Steven Soderbergh demonstrated in 2001 ? when he earned dual nominations for "Traffic" and "Erin Brockovich" ? it is technically possible for a director to hit a double. The discriminating Academy directors could tag Eastwood for "Flags of Our Fathers" and "Letters From Iwo Jima." Critics have enthusiastically praised both films: "Iwo Jima" also has gotten a boost from such groups as the National Board of Review, the American Film Institute and the Los Angeles Film Critics.

"Flags," on the other hand, appears to have met with a mixed response from the Academy. Admiration for the 76-year-old director, especially from Academy seniors, is huge. But Eastwood has won Oscar kudos in recent years for "Mystic River" and "Million Dollar Baby," so the Academy might decide that it's finally time to bestow the honors on fellow veteran Scorsese, who so far has gone home empty-handed whenever he has been nominated.

In fact, the Oscar tide might be turning for the New York auteur. Most Oscar voters are expected to see "The Departed." But "Iwo Jima" came into the Oscar race too late to land an official Academy screening. Warner Bros. Pictures is inviting members to multiple screenings and will do a late DVD mailing, but some Academy types might find slogging through a Japanese-language war film a tall order.

The Academy's directors' branch could right another slight when it selects its nominees this year. Eastwood's dual nomination probably cost "Dreamgirls" writer-director Bill Condon a Globe slot; that oversight is not likely to be repeated by the Academy.

More often than not, the Golden Globes are far from predictive. Last year, out of 10 best picture nominations (five each for drama and comedy/musical), only two wound up in the Oscar top five: "Good Night, and Good Luck" and "Brokeback Mountain." The HFPA missed critics' fave "Capote," sleeper hit "Crash" and Steven Spielberg's late-breaking "Munich."

This year, the Globes and the Oscars could match up more closely because several of the Globe nominees also are winning applause from Academy screening attendees as well as critics. At the front of the pack is Stephen Frears' "The Queen" and Scorsese's "Departed," followed closely by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's "Babel" and Condon's "Dreamgirls." Getting a needed push from critics is Paul Greengrass' "United 93," which landed a big best picture win from the New York Film Critics Circle but was overlooked entirely by the HFPA. Greengrass and Gonzalez Inarritu could still both land best director slots come Oscar time.

Several factors make the Globes and the Oscars a less-than-perfect match. One is Harvey Weinstein, who over the years has developed an up-close-and-personal relationship with individual HFPA members. While "Bobby" and "Miss Potter" ? Weinstein Co. films that will be distributed by MGM ? burnished their names with Globe noms, neither is likely to score multiple Oscar noms.

The Globes voters have long been sweet on "Potter" star Renee Zellweger, who boasts five noms to date. And most years, the Globes' extra comedy/musical slots ? the HFPA designated "Potter" a comedy ? tend not to influence Oscar voters. For example, "Borat" and "Thank You for Smoking" could wind up with Oscar screenplay nominations but not much more. On the other hand, the popular hit comedy "Little Miss Sunshine" and the glitzy musical "Dreamgirls" are strong Oscar contenders in many categories, including best picture.

While "The Devil Wears Prada's" Meryl Streep is an Oscar perennial who will probably land a best actress slot, Zellweger, "Running With Scissors" star Annette Bening, "Little Miss Sunshine's" Toni Collette and "Dreamgirls' " Beyonce Knowles are considered long shots.

The Oscar front-runner for actress clearly is "The Queen" star Helen Mirren, who so far has swept seven critics groups, including the most influential ones in Los Angeles and New York. No one else comes close. Streep, "Notes on a Scandal's" Judi Dench and "Little Children's" Kate Winslet are all Globe and Oscar perennials. Gaining a needed boost from the Globes are Maggie Gyllenhaal, who scored in the microbudget indie "Sherrybaby," which has not been widely seen, and Spanish star Penelope Cruz, who was hailed for a bravura performance in her native language in Pedro Almodovar's "Volver."

With a less competitive best actor field, the Globes should match up closely, with likely Oscar nominations for Peter O'Toole ("Venus"), Will Smith ("The Pursuit of Happyness") and Forest Whitaker ("The Last King of Scotland"). Ryan Gosling, star of the critical favorite "Half Nelson," could step into the breach left open by DiCaprio, once he is restricted to just one nom. It is highly unlikely that Globe comedy noms Baron Cohen, Johnny Depp, Aaron Eckhart, Chiwetel Ejiofor or Will Ferrell will wind up in the best actor Oscar race.

"Babel" also has scored several critical wins in the supporting actress race; both Adriana Barraza and Rinko Kikuchi are building steam. Globe nominee Brad Pitt, however, is considered a supporting actor long shot in a competitive category. (Last year's Globe and Oscar winner George Clooney, with whom Pitt has been compared, gained considerable gravitas from not only producing and starring in "Syriana" but directing and co-writing "Good Night.") In the supporting actress category, Emily Blunt's Globe nomination gives the "Prada" breakout performer an extra Oscar push.

In this year's ultracompetitive Oscar race for foreign film, "Pan's Labyrinth," "Volver" and "The Lives of Others" grabbed significant attention from their Globe slots. And the animated Oscar race is clearly heading toward a dogfight between John Lasseter's "Cars" and George Miller's "Happy Feet."