Golden Globes 2012 Preview

E: The Golden Globes – aside from being a big glitzy enjoyable party – brings us the first real picture of who the Oscar frontrunners are. This year could prove to be an interestingly competitive one, or it could turn out that the same people win everything without leaving the world with the sense that they’d given the performance of the year.  Last year, Colin Firth blew us all away.  Was there a Colin Firth this year, a towering performance that cannot be denied?  Either way, the stars are going to look extra pretty tonight as they win and lose.  And with that, here are some predictions for how the movie portion of the awards are going to go.

Best Actress in a Drama:

Glenn Close, Albert Nobbs; Viola Davis, The Help; Rooney Mara, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo; Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady; Tilda Swinton, We Need To Talk About Kevin

One of my firmest Oscar prognosticating rules is this: when there’s a tight race between Meryl Streep and anyone else, you always pick someone else. Somehow, Streep is always fighting against herself and her reputation and her hundreds of nominations.  No one is ready to let her tie with Katherine Hepburn as the most award actor, and so she sits with people like Kevin Spacey and  Jodi Foster and Tom Hanks and Hilary Swank who’ve also managed to snag two Oscars.  A little screwy, right?  Everyone falls over themselves to tell you that Meryl’s the greatest, but somehow, they can’t get her back on that stage.  Think about it; the last time she won an Oscar, Hilary Swank was 9.  She’s been nominated in each of the last five decades, a record smashing 16 times, soon to be 17.  What, you say, isn’t this a post about the Golden Globes?  Well, she’s been nominated for 23 Golden Globes (including some for television work and others for comedy) and won an astounding 7.  We think of her as an awards hog, as inevitable.  But that’s only when it comes to nominations.  You can usually count on her to lose.

And that brings us to Viola Davis.  I am a bit curious to see if this year follows the normal pattern.  I mean, at some point, they’re going to have to let Streep win again, right? This role has been getting press for ages, and not a scrap of it was undeserved.  She’s magnificent.  I had the pleasure of seeing this last night with My Movie Going Friend, and I’ve never seen a more realistic portrayal of old age, just for starters. It’s a far more serious role than her recently nominated turns in comedies Julie and Julia, The Devil Wears Prada and even Adaptation.  She plays a towering historical figure.  Streep’s one time co-star Davis, on the other hand, plays a more subtle and more inspirational role, the courageous black maid in 1960s Mississippi.

Anyway.  You guys have heard me gripe about this before.  As our friend B said last night, they just need to make a special category Oscar for Meryl, because she’s just in another league from everyone else. Streep has a legitimate shot this year, but experience tells me it’ll be Davis. I love Davis in general, and I found her (and The Help) incredibly moving, and I think it’s fantastic that there are more award worth roles for black actresses. But.  But.

Of course there are others playing along.  Close has her first awards bait role in years, and it’s a doozy – cross dressing is a great way to get attention, and the fact that she shepherded this Victorian melodrama to the screen after playing the character on stage in the 80s?  That kind of passion counts for a lot, too.  But we haven’t seen the sort of overwhelming support she’d need to actually capture a statuette. Rooney Mara’s got an enormously buzzed about performance as one of the most remarkable and indelible characters in pop culture (goth investigator Lisbeth Salander), but the movie opened late, and hasn’t done as much business as expected.  Maybe some things are easier to read about than watch?  Plus, everyone assumes Mara’s slot will go to Michelle Williams (now in comedy) for the Oscars, so unless the Hollywood Foreign Press wants to make a point about her deserving and Oscar nom, she’s a non-starter.  And while former winner Tilda Swinton has made everyone’s shortlist as the cold mother of a school shooter; people have been impressed, but not warmed.

So, Davis, with Streep as a strong alternative.

Best Actress in a Comedy

Jodi Foster, Carnage; Charlize Theron, Young Adult;Kristin Wiig, Bridesmaids;Michelle Williams, My Week With Marilyn; Kate Winslet, Carnage.

Typically, this award goes to the biggest star, or the one with the most buzz, or the one who has a shot at an Oscar nom, or film’s new sweetheart.  Here, it’s tricky. Just look at the dueling moms from Carnage: Kate Winslet is maybe a bigger star than Jodi Foster, but Jodi’s got two Oscars to Kate’s one.  Of course, Charlize Theron’s got an Oscar, too, and she’s no slouch. Kristin Wiig’s got the buzziest movie of the bunch, and the one true blockbuster which has everyone talking a good what, 9 months after its release?  So they’ve all got a shot.  But my money’s on the one with the most solid shot at Oscar – Michelle Williams for her turn as Marilyn Monroe.  The reviews have been glowing, so my best guess is she’ll be the one glowing Sunday night.  Jodi and Kate might cancel each other out.  Charlize shares something with them besides being Oscar winners; their movies tanked at the box office and fumbled with the critics.  Kristin Wiig might be thought of more as a (very talented) sketch artist and comedienne than an actress; has Bridesmaids done enough to alter that perception?

Best Supporting Actress

Berenice Bejo, The Artist; Jessica Chastain, The Help; Janet McTeer, Albert Nobbs; Octavia Spencer, The Help; Shailene Woodley, The Descendants

It’s looking more and more like the marvelous Octavia Spencer.

What’s not to love?  Spencer a familiar face, but not really a star.  She’s been around for ever.  She’s got a great, inspirational and also funny role.  And the story of how she got it – how writer Kathryn Stockett insisted her childhood friend Tate Taylor was the only person who could direct her best selling book, and how they both insisted that Taylor’s old roommate Spencer was the only person who could be fiesty maid Minnie?  That’s made for Hollywood right there.

Her costar Jessica Chastain has had quite a year herself, with lauded turns in Tree of Life, Coriolanus, The Debt and Take Shelter.  None of those movies hit it big, however, and her story in The Help (while moving) is less central than Spencer’s. Bejo, the French actress playing a rising movie star, may be hurt by the fact that that she’s starring in a (largely) silent movie.  McTeer’s role as a woman passing as a man in Victorian England (one comfortable with herself, an inspiration to title character Albert) hasn’t gotten enough buzz on it’s own.  And Shailene Woodley, who plays George Clooney’s teenage daughter in The Descendants, may be losing her buzz as the movie fades from public view.

So, Spencer, with perhaps Bejo as a big surprise challenger.

Best Actor in a Drama

George Clooney, The Descendants;Leonardo DiCaprio,  J. Edgar; Michael Fassbender, Shame; Ryan Gosling, The Ides of March; Brad Pitt, Money Ball

Think Clooney. I’d call him the soft favorite; Pitt could beat him, maybe, but unless he make a big move here, it’ll be Clooney, tonight.  Di Caprio’s too dour and his movie failed, Pitt’s baseball manager role is terrific but not at all flashy, Fassbender’s sex addict role is maybe a little too flashy.  Gosling may be the it boy of the year, but he can’t match Clooney’s star power.  Clooney Clooney Clooney.

Best Actor in a Comedy:

Jean Dujardin, The Artist; Brendan Gleeson, The Guard; Ryan Gosling, Crazy, Stupid, Love;Joseph Gordon-Levitt, 50/50;Owen Wilson, Midnight in Paris.

I can see this going one of two ways.  First, let me just say that this year, there’s a break out male star, and an it guy. Michael Fassbender (omnipresent at theaters in 2011) gets his reward as a nomination over in Drama.  The it guy is clearly Ryan Gosling. No, he’s not new, but he is red hot.  Hey girl, who’s all over the internet flirting with you?  Who’s the pick up artist found true love in Crazy, Stupid, Love?

But that brings us to The Artist, the presumed Best Picture frontrunner.  (Yes, that’s right.  It’s a silent movie made by a Frenchman. And you’re going to be hearing about it everywhere, so get used to it.)  And to its star, Jean DuJardin.  He dances, he twinkles, he falls victim to despair.  He manages to convey myriad emotions without the use of his voice.  Hey girl, it’s pretty damn impressive.

Kudos to Joseph Gordon Levitt for his nomination for playing a cancer patient, and to Brendan Gleason for his in a movie that even a film obsessive like myself had never heard of.   And I really, really enjoyed Midnight in Paris, even if I respected Owen Wilson’s Allen-stand in writer so much less for proposing to Rachel McAdam’s soulless shrew in the first place.  So you three, pat yourselves on the back for a job well done.  Ryan, maybe you have a chance; after all, they liked you enough to nominate you twice.  Heck, you’re not even the lead of this movie and they nominated you anyway. But be prepared to cheer for DuJardin when he – probably – accepts his award.

So, DuJardin, which will be as much of a tribute to his movie as anything else, with Gosling, and even Wilson as possible spoilers.

Best Supporting Actor:

Kenneth Branagh, My Week With Marilyn; Albert Brooks, Drive; Jonah Hill, Moneyball; Viggo Mortensen, A Dangerous Method; Christopher Plummer, Beginners

Sentimental favorite has got to be Christopher Plummer.  Now, I love the thought of him winning an award (and supporting awards often go to sentimental favorites), but I was underwhelmed with his role in Beginners.  I know the idea is buzzier (75 year old man comes out after his wife’s death) but the reality for me is that Ewan McGregor and Melanie Laurent were more interesting.  Maybe because he was so bloody spectacular in The Last Station, I expect more from Plummer.  Maybe I just wanted it to be a showier role – or maybe I wanted more apologies from his character about his emotional absence during his son’s childhood.  Plummer has already won the Broadcast Critics supporting actor award, however, and that makes him hard to bet against.  Plus, he kisses a dude.

Can anyone beat him?  Albert Brooks roared through the critics awards, also for playing against type as a criminal in Drive; here’s where we see whether the critics and the major award giving bodies will match up.  (Lots of times they don’t – ask Laura Linney and Steve Buscemi and Nicole Kidman to name just a few.)  Kenneth Branagh doesn’t seem to have the momentum, though his performance is widely admired and seems a lock for an Oscar nomination.  Viggo Mortensen, on the other hand, is generally underappreciated.  His nomination here (for playing Freud in A Dangerous Method) was unexpected, and so unlikely to propel him to a win.  And finally, there’s Jonah Hill, funny but subtle and contained as the young wiz kid with the big idea in Moneyball.  For Jonah Hill of all people to get a nomination; well, it must give Russell Brand hope.  I have a lot of trouble imagining the HFP anointing him their winner, though.

So, Plummer, for lack of an alternative.  If not, then Brooks or Branagh.

Best Director:

There are plenty of amazing directors on this list, but the movies that seem to be truly in the hunt belong to Alexander Payne and Hazavanicious.  Sure, it could be Spielberg or Scorcese because they’re, you know, who they are (and personally, I’m really in awe of Hugo) but it seems likely to come down to the other two. If, as people are assuming, the frontrunner for Oscar’s Best Picture is The Artist, then we’ll see frenchman Haza take the prize.  He’s unknown in America, but he’s got the buzz, and the sweetest movie of the bunch.

Best Picture, Musical or Comedy

50/50; The Artist; Bridesmaids; Midnight in Paris; My Week With Marilyn

Could Bridesmaids upset The Artist?  Unlikely.  Very unlikely.  But if the girls can’t do it, no one can.

Best Picture, Drama

The Descendants, The Help, Hugo, The Ides of March, Moneyball, War Horse

The absence of Oscar frontrunner The Artist from this line up makes it very interesting. It doesn’t happen often that the Oscar frontrunner could be considered a comedy. War Horse has a great pedigree, but it hasn’t really caught fire.  Hugo is a marvel, but perhaps because it’s a children’s film, it just hasn’t created the same sort of buzz.  The Ides of March and Moneyball may not have the sort of scope, the sprawl and import they look for in a best picture winner.   The Descendants might be the likeliest to pick up the slack, but on the other hand, there’s The Help.  Oscar tends to shy away from women’s movies, but the Hollywood Foreign Press does not, and there is no denying that as far as the public is concerned, The Help is this year’s most beloved serious contender.  The HFP picked Sense and Sensibility over Braveheart, for example.  Of course, the Hollywood Foreign Press also likes Alexander Payne’s movies.

In a squeaker, I think the HFP will go with The Help. A win for anyone here is a huge boost to their Oscar campaigns.

And there it is!  If they love The Artist as much as everyone thinks, Michel Hazanavicius will win the Best Director award.  Can it win the screenplay award when there’s almost no speaking in it, or will that go to perennial favorites Aaron Sorkin and Steven Zallian for Moneyball, or (my guess) Woody Allen for Midnight in Paris?  I’m hoping to see Dowton Abbey and The Good Wife do well over in TV, but I expect Homeland will be to the HFP’s taste.   What about you?  Who are your horses in this race?

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