Golden Globe Preview: Welcome to Awards Season 2014

E: Yep, that’s right. While the general public is focused on Christmas shopping, Hollywood stars, studios and publicists have engaged in a fierce war for Oscar nominations.  The biggest pre-Oscar bump a film or performance can get?  Being nominated by the Hollywood Foreign Press for a Golden Globe. The Golden Globes are the second most prestigious award in Hollywood, and by all accounts the best party with the highest density of stars in attendance.  In January Tina Fey and Amy Poehler will host the actual awards ceremony; this Thursday, Aziz Ansari, Zoe Saldana and Olivia Wilde will tell us who’s in contention not just for a Golden Globe but for us to debate and monitor through the entire irrational season.

A fascinating difference between the Golden Globes and the Academy Awards is that the Hollywood Foreign Press opens up separate categories for drama and for musicals/comedies.  Their definition of comedy can be a little suspect, leading to films like The Tourist getting nominations in that category – and of course also very serious musicals like Les Mis end up paired with Salmon Fishing in the Yemen.  Still, it’s fun to look at the breakdown.  So here they are  – your Golden Globe contenders:

Best Picture: Musical or Comedy

The fiercely witty, cutting family saga August: Osage County is being considered a comedy by the HFP, as are The Wolf of Wall Street and American Hustle.  I haven’t seen them (hey, it’s not my fault, they haven’t opened yet), but I’m at a complete loss to explain how The Wolf of Wall Street particularly makes that list.  I’ve heard that American Hustle‘s supposed to be funny, although other than the men’s hair and Jennifer Lawrence, it’s not really clear from the admittedly schizophrenic trailer.  At any rate, count on those films as likely nominees.  With so many best picture contenders in the comedy category this year, it’s even less likely than usual that a broad comedy like The Heat will make the list despite the star power of its leading ladies. I don’t know about you, but I hate that.  Get the funny dramas out of comedy, and let the actual comedies get some attention, please!  I thought that was the whole point of having separate categories.

Joachim Phoenix’s peculiar love story Her fits more neatly into the sort of oddball comic style that the Globes love – and it has the bonus of actually looking like a comedy.  Of course, it’s possible that it might be too odd for them; we’ll see on Thursday.  Also in contention, the Coens brothers’ ode to the Greenwich folk scene of the 60s, Inside Llewyn Davis.  While you’re likely to see this drama about musicians get nominated here, you won’t see this season’s high profile film about the makings of a musical: Saving Mr. Banks (the behind the scenes story of filming Mary Poppins) is considered a drama.  However you might see Nebraska, the story of an old man who receives one of those advertisements that proclaim “You might just be a winner” and takes it seriously.

Those seven represent the most obvious chances at this category, but the Hollywood Foreign press could surprise.  Though neither of its predecessors got awards attention, but all three have been critically lauded: could Before Midnight make a run at awards season?  What about well received romantic comedy Enough Said?  Wacky literary adaptation The Secret Life of Walter Mitty?  Sweet British time travel rom com About Time?  Jersey Shore sex addiction flick Don Jon?  You never know.  I can’t imagine it, but I’d love to see sweet family comedy The Way Way Back or Independent Spirit nominated teen love story The Spectacular Now make a showing.

The HFP will nominate anywhere from 5 to 8 nominees; it’s usually 5, but you never know when they’re going to bust out some extra slots.  This usually happens in Drama, but with comedy so overloaded this year, you never know. If August fails to make the list, that’s a strong sign that the film’s Oscar prospects – so long anticipated because of the stellar cast – are overrated.   All in all, we’re going to learn a lot from which films get shut out here.

Best Picture: Drama

With so many strong contenders out of the way, the drama field has narrowed considerably.  Expect nominations for obvious contenders 12 Years a Slave, Captain Phillips and GravitySaving Mr. Banks promises charm as well, and may just be poised to be the feel good movie of a gloomy year. But for the last slot? The list might include devastating true life indies Fruitvale Station or Dallas Buyers Club, or a slice of fictionalized history in The Butler making the grade.  And finally any one of this trio of sunshiney titles – Lone Survivor, The Prisoners and All is Lostcould sneak in.  Baffling me, Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine – which looks like just the kind of black comedy the Globes loves – is being considered a drama.  Star Cate Blanchett will certainly feature in the acting race, but can the movie itself make a sneak attack? A strange and fascinating question.  What about Holocaust drama The Book Thief?  Somehow The Great Gatsby hasn’t made anyone’s shortlist.  Better luck next time, Baz?

Best Actor: Drama

The obvious name here is Chiwetel Ejiofor (and yes, you do know who he is – he’s the dude Keira Knightley marries in Love, Actually) for his searing work in 12 Years a Slave.  Matthew McConaughey astounds as the homophobic cowboy who turns into another sort of Oskar Schindler for AIDS patients in Dallas Buyers Club.  As the titular Captain Phillips, Tom Hanks has earned his best reviews in more than a decade, and should feature strongly in this year’s race.  Former winner Forest Whitaker could take advantage of the number of folks over in comedy and score a nod here; I suspect he’s not likely to factor in to Oscar’s race but he could get traction here; if he doesn’t, it’s a very bad omen for his campaign.  Robert Redford‘s in strong contention for a Oscar nod for his silent sailor in All is Lost.  (Man, this is the year for depressing titles, isn’t it?)  And I know it’s a long shot, but it’s just possible that Michael B. Jordan could sneak in for Fruitvale Station.  The Hollywood Foreign Press love their big stars, but they also seem to get a kick out of occasionally minting new ones.

Best Actor: Musical or Comedy

Consider Bruce Dern a lock; he’s probably locked on an Oscar nomination, too, for his work in Nebraska.  I can’t help thinking that even though he doesn’t really play the awards season game, Joachim Phoenix will get an invitation to the Globes’ party for falling in love with his computer operating system in Her.  With their films in the hunt, it’s hard to rule out former winner Christian Bale for American Hustle, Leonardo DiCaprio for Wolf of Wall Street (while the Academy can run cold on Leo, the Hollywood Foreign press almost never do) or newbie Oscar Isaacs as the title character Inside Llewyn Davis.  Of that trio it’s easiest to disregard Oscar Isaacs – and the Academy is eventually likely to do – for bigger names.

There’s always Ethan Hawke from Before Midnight and Ben Stiller in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.  And, okay.  I’m going to say it: James Galdofini.  People loved him.  Could he get a posthumous nomination for Enough Said?  He was nominated four times for his television work and actually won once.  It’s probably not likely – Enough Said is hampered by actually being a comedy – but never discount the power of sentiment.

Best Actress: Drama

As I mentioned above, Cate Blanchett is a shoo-in.  So is Sandra Bullock for her work in astronaut drama Gravity.  Two time winner and seven time nominee Emma Thompson has a great shot at a nomination for her work as Mary Poppins’ author P. L. Travers.  (Yep.  Mary Poppins is a book.  Funny, no?)  Without the pressure of the comedy competitors, Academy and HFP favorite Dame Judi Dench has an excellent shot at seeing her work in Philomena (the true story of a woman seeking out the son she was forced to give up for adoption 50 years before) rewarded.  So where to go for the fifth performance?  Finding dramatic leading roles for women is always a bit tricky, especially if the Globes are going to consider so many of this year’s top dramas to be comedies.  There’s Kate Winslet in Labor Day.  It’s hard to bet against the fabulous Kate even if you don’t know what her movie is.  I’m honestly not certain if foreign language roles are eligible, but if they are we can’t count out Adele Exarchopoulos, star of the French critical smash, Blue is the Warmest Color.

Best Actress: Musical or Comedy

Now, obviously we’ve got Meryl Streep going on here in August:Osage County.  There’s some debate about whether she’ll earn an Oscar nod for this role (she averages one every other year) but there’s very little doubt that she’ll get a nomination here, not with twice the slots open.  Another obvious nominee (and Streep pal) is American Hustle’s Amy Adams. Now, the Hollywood Foreign Press loves Scarlett Johansson. There’s been lots of buzz about the chance of her getting nominated for her voice work as the computer in Her.  A more reasoned guess would suggest she could garner a nomination for her work in Don Jon.  Julie Delpy might sneak in for her work in Before Midnight; Globe winning comedienne Julia Louis-Dreyfus could do the same for her work in Enough Said.  If we’re going to troll the rom coms you’ve got Rachel McAdams in About Time or Shailene Woodley in The Spectacular Now.  Between Divergent and The Fault in Our Stars, Shailene’s poised to be 2014’s Jennifer Lawrence , and there seems to be little the Globes like better than crowning a new It Girl.  (See Lawrence, Angelina Jolie, Jennifer Garner, Claire Danes, Scarlett Johansson and just watch the list go on.)  And of course there’s the broadly comic work of Melissa McCarthy in Heat and Identity Thief.  Don’t rule out Sandra Bullock getting a twofer for her role as straight woman in The Heat; the Globes do so love their double or even triple nominees.

Best Supporting Actor

This is where the free ride ends.  The supporting categories combine contenders from drama and comedy both, just like the Oscars.  Missing out on a nomination here can be a mere bump in the road, but it can also totally derail the candidacy of favorites like Christopher Plummer in The Insider.

Also, it’s just really difficult to winnow out supporting performances.  First, there are so many.  And then to make things worse, there’s category confusion.  Who’s really supporting, and who’s a lead actor not famous enough to make the lead category?  Who’s a lead actor being campaigned as supporting because they think they have a better shot? At any rate, for the guys, look for these names.

You have to figure Tom Hanks for his role as Walt Disney in Saving Mr. Banks.  Hanks’ costar Barkhad Abdi received rave reviews for his role in Captain Phillips.; it’s hard but not impossible for an unknown to make the shortlist if the film is high profile enough, and this surely fits that bill.  Plus, the fact that he never acted before adds quite a luster to his candidacy.  And of course there’s Bradley Cooper and his ringlets in American Hustle. The two most lauded contenders, however, are Jared Leto – currently considered a lock and perhaps even the favorite for playing the AIDS ravaged drag queen who provides the emotional center of Dallas Buyers Club – and brutal plantation owner Michael Fassbender in 12 Years a Slave.  Is that the new prostitute with a heart of gold, do you think – the transvestite with a heart of gold?  Methinks it is.

Gravity‘s George Clooney can’t be dismissed, however; the film had a great critical reception, great box office, the Hollywood Foreign Press love their stars, and Clooney is as big as stars get.  Former winner Geoffrey Rush for The Book Thief?  That very beautifully made films seems not to have lived up to its potential.  What about Jonah Hill in The Wolf Of Wall Street?  His transition from comedy to drama seems to be going quite well; he’s made this shortlist before. Alec Baldwin in Blue Jasmine?  I don’t think there’s any group that gives awards to actors which doesn’t like Alec Baldwin.  Heck, it’s not outside the realm of possibility that Will Forte could snag himself a nod for his work as Dern’s son in Nebraska.  If they’re looking for another twofer, there’s Matthew McConaughey as a creepy drifter in Mud. John Goodman was criminally overlooked for his work in last year’s fantastic Flight; perhaps it’s Inside Llewyn Davis that will earn him his ticket. Options abound.  Really,  I could just keep going on.

Best Supporting Actress

This list will be short, but only just.  It’s headed by uber It Girl Jennifer Lawrence, last year’s Globe and Oscar winner for Silver Linings Playbook, in her reteaming with director David O. Russell.  No one seems willing to give her any awards notice for playing Katniss Everdeen, but she’s almost certain to get some attention here.  Some other enormous names follow – Oprah Winfrey for The Butler and Julia Roberts for August: Osage County.  And then we meet Lupita Nyongo, who stunned audiences in 12 Years a Slave and seems very likely to make the list. But after those four, the picture becomes less clear.

Should the HFP want to go with a second unknown actress, they have option of June Squibb, costar in Nebraska.  Could be.  But there’s also OctaviaSpencer, Oscar and Globe winner for , who provided another brilliant turn in Fruitvale Station.  I love to see those actors who win on their first nominations (hole in one?  one and done?) do more high profile work; it’s just nice.  There are lots of other options here too – well like television actress Margo Martindale (August: Osage County), the always adorable Carey Mulligan (Inside Llewyn Davis), 90s favorite Emily Watson (The Book Thief), almost-previously nominated Brit Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine) or the lovely Mrs. Ben Affleck, Jennifer Garner (Dallas Buyers Club).  I would love to see Toni Collette for The Way Way Back – and if we’re considering anyone from French lesbian love story Blue is the Warmest Color, we’ve got to also count Lea Seydoux.

Best Director

The Globes tend to be much more straightforward and a lot less wacky than the director’s branch of the academy.  You see the big names here.  It’s almost always the ones you’d expect – the ones from the biggest movies.  So let’s line up David O. Russell for American Hustle, Alfonso Cuaron for Gravity, and Steve McQueen for 12 Years a Slave for certain.  Then you’ve got a few really big names with iffier movies – Martin Scorsese for The Wolf of Wall Street, and Joel and Ethan Coen for Inside Llewyn Davis.  Paul Greengrass could enter into the running for Captain Phillips, or professional outsider Spike Jonze for Her.  Alexander Payne is another excellent possibility to round out the shortlist for his work on Nebraska. Though his movie has slumped in awards attention, Lee Daniels might still make the cut for The Butler.  J.C. Chandor for All is Lost?  Joseph Gordon-Levitt for his directorial debut, Don Jon?  Weirder things have happened; the HFP is kinder to actor-directors than the Academy has been of late. Lesser known John Lee Hancock for Saving Mr. Banks?  I guess we’ll know that movie’s making a huge push if it could break through there.  And I’m probably the only person in the world who’d put Baz Luhrmann on this list for The Great Gatsby, but that’s just the crazy thing I’m going to do.

And there it is.

******

You might find it funny, because I spend so much of my time writing about The Good Wife, that I don’t tend to comment on the television side of awards shows.  I love that the Globes celebrate both; I love that they’re quicker to reward excellence in new shows than the Emmys.  Now, you might say that’s because Emmy waits for the entire season to be over while the Globes come mid-way through the television season; they’re far more likely to notice the awe-striking work of someone like, say, Tatiana Maslany than Emmy ever will be. They don’t get stuck in the same old ruts; they’re much more responsive to the actual season. But still, I don’t watch enough of the top shows (Breaking Bad, Mad Men, Homeland, Modern Family) to feel a real sense of ownership about these races.  I’ll be rooting for my favorites (TGW, Games of Thrones’ Michelle Fairley, Downton Abbey and anything else BBC or PBS) for sure.  And either way, I’ll be back on Thursday to chat about who did get nominated, and what it might mean.

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