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LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - If you're wondering what happened to movies you were convinced were Oscar front-runners, they've moved to the back. And those in the middle of the pack, they've surged to the front. Or gone off the road entirely.
Thursday's Golden Globes announcements shook up the race in ways it rarely does.
"Revolutionary Road," whose chances were thought modest for noncast awards, got unexpected life with best director and best picture nominations from the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. "The Reader," a Weinstein Co. bid that had drawn some tough reviews coming into the day, bolstered its chances with a trifecta: nominations for best film, director and screenplay.
Meanwhile, Focus Features' "Milk," coming in with a head of steam after dominating critics groups, was nearly shut out, landing only one acting nomination, an expected slot for Sean Penn.
And a picture that looked as if it could begin an intriguing run with a little help from the HFPA, "The Dark Knight," suffered a huge blow when it managed only one nomination, an equally expected supporting actor mention for Heath Ledger.
It was such a topsy-turvy day at the Globes that Focus wound up with six nominations. That's a number pundits expected -- except five went to dark horses "Burn After Reading" and Colin Farrell mob comedy "In Bruges." The Globes were so far from Farrell's mind he didn't even bother setting his alarm to wake up for the announcements.
About the only movie that was a long shot coming in and coming out was "Australia," which increasingly looks like a candidate mainly for technical awards.
It's a cliche that every race is wide open. But discrepancies between different organizations are measurable, and this year there's been a peculiar case of schizophrenia. The Critics Choice Awards, for instance, routinely names six or seven movies that end up on the Globes' 10 slots. This year? Just four.
The L.A. Film Critics, with an uncanny ability to foretell the Oscars -- their best film has landed an Oscar best picture nomination in 15 of the past 17 years -- threw in another monkey wrench by naming "WALL-E" as its best movie. Only one animated film has been nominated for a best picture Oscar: 1991's "Beauty and the Beast."
It's shaping up to be a year in which no one is really out, and no one is really in.
At the New York Film Critics Circle, which opted for "Milk" as its best picture, the race was so close on several ballots that it was hard to keep track of who the favorites even were.
"In nearly every category, there were at least three or four movies that were neck and neck," said circle chair Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly .
That could make for some fierce campaigning as studios keep up the full-court press long after they otherwise might. Even supposed sure things like "Slumdog Millionaire," "Frost/Nixon" and "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" aren't locks, particularly "Button," which hasn't yet opened.
Conventional wisdom says the Globes and Oscars differ slightly. But this decade, the Globes' 10 nominations foretold all five Oscar best pictures four out of seven years. That means the critics groups may be off. Or it could become like 2005, when the Globes missed three of the five best picture nominees.
Or maybe everyone is wrong. The SAG Awards nominees will be announced Thursday. Don't be surprised if there's a new pecking order yet again.