Golden Globe contenders a complicated bunch

Fri Dec 19, 2008 6:14am EST
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By Stephen Galloway

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - The Hollywood Foreign Press Assn.'s decision to divvy up its Golden Globe nominations among a slew of pictures has made the task of predicting winners at the January 11 event all the harder. So where do the leading candidates stand?

Three movies tied for most nominations with five apiece: "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," "Frost/Nixon" and "Doubt." That would seem to make "Button" and "Frost/Nixon" the best bets for best picture (drama) ("Doubt" wasn't nominated) and hence the early front-runners for Academy Awards.

In fact, handicapping the Globes race is much more complicated.

"Button" is undoubtedly toward the top of the pack. It is a big, epic adventure of the sort Hollywood hardly ever pulls off anymore. (The HFPA deemed that another epic, "Australia," didn't pull it off at all, shutting it out of the nominations.) The fact that it also earned nominations for writing and directing is indicative of its strength across the board. An even louder signal comes from Brad Pitt's nomination for best actor (drama), as that category is widely viewed as the most competitive this year, and Pitt beat out such strong contenders as Michael Sheen ("Frost/Nixon"), Benicio Del Toro ("Che") and Richard Jenkins ("The Visitor").

That's the good news. On the negative side for "Button," awards season darling Cate Blanchett got spurned; the film's admirers have not been as fervent in their accolades as they have for some of the other contenders; and the HFPA has rarely been as swayed by the sheer scope of a movie as Oscar voters, many of whom come from the technical/crafts side that makes such scope possible.

So look to "Button" as a strong contender, but by no means a lock.

Another major player is a movie that didn't get any acting nominations, usually critical to awards success. "Slumdog Millionaire" is one off the lead in terms of its total nominations with four, but it is a much stronger best drama candidate than the numbers might indicate.

For one thing, it got nominated in the same two crucial areas as "Button": director and screenplay. Its fourth nomination, for its original score by Bollywood legend A.R. Rahman, is also telling. Since 1994, every movie that has taken home the best drama prize has also been nominated for original score. But most importantly, "Slumdog" earned nominations in pretty much every category in which it was a serious contender. That it received no acting nominations is hardly a surprise; few expected the movie's best-known actors, Dev Patel and Irfan Khan, to be recognized for their roles. So put down "Slumdog" as a leading rival.   Continued...

<p>Michael Sheen in a scene from "Frost/Nixon". REUTERS/Universal Pictures</p>