The Golden Globes, presented annually by the somewhat mysterious Hollywood Foreign Press Association, are the Teflon awards show.
No matter how many journalists question the voters’ ethics, no matter how many show-biz veterans mock the awards, no matter how many times they’re debunked in cable documentaries (see last month’s scathing Trio special), they refuse to pack up and go away.
Partly that’s because the Globes are more fun than any other movie awards show. The wine flows freely at the awards dinner, winners say things they might not say at the Oscars a few weeks later, and the show still generates a glamour factor that’s absent from the even looser Independent Spirit awards. Indeed, it often seems that the biggest celebrity in the room takes home the biggest prize.
They’ve also got longevity on their side. The Globes have been around since 1943, although they didn’t become a national obsession until the early 1960s. When Julie Andrews won her Globe for “Mary Poppins” 39 years ago, and she cheekily used her acceptance speech to chide Jack Warner for not casting her in “My Fair Lady,” she made headlines. Her later, politer Oscar speech wasn’t nearly as memorable.
And despite their habit of giving Globes to such under-achievers as Pia Zadora and Madonna (whose “Evita” beat Frances McDormand’s classic performance in “Fargo”!), they sometimes do the right thing. Nicole Kidman wasn’t on the Oscar voters’ radar when she won a Globe for “To Die For,” but it may be her best performance. Marilyn Monroe was never nominated for an Academy Award, but she took home a Globe for her best movie, “Some Like It Hot.”
And think about some of the Globes’ picks for best picture, compared with a few of the Academy’s more questionable choices. The Hollywood Foreign Press Association sensibly picked “Sense and Sensibility” over “Braveheart” (1995), “American Graffiti” over “The Sting” (1973), and “East of Eden” over “Marty” (1955). In 1950, they bypassed the Oscar-sweeping “All About Eve” to honor the darker, less popular and arguably more memorable “Sunset Boulevard.”
Of course, for every one of these interesting choices, there’s a big fat blemish on the Globes’ voting record (start with “The Robe” winning best picture of 1953 over “From Here to Eternity”). Perhaps you’ll hate yourself in the morning, but you’ll probably be watching Jan. 25, when the 61st annual Globes awards are presented on NBC.
As usual, there will be surprises. Remember Warren Beatty’s baffled reaction when “Bugsy” won Best Picture, after losing in all other categories for which it was nominated? Nevertheless, here’s a fearless rundown of probable winners:
Best Picture (drama): “The Return of the King.” While “Cold Mountain” earned twice as many nominations, and “Mystic River” and “Master and Commander” are strong contenders, the “Lord of the Rings” finale may prove irresistible. Also nominated: “Seabiscuit.”
Best Picture (comedy or musical): Disney/Pixar’s beloved cartoon, “Finding Nemo.” It could just as easily be “Lost in Translation,” but the other nominees seem unlikely winners: “Bend It Like Beckham,” the disappointing “Big Fish” and the schizophrenically uneven “Love Actually.”
Best Actor (drama): Ben Kingsley, for his excellent work as an Iranian immigrant trying to make it in California in “House of Sand and Fog.” Just as likely are Sean Penn (“Mystic River”) and Jude Law (“Cold Mountain”), though Tom Cruise (“The Last Samurai”) and Russell Crowe (“Master and Commander”) look like long shots.
Best Actress (drama): Charlize Theron, “Monster.” Her career-transforming performance as a lost soul who becomes a serial killer wipes out the other contenders: Cate Blanchett (“Veronica Guerin”), Scarlett Johansson (“Girl With a Pearl Earring”), Nicole Kidman (“Cold Mountain”), Uma Thurman (“Kill Bill, Vol. 1”) and Evan Rachel Wood (“Thirteen”).
Best Actor (comedy or musical): Bill Murray, for his career-peak performance as a movie star who has lost his bearings in “Lost in Translation.” Still, this could just as easily go to Johnny Depp’s showier work in “Pirates of the Caribbean” or Jack Black’s hilarious fake schoolteacher in “The School of Rock.” Also nominated: Jack Nicholson (“Something’s Gotta Give”) and Billy Bob Thornton (“Bad Santa”).
Best Actress (comedy or musical): Diane Keaton, for her comeback role as an aging playwright who falls for Nicholson in “Something’s Gotta Give.” Her strongest competition: Scarlett Johansson for “Lost in Translation” and Jamie Lee Curtis for “Freaky Friday.” Also nominated: Diane Lane (“Under the Tuscan Sun”) and Helen Mirren (“Calendar Girls”).
Best Supporting Actor: Alec Baldwin, for another comeback role, as the ruthless casino manager in “The Cooler.” Baldwin faces stiff competition from Tim Robbins (“Mystic River”), Ken Watanabe (“The Last Samurai”) and Peter Sarsgaard (“Shattered Glass”). Less likely are Albert Finney (“Big Fish”) and William H. Macy (“Seabiscuit”). But where are Paul Bettany (“Master and Commander”) and the “Return of the King” boys, notably Sean Astin and Andy (Gollum) Serkis?
Best Supporting Actress: Renee Zellweger, for the welcome dose of comic relief she brings to “Cold Mountain.” Also nominated: Maria Bello (who didn’t exactly triumph over an unplayable part in “The Cooler”), Patricia Clarkson (“Pieces of April”), Hope Davis (splendid in “American Splendor”) and Holly Hunter (“Thirteen”). If Bello wins, we’ll know the Zadora goofy factor is at play again - especially since Shohreh Aghdashloo (Kingsley’s unforgettable wife in “House of Sand and Fog”) wasn’t even nominated.
Best Director: Peter Jackson, “The Return of the King.” Clint Eastwood (“Mystic River”) is a Globes favorite, Sofia Coppola (“Lost in Translation”) has been winning over Jackson in critics’ awards, and there’s support for Peter Weir (“Master and Commander”) and Anthony Minghella (“Cold Mountain”). But this still looks like Jackson’s year.
Best Screenplay: Sofia Coppola, “Lost in Translation.” If she loses the director award, this could be the consolation prize. Also nominated: “Cold Mountain,” “Mystic River,” “Love Actually” and “In America,” which has no other major nominations but could be the dark horse here.
Best Foreign Film: “Osama.” Afghanistan’s first movie in years is a devastating account of a Taliban victim’s survival tactics, and could win over Denys Arcand’s better-known Canadian entry, “The Barbarian Invasions.” Also nominated: Russia’s “The Return,” Germany’s “Good Bye Lenin!,” and France’s heavily promoted Omar Sharif vehicle, “Monsieur Ibraham.”
The Globes will also be presenting television awards Jan. 25. Among the likely winners is an HBO miniseries that turned up on several critics’ lists of the best movies of 2003: Mike Nichols’ superb six-hour-plus adaptation of Tony Kushner’s “Angels in America.” Look for Al Pacino, Jeffrey Wright and Meryl Streep to add to their laurels for playing the kinds of complex roles that are too often limited to cable these days.