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‘Million Dollar Baby’ could be Golden

Our movie critic makes his predictions for this year's Golden Globes. By John Hartl

The Golden Globes hand out fewer awards than the Oscars, which honor sound-effects editors, makeup artists and obscure short films. But the Globes include more categories that actually matter to viewers who are likely to tune into the show, which will be telecast Jan. 16 on NBC-TV.

Because they have separate categories — dramas and comedy/musicals — the Globes nominate many more people in the acting categories. And because they’re not bound by rules about limiting nominees to five in one category, the Globes can sometimes wind up with as many as six competing nominees (check out this year’s list of best-picture nominees in the drama category).

This adds considerably to the glamour factor, especially when the contestants show up, which they tend to do. So does the inclusion of television, which sometimes contributes nominated actors whose work was originally intended for theaters.

This year, for instance, Geoffrey Rush’s astonishing impersonation of Peter Sellers in “The Life and Death of Peter Sellers,” which made its U.S. debut on HBO, is in the running. Because he’s nominated in three categories (one of them for a TV movie), Jamie Foxx has the potential to do something no Oscar-nominated actor has ever pulled off: three awards in one night.

Missing in actionStill, something’s missing from this year’s list of nominees. Actually, quite a few somethings. Because there are no documentary Globes, Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 9/11” is absent. Mel Gibson’s equally controversial “The Passion of the Christ” has been passed over at the Globes.

The Village Voice’s recent poll of 94 film critics named Richard Linklater’s “Before Sunset” best picture of the year, and Linklater director of the year. The movie has been a fixture on 10-best lists and was the runner-up for best picture in the Boston Film Critics’ awards, yet it earned no Golden Globe nominations.

Neither did writer-director Joshua Marston’s impressive debut movie, “Maria Full of Grace,” which seems likely to earn Oscar nominations for Marston and his star, Catalina Sandino Moreno. The American Film Institute recently named it one of the top 10 films of the year, and it’s one of the front-runners in the Independent Spirit awards.

Such omissions lend credence to the argument that the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which votes on the Golden Globes, is likely to favor heavily promoted major-studio movies and ignore independent and foreign-language films. Still, there are more than a few independent voices represented in the Globe nominations, and they could prevail on awards night.

PredictionsHere are some guesses about how things will turn out (theatrical division only):

Best Motion Picture (Drama) – “Million Dollar Baby.” Conservative columnist William Safire is predicting a clean sweep at the Oscars for Clint Eastwood’s boxing drama, and the Seattle Film Critics recently voted it best picture of the year. Still, the power of “Hotel Rwanda” or the ingenuity of “The Aviator” could win out, and there are strong followings for the other nominees: “Finding Neverland,” “Kinsey” and “Closer.”

Best Motion Picture (Musical or Comedy) – “Sideways.” Oscar night is likely to turn into a showdown between “Sideways” and “Million Dollar Baby,” but the Globes have made it possible for both to win by categorizing “Sideways” as primarily a comedy. Also nominated: “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” “The Incredibles,” “The Phantom of the Opera” and “Ray.”

Imelda Staunton arrives at the Odeon Leicester Square theater in London, Wednesday Oct. 20, 2004, the opening night of the London Film Festival. The cinema was hosting the premiere of director Leigh's new movie

Best Actor (Drama) – Don Cheadle, “Hotel Rwanda.” Another career-peak performance, in a film that is otherwise unlikely to score. But it wouldn’t be at all surprising to find Liam Neeson (playing the title role in “Kinsey”) or Leonardo DiCaprio (playing Howard Hughes in “The Aviator”) collecting this one. Also nominated: Javier Bardem (“The Sea Inside”) and Johnny Depp (“Finding Neverland”).

Best Actress (Musical or Comedy) – Annette Bening, “Being Julia.” Bening stirs up memories of Bette Davis in “All About Eve” in this otherwise rickety vehicle about an aging actress’ revenge. Kate Winslet (“Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”) or newcomer Emmy Rossum (“Phantom of the Opera”) could provide an upset. The other nominees are Ashley Judd (“De-Lovely”) and Renee Zellweger (for the widely reviled sequel, “Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason”). Surely the latter represents this year’s most desperate attempt to fill out a category.

Actor Jamie Foxx poses for a portrait at the Beverly Hills Hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif., July 29, 2004. Foxx was posing for an Associated Press photographer when actor Tom Cruise borrowed his camera and took a few shots, including the frame shown here. Foxx co-star's with Cruise and Jada Pinkett Smith in Dreamworks Pictures' thriller \"Collateral.\" (AP Photo/Tom Cruise)Tom Cruise / AP

Best Director – Martin Scorsese, “The Aviator.” This looks like comeback time for Marty, who made the year’s most entertaining biopic, though Clint Eastwood (“Million Dollar Baby”) and Alexander Payne (“Sideways”) are just as likely to triumph. Also nominated: Mike Nichols (“Closer”) and Marc Forster (“Finding Neverland”).

Best Supporting Actress – Virginia Madsen, “Sideways.” Another irresistible comeback, Madsen’s first great role made up for two decades of practicing her specialty: transforming schlock into something watchable. However, Cate Blanchett was equally impressive as Katharine Hepburn in “The Aviator,” and Laura Linney contributed mightily to “Kinsey.” Also nominated: Natalie Portman (“Closer”) and Meryl Streep (“The Manchurian Candidate”).

In this photo released by Fox Searchlight, actor Thomas Haden Church appears in a scene from the film \"Sideways.\" In the movie, Church, best-known for playing Lowell, the dead-pan mechanic in the early `90s TV show \"Wings,\" portrays a journneyman actor on a last fling before getting married. (AP Photo/Fox Searchlight, Merie W. Wallace )Merie W. Wallace / FOX SEARCHLIGHT

Best Foreign-Language Film – “The Sea Inside” (Spain). While Javier Bardem’s performance as a paralyzed writer may lose, his film stands a good chance of winning. So do “House of Flying Daggers” (China) and “The Motorcycle Diaries” (Brazil). Also nominated are two French entries: “The Chorus” and “A Very Long Engagement.”

Best Screenplay – Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor, “Sideways.” Curiously, “Million Dollar Baby” is missing from the screenwriting category. This would seem to clear the way for “Sideways,” although a win for Charlie Kauffman’s imaginative “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” can’t be ruled out. Also nominated: John Logan (“The Aviator”), David Magee (“Finding Neverland”) and Patrick Marber (“Closer”).

** FILE **Clint Eastwood is shown at the Walter Reade Theater in New York on Oct. 2, 2003. Eastwood and Steven Spielberg are joining forces to bring the World War II battle of Iwo Jima to the big screen. According to TV Guide, Eastwood will direct an adaptation of the book

Best Song – “Believe,” from “The Polar Express.” This mawkish number at least made more of an impression than the other nominees: “Accidentally in Love” (from “Shrek 2”), “Million Voices” (“Hotel Rwanda”), “Old Habits Die Hard” (“Alfie”) and  “Learn to Be Lonely” (“The Phantom of the Opera”) – which has nothing on “I’m So Ronery,” Trey Parker’s wonderfully silly North Korean lament from “Team America: World Police.” Alas, it’s not nominated.