Golden Globes remain toss-up

Possibility of picket line casts shadow

Commentary

December 14, 2007|By Rachel Abramowitz | Rachel Abramowitz,LOS ANGELES TIMES

From the cover

Globes: all questions, no answers So the 82 voting members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association have punted.

They're either unable or unwilling to designate any sort of Oscar frontrunner and so have nominated as many as 12 films for either best drama or comedy, for the 65th annual Golden Globe Awards. Sprinkling their gold dust everywhere, the group handed out nominations for dramas, seven in all, for films such as Atonement, the World War II tale of love thwarted by a child's overactive imagination, to Ridley Scott's ode to drug lords, American Gangster, to the Coen brothers' violent modern-day Western No Country for Old Men.

And there were the five nominees in the musical or comedy category, including Sweeney Todd, based on the Sondheim musical about a barbarous barber; Hairspray, based on the John Waters film and Broadway play; the unplanned pregnancy comedy, Juno - and on and on.

Some of the films, like Across the Universe and Charlie Wilson's War, haven't set the critics afire, but what does that matter, when Julia Roberts and Tom Hanks can be nominated and invited to the party?

At least the Hollywood Foreign Press Association is providing an accurate reflection of the malaise and confusion of this Oscar season, in which there's no Titanic-like film destined to scoop up awards, and enough anxiety around to spark a run on Xanax. Given the fact that the Writers Guild of America has not yet revealed whether it plans on picketing the awards derby or specifically the Golden Globes, no one even knows for sure if the stars will show up.

Typically a wide-open Oscar field means one thing - studios will spend and spend and spend to try to nab one of those all-important gold statuettes. If there's no consensus on merit, then the old Hollywood adage kicks in: Let the money do the talking.

The foreign press nominations do reflect some accurate trends in the business - i.e., no one wants to see any topical films dealing with weighty subjects like the war in Iraq. Indeed, save for two nominations, the terror movies, like In the Valley of Elah and Rendition, were completely shut out.

Atonement, Joe Wright's adaptation of the Ian McEwan novel, took the most nominations - for actors Keira Knightley, James McAvoy, 13-year old Saoirse Ronan, director Wright and screenwriter Christopher Hampton - and it is the film that most walks and talks like past Oscar winners, particularly those of The English Patient variety.

The best foreign language category again provides some of the most thought-provoking films of the year, among them The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Lust, Caution, The Kite Runner and Persepolis. Given the increasing globalization of the film business, only one of the nominees - 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, about the industry no-no topic of abortion - was made without Hollywood involvement.

On the acting side, the Hollywood foreign press largely rewarded the usual suspects - awards stalwarts - giving more nominations to those who've been feted before, stars like Denzel Washington (American Gangster), Cate Blanchett (Elizabeth: The Golden Age, I'm Not There), Philip Seymour Hoffman (Charlie Wilson's War, The Savages), Daniel Day-Lewis (There Will Be Blood), Julia Roberts and Tom Hanks (Charlie Wilson's War) and George Clooney (Michael Clayton).

Among the newcomers who've emerged from the pack are stripper-turned-screenwriter Diablo Cody and 20-year-old actress Ellen Page, the writer and star of Juno, the comedy about teen pregnancy that was nominated for best motion picture - comedy or musical.

Partying as the town burns will certainly be strange, and make no mistake about it, the Golden Globes has always been more about the party than the accolade. No one puts Golden Globe winner on their tombstone, but good times have often been had during soirees at the Beverly Hilton, as the stakes are low and the champagne flows freely.

The festivities, scheduled to air on NBC on Jan. 13, are a boon to the network, so it seems doubtful that the show will somehow miraculously be granted a waiver from the WGA, allowing them to hire real writers to write the banter and stars to attend without crossing a picket line.

It's hard to imagine this year's Golden Globes retaining their customary festiveness. Will writer-hyphenates like Tina Fey or the Coen brothers enjoy clinking glasses with their corporate overlords like Jeffrey Zucker and Robert Iger while they're fighting for their future? Already the town's social fabric is beginning to fray, as studio bosses slink down in their limos and avoid eye contact with the picketing A-list writers they used to entertain at their homes.

"It casts a pall over the celebratory feelings," says writer-director-animator Brad Bird, nominated for Ratatouille, about the possibility of a picket line. "As a WGA member, I don't want to do anything that's going to wreck or impact the negotiations. ... It's the kind of situation where you don't know what to do."

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