At the Golden Globes nomination press conference at the Beverly Hilton this morning, a lot of the talk wasn’t so much about who got nominated but who didn’t. I’m talking about you, Oprah! The star of stars didn’t make the cut and won’t be walking that red carpet (at least as a supporting actress nominee). I thought she was powerful enough just to call in and order one of these things. But Winfrey, along with everyone else associated with Lee Daniels’ The Butler, was snubbed big time. Yesterday, the Weinstein Company’s late summer hit had scored big at the SAG awards with three nominations, including one for Winfrey, and appeared to be on the rebound after being left off the AFI top 10 list Monday. But the awards-season gods giveth and then they taketh away. Conversely, yesterday’s big snubee at SAG, The Wolf Of Wall Street, saw its fortunes improve with the Hollywood Foreign Press Association naming it a nominee for Best Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical and one for Leonardo DiCaprio, a perennial Globe favorite gaining his 10th nomination (he won in 2004 for The Aviator).
Other than Oprah (unfairly in my opinion) missing out in supporting (Jennifer Lawrence, Julia Roberts, Lupita Nyong’o, June Squibb and a surprise nod for Blue Jasmine’s Sally Hawkins made the grade there), there weren’t many jaw-dropping surprises in film (TV was another matter entirely – sorry Claire Danes). That is unless you think Ron Howard’s Rush getting a Best Motion Picture Drama slot over the likes of Butler and Saving Mr. Banks (which, as at SAG, received only one nod for star Emma Thompson) is a stunner. Hate to say I TOLDJA , but I predicted that in this column yesterday. I have spoken to several HFPA members over the past few weeks and nearly every one of them brought up that film’s name as a favorite. Although the independently-produced Universal release didn’t do well at the box office in the U.S., it has great international appeal being a European-set film about the 1970′s rivalry between Britain’s James Hunt and Austrian Niki Lauda (played by Daniel Bruhl who grabbed a supporting actor nod today). The HFPA is an organization made up of international journalists, and the film held a special appeal for them.
Though the Globes are divided into two best picture categories of five nominees each — for drama and for comedy/musical – there was lots of hand-wringing and sleepless nights for publicists trying to position their film in the category where they though it might have the best chance. So for a comedy/drama like Saving Mr. Banks the placement in Drama may ultimately have hurt its chances (one Disney exec I spoke to a few weeks ago said they were waking up in a cold sweat over making the wrong choice). And another comedy/drama, August: Osage County, also perhaps in hindsight made the wrong choice by trying to compete in the comedy/musical category where it was shut out (though stars Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts received nods). But who knows? The final decision on placement belongs to the HFPA itself. On the other hand, a last-minute switch as voting was getting underway from drama to comedy paid off big time for American Hustle, which got a leading 7 nominations (including Best Picture – Comedy or Musical tying it with 12 Years A Slave which also racked up 7 nods). That category, which also includes Her, Nebraska, Wolf Of Wall Street and Inside Llewyn Davis, is not exactly filled with knee-slapping laffers indicating the definition of a “comedy” may be changing — at least at the Golden Globes.
Related: Golden Globes Nominees: Scorecard
Overall there were no embarrassments for the HFPA with this list of nominations, unlike a couple of years ago when they went crazy for The Tourist – to name just one recent controversy. The new leadership, led by new President Theo Kingma, has taken strides to try and change the image of the group and focus on serious journalistic credentials of their members, rather than past image problems. And I think they are to be commended for voting movies they genuinely like and admire such as Rush or Her than perhaps some being campaigned more heavily with a blast of mailings and trinkets. After this morning’s announcement one member told me, “We can’t be bought”. That’s certainly a night-and-day difference from the image the group has had, fairly or unfairly, in the past — at least in some quarters. They will still likely be travelling on those junkets, and wined and dined by studios, but these nominations certainly seem to reflect a new day at the HFPA.
The list of contenders in the marquee Best Motion Picture -Drama category is fierce with 12 Years A Slave, Gravity, Philomena and Captain Phillips joining Rush in the mix. The strong showing by Philomena, which also nabbed nominations for star Judi Dench and its Screenplay, might have surprised some but the members have told me they loved the film ever since seeing it at the Toronto Film Festival. Oddly it reps The Weinstein Company’s only Best Picture contender in either category even though the distributor came in second overall to Sony in total nominations (thanks to scattered mentions for Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom, One Chance and August: Osage County).
Celebrating their Globes nominations after being snubbed at SAG and AFI earlier in the week was Roadside Attractions/Lionsgate, which got back into the game with All Is Lost gaining two nods including infamous SAG missing man Robert Redford making an awards comeback as Best Actor in a Drama. This is Redford’s first solo mention at the Globes for an acting role (he won World Film Favorite several times, the Cecil B.DeMille Award and Best Director for Ordinary People in 1980) unless you count the “Most Promising Male Newcomer” Globe he got in 1966 for Inside Daisy Clover. Also CBS Films, shut out at SAG with Inside Llewyn Davis, came back strong with a Best Picture Comedy or Musical nomination and mentions for Oscar Isaac and one of its songs, “Please Mr. Kennedy”. Among the major studios, which in past years have taken a back seat to the likes of The Weinstein Company on this day, Warner Bros (Gravity , Her), Paramount (Nebraska, Wolf Of Wall Street) and Sony (American Hustle, Captain Phillips) all had a strong showing and garnered multiple Best Picture nominations.
Today’s Globes nominations reflect one of the most competitive and, quite frankly, unpredictable lineups in years. On paper at least, with an impressive seven nominations, 12 Years A Slave would appear to be poised to take Best Picture – Drama, but based on conversations I have had with HFPA insiders I think the race is much closer there and actually could be anyone’s ballgame. Philomena, even without a directing nomination for Stephen Frears, could be a spoiler in a close race between 12 Years, Gravity, Captain Phillips and dark horse Rush. And on the comedy side both American Hustle and Nebraska look particularly strong but watch out for Inside Llewyn Davis coming up on th ,well, inside. The acting races across the board are no less competitive. But will the Globes taking place on January 12th have any significant impact on Oscar? Actually balloting for the Academy Awards ends January 8th so whichever way the wind blows at the Globes will be a moot point, but certainly today’s results are going to help to at least set the table for what promises to be a long and winding road to the Dolby Theatre on March 2nd.
Awards Columnist Pete Hammond - tip him here.