And the leader of the pack, sayeth the foreign press, is Jason Reitman's recession comedy 'Up in the Air,' which finds itself on six ballots, including Best Comedy or Musical, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Actor (George Clooney) and two for Best Supporting Actress (Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick). The Golden Globe Awards, presented by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, are nothing without Oscar nominations to go with them, but the 2010 Globe nominations announced today get the nominees halfway there.
And the leader of the pack, sayeth the foreign press, is Jason Reitman's recession comedy 'Up in the Air,' which finds itself on six ballots, including Best Comedy or Musical, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Actor (George Clooney) and two for Best Supporting Actress (Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick).
Rob Marshall's adaptation of the Broadway musical 'Nine' came in second with 5 nominations while Jim Cameron's 'Avatar' and Quentin Tarantino's 'Inglourious Basterds' each collected 4.
With 15 nominations for the top three, the foreign press have trumped a trio of critic groups' awards announced in recent days, three of which -- those in Boston, New York and Los Angeles -- threw their collective weight behind Kathryn Bigelow's Iraq war drama 'The Hurt Locker.' The foreign press didn't overlook that film; it received nominations for Best Drama, Best Director and Best Screenplay, but the voters ignored its heavily-praised star Jeremy Renner and gave its small distributor, Summit Entertainment, a challenge it may not be able to match.
It costs north of $1 million to run a serious Oscar campaign and despite its critical raves, 'The Hurt Locker' finished its theatrical run with just $12.6 million in the till. 'Up in the Air,' distributed by Paramount Pictures, doesn't go wide until Christmas Day, but it is doing very well in limited release and figures to eclipse 'The Hurt Locker's' gross by a multiple of about 10 by the time it's through.
'Up in the Air' got nominations in the glam categories -- Clooney and at least one of his female co-stars are certain to double-up with Oscar nominations -- and it just smells like an Academy Award movie. Developing that sense of smell has been the primary goal of the foreign press since it began handing out Globes in 1945.
As a former member of both the Los Angeles and New York critics groups, it pains me to acknowledge that the foreign press, mostly free lance writers who are unfailingly non-critical about their Hollywood subjects, have more influence in the process of etching names on Oscar statuettes than critics, who are not beholding to the studios for access to stars and filmmakers. But they do.
Critics are outsiders, snobs and general nuisances, as far as the studios are concerned, while the L.A.-based foreign press are documented citizens of Hollywood. They may be odd bedfellows but they are useful in promoting movies throughout the year and in guiding the awards process at the end. Golden Globe nominations are the centerpieces of the Oscar campaigns and the show itself -- set for Jan. 17 -- is a TV ratings-happy dress rehearsal. The acceptance speeches given there land on the sympathetic ears of the Academy's nearly 6,000 voting members.
Given all that, the Globes are just as important for who and what are left off the ballots than for the names that do appear. Without major Globe nominations, those trade paper ads look weak, no matter how many critics' quotes are imported. In that regard, Clint Eastwood's 'Invictus' may be the day's biggest loser. Eastwood was nominated for Best Director -- the foreign press aren't going to miss an opportunity to have him at the show if they can help it -- but leaving his movie off the Best Drama ballot does it harm.
Perhaps hit even harder was Danish director Lone Scherfig's 'An Education,' whose Best Drama Actress nomination for Carey Mulligan is all it got. Many Oscar observers were pondering the not-too-crazy prospect of Scherfig and Bigelow becoming the first two women directors to occupy a Best Director ballot at the same time.
The one bright spot for critics on the Globe list are the three nominations for Lee Daniel's 'Precious.' The small indie film about a sexually-abused inner-city teenager is the unlikeliest Oscar contender in the bunch. It is tailor-made for the Independent Spirit Awards, which will be handed out March 5, but without the critical support it has received, I doubt that many foreign press members would have even watched it, let alone have voted for it.
'Precious' still has to be loaded into those thousands of DVD players owned by Academy voters, and then watched in its entirety, but between the critics' groups and their antipodes in the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn., it wouldn't have got this far.
As a former member of Los Angeles Film Critics Association and the New York Film Critics Circle, it pains me to acknowledge that a group of foreign entertainment writers, most of whom are unfailingly uncritical in their movie writing, are more important to the process of etching names on Oscar statuettes. But they are. The Golden Globe nominations, because there are so many in so many categories, are the centerpieces of Oscar campaigns, and the show itself (Jan. 17) is a ratings-happy dress rehearsal.
Critics groups can direct Academy voters' attention to small films of great achievement -- the single biggest key to Oscar nominations is getting a majority of the voters to watch your movie -- but critics are outsiders, and reputed snobs at that, while the Globes and the foreign press are documented citizens of Hollywood. Academy voters can ignore critics, even those in Los Angeles, but the Globes stand out like the Hollywood Sign.
Still, the critics can take credit for directing Globe voters to Lee Daniels' 'Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire.' The small indie film about a sexually-abused inner-city teenage girl is the unlikeliest Oscar contender on any of the ballots, and it's on three -- Best Drama, Best Actress (Gabourey Sidibe) and Best Supporting Actress (Mo'Nique). Because there are 10 places on the '09 Best Picture Oscar ballot, 'Precious' may end up on it. Otherwise, it's a movie destined to get its due when the Independent Spirit Awards are announced March 5.
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