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Monday, January 15, 2007

Golden Opportunities

The first major award ceremony - and by major, of course, I mean the glitziest and most critically illegitimate - kicks off later tonight with the presentation of the 2007 Golden Globe awards. Voted for by a small contingent of journalists working for foreign news outlets, the Globes provide crucial publicity for movies and stars in the run-up to the gong-fest that really matters (to them) - the Oscars. The sway that the Globes hold on the Academy Awards is considerable, so the results tonight will provide an early clue as to how things may pan out over the next few weeks. Here are my predictions....

Best Motion Picture - Drama

The Departed
Little Children
The Queen

Babel is in the strongest position in this category purely on the basis that it has the most nominations (7) of any film in the running this year . It may have divided critics in the US but the reviews overseas so far have been glowing, and don’t forget that the winners of the Globes are voted by the Foreign Press Association.

Having said that, the Globes could be the season’s first indicator of whether or not the major award committees are getting behind Scorsese and The Departed, which was a blistering return to form for the director after a slew of so-so productions.

Bobby is the weakest link in the category and is expected to be phased out in the run-up to the Oscars. Little Children received unanimously strong reviews but may would have an almighty task to overcome its heavier competitors. The Queen could pull off a major surprise and claim the trophy. Stephen Frear’s insightful and moving drama has become a major contender, largely on the back of Helen Mirren’s award-guzzling portrayal of Queen Elizabeth II.

If there were any justice, United 93 would be in here, and it would unreservedly get my vote. It is the movie of the year – if not, of this generation.

Prediction: Babel
Watch out for: The Departed

Best Motion Picture - Musical Or Comedy
Borat: Cultural Learnings Of America For Make Benefit Glorious Nation Of Kazakhstan
The Devil Wears Prada
Little Miss Sunshine
Thank You For Smoking

Can Borat’s incredible run of success pull off another coup and trounce its huge Hollywood competitors? It’d be great to see but I would be very surprised if it did. The clear favourite in this race – and apparently in the Oscar race – is Bill Condon’s movie adaptation of the stage musical Dreamgirls, a thinly-veiled account of the rise of Diana Ross and the Supremes. Phenomenal reviews have propelled it to the top of most experts’ picks for the year’s top awards, and Dreamgirls certainly is a very Golden Globes kind of movie.

It was great to see the coruscating satire Thank You For Smoking get a boost but it seems the nomination will have to be its reward, whereas the highly enjoyable but creatively lightweight Devil Wears Prada was lucky to even get this far.

The one to watch here – and everywhere else – is my favourite movie of this entire awards year: Little Miss Sunshine. Having made a further impact in the nominations for the Screen Actors Guild, the PGA and, most surprisingly, the DGA, this beautifully crafted and performed road movie is the year’s true underdog. Overwhelmingly positive reviews, a strong ensemble cast and a clever marketing campaign that’s slowly but surely creating a deafening buzz has ensured that this sleeper cannot be discounted from the race. Definitely the one to watch. In fact, I’ll take bets that Little Miss Sunshine ends up as the surprise winner of the Best Picture Oscar next month.

Prediction: Dreamgirls
Watch out for: Little Miss Sunshine

Best Animated Film
Happy Feet
Monster House

Cars is definitely the outsider in this race. Happy Feet, with its cute penguins, good music, green credentials and an Aladdin-esque Robin Williams should run away with it. I’m rooting for the deliciously dark Monster House but I’d be surprised.

Prediction: Happy Feet
Watch out for: Monster House

Best Actor In A Leading Role - Drama
Leonardo DiCaprio in Blood Diamond
Leonardo DiCaprio in The Departed
Peter O'Toole in Venus
Will Smith in The Pursuit Of Happyness
Forest Whitaker in The Last King Of Scotland

In any other year, 74-year-old O’Toole would be the clear winner of this and every other Best Actor award this year. A true Hollywood legend, O’Toole nearly declined an Honorary Oscar a few years ago because he believed he could still win a competitive statuette. And indeed he might. He hasn’t won any of the critics citations so far, but a Globe victory could change the trajectory of this year’s Best Actor race.

That trajectory has been set by Forest Whitaker, who has mopped up 12 critics' prizes so far for his ferocious portrayal of mercurial Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in the riveting The Last King of Scotland. Whitaker will be hard to dislodge as the favourite from here on in. DiCaprio would seem to have an advantage, with two highly considered performances up for gongs in the one race, but it just doesn’t seem to be his year. Elsewhere Will Smith delivers a moving performance in the treacly The Pursuit of Happyness, but just how he got a place here over Ryan Gosling’s astonishing performance in Half Nelson (an aberration thankfully corrected in the SAG Best Actor list) is beyond me.

Prediction: Forest Whitaker
Watch out for: Peter O’Toole

Best Actor In A Leading Role - Musical Or Comedy
Sacha Baron Cohen in Borat: Cultural Learnings Of America For Make Benefit Glorious Nation Of Kazakhstan
Johnny Depp in Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
Aaron Eckhart in Thank You For Smoking
Chiwetel Ejiofor in Kinky Boots
Will Ferrell in Stranger Than Fiction

Could there be a more worthy winner in this category than Baron Cohen? As comedic performances go, his was a tour de force, even going as far as staying in character to do the press interviews during the promotion of the film. The four other nominees pale in comparison and the FPA are not usually as snobby as other award committees, some of whom have been reluctant to view Baron Cohen’s racist, misogynistic, homophobic anti-Semitic creation for what it is: a comedic work of art.

If things don’t go as planned, then Eckhart should win for his deadpan performance in Thank You For Smoking.

Prediction: Sacha Baron Cohen
Watch out for: Aaron Eckhart

Best Actress In A Leading Role - Drama
Penelope Cruz in Volver
Judi Dench in Notes On A Scandal
Maggie Gyllenhaal in Sherrybaby
Helen Mirren in The Queen
Kate Winslet in Little Children

Like Whitaker, Helen Mirren has dominated proceedings in her category since the year’s first film prizes were handed out last autumn. So far she has clocked up 15 gongs, including the Lead Actress prize at the Venice Film Festival. I will be flabbergasted if she doesn’t romp home with the Globe.

But how great it is to see such a strong field of nominees, after a lacklustre few years for actresses? By rights, any one of this five could legitimately lay claim to the prize. Cruz – who won Best Actress at Cannes – delivers the performance of her life in Almodovar’s stunning Volver while Gyllenhaal does incredible work as a recovering addict in Sherrybaby (almost good enough to erase the memories of her participation in the woeful combo of Trust the Man and World Trade Centre).

Mirren’s fellow Brits are the most likely to pull off any surprises. Dench is positively monstrous as the obsessed Barbara in the adaptation of Zoe Heller’s Notes on a Scandal – and has clocked up arguably the best reviews of her already illustrious career. One critic even likened her unnerving performance to Hopkins’ Hannibal Lector. Winslet has been equally praised for an intense portrayal of a desperate housewife in Todd Field’s Little Children. However I’d be surprised if either gets the prize ahead of Mirren, a triple nominee here tonight .

Prediction: Helen Mirren
Watch out for: Judi Dench

Best Actress In A Leading Role - Musical Or Comedy
Annette Bening in Running With Scissors
Toni Collette in Little Miss Sunshine
Beyoncé Knowles in Dreamgirls
Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada
Renée Zellweger in Miss Potter

There’s a sense that Beyonce is completely punching above her weight in this category, and although she’s had a positive reception for her turn in Dreamgirls, I’d be very surprised if she emerged victorious here. She might pull it off, but I have a feeling this is where the good will towards her ends. The Academy, in particular, are always deeply hostile towards singers and pop stars moonlighting as actors, as Cher, Barbara Streisand, Madonna and Debbie Reynolds have all learned in the past.

The undisputed champ here is the incomparable Meryl Streep, who has been rightly lauded for a scene-stealing role that was the perfect vehicle for her kooky sense of humour and impeccable comic timing. Streep tapped into hidden layers and gave her largely cartoon-ish character more depth and humanity than the material warranted. Collette was also superb in a quietly powerful role as the mother trying to keep her fractured, troubled family together in Little Miss Sunshine.

Bening was superb in a movie that received a poor critical and commercial response, whereas Zellweger, who I’m normally pretty amenable to, delivered an alright performance in an excruciatingly twee film.

Prediction: Meryl Streep
Watch out for: Toni Collette

Best Supporting Actor
Ben Affleck in Hollywoodland
Eddie Murphy in Dreamgirls
Jack Nicholson in The Departed
Brad Pitt in Babel
Mark Wahlberg in The Departed

Like last year, the two supporting races are packed with the finest performances and are extremely competitive. The Supporting Actor category here is very hard to call. Affleck resurrected – some would say, created – his acting career with a perfectly pitched performance as has-been actor (however did he learn to play that?) George Reeves in Hollywoodland. The role won him the Best Actor prize at Venice but his early lead seems to have been eroded by the emergence of some heavy-hitting end of year performances.

Pitt effectively ‘does a Clooney’ (now now) in Babel, aging himself and sporting a salt and pepper beard for his performance as a desperate husband trying to save his wounded wife in the African desert. His star wattage was rightly subsumed by the fine international ensemble work done in Babel, but it remains to be seen what effect, if any, his turbulent private life has had on his career. There might be a backlash.

Nicholson and Wahlberg were the two scene-stealers in The Departed, but run the risk of cancelling each other out in the voting. Wahlberg, in particular, has been a critics fave for his foul-mouthed turn, and he’s overdue for some acknowledgement of his acting talent from the Hollywood community. Nicholson can never be ruled out, and he delivered an absolute barnstormer, but there’s a feeling that he’s been duly awarded already.

The man of the moment is Eddie Murphy, whose turn as a James Brown-esque singer in Dreamgirls, has won him the best reviews of his career. Expect him to claim the prize, and just about every Supporting gong from here on in – including the Oscar.

Prediction: Eddie Murphy
Watch out for: Brad Pitt

Best Supporting Actress
Adriana Barraza in Babel
Cate Blanchett in Notes On A Scandal
Emily Blunt in The Devil Wears Prada
Jennifer Hudson in Dreamgirls
Rinko Kikuchi in Babel

Another extremely close and tough race. Can I say first of all how great it is to see the terrific Emily Blunt get a look-in for her pithy Prada supporting turn that effectively stole those few scenes that Queen Meryl didn't completely devour herself. It's a great boost for Blunt but I#s be very surprised if she gets the prize here.

Ditto for Blanchett, who has had an extraordinary year. In addition to her nominated turn in Scandal, she also plays pivotal roles in Babel and The Good German. The two Babel nominees delivered the finest acting work in the movie. Barraza is particularly good as the immigrant nanny plunged into cross-border hell, whereas her young Japanese co-star Kikuchi has been singled out for the most praise as the deaf teen struggling to communicate her profound grief as well as her raging hormonal urges.

The woman to watch is Jennifer Hudson, who was installed as the early favourite from the minute critics got a preview of her work: one sequence apparently had audiences standing up and applauding right in the middle of the movie. The former American Idol contestant is the breakout star of the year and is the one to beat here and in every supporting race from now on. Kikuchi could upset but I'm going for Hudson.

Prediction: Jennifer Hudson
Watch out for: Rinko Kikuchi

Best Director
Clint Eastwood for Flags Of Our Fathers
Clint Eastwood for Letters From Iwo Jima
Stephen Frears for The Queen
Alejandro González Iñárritu for Babel
Martin Scorsese for The Departed

The race EVERYONE is watching. Will - can - Scorsese finally pull off an Oscar win as Best Director? This would be a good indication. Of course, he's up against his old sparring partner Clint Eastwood, a double nominee this year who trounced Marty for the Oscar two years ago (Clint won for his sleeper Million Dollar Baby over Marty for The Aviator). Nobody is going to argue that Scorsese doesn't deserve an Oscar and just about every other directing prize going...but maybe not this year.

Eastwood pulled off an astonishing double whammy, gifting audiences two daring, profound and moving takes on the one story. It's a remarkable directing achievement that cannot be ignored. The old dog could yet again upset Scorsese. Inirritu won this category at Cannes but he and Frears are rank outsiders for the gong. The best directing job of the year (if not the decade) - Paul Greengrass for United 93 - isn't even nominated, to the HFPA's eternal shame.

Prediction: Martin Scorsese
Watch out for: Clint Eastwood

Best Screenplay
Written by Guillermo Arriaga
The Departed
Written by William Monahan
Little Children
Written by Todd Field, Tom Perrotta
Notes On A Scandal
Written by Patrick Marber
The Queen
Written by Peter Morgan

Another strong category. Babel will put up a good fight but I'm plumping for Peter Morgan's clever, witty and revealing screenplay for The Queen. Morgan is THE hottest writer around, having also co-penned The Last King of Soctland as well as The Deal and current stage sensation Frost/Nixon.

Prediction: The Queen
Watch out for: Babel

Best Foreign Language Film
Letters From Iwo Jima
The Lives Of Others
Pan's Labyrinth

An historic one here: two of the contenders for the Best Foreign film were directed by American directors. Clint Eastwood should shade it for Letters above Mel Gibson's Apocalypto, although a victory for Gibson would be a potent demonstration of the community's forgiveness for his bizarre anti-Semetic rant last summer. Pan's Labyrinth and Volver - two awesome achievements - will struggle to overshadow their higher profile competitors. Lives of Others is a total outsider, though a fine movie.

Prediction: Letters from Iwo Jima
Watch out for: Volver
Television Series - Drama
Big Love
Grey's Anatomy

Prediction: Heroes
Watch out for: Grey's Anatomy
Television Series - Musical Or Comedy
Desperate Housewives
The Office
Ugly Betty

Prediction: Ugly Betty
Watch out for: Entourage

Mini-Series Or Television Movie
Bleak House
Broken Trail
Elizabeth I
Mrs. Harris
Prime Suspect: The Final Act

Prediction: Bleak House
Watch out for: Prime Suspect

Actor In A Leading Role - Drama Series
Patrick Dempsey in Grey's Anatomy
Michael C. Hall in Dexter
Hugh Laurie in House, M. D.
Bill Paxton in Big Love
Kiefer Sutherland in 24

Prediction: Michael C Hall
Watch out for: Patrick Dempsey
Actor In A Leading Role - Musical Or Comedy Series
Alec Baldwin in 30 Rock
Zach Braff in Scrubs
Steve Carell in The Office
Jason Lee in My Name Is Earl
Tony Shalhoub in Monk

Prediction: Steve Carell
Watch out for: Alec Baldwin

Actor In A Leading Role - Mini-Series Or Television Movie
André Braugher in Thief
Robert Duvall in Broken Trail
Michael Ealy in Sleeper Cell
Chiwetel Ejiofor in Tsunami: The Aftermath
Ben Kingsley in Mrs. Harris
Bill Nighy in Gideon's Daughter
Matthew Perry in The Ron Clark Story

Prediction: Michael Ealy
Watch out for: Chiwetel Ejiofar

Actress In A Leading Role - Drama Series
Patricia Arquette in Medium
Edie Falco in The Sopranos
Evangeline Lilly in Lost
Ellen Pompeo in Grey's Anatomy
Kyra Sedgwick in The Closer

Prediction: Ellen Pompeo
Watch out for: Kyra Sedgwick

Actress In A Leading Role - Musical Or Comedy Series
Marcia Cross in Desperate Housewives
America Ferrera in Ugly Betty
Felicity Huffman in Desperate Housewives
Julia Louis-Dreyfus in The New Adventures Of Old Christine
Mary-Louise Parker in Weeds

Prediction: America Ferrera
Watch out for: Julia Louis-Dreyfuss

Actress In A Leading Role - Mini-Series Or Television Movie
Gillian Anderson in Bleak House
Annette Bening in Mrs. Harris
Helen Mirren in Elizabeth I
Helen Mirren in Prime Suspect: The Final Act
Sophie Okonedo in Tsunami: The Aftermath

Prediction: Helen Mirren (Prime Suspect)
Watch out for: Gillian Anderson

Actor In A Supporting Role - Series, Mini-Series Or Television Movie
Thomas Haden Church in Broken Trail
Jeremy Irons in Elizabeth I
Justin Kirk in Weeds
Masi Oka in Heroes
Jeremy Piven in Entourage

Prediction: Jeremy Piven
Watch out for: Masi Oka

Actress In A Supporting Role - Series, Mini-Series Or Television Movie
Emily Blunt in Gideon's Daughter
Toni Collette in Tsunami: The Aftermath
Katherine Heigl in Grey's Anatomy
Sarah Paulson in Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip
Elizabeth Perkins in Weeds

Prediction: Katherine Heigl
Watch out for: Toni Collette

1 comment:

The Traveler said...

Can I just say that the Golden Globes is the bet awards show EVER?! It's got all the glitz and glamour and a decent chunk of the prestige of the Oscars, but it's got people from film AND television, AND there's an open bar so everyone is drunk and falling in the toilet (or falling out of their tops) when their award is announced. Awesome! :)

Anyway, howdy from Chicago, USA! Enjoy your blog and hope you'll stop by mine sometime at ... cheers!