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Are the Golden Globes going legit?

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Selma 02
Atsushi Nishijima

Just a day after the Screen Actors Guild completely ignored the Martin Luther King biopic, Selma, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association threw down its full support for the film with nominations for its actor David Oyelowo, its director Ava DuVernay, the film itself, and even its song, “Glory,” written by John Legend and Common. Yet the small voting body also chose to echo SAG’s choices in the actress category and the Supporting Actor category, with nominations for Jennifer Aniston in Cake and Robert Duvall in The Judge. Which actually leads me to ask the question: Are the Golden Globes getting legit?

The craven, star-guided nominations we are used to seeing—the Johnny Depp/Angelina Jolie bomb The Tourist springs to mind—were really kept in check this year. They even eschewed an easy opportunity to up the room’s star power by snubbing one of their faves, Jolie. Her second directorial effort, the upcoming feature Unbroken, was shut out and even her performance in Maleficient, one of the year’s highest grossing films, was also ignored. Who would have thought the HFPA would have resisted the tabloid-salivating opportunity to put Jolie, Brad Pitt, and Aniston in the same room?

What the Globes did do today was fill in some gaps that prognosticators have been looking for when it comes to some key Oscar categories. The HFPA nominates actors in both musical/comedy and drama, and they went with the usual suspects: Steve Carell (Foxcatcher), Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game), Eddie Redmayne (Theory of Everything), and Michael Keaton (Birdman). But with six other spots to fill, they presented some interesting choices to consider. Oyelowo made the grade, as did Jake Gyllenhaal (Nightcrawler), who was picked by SAG yesterday. But the HFPA also chose to shine some light on Joaquin Phoenix’s role in Paul Thomas Anderson’s trippy 70s Inherent Vice, a film that has landed on a couple year-end best-of lists, but is still one of the bubble movies when it comes to the Oscar race, as well as Bill Murray for his role in St. Vincent. The HFPA did get a little wacky with its love for Tim Burton’s Big Eyes, giving props to both Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz for their performances—a surprising choice, since the film has received some mixed reviews.

They also got a little wonky when it came to the Best Picture vs. Best Director race. While bestowing love on Wes Anderson (Grand Budapest Hotel), Duvernay, Alejandro Inarittu (Birdman) and Richard Linklater (Boyhood), they also chose David Fincher (Gone Girl), a solid choice for a film that has grossed over $330 million worldwide and received high marks for Fincher’s approach. However, Gone Girl didn’t make the Best Picture cut, even though it earned nods for director, screenplay, and actress Rosamund Pike. In contrast, the group chose Foxcatcher, Theory of Everything and The Imitation Game as best picture contenders, yet denied directors Bennett Miller, Morten Tyldum and James Marsh any recognition.

Only three films really nailed every category they were eligible for, and they are likely to be the movies we are talking about most come Oscar nomination morning: Birdman, Boyhood, and Selma. Iñárritu’s film about a former movie star looking for redemption landed the most nominations, with seven in everything from actor and director, to score and screenplay. Boyhood also had a strong showing with recognition for its actors, director, and script. Selma is coming to the race late, but seems to be gaining momentum as it screens across the country before its limited opening later this month. It’s The Imitation Game that feels like the wild card to me. It didn’t earn any director love today, but it’s a movie that could become more formidable over the next month as Harvey Weinstein’s Oscar-campaign machine gets rolling. The film about WWII code-breaker Alan Turing landed five nominations, including screenplay and acting nods for Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley, but it really needs some director recognition to go the distance.

We are in the thick of it now. What SAG and HFPA did was get the Academy members to shuffle around their screening pile for the holiday break. What they decide to watch will do a lot in determining who gets love come Oscar-nomination morning on Jan. 15.