Martin Grove’s Hollywood Report 12-03-12

Director of “Argo,

Director of “Argo,"” Ben Affleck

Anne Hathaway as Fantine in “Les Misérables”

Anne Hathaway as Fantine in “Les Misérables”

Golden Globes: Hollywood’s awards season heats up in December with every week bringing new nominations or wins that impact on films’ Oscar prospects.

Overshadowing all of December’s critics groups and guild awards are the Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s Golden Globes, which are about to celebrate their 70th anniversary.

The Globes will be telecast Jan. 13, three days after the Academy announces its nominees, so there can’t be any Oscar noms impact from Globes wins. However, the Globes’ noms are another story. They’ll be revealed Dec. 13, four days before Academy members start marking their Oscar noms ballots. Those ballots – many Academy members will be voting online this year for the first time, but those who want to continue using paper ballots can still do so —are due back by Jan. 3. The Academy is announcing its nominees Jan. 10 rather than Jan. 15 as originally planned.

Because there isn’t enough time for Oscar voters to see all the films hoping to be nominated, many of them are expected to pay close attention to the films that earn Globes nods. That way Oscar voters – many of whom are pressured for time because they’re leaving on winter vacations — can spend time watching DVD screeners of films that have already resonated with HFPA members. The Globes voters see movies throughout the year as part of their jobs as international journalists so they’re far more familiar with what’s out there compared to many Academy members.

Hollywood handicappers have some pretty good ideas of what’s likely to get into the HFPA’s two best picture races – for best drama and for best comedy or musical. Right now the greatest heat seems to be generated by Universal’s PG-13 rated romantic musical drama “Les Miserables.” Directed by Tom Hooper (“The King”s Speech”), it stars Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway and Amanda Seyfried.

Adapted from the hit stage musical based on Victor Hugo’s classic novel set in 19th Century France, “Les Miz” is the story of Jean Valjean (Jackman), a paroled prisoner seeking redemption.

Earlier this fall the biggest Oscar heat was on Warner Bros.’ political thriller “Argo,” but since then Universal has come on so strong with its Oscar marketing of “Les Miz” that some Oscar observers have already gone on record predicting the musical will win Best Picture. In fact, they’re speculating it could walk off with 15 or 16 Oscar nominations. That would beat the 14 nominations record shared now by “All About Eve” and “Titanic.”

Fortunately, the Globes has separate categories for best picture-drama and best picture-comedy or musical, so there won’t be a voting showdown between “Les Miz” and “Argo.” Of course, “Argo” will still face stiff Globes competition from DreamWorks and Disney’s biographical drama “Lincoln,” directed by Steven Spielberg (“Schindler’s List”) and starring Daniel Day Lewis in the title role.

As for “Les Miz,” it will have a strong Globes competitor in The Weinstein Company’s romantic comedy drama “Silver Linings Playbook,” directed by David O. Russell (“The Fighter”) and starring Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence and Robert DeNiro. The film’s awards buzz began last September when it won the People’s Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival. Weinstein has positioned it to compete in the Globes’ comedy or musical category.

Hollywood handicappers view “Silver” as a strong competitor to “Les Miz,” particularly because it’s in Weinstein Company co-chairman Harvey Weinstein’s very capable hands.

One of the best things about the Globe noms is that their mid-December timing makes them valuable to Hollywood in marketing its holiday season releases. A strong showing with HFPA members is something to boast about in a film’s ads and that, in turn, helps drive ticket sales.

Besides those very hot titles, insiders are speculating about other films that Globes voters may also be good to. Some of these are opening between now and Christmas while others have already come and gone theatrically.

High on the list is MGM and New Line Cinema’s fantasy adventure drama “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,” arriving Dec. 14 via Warner Bros.

Directed by Peter Jackson (“The Lord of the Rings” franchise), “Hobbit” stars Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen and Richard Armitage. Its screenplay by Fran Walsh & Phillipa Boyens & Peter Jackson & Guillermo del Toro is based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic novel “The Hobbit.”

It’s tracking huge and doing best with under-25 males and nearly as well with 25-plus males. Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy grossed over $1 billion in domestic theatres and its fans are likely to also want to see “Hobbit.”

Freeman plays hobbit Bilbo Baggins, who’s out to reclaim the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor from the fearsome drag.

Christmas Day will see the arrival of another contender in the HFPA’s drama category. The Weinstein Company and Columbia Pictures’ western drama “Django Unchained” is directed by Quentin Tarantino (“Pulp Fiction”) and stars Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kerry Washington and Samuel L. Jackson. It’s tracking best and equally well with men under and over 25.

Foxx plays Django, a slave whose freedom’s bought by a former dentist (Waltz) who wants Django to be his deputy bounty hunter. But things go badly wrong and Django ends up in the hands of a ruthless plantation owner (DiCaprio).

On the best comedy or musical side of the Globes’ fence, there’s some heat building for Paramount’s PG-13 comedy “The Guilt Trip,” opening Wed., Dec. 19. Directed by Anne Fletcher (“The Proposal”), it stars Barbra Streisand and Seth Rogen as an inventor taking his mom on a road trip to sell a new invention. It’s tracking best with 25-plus females.

Also hoping for a best comedy or musical nom is Universal’s R rated comedy “This is 40,” which hits theatres Dec. 21. Directed by Judd Apatow (“Knocked Up”), it stars Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann a few years down the road in a quasi-sequel to “Knocked Up.” It’s tracking best with 25-plus females.

Another likely comedy or musical contender is Universal and Media Rights Capital’s R rated “Ted,” which was one of last summer’s biggest hits with over $218 million in domestic grosses. Directed by Seth MacFarlane in his feature directing debut, it stars Mark Whalberg. Mila Kunis and Seth MacFarlane as the voice of the film’s foul mouthed Teddy bear.

Competition in the Globes’ best drama race is typically fiercer than in the comedy or musical category and this year’s no exception. There are only five nomination slots, but many more drama hopefuls to fill them.

Among the highest profile contenders is Columbia and Annapurna Pictures’ action drama “Zero Dark Thirty,” opening exclusively in New York and Los Angeles Dec. 19 and expanding Jan. 11.

Directed by Kathryn Bigelow and written by Mark Boal, the team that made the Oscar winning “The Hurt Locker,” it stars Chris Pratt, Jessica Chastain and Joel Edgerton. “Zero” is the story of the decade-long hunt for Osama Bin Laden and his death at the hands of Navy SEAL Team 6 in May 2011.

Another drama to consider is The Weinstein Company’s R rated “The Master,” which generated a major awards buzz when it arrived last fall. Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson (“There Will Be Blood”), it stars Philip Seymour Hoffman, Joaquin Phoenix and Amy Adams.

Hoffman plays Lancaster Dodd, a charismatic intellectual who returns from World War II and builds a faith based organization to give meaning to his life. He attracts an ardent following for whom he becomes The Master.

Also looking to enter the best drama race is 20th Century Fox and Fox 2000 Pictures’ live action PG rated 3D adventure “Life of Pi,” directed by Ang Lee, an Oscar and Globes winner in 2006 for directing “Brokeback Mountain.” Based on the best selling book by Yann Martel, it stars Suraj Sharma, Irrfan Khan and Adil Hussain.

The film’s about Pi Patel, the son of a zoo keeper whose family leaves India for Canada on a freighter. After he’s shipwrecked, Pi winds up drifting in the Pacific on a lifeboat with a zebra, hyena, orangutan and a 450-pound Bengal tiger.

Another drama from a high profile director that also could generate Globes noms is Focus Features and Working Title Films’ R rated “Anna Karenina.” Directed by Joe Wright, a Globes nominee in 2008 for directing “Atonement,” it stars Keira Knightley, Jude Law and Aaron Taylor-Johnson. Its screenplay by Tom Stoppard is based on Leo Tolstoy’s classic novel set in late 19th Century Russia about the affair between Anna Karenina and Count Vronsky.

Besides these and other hopefuls, two critically applauded high profile dramas loom as potential nominees whose huge commercial success may or may not get in the way of their artistic recognition. Insiders think their nominations prospects are better with Globes voters than Academy members. But if either does well with Globes noms, that could position them for Oscar attention that typically doesn’t go to blockbuster movies.

Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures’ “The Dark Knight Rises” is directed by Christopher Nolan, a Globes nominee in 2011 for writing and directing “Inception” and in 2002 for writing “Memento.” “Knight,” which stars Christian Bale, Tom Hardy and Anne Hathaway, opened last July 20 to $160.9 million. It went on to gross $448.1 million domestically. But critics loved it as much as moviegoers did, giving “Knight” an 87 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Another boxoffice powerhouse from a high profile director that could get recognition from Globes voters is “Skyfall,” the PG-13 rated James Bond action adventure from MGM, Danjaq and Eon Productions released through Sony’s Columbia Pictures. Directed by Sam Mendes, an Oscar and Globes best directing winner in 2000 for “American Beauty,” it stars Daniel Craig as James Bond for the third time, Judi Dench as “M” and Javier Bardem as the villain out to destroy them.

The 23rd episode in the Eon Productions franchise, “Skyfall” marks the series’ 50th anniversary, which could be an appropriate time for awards recognition. Here, too, the critics have been as enthusiastic about it as audiences are, giving it an enviable 92 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Since opening Nov. 9 to $88.4 million, “Skyfall’s” grossed about $246 million in domestic theatres and is still going strong. Last weekend, its fourth in theatres, it finished solidly in second place with about $17 million.

Bottom line: The Golden Globes will help the Oscar prospects for all nominees, but should give a big boost to “Argo,” “Les Miserables” and “Silver Linings Playbook.”