Martin Grove’s Hollywood Report 12-19-11

Prince Charles and Martin Scorsese

Prince Charles and Martin Scorsese

Rachel McAdams, Luke Wilson, and Woody Allen in “Midnight in Paris”

Rachel McAdams, Luke Wilson, and Woody Allen in “Midnight in Paris”

Alexander Payne – Director of “The Descendants”

Alexander Payne – Director of “The Descendants”

Golden Globes: There was no Oscar frontrunner before the Golden Globes nominations — and there still isn’t.

What the Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s high profile Globes noms do is define the playing field for the Oscars. In particular, the HFPA’s six best picture – drama noms translate into must-see movies for Academy members.

That’s a big advantage for this year’s group: “The Descendants,” “The Help,” “Hugo,” “The Ides of March,” “Moneyball” and “War Horse.” Thanks to the Globes noms putting them collectively in the spotlight, these films can count on getting serious consideration from Oscar voters.

The HFPA also has a separate best picture category for comedy or musical. This year’s nods went to five films: “50/50,” “The Artist,” “Bridesmaids,” “Midnight in Paris” and “My Week With Marilyn.”

These noms don’t necessarily translate into Academy interest because the Oscar crowd tends to prefer dramas — the heavier the better — to comedies.

Nonetheless, “&The Artist,” which received six noms — more than any other film — is clearly on track for serious Oscar consideration. The French production is unique and stands out because it’s silent and was shot in black & white. It should resonate with Academy members because it’s about moviemaking — set in 1927 Hollywood when sound is coming in and many silent movie stars are suddenly seeing their careers evaporate.

While “The Artist” isn’t a runaway frontrunner at this point, it’s the closest thing to it, having also just received a Screen Actors Guild best ensemble cast nomination and a Critics Choice best picture nod from the Broadcast Film Critics Association. Among its earlier honors was winning the New York Film Critics Circle’s prestigious best picture award.

Another comedy or musical nominee to keep an eye on is “Bridesmaids.” The R rated girls-behaving-badly comedy grossed nearly $170 million domestically and has been generating an Oscar buzz despite the fact that it’s really not the kind of film that typically gets nominated let alone wins.

How Academy members — they’re mostly men in their 60s or older although younger Oscar winners who automatically become members are bringing the average Academy age down a bit — will feel about the naughty ladies of “Bridesmaids” is anyone’s guess. In “Bridesmaids” favor is that it’s also one of SAG’s best ensemble cast nominees, which means it could be embraced by the Academy’s acting branch.

The big difference between the HFPA’s 90-some members and the Academy’s roughly 6,000 members is that the foreign journalists see movies all year round while Oscar voters see very few and, therefore, need to catch up in a big hurry in late December.

Crazy as it sounds, it makes sense when you realize that the HFPA members’ jobs are writing about movies for publications around the world. Every week they go to screenings and attend press conferences that the studios hold for them to interview the stars. As a result, by early December when they vote for Globes nominations, they’ve seen everything except a few late arrivals and the studios make certain they’re able to see those before they have to send in their ballots.

In contrast, the Oscar crowd is out there making movies all year. In many cases, that means being on location in some far-flung part of the world for months at a time. The moviemaking work day typically starts early and ends late, allowing little or no time for an evening at the movies.

So in late December when Academy members need to get started thinking about nominations, the first thing they have to do is see them. The problem they run into is that there are so many films being promoted for their consideration that there just isn’t enough time to see them all — especially since it’s also the holiday season and a time when many Oscar voters are escaping for winter vacations with their families.

The DVD screeners that the studios send out to Academy members so they can view films at home &mdas; although the studios try to push them to attend screenings in theatres — pile up quickly. With so many films hoping to be nominated, there can easily be 50 or more screeners in Oscar voters’ hands. That’s more than 100 hours of viewing for anyone willing to watch them all. For most members, the name of the game is to watch only those few movies that really need to be seen because everybody’s talking about them.

As a result, Academy members pay attention to the Globes nominations. They certainly can’t miss seeing news coverage of the Globes since it’s as high profile a media event as you could hope to have. Those Globes noms become something of a roadmap for Academy members as they move forward trying to see the films they must see without wasting time on others being hyped for their consideration.

It’s dangerous to over-analyze the Globes noms, however, because journalists and filmmakers bring different sensibilities, tastes and expectations to judging movies. Nonetheless, when the HFPA hands out multiple noms to a movie it usually means there’s something there that could also resonate with Academy members.

This time around there were six films that received four or more Globes noms and could, therefore, be magnets for broad Oscar consideration. The lucky half-dozen movies include:

  • “The Artist,” with six noms: best picture – comedy or musical, best actor – comedy or musical (Jean Dujardin), best supporting actress (Berenice Bejo), best director (Michel Hazanavicius), best screenplay (Michel Hazanavicius) and best score (Ludovic Bource).
  • “The Descendants,” with five noms: best picture – drama, best actor – drama (George Clooney), best supporting actress (Shailene Woodley), best director (Alexander Payne) and best screenplay (Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon and Jim Rash).
  • “The Help,” with five noms: best picture – drama, best actress – drama Viola Davis), best supporting actress (Jessica Chastain), best supporting actress (Octavia Spencer) and best song (“The Living Proof”).
  • “The Ides of March,&rdquo with four noms: best picture – drama, best actor – drama (Ryan Gosling), best director (George Clooney) and best screenplay (George Clooney, Grant Heslov and Beau Willimon).
  • “Midnight in Paris,” with four noms: best picture – comedy or musical, best actor – comedy or musical (Owen Wilson), best director (Woody Allen) and best screenplay (Woody Allen).
  • “Moneyball,” with four noms: best picture – drama, best actor – drama (Brad Pitt), best supporting actor (Jonah Hill) and best screenplay (Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin).

Generally speaking, best picture Oscar nominations go hand in hand with best directing noms, although that’s not always the case. Looking at the Globes noms, five films fall into both the best picture and best director categories: “Midnight in Paris” (Woody Allen), “The Ides of March” (George Clooney), “The Artist” (Michel Hazanavicius), “The Descendants” (Alexander Payne) and “Hugo” (Martin Scorsese). That double-whammy HFPA endorsement is a good sign for those films, but certainly no guarantee that Oscar voters will do the same.

In fact, Academy members could wind up nominating some of the high profile films that HFPA voters snubbed — like David Fincher’s “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” Stephen Daldry’s “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” and Tomas Alfredson’s “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.”

Despite an early awards buzz, that trio also failed to get best ensemble cast noms from SAG. Those much coveted nods, which are SAG’s equivalent of a best picture nomination, went to “The Artist,” “Bridesmaids,” “The Descendants” and “Midnight in Paris.”

Because actors make up the largest voting branch of the Academy, SAG’s ensemble cast nods are always an important indication of which films are likely to have the actors’ support in the Oscar race. It’s not an infallible guide because many more SAG members vote for the SAG awards than are voting members of the Academy. And there can be differences of opinion between SAG’s younger and less established broad membership and its much higher profile members who belong to the Academy’s acting branch.

Last year SAG’s ensemble cast noms went to “Black Swan,” “The Fighter,” “The Kids Are All Right,” “The King’s Speech” and “The Social Network.” All five films also received best picture Oscar nominations. SAG’s award went to “The King’s Speech,” which went on to win the best picture Oscar.

Bottom line: The Golden Globes will be announced Sun., Jan. 15 — hosted again by the wickedly controversial Ricky Gervais — but the Oscar voting polls close Fri., Jan. 13. So while Globes noms are likely to influence Oscar noms, the Globes wins will come too late to make a difference in the Oscar race.