'Chicago,' 'Hours' most nommed in crowded field

HOLLYWOOD — If anyone was hoping nominations for the 60th annual Golden Globes would crystallize the Oscar race, they were in for a disappointment. The Globe noms only underlined two facts: There are a lot of worthwhile films this year, and there is no clear frontrunner in the awards derby.

Last week, several organizations, including the Globes’ Hollywood Foreign Press, announced winners and nominees for best pic; in that seven-day period, 16 films were saluted.

The Globe noms, unveiled Dec. 19, were led by “Chicago,” with eight bids, followed by “The Hours” (seven), “Adaptation” (six) and “About Schmidt” and “Gangs of New York” (five apiece).

But the single biggest winner of the day was Miramax, which got a whopping 19 noms; studio runners-up were Paramount, with eight; New Line and Sony, with seven apiece; and Focus Features, which landed six bids in its first awards derby.

The HFPA cites 10 films: five nominees in the best drama pic category, five in the race for comedy/musical pic.

Aside from “Hours,” the drama contenders include “About Schmidt,” “Gangs of New York,” “Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers” and “The Pianist.” The musical comedy race includes “Chicago” and “Adaptation” as well as “About a Boy,” “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” and “Nicholas Nickleby.”

As usual, some of those films popped up on critics’ lists. But each group of critics adds one or two titles into the mix that further muddies the waters of Oscar predictions.

Especially in a year like this, when so many heavyweight pics bowed in the fourth quarter, awards are influential for Oscar voters: It’s a way of saying “You better see this pic before you choose.” However, the wide variety of choices doesn’t exactly narrow down the field.

On Dec. 14, the Los Angeles Film Critics Assn. tapped “About Schmidt” as best pic; two days later, the New York Film Critics Circle chose “Far From Heaven.”

Last week, Gotham’s online crix clicked on “Chicago”; Boston and San Francisco critics opted for “The Pianist”; Toronto Film Critics Assn. picked “Adaptation.” And, earlier in the month, the National Board of Review kicked off the kudos season by selecting “The Hours.”

Also on Dec. 16, the American Film Institute came out with its list of 10 “most outstanding achievements” in the film year. Aside from “Schmidt,” “Chicago” and “Hours,” the AFI jury picked “About a Boy,” “Adaptation,” “Antwone Fisher,” “Frida,” “Gangs of New York,” “The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers,” and “The Quiet American.”

“Even though it’s always the case to a certain extent, this year more than ever it seems like there are a lot of very strong films coming out in the last month of the year,” N.Y. Film Crix Circle prez Marshall Fine tells Variety.

“There’s so much competition for people’s attention, it’s inevitable that some very good work is going to be passed over. I’m worried that some of these films won’t be given the time they need to gain an audience.”

Meanwhile, give a moment’s pity for the Golden Globe TV nominees. Every year, the org goes for some interesting, even daring choices.

For example, the org recognized “Six Feet Under,” “Alias” and “24” before the Emmy folk did. But every year, the TV nominees are treated by the media as afterthoughts.

The reason: timing. The Globe noms come smack dab in the midst of movie-kudos season and are seen as an Oscar portent.

The Globe awards will be handed out Jan. 19, as Oscar voters have their nomination ballots in hand. As such, Oscar campaigners recognize the importance of HFPA attention, and the organization often touts its accuracy as an Academy Awards bellwether.

In truth, though, the Globes have a mixed batting average as an Oscar predictor. The org hands out 13 film awards, but due to overlaps (dual victors each year in the categories of film, actor and actress), only 10 could possibly win Oscars. Last year, only five of those 10 ended up in Oscar winners’ circle.

But films that are absent from the Globes roster should not give up hope. The 1998 “The Thin Red Line” is probably the most startling example of a film that found zero Globe warmth, but went on to plenty of Oscar attention (seven Oscar bids, including a nom for best pic).

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