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Rule of tongue

Distinct battle lines drawn for drama, foreign-lingo contenders

Globes Calendar
Dec. 7
Final date for Motion Picture press conferences

Dec. 10
Deadline for receipt by Ernst & Young of nomination ballots

Dec. 13
Nomination announcement of the 62nd annual Golden Globe Awards

Dec. 15
Deadline for receipt of media credential applications

Dec. 28
Final ballots mailed by Ernst & Young to all HFPA members.

Jan. 4
Deadline for receipt of publicist credential applications

Jan. 12
Deadline for receipt by Ernst & Young of final ballots

Jan. 16
Presentation of the 62nd Annual Golden Globe Awards. Live telecast on NBC Television at 8 p.m. EST.

It’s called the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn., but this year, its rules are creating a best picture race that’s a Hollywood vs. the world matchup.

Unlike the Academy Awards, which allow any foreign-language picture to compete in most major categories as long as it qualifies in terms of release date, the Golden Globes rules make any pic in a foreign tongue ineligible for the key categories of best musical/comedy picture or best drama picture. Those pictures are allowed to compete only in the lesser-watched foreign-film category, although they are technically eligible in all other categories besides the top two.

In most years, that hasn’t mattered much. But with so many major foreign-lingo contenders going for the best picture Oscar this year, the lack of important Globe recognition in a comparable category could slow down momentum for such Oscar hopefuls as “House of Flying Daggers,” “The Sea Inside,” “Bad Education,” “A Very Long Engagement” and “The Motorcycle Diaries.” The latter three have the most to lose because they are ineligible for the Academy’s foreign-language prize as well. Either none were submitted by their individual countries or, in the case of “Diaries,” had no country to claim it — a stipulation required by Academy rules.

Even Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” is affected because it is also relegated to the category due to it’s Aramaic lingo.

HFPA members privately say their foreign-language category has more of a focus on quality than its Oscar analogue, since no country has a say in what will be considered for a Globe — thus avoiding the inevitable political considerations. Some see it as an advantage, giving the Globes three best picture categories that will be watched closely this year.

“You’ve got so many nominations, whether it’s foreign, drama or comedy/musical, it will give all these movies the attention they deserve. But now it’s gonna be tougher to nail them down for the Academy,” says awards consultant Nadia Bronson, who is pushing several contenders in all three categories.

Bronson says the Globe noms still will be highly influential, and could open up opportunities particularly in the Globes’ drama race for films that might have been edged out by “Diaries” or “Sea Inside.”

That could make room for films that might otherwise be overlooked, such as “Hotel Rwanda,” the last-minute entrant “Million Dollar Baby,” “Finding Neverland,” “Closer,” a smaller film like “Kinsey” or even something out of left field, such as John Travolta’s Southern character drama, “A Love Song for Bobby Long.” A best picture drama nom for any of these films would dramatically heighten their Oscar profile.

“If they had the same rules as the Academy, then you would see a completely different selection for best picture drama than you will at the Academy this year,” Bronson says. “You would have a ‘Motorcycle Diaries’ in there, perhaps others; but with the Golden Globes, you won’t. (‘Diaries’) will be in foreign film.”

Sony Pictures Classics co-prexy Michael Barker, who is distributing “Daggers” and Pedro Almodovar’s “Bad Education,” says the lower Globe profile could hurt.

“Because the Academy has such a wide array of films to see and to consider, the Golden Globe nominations just kind of point out specific ones that Academy members might have missed seeing, and that’s very important,” he says, adding that a lot of people who will be or could be nominated for an Oscar won’t be going to the Globes. “The frustrating thing about the Globes in the past few years is they tend to recognize talent from the foreign-language films less in their other categories. They are eligible, but do it very seldom, whereas the Academy frequently does.”

With France’s “A Very Long Engagement” on his company’s docket, Warner Independent prexy Mark Gill says a rule change in the Globes would be just the ticket.

“I do think it would be good,” he says. “It’s a function of the shrinking nature of our globe, and the fact is, it would be a shame to have several of the movies that maybe are the best films of the year not in the running for their absolute best film of the year (award),” he says.

Gill’s strategy to counteract this is to emphasize in all ads that his pic may be ineligible for Oscar’s foreign-language award, but is eligible for best picture, hoping this will keep the film foremost in Academy voters’ minds as a best pic contender even though it has no chance for a similar Globe distinction.

When Gill was at Miramax, that company employed the same strategy for 1995’s “Il Postino,” an Italian film that garnered no Globe nods but still managed to eventually grab five Oscar nominations, including best picture.

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