Songs and smiles

A look at 15 contenders in the comedy-musical arena

ALFIE
Studio: Paramount
Director: Charles Shyer
Cast: Jude Law, Susan Sarandon, Marisa Tomei
Box office: $13 million
Why it will be nominated: Law, taking over for Michael Caine, displayed impressive range: from irresistible playboy to sad and lonely bachelor.
Why it won’t be nominated: Law’s charm may not be enough to help it overcome the disastrous box office, which always comes into play no matter what voters say.
Daily Variety review: “Paramount’s new version of the 1966 hit that made Michael Caine a star is a breezy, sexy romp with a conscience that reflects in obvious but interesting ways on societal changes over the intervening 38 years. Jude Law shines as the English pretty-boy cutting a wide swath through the women of Manhattan.”
Upcoming screenings: Dec. 8 (Warner Bros., room 5), Dec. 16 (Raleigh), Jan. 7 (Raleigh)

BRIDGET JONES: THE EDGE OF REASON
Studio: Universal
Director: Beeban Kidron
Cast: Renee Zellweger, Colin Firth, Hugh Grant
Box office: $32 million
Why it will be nominated: Zellweger, who was nominated for “Bridget Jones’s Diary” in 2002 has perfected her character with time. Though Bridget is still a ditz, being in a serious relationship has forced her to start thinking about somebody other than herself, which makes this fluffy romantic comedy more amusing than the first pic.
Why it won’t be nominated: Obsessing over lovers’ quarrels instead of watching her weight might alienate Bridget’s core fan base.
Daily Variety review: “Though the script tries to replicate the first film’s heart-tugging moments, there’s a lack of a big emotional arc to tie the episodic structure together. However, on a performance level, the movie is practically flawless. Zellweger, wearing her 20 extra pounds with even more glee, makes Bridget absolutely her own, with a now-flawless Brit accent and a mass of tiny mannerisms that sustain the role even when the script seems unsure. Given that no more Fielding novels exist, and the films’ relationship to them was only ever a starting point, Zellweger’s Bridget is now a bona fide comic creation that could have a screen future of its own.”
Upcoming screenings: Jan. 7 (Ocean Ave.), Jan. 9 (DGA 2)

DE-LOVELY
Studio: MGM
Director: Irwin Winkler
Cast: Kevin Kline, Ashley Judd, Jonathan Pryce
Box office: $13 million
Why it will be nominated: The performance of Kline, a four-time Globe-nominated actor, can’t be overlooked.
Why it won’t be nominated: In a year of stand-out biopics, the somewhat erratic execution might turn voters off.
Daily Variety review: “Keeping it all alive through all the dramatic ups and down, and limited psychological and emotional complexity, is Kline. Always the most dexterous and classy of actors and the winner of two Tony Awards for Broadway musicals, he is an utterly credible man of the theater. Kline’s talent to amuse, as Porter’s contemporary Noel Coward put it, is consistent with that of the man he’s playing.”
Upcoming screenings: Dec. 7 (MGM Tower), Dec. 10 (MGM Tower), Dec. 11 (MGM Tower), Dec. 12 (MGM Tower), Dec. 12 (Universal), Dec. 15 (Universal), Dec. 16 (Colorado Center), Dec. 17 (MGM Tower), Dec. 18 (MGM Tower), Dec. 18 (Universal), Dec. 19 (MGM Tower), Dec. 20 (Colorado Center), Dec. 28 (MGM Tower), Jan. 5 (MGM Tower), Jan. 13 (Colorado Center)

ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND
Studio: Focus
Director: Michael Gondry
Cast: Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet, Kirsten Dunst
Box office: $34 million
Why it will be nominated: Quirky pic is adventurous and satisfying, while also having the appeal of big-name stars in their best-reviewed work. Won National Board Review honor for best original screenplay.
Why it won’t be nominated: Like its main characters, the memory of this spring release may be all but forgotten in the minds of voters.
Daily Variety review: “Manner in which the mental and chronological backpedaling finally dovetails with the present-day opening is sweet and exceedingly satisfying. The narrative contortions and game-playing with time may be extreme, and undoubtedly were arrived at with considerable difficulty, but result feels graceful as played out onscreen.”
Upcoming screenings: Dec. 11 (Clarity), Dec. 17 (Universal), Dec. 18 (Clarity), Dec. 21 (Universal), Jan. 4 (Universal), Jan. 5 (Clarity), Jan 10 (Clarity)

GARDEN STATE
Studio: Fox Searchlight
Director: Zach Braff
Cast: Zach Braff, Natalie Portman, Peter Sarsgaard
Box office: $26 million
Why it will be nominated: Braff is a fresh face to the bigscreen and the Globes are renown for helping to launch careers.
Why it won’t be nominated: Was it really a comedy? A dead mom and a kid of antidepressants isn’t exactly a laugh riot.
Daily Variety review: “Triple-threat outing by ‘Scrubs’ star Zach Braff as writer-director-topliner shows rays of talent in all three departments, but tale of a young Hollywood actor trying to locate his true self during a return home to New Jersey feels too piecemeal and ultimately inconsequential to grab the public where it counts.”
Upcoming screenings: Dec. 11 (Fox); Dec. 18 (Fox); Dec. 29 (Universal)

I HEART HUCKABEES
Studio: Fox Searchlight
Director: David O. Russell
Cast: Jason Schwartzman, Jude Law, Naomi Watts, Dustin Hoffman, Lily Tomlin, Isabelle Huppert
Box office: $12 million
Why it will be nominated: It’s smart, funny, adventurous and features a dream cast finding its way through a quirky storyline.
Why it won’t be nominated: Doesn’t hang together enough to stand out from the competition.
Daily Variety review: “Clever but distancing, this existential comedy bounces along on the backs of its tasty cast, witty writing and stylistic verve. But the film inhabits an archly artificial realm, making it largely an intellectual pleasure with a hollow core.”
Upcoming screenings: Dec. 8 (Aidikoff), Dec. 11 (Fox), Dec. 13 (Aidikoff), Dec. 13 (Universal), Dec. 18 (Fox), Dec. 20 (Raleigh)

THE INCREDIBLES
Studio: Disney
Director: Brad Bird
Cast: Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Jason Lee, Samuel L. Jackson
Box office: $214 million
Why it will be nominated: No film was more flat-out entertaining. The writing, animation and performances were all top-notch and the Globes has a history of honoring animated films. National Board of Review named it best animated feature of the year.
Why it won’t be nominated: It’s more of an action film than a comedy.
Daily Variety review: “This grand adventure yarn about a retired family of superheroes getting its groove back is in several ways the most ambitious and genre-expanding entry in Pixar’s extraordinary run of innovative and monstrously successful computer animated pictures. Writer-director Brad Bird’s highly anticipated follow-up to his much-lauded 1999 ‘Iron Giant’ delivers the sort of excitement, imagination, wit and panache that will make it enormously appealing to a wide spectrum of audiences around the world.”
Upcoming screenings: Dec. 9 (Disney), Dec. 11 (Harmony Gold), Dec. 12 (DGA)

IN GOOD COMPANY
Studio: Universal
Director: Paul Weitz
Cast: Dennis Quaid, Topher Grace, Scarlett Johansson
Release date: Dec. 29
Why it will be nominated: Topher Grace, who keeps getting better, takes a slimy character and gives him enough charm that it’s tough not to root for him.
Why it won’t be nominated: Very late release date. Will enough voters see it?
Upcoming screenings: Dec. 10 (Ocean), Dec. 11 (Clarity), Dec. 16 (Universal), Dec. 17 (Clarity), Dec. 20 (Arclight; Variety Screening Series), Dec. 21 (Clarity), Dec. 27 (Universal), Dec. 28 (Harmony Gold), Dec. 29 (Ocean), Dec. 30 (Harmony Gold), Jan. 2 (Clarity), Jan. 4 (DGA), Jan. 11 (Ocean), Jan. 12 (Universal)

LEMONY SNICKET’S A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS
Studio: Paramount-DreamWorks
Bow date: Dec. 17
Director: Brad Silberling
Cast: Jim Carrey, Meryl Streep, Jude Law, Billy Connolly, Timothy Spall
Why it will be nominated: Carrey and Streep — what more could a Globe voter wish for?
Why it won’t be nominated: Popular moppet lit pics haven’t warmed voters — the first two “Harry Potter” films were snubbed.
Silberling on “Lemony”: “Like Al Pacino and Robert De Niro’s intensity in ‘Heat,’ Jim and Meryl have this one great scene where Jim’s character Count Olaf woos Meryl’s Aunt Josephine. It’s the one real love scene in the movie … the two actors instantly found each other like playmates in the sandbox. Meryl took what Jim gave her and returned it — a Meisner technique … it was like watching a great first date.”
Upcoming screenings: Dec. 12 (DGA), Dec. 13 (Raleigh), Dec. 15 (DGA), Dec. 17 (Raleigh), Dec. 30 (DGA), Jan. 5 (Raleigh), Jan. 9 (DGA)

PHANTOM OF THE OPERA
Studio: Warner Bros.
Bow date: Dec. 22
Director: Joel Schumacher
Cast: Emmy Rossum, Gerard Butler, Minnie Driver
Why it will be nominated: Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical tale of love and obsession is well-loved the world over, and this lush adaptation does it justice. Globes voters also have showed affection for musicals, having rewarded “Chicago” and “Moulin Rouge” in recent years.
Why it won’t be nominated: Melodrama of the stage play and a perhaps overly faithful adaptation that exposes some of the play’s flaws could split voters.
Daily Variety review: The film, due to open right before Christmas, is more than eye candy. Oscar voters in other categories (picture, director, script, score) may be swept away by the film’s romanticism: Lloyd Webber and helmer Joel Schumacher have retained the elements that have kept Gaston Leroux’s novel and its numerous adaptations popular for a century, while adding their own flourishes.
Upcoming screenings: Dec. 7 (Warner Bros., room 12), Dec. 14 (DGA), Dec. 16 (Warner Bros., room 5), Dec. 25 (DGA), Dec. 27 (Harmony Gold), Dec. 30 (Clarity), Jan. 6 (DGA)

RAY
Studio: Universal
Director: Taylor Hackford
Cast: Jamie Foxx, Kerry Washington, Regina King
Box office: $65 million
Why it will be nominated: Foxx, who was named best actor by the National Board of Review, is a powerhouse as the beloved singer, whose music gives the film a fine beat voters can dance to.
Why it won’t be nominated: Pic’s conventional storytelling leaves little to remember except how great Foxx is.
Daily Variety review: “An uncannily fine performance by Jamie Foxx provides solid footing for ‘Ray,’ a rangy, straightforward and entirely engrossing biopicbiopic of the late Ray Charles. Bursting at the seams with music, Taylor Hackford’s ambitious film provides a good sense of the pioneering entertainer’s extraordinary journey and brings it to life with plenty of colorful detail.”
Upcoming screenings: Dec. 8 (Universal), Dec. 15 (Universal), Dec. 22 (DGA), Jan. 3 (DGA), Jan. 5 (Ocean), Jan. 5 (Universal), Jan. 11 (Universal)

SHARK TALE
Studio: DreamWorks
Director: Vicky Jenson, Bibo Bergeron, Rob Letterman
Cast: Will Smith, Robert De Niro, Renee Zellweger, Jack Black
Box office: $159 million
Why it will be nominated: Toons do well with the Golden Globes, and this one has a big-name cast that could have it following in the steps of last year’s nommed toon “Finding Nemo.”
Why it won’t be nominated: Despite the similarities, reaction to the pic has been nowhere near as positive as it was for “Nemo.”
Daily Variety review: In the era when, with “Finding Nemo” and “SpongeBob SquarePants,” it has seemed all but impossible to miss with underwater cartoon fare, DreamWorks’ latest inhouse animated effort finds a way to do just that by basing almost all its ideas on old movies.
Upcoming screenings: Jan. 12 (Harmony Gold)

SHREK 2
Studio: DreamWorks
Director: Andrew Adamson, Kelly Asbury, Conrad Vernon
Cast: Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, Julie Andrews
Box office: $437 million
Why it will be nominated: Last year, another CGI-animated film, “Finding Nemo,” produced similar B.O. numbers — and earned a comedy/musical nom.
Why it won’t be nominated: Thick on pop-culture riffs and familiar characters, but a little thin on fresh ideas.
Daily Variety review: “Whereas the first ‘Shrek’ benefited from the forward momentum provided by its journey format, second installment flows less smoothly … Still, the appeal of the characters and the abundance of cleverness in the telling will keep viewers grinning, if not always laughing, through most of the picture. Visually, pic may be even more vibrant than the first edition, with the colors and backgrounds leaping off the screen in nearly hyper-realistic fashion; numerous moments of photographic visual precision are almost unsettling in their detail.”

SIDEWAYS
Studio: Fox Searchlight
Director: Alexander Payne
Cast: Paul Giamatti, Thomas Haden Church, Virginia Madsen, Sandra Oh
Box office: $10 million
Why it will be nominated: Casting by the right fit rather than star power, Payne allowed the poignant flavor and color of Rex Pickett’s novel to show through without any overbearing aftertaste. Thomas Haden Church has already won a National Board of Review honor. Org also put pic on its top 10 list for the year.
Why it won’t be nominated: Unlike Payne’s more star-powered “About Schmidt” — which won him a Globe for screenplay last year — this little vineyard might be a little too off the beaten path for some HFPA types.
Daily Variety review: ” ‘Sideways’ is a wonderful film, so accomplished that it looks effortless. In his fourth feature, Payne has refined his style to the point where it serves the material fully without an ounce of ostentation. He is also happy to place the actors front and center, and all four respond with exceptional performances that give innumerable emotional contours to their recognizable but highly individualized characters.”
Upcoming screenings: Dec. 7 (Lions Gate), Dec. 11 (Fox), Dec. 15 (Raleigh), Dec. 16 (Universal), Dec. 17 (Aidikoff), Dec. 18 (Fox), Dec. 23 (Aidikoff)

SPANGLISH
Studio: Sony
Bow date: Dec. 17
Director: James L. Brooks
Cast: Adam Sandler, Tea Leoni, Paz Vega, Cloris Leachman
Why it will be nominated: The Globes have a track record for recognizing comedians who stretch their acting chops like Jim Carrey and Bill Murray. Sandler may just be the comedian they crown this year.
Why it won’t be nominated: The chances of a Brooks romantic comedy being shut out are slim, unless the director has inserted some of the lost pop songs from “I’ll Do Anything” into the pic’s soundtrack. Then again, acting combo Tea Leoni and Sandler may not translate to voters like Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt.
James L. Brooks on how Sandler’s acting is different in “Spanglish”: “I always worry about ‘being different’ being the deal. Using an actor and not using their qualities which have set them apart isn’t something I believe in … Adam’s stand-up and previous comedies made him inevitable casting for the part of John Clasky. He plays someone in his late 30s who meets uncommon success and is wary; caring about maintaining his sense of family and humanity. He plays a guy who thinks funny, who moment-to-moment gets the joke of life even its slapping him around.”

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