Three newbies join race for top filmmaking prize

After a year that pitted Globes vets Martin Scorsese and Clint Eastwood in a cage match with … Clint Eastwood, the HFPA went with fresh blood this year for the director prize, with no past winners among the five nominees, three of whom are complete newbies to Globes contention.

The youngest of the first-timers, Joe Wright, seems to have shot quickly into the upper echelons of contempo filmmaking with his sophomore feature, “Atonement.” And Julian Schnabel’s third feature, “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly,” has won the painter-turned-helmer his widest audience yet. Tim Burton, on the other hand, has been producing deeply idiosyncratic yet mostly mainstream work for two decades. With its nod to “Sweeney Todd,” the HFPA has finally caught up with him.

As for past nominees Ridley Scott (“Gladiator”) and Ethan and Joel Coen (the brothers nabbed screenplay noms for “Fargo” and “The Man Who Wasn’t There,” with Joel also receiving a solitary director nom for the former), both provide examples of multilaureled filmmakers working in comfortable settings. The Coens’ “No Country for Old Men” marks a return to the pitiless Texas landscape of their debut pic, “Blood Simple,” and Scott’s “American Gangster” reprises the dueling-lead drama of his early pics “Black Rain” and, well, “The Duellists.”

Perhaps in a rush to bring on the new crowd, the HFPA didn’t see fit to tip its hat to past winner and five-time nominee Sidney Lumet, whose intrepid work on “Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead” evokes memories of his late ’70s heyday, if not his early ’60s or late ’50s heyday. The man has had a few.

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