Musical/comedy categories big draw for auds

Film critics and professional Oscar watchers cast a more critical — some might say jaundiced — eye on the Golden Globes than does the industry or moviegoing public.

For years, critics — both film and industry — have accused the org of many ethical breaches, and the HFPA has continually fought against those charges.

But in fact, this year the Golden Globes may have more sizzle than almost any other award show thanks to their musical/comedy categories. The Golden Globes noms have tapped a few B.O. hits in the musical or comedy picture and actress categories (“Enchanted’s” Amy Adams, “Hairspray” and the three animated film nominees) that may grab more viewers’ eyeballs — that is, if the thesps nommed deem to cross any WGA picket line that may be erected at the Globes’ ceremony.

The drama categories line up with the critical conventional wisdom this year, tapping such crix faves and tough pics as “There Will Be Blood,” “No Country for Old Men,” “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days” and “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.” And don’t forget Dewey Cox.

Critics of the awards show acknowledge that the ceremony adds a bit of irreverant life to kudos season. As the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Carrie Rickey — an on-the-record Globes skeptic — notes, “Breaking bread with people and uncorking whatever, makes them relax.” She quotes fellow critic Jack Mathews on the Golden Globes as “the Oscars as they should’ve been: drunken and a good party.”

“For a time they couldn’t even get onto network TV,” remembers Damien Bona, co-author of “Inside Oscar,” referring to a 1968 FCC report that “admonished” Globes broadcaster NBC as misleading viewers on how Globes winners were selected; the net dropped the ceremony afterward. “But then they made a big deal about how they were cleaning house and no longer accepting gifts, with press releases saying, ‘It’s a new Golden Globes.'”

A big step towards enhancing the Globes’ profile came with its 1973 decision to announce both GG nominees and winners before the Oscar noms.

So they’re now better known and more respected. But how much Oscar influence do the Globes really bear? Globes do seem to assist voters with their Oscar ballot. “The ascendancy of the GGs has coincided with the distribution of Academy screeners,” Rickey notes. HFPA attention helps voters sort out which of their many DVDs they should spend their limited time on.

Moreover, asserts Michael Gebert, author of the exhaustive and opinionated “Encyclopedia of Movie Awards,” the number of nominees means a GG nod can draw attention to the lesser contenders in the Oscar race. “It’s sort of like the Iowa (presidential) caucus. ‘If I can make a really good showing in Iowa, then New Hampshire will finally pay attention to me.’ But the one with the comfortable lead doesn’t make the effort.”

A high correlation between the Golden Globes’ 10-plus nominees for picture and the Oscars’ five is often casually assumed. But in half of the last 10 years, one or more picture Oscar nominees failed to appear in either of the GG categories. Last year, Golden Globes drama winner “Babel” took home only one Oscar (for original score), although it was nommed in seven categories.

“It’s two different groups with, if not different agendas, then different outlooks,” says Bona. “For instance, this year’s Globe nominee ‘Eastern Promises’ has no chance for the Oscar. But a film about foreigners in different countries? The foreign press can relate to that better than the average Hollywood person.”

There’s more consistency in the acting categories. Over the last five years only one actor or actress Oscar winner — “The Pianist’s” Adrian Brody — failed to take home a Golden Globe.

Critics have charged that the HFPA “tends to reward the actors they like,” says Gebert, who charges that the Globes are influenced by glamour.

Maybe so, but looking at the Globe nominees and talent campaigning for the Globes and Oscars, how could any org avoid tapping glamorous stars?

The Globes’ higher profile may be prompting the HFPA to watch, as Gebert puts it, “serious actors whom they respect for not just taking paycheck jobs.” That label would cover nonglamour talent like GG winners Philip Seymour Hoffman and Forest Whitaker.

“Ten years ago,” says Rickey, “I wrote there were three reasons why the GGs went from laughingstock to legit. Because Hollywood is an awards-sick town; because they serve the industry; and because they’re a hoot. And I can say that again today.”

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