Separating dramas from comedies and musicals has always invested the Golden Globes with extra interest. But with 10 titles destined to fill out the Oscar rolls for the first time since 1943, voters and award watchers may keep a closer eye than usual on the lighter contenders at the Globes. Classic ancestors of 2009’s front-runners in this category help to anticipate the thinking of the Hollywood foreign press. (And we’ll let some of the domestic press be heard from.)
Genre: Straights dressing up
Classic Precursor: “Some Like It Hot” (1959). Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis, like Sacha Baron Cohen, won plenty of pre-release publicity for exploring how the other half loves.
Shot at a Globe Nod: Billy Wilder’s classic brought Globes to Lemmon, Marilyn Monroe and the pic, but their take was sweet, not sour. Cohen won the actor Globe for “Borat,” so he will likely contend for what Variety’s Todd McCarthy calls “undeniably funny, outrageous and boundary-pushing.” But McCarthy also points out the pic’s “pronounced nasty streak … that curdles the laughs,” which the HFPA may be less likely to embrace.
Genre: Upstairs, downstairs
Classic Precursor: “Gosford Park” (2001). Both anatomize a clash of the mother country and the colonies in a sprawling manor house between two world wars.
Shot at a Globe Nod: Robert Altman’s sly murder mystery with a wide swatch of social consciousness could’ve been tailor-made for HFPA approval: four noms plus a statuette for director. The current Noel Coward filmization is more miniature in every respect: scope, stars and story, notwithstanding Roger Ebert’s upwardly raised thumb: “Unusually for a play by Noel Coward, Love struggles while conquering All in ‘Easy Virtue,’ a subversive view of British country-house society between the wars.”
“500 DAYS OF SUMMER”
Genre: Romantic misfits
Classic Precursor: “Annie Hall” (1977). Woody Allen’s pursuit of Diane Keaton — and even its jagged, time-bending style — are echoed in Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s yearning for Zooey Deschanel.
Shot at a Globe Nod: The New York Times’ A.O. Scott deems musicvid helmer Marc Webb’s star-crossed romance a “slight, charming and refreshingly candid little picture (that) finds just the right scale and tone.” Similarly pixilated love stories like “Juno” and “Lost in Translation” have found Globe favor. And appealing up-and-comer Deschanel, like winner Keaton back in the day, could get tapped even if pic doesn’t. (“Annie” lost the top Globe to “Goodbye Girl.”)
Genre: Comics’ private life
Classic Precursor: “Lenny” (1974). Funnymen musing about death and dying? Welcome to the multiplex; immediate seating available.
Shot at a Globe Nod: Bob Fosse’s nightmarish dissection of Lenny Bruce earned noms for himself and stars Dustin Hoffman and Valerie Perrine. But that was in the drama categories. Praised highly in many quarters (“one of the most absorbing films of the year,” Kyle Smith, New York Post), Judd Apatow’s ambitious musing on buttoned-down minds straddles both drama and comedy, potentially weakening its shot in either category. Also, Apatow has never been popular with the HFPA crowd.
Genre: Fratboy follies
Classic Precursor: “National Lampoon’s Animal House” (1978), the granddaddy of all campus T&A comedies.
Shot at a Globe Nod: If laughs-per-minute are any criterion, the field’s surest bet should be “Hangover,” which Variety’s Joe Leydon pronounces “profanely funny” while correctly predicting it “could achieve the status of breakout hit.” But the gross-out genre has never gotten much love from a group more inclined to bestow kudos to the classier likes of last year’s “Vicky Cristina Barcelona.”
Genre: Crazy con artists
Classic Precursor: “Catch Me if You Can” (2002), about another brilliant but mad con artist who just can’t help but lie every time he opens his mouth. Matt Damon’s corporate whistleblower has the added tic of harboring grandiose secret-agent fantasies in this Steven Soderbergh-helmed pic.
Shot at a Globe Nod: Excellent, and a lot better than the odds enjoyed by “Catch Me,” a dramedy that somehow found itself in the much more competitive drama category. As a result, despite the name Steven Spielberg, the film received only one Globe nom, for Leonardo DiCaprio’s portrayal of the real-life check forger Frank Abagnale Jr. Variety’s McCarthy writes, “You could call ‘The Informant!’ Soderbergh’s Richard Lester movie, in light of his devotion to the Britain-based American director of cutting, serious comedies.”
“IN THE LOOP”
Genre: Antiwar satire
Classic Precursor: “Dr. Strangelove” (1964). Armando Iannucci’s madcap spin on the Iraq War roll-up elicited the same hoots for surprised laughters as Kubrick’s earlier take on multinational confusion leading to the apocalypse.
Shot at a Globe Nod: Bill Goodykoontz of the Arizona Republic could have been writing about the Peter Sellers starrer when he called “In the Loop” “fantastic stuff, so over-the-top, so scabrous, so bitterly brilliant that you have to assume that, on some level, it rings true.” The HFPA is generally uninterested in political lunacy — it gave the back of its hand to “Strangelove” — but “Loop’s” popular antiwar sentiment and wall-to-wall hilarity could get it noticed. Dark house for best actor: pic’s SCUD missile of a politician, Peter Capaldi.
“THE INVENTION OF LYING”
Genre: Modern fable
Classic Precursor: “It’s a Wonderful Life” (1946), the negative print of Ricky Gervais’ shot across the bow of religious faith. No angels get their wings in Gervais’ universe, but Capra won a helmer Golden Globe for his.
Shot at a Globe Nod: Unusual combo of droll Nichols & May routines and Messianic satire has been tickling many funny bones, none more than Entertainment Weekly’s Lisa Schwarzbaum, who dubs it a “seriously subversive,” “jolting philosophical comedy” while claiming that “the ideas in this movie are, no kidding, big.” The presence of Globes host Gervais — almost a sure bet for a personal nom — may make the difference to pic’s chances.
Genre: Extramarital shenanigans
Classic Precursor: “The Facts of Life” (1960), in which Bob Hope and Lucille Ball strain for the maturity that Meryl Streep, Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin seem to have been born to.
Shot at a Globe Nod: By 1960 standards, it was pretty spicy to see two married friends flirt with an affair, and Hope, Ball and pic were nominated. Nancy Meyers’ oeuvre hasn’t made much of a dent at the Globes, but showcasing three HFPA-beloved stars to good advantage may be enough to push this one over the top.
“JULIE & JULIA”
Genre: Comedies at work
Classic Precursor: For the Julie scenes, “Pillow Talk” (1959): Doris Day’s a decorator, not a chef, and she uses the phone, not a computer, but like Amy Adams she’s cookin’ with gas. For the Julia flashbacks, “An American in Paris” (1951), in which Gene Kelly could be painting around the corner from the Cordon Bleu where Meryl Streep minces onions.
Shot at a Globe Nod: EW’s Owen Gleiberman speaks for his brethren in asserting that “though hardly a perfect souffle, ‘Julie and Julia’ is the movie American foodie culture has been waiting for. It hooks you up, happily, to your inner top chef.” Given how the foreign press adores Streep (23 noms to date), her expansive, jovial Julia Child could make it nomination No. 24. Expect the pic to figure among the top nominees: “Pillow” and “Paris” did, and the Kelly/Donen tuner ended up winning.
“THE MEN WHO STARE AT GOATS”
Genre: Anti-establishment satire
Classic Precursor: “MASH” (1970). Robert Altman’s audacious flip-of-the-bird to the U.S. war machine paved the way for Grant Heslov’s paramilitary psychics trying to think us out of Iraq.
Shot at a Globe Nod: Laugh riot or flatulent mess? The foreign press went wild for Altman’s comic shocker, voting it top honors and five other noms. But crix are splitting right down the middle on Heslov. On the plus side, Variety’s Derek Elley finds pic to be “a superbly written loony-tunes satire, played by a tony cast at the top of its game.” Or will the HFPA prefer to satisfy its Clooneymania through “Up in the Air”?
Genre: All-singing, all-dancing, all-Fellini
Classic Precursor: “Sweet Charity” (1969). Broadway babies Bob Fosse and Rob Marshall, 40 years apart, transform Italian art cinema into American pizazz.
Shot at a Globe Nod: Never mind the pic’s star-studded international cast, sure to appeal to the foreign press. Every year’s biggest tuners are practically guaranteed top slots, with “Mamma Mia!,” “Sweeney Todd,” “Dreamgirls” and “Hairspray” only the most recent examples. Unseen at press time, Marshall’s gals-‘n’-Guido extravaganza based on “8½” should make the list even if it proves less than a “10.” Leading man Daniel Day-Lewis, ditto.
“A SERIOUS MAN”
Genre: Jewish self-satire
Classic Precursor: “Goodbye, Columbus” (1969), as controversial in its day for its allegedly gross Semitic caricatures as the Coen brothers’ latest this year.
Shot at a Globe Nod: Philip Roth’s fish-out-of-water tale made the top five, but it was also a smash. The Coens’ nutty parable has left audiences scratching their heads. Still, critics have raved. David Edelstein in New York magazine finds it “hauntingly original” and “an artistic leap.”
“UP IN THE AIR”
Genre: Midlife angst
Classic Precursor: “Dodsworth” (1936), William Wyler directing the great Walter Huston as a middle-aged businessman on an ocean voyage, who comes to question his values and female relationships. George Clooney gets an upgrade, but it’s the same road trip.
Shot at a Globe Nod: Richard Corliss’ assessment in Time — “utterly nervy. And wonderful” with “a maturity rare in modern movies” — prevails, with raves rolling in ever since the Toronto fest. One of the surer pic bets thanks to the HFPA’s penchant for wry seriocomedies in the vein of ’04 winner “Sideways” and (from “Air” helmer-scribe Jason Reitman) ’05 nominee “Thank You for Smoking.” Moreover, they really like Clooney (eight noms and two wins), so he’s a likely nom.
“WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE”
Genre: Childhood fantasy
Classic Precursor: “The Wizard of Oz” (1939). A beloved children’s classic becomes even more magical onscreen, as a human child moves among talking creatures and battles the forces of darkness.
Shot at a Globe Nod: Surely “Oz” would’ve been a front-runner in every comedy/musical category, but the Globes didn’t begin until five years later. Frankly, the HFPA has never gone mad for kidpics. Still, Variety’s McCarthy opines, “Comparisons to everything from ‘The Wizard of Oz’ to ‘Coraline’ are not out of order” for an “unhomogenized, dare-one-say organic rendering of unrestrained youthful imagination.” Kudos like that, and audience favor, could send Spike Jonze’s epic over the rainbow.