Tennessee Williams more or less got it right: Sometimes there’s God — or Paramount — so quickly.
Studio’s decision to submit “Up in the Air” in the drama category (where it was duly nominated) left open a key slot for best comedy or musical, the most likely beneficiary of which was Todd Phillips’ buddy farce “The Hangover.”
The other contenders all fall squarely within the awards’ comfort zone. Even without its glittering international cast and European pedigree, Rob Marshall’s “Nine” was an almost inevitable nominee, since the HFPA invariably finds a place for each year’s highest-profile tuner (especially one adapted from the stage). In recent years “Mamma Mia!,” “The Producers” and “The Phantom of the Opera” all entered the top five, with the trophy going to “Dreamgirls,” “Sweeney Todd” and Marshall’s own “Chicago.”
Another genre close to the HFPA’s heart is sophisticated comedy along the lines of past winners “Lost in Translation” and “Vicky Cristina Barcelona.” Streepmania figured here as well, with nominations going to the vehicles of thesp Meryl Streep’s career nods Nos. 24 and 25. Given its Gallic flavor and general joie de vivre, gastronomic lovefest “Julie and Julia” was an easy bet to become helmer Nora Ephron’s second Globe contender, after “Sleepless in Seattle.”
Nancy Meyers has no previous foreign-press history, and the failure of “Something’s Gotta Give” to crack 2003’s top five made “It’s Complicated” seem something of a long shot. But the combined magnitude of Streep, Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin — to date, a remarkable 38 Globe nods and eight wins among them — and respect for Meyers’ (nominated) screenplay were enough to push the midlife romance over the top.
An equally bittersweet but more youthful study of star-crossed lovers, “500 Days of Summer” also joined the ranks, sparked by the nommed lead perf of Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
But that fifth slot! After nominating last year’s “Burn After Reading” and three previous Coen brothers pics, the journos might have tapped “A Serious Man” along with star Michael Stuhlbarg. They could’ve expanded their romance with romance to name “The Proposal” or gone political with “In the Loop” or “The Informant.”
The HFPA has shown no love for anything resembling gross-out comedy except for the very European “Borat,” 1998’s star-driven “There’s Something About Mary” and 1980’s “Airplane!” Nevertheless, it opted for the funny. Grossing more than $450 million worldwide, “The Hangover” was the 2009 comedy most likely to leave audiences’ sides aching. This year at least, the motto seems to be: laugh, and the world press laughs with you.