Best comedy or musical is typically the most eccentric and surprising category at the Golden Globes. This year’s quirky selection more than justifies that reputation.
The comedy-musical contest is often seen as little more than a sideshow to the main race for best drama, where the vast majority of heavyweight Oscar contenders are found.
This year, in particular, seems to have liberated the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. to pursue unexpected whims and fancies, to indulge in its taste for glamorous stars, and shine a light on films otherwise completely overlooked in award season.
Of this year’s five nominees, only “The Kids Are All Right” and “Alice in Wonderland” had been in the kudos discussion and, as the only proper musical around, “Burlesque” was considered a legitimate possibility. “The Tourist” and “Red,” however, caught many onlookers by surprise.
Says one HFPA member: “It was the hardest category. It was a terrible year.”
Among the omissions were such candidates were the James L. Brooks pic “How Do You Know” and “Love and Other Drugs” with Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway.
It’s notable that none of the five nominees are purely or even primarily comedies, reflecting a weak year for the art of laughter. There’s nothing to compare with last year’s breakout success for “The Hangover.”
Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, the director of “The Tourist,” might be surprised to learn that he made a comedy, rather than a thriller.
Star power exercises a disproportionate influence upon HFPA voters in this category. The razzle dazzle of Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie in “The Tourist,” and the veteran appeal of Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman and Helen Mirren in “Red” will give the Globes star power to drive the show’s ratings.
“Burlesque” should deliver Cher and Christina Aguilera in eye-catching outfits on the red carpet, while “The Kids Are All Right” brings greater gravitas in the form of Annette Bening and Julianne Moore, both also nominated for their perfs.
Among all the comedy-musical noms, “The Kids Are All Right” may be the strongest prospect for a best picture nod at the Academy Awards, even with 10 slots now available. If so, that would match the historical conversion rate for Golden Globes comedy-musical nominees. In the past decade, just nine comedy-musical nominees have gone on to get an Oscar nod, and only one, “Chicago,” ended up winning. There’s been nothing at all since “Juno” in 2007.
This disconnect isn’t a recent phenomenon. It was the same story in the ’90s, when the Golden Globes also delivered nine Oscar nods from the category and one victory. In the ’80s, there were 10 nods and one win; in the ’70s, nine nominations and a single victory.
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