Award Season Focus: The Actor & The Actress

The annual eruption of critical snark set off by the announcement of the Golden Globes nominations is usually followed by a sheepish admission: Many of the choices were in line with what was expected.

In fact, the outlier may be Oscar. In several celebrated instances in recent years, it has been the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn., and not the Academy, that has hewed closer to the critical consensus. Last year, the HFPA picked “The Social Network” as best drama — as had the L.A., N.Y., London, Chicago and Boston critics, the National Board of Review, the National Society of Film Critics and a litany of other orgs. The Oscar went to “The King’s Speech.” In 2007, when the Academy went for “Crash,” the Globes picked “Brokeback Mountain,” as had many others.

This season, there’s no obvious one-on-one “Social”/”King” face-off, but the reaction has been respectful.

“I actually think the HFPA acquitted themselves quite nicely this year,” says Entertainment Weekly’s Dave Karger of the HFPA’s selections, echoing much of the response to a selection one studio publicist calls predictably “eccentric and starry,” but which largely reflected choices made elsewhere in the run-up to Oscar madness.

Those selections included motion picture drama noms for some very obvious suspects — including “The Descendants,” “The Help” and “Hugo” — as well as lots of love for “The Ides of March” and a well-timed assist for what may be the year’s comedy showcase, “Bridesmaids.”

History being what it is, however, the Globes choices are forever scrutinized for favoring studio, and not indie, fare; an aversion to anything remotely provocative or controversial (“The Tree of Life,” “Melancholia”) and a propensity toward nominating both films and actors that provide plenty of star power.

“I know some people are suspicious of the Angelina Jolie nomination for foreign film, but the fact is that her movie is getting strong reviews,” Karger says of the Jolie-directed “In the Land of Blood and Honey.” “It’s much less embarrassing than giving her and Johnny Depp lead-acting nominations for ‘The Tourist’ last year.

“Also, I’m a huge ‘Ides of March’ fan so I’m happy with George Clooney getting a slot for best director. I fully expected them to nominate Mel Gibson for ‘The Beaver’ or Ashton Kutcher for ‘Two and a Half Men’ just for the attention, but they clearly resisted the urge.”

Says one studio exec: “I still think a film like ‘Tree’ could get in the Oscars, because it’s that kind of film. I’m wondering about ‘The Artist,’ too, and what will happen with it.”

The Weinstein Co.’s Gallic B&W movie, “The Artist,” is a candidate in the comedy-musical category, which can only further its campaign as one of the year’s quirkiest success stories.

Elsewhere, exception was taken to what may be an intrinsic character issue with the HFPA.

“I think the exclusion of ‘Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close’ reflects the foreign press’ inability to connect to the well of emotion still connected to Sept. 11,” says Joe Neumaier, critic for the New York Daily News. “Its late screening for the HFPA certainly didn’t help, and I’m surprised Sandra Bullock and Max von Sydow weren’t included. At the same time, though, it isn’t a shock to find an emotional block between the HFPA and that movie’s hyper-local take on tragedy.”

Neumaier also points to the omission of a supporting perf, and what he saw as the disconnect between the character and the HFPA’s foreign perspective.

“It may be that Melissa McCarthy’s Megan in ‘Bridesmaids’ was too gauche and too ‘American” for them,” he says. “So they went with lead Kristen Wiig. Alternately, though, I think the love they showed for ‘Ides of March’ is partly because it felt like a peek behind the American political curtain.”

There were other films that reflect American sensibilities that got some HFPA love.

The backdrop of drama nominee “Moneyball,” for instance, features the quintessential American pastime, baseball. Long a U.S. passion, the sport is largely ignored in much of the rest of the world, but HFPA viewers took the story of Oakland A’s g.m. Billy Beane to heart.

Then there’s “The Help,” which examines how African-American maids were treated in the American south in the 1960s. Clearly, writer-director Tate Taylor’s pic resonated to those who may have been unaware of the abusive treatment those women suffered in the racially slanted region of the U.S.

What: Golden Globe Awards

When: 5 p.m. PT Sunday

Where: BevHilton

Web: http://www.hfpa.org

GOLDEN GLOBE NOMINATIONS FOR ACTING

LEAD ACTOR, DRAMA
George Clooney, “The Descendants”
Leonardo DiCaprio, “J. Edgar”
Michael Fassbender , “Shame”
Ryan Gosling, “The Ides of March”
Brad Pitt, “Moneyball”

LEAD ACTRESS, DRAMA
Glenn Close, “Albert Nobbs”
Viola Davis, “The Help”
Rooney Mara, “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”
Meryl Streep, “The Iron Lady”
Tilda Swinton, “We Need to Talk About Kevin”

LEAD ACTOR, COMEDY/MUSICAL
Jean Dujardin, “The Artist”
Brendan Gleeson, “The Guard”
Joseph Gordon-Levitt, “50/50″
Ryan Gosling, “Crazy, Stupid, Love”
Owen Wilson, “Midnight in Paris”

LEAD ACTRESS, COMEDY/MUSICAL
Jodie Foster, “Carnage”
Charlize Theron, “Young Adult”
Kristen Wiig, “Bridesmaids”
Michelle Williams, “My Week With Marilyn”
Kate Winslet, “Carnage”

SUPPORTING ACTOR
Kenneth Branagh , “My Week With Marilyn”
Albert Brooks , “Drive”
Jonah Hill, “Moneyball”
Viggo Mortensen , “A Dangerous Method”
Christopher Plummer, “Beginners”

SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Berenice Bejo, “The Artist”
Jessica Chastain , “The Help”
Janet Mcteer, “Albert Nobbs”
Octavia Spencer , “The Help”
Shailene Woodley, “The Descendants”

Award Season Focus: The Actor & The Actress
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