Globes stir Oscar’s options

Despite HFPA's lighter side, Academy will be watching

With a musical-comedy category that supplies 10 extra slots, the Golden Globes can often elevate an actor into the awards race who might not normally make Oscar’s shortlist.

With their name bantered around after the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. has tabbed them a nominee, thesps — and their publicity machines — can utilize that momentum and, sometimes, turn it into Oscar glory. On the other hand, if an actor doesn’t make one of the 20 slots afforded by the HFPA, chances for an Academy Awards nomination may be slim.

The inclusion of George Clooney and Daniel Day-Lewis, for “Michael Clayton” and “There Will Be Blood,” respectively, in the drama actor category seem in line with how many awards watchers are seeing this race shape up.

The HFPA deemed “Atonement” its favorite film with a Globe-leading seven nominations. So it should be no surprise that it tabbed male lead James McAvoy for his role as Keira Knightley’s falsely accused lover.

If there was a surprise in the category, Viggo Mortensen’s turn in “Eastern Promises” might’ve raised a few eyebrows. The pic’s Euro-centric theme could’ve played to the actor’s advantage as the globally diverse HFPA is comprised of writers who are often drawn to non-American stories.

Noticeably absent from the category were Josh Brolin (“No Country for Old Men”), Emile Hirsch (“Into the Wild”) and Tommy Lee Jones (“In the Valley of Elah”).

Certainly Ryan Gosling (“Lars and the Real Girl”) and John C. Reilly (“Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story”) benefited from being included in the comedy-musical category, and the HFPA remains smitten with Johnny Depp. His nom as the butcherous barber in “Sweeney Todd” marks the fifth year in a row he’s been up for a Globe.

It’ll be interesting to see if the dark and bloody nature of the adapted Stephen Sondheim musical helps or hinders Depp’s chances come Oscar time. A win here would certainly up his chances for an Oscar nomination.

On the supporting side, the HFPA doesn’t distinguish between musical-comedy and drama. So with only five slots available, those who make the cut here can indicate a stronger sense of who’s in the Oscar race.

There were no jaw-dropping inclusions, and it wouldn’t surprise many if these same thesps — Casey Affleck, Javier Bardem, Philip Seymour Hoffman, John Travolta and Tom Wilkinson — heard their names called on Oscar nomination morning as well.

For lead actress, many awards watchers believe the Oscar race is shaping up as a two-woman contest between newcomer Marion Cotillard for “La Vie en Rose” and veteran Julie Christie for “Away From Her.” Having the HFPA nominate both doesn’t dissuade that argument.

When the Globes conclude the night of Jan. 13, however, there will be no frontrunner between the two. Cotillard is entered in the musical category and Christie in drama, so, in theory, each could win and thus stoke the Cotillard vs. Christie debate.

As for female leads in the comedy-musical category, there was evidently a push toward those who were able to belt out a number.

Four of the five women here — newcomer Nikki Blonsky, Amy Adams, Helena Bonham Carter and the aforementioned Cotillard — all sang as part of their performances. Even Ellen Page, who’s received raves for her turn in indie hit “Juno,” ends the movie strumming and singing a poignant duet.

With a nom for her supporting role as a pseudo Bob Dylan in “I’m Not There,” Cate Blanchett will have two chances for a Globe; the other coming for reprising her role in the sequel “Elizabeth: The Golden Age.”

Others vying in the supporting category include Globes fave Julia Roberts (this marks her sixth nom and she’s won three times before) for “Charlie Wilson’s War,” Britain’s Tilda Swinton (“Michael Clayton”), 13-year-old Saoirse Ronan (“Atonement”) and Amy Ryan, who’s been gathering up awards steam for her role in “Gone Baby Gone.”