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From ‘Big Sick’ to ‘Downsizing,’ Studios and Indies Stake Claim for Globes Comedy Gold

From popular Sundance pickups to prestige awards bait, this year’s Golden Globes race for comedy/musical picture promises a solid balance of indie gems and studio offerings — and less category shopping.

Almost every major studio is in the mix with a serious contender. Two of them are musicals (three if you want to get technical). Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” could be the biggest box office story in the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn.’s nominations. Though critics were lukewarm, the film made a truckload of cash off an intellectual property that, let’s face it, was ripe for a live-action remake. Fox’s contribution, meanwhile, will be “The Greatest Showman,” inspired by the life of P.T. Barnum. But a nomination for star Hugh Jackman might be easier to come by than one for best picture; the film is being positioned more as a holiday family movie than a serious awards play.

Keep an eye on Sony’s “Baby Driver,” however. Writer-director Edgar Wright infused his latest with a playlist soundtrack featuring artists as disparate as the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion and Young MC. Whether that makes it a “musical” is up for debate, but the HFPA likely will relent.

Rounding out the big studios, Paramount could salvage the post-Venice decline of “Downsizing” with a Globes comedy recognition. But Universal has the biggest question mark of the lot: Jordan Peele’s “Get Out.”

Ever since Ridley Scott publicly derided the placement of his film “The Martian” in the comedy category — while accepting the trophy, no less — the HFPA has kept a close eye on anything perceived as a stretch. “Get Out” should compute; it’s pure satire from a celebrated comedian. But you never know. And even if the placement is accepted, there’s no guarantee the film’s sociopolitical message will resonate with an international press group as well as it did with Stateside audiences.

Speaking of potential category straddlers, there are relatively few this year. But Fox Searchlight had some decisions to make. “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” is a dark comedy, like Martin McDonagh’s previous films “In Bruges” and “Seven Psychopaths.” But the film’s subject matter — particularly in this climate — might make it a tough sell: Frances McDormand plays a woman seeking justice for her raped and murdered daughter, while Sam Rockwell plays a racist cop infamous for beating black suspects. The studio therefore submitted the film as a drama, while making “Battle of the Sexes” its comedy bet. Steve Carell’s mugging opposite Emma Stone no doubt helps the cause there, but Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris’ film is a graceful rendering of Billie Jean King’s homosexual awakening, so some might disagree that it’s mainly played for laughs.

Whatever wins has big shoes to fill: Last year’s comedy/musical victor “La La Land” won a record-breaking seven prizes.

“I, Tonya” is another film that could yield complex feelings. It’s a dark comedy sprung from the “To Die For” or Coen brothers mold, but if there’s a sense that the tone makes light of things like domestic and parental abuse, that could leave a weird taste.

The rest of the field is more clear-cut: Amazon has a ripe contender in “The Big Sick” (and will aim for drama with Woody Allen’s “Wonder Wheel”); last year’s drama victor A24 is back with a pair of comedies in “The Disaster Artist” and “Lady Bird,” with James Franco and Saoirse Ronan, respectively; Netflix will break into the field for the first time with Adam Sandler and “The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)”; and Focus comes bearing a throwback player in “Victoria & Abdul” with Judi Dench.

But let’s broaden the field a bit. It will be interesting, for instance, to see if Universal can find traction with Tom Cruise in “American Made” or break out Tiffany Haddish in “Girls Trip.” Taika Waititi’s “Thor: Ragnarok” is one of the most critically acclaimed films (let alone comedies) of the year and a high-water mark for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Other indies like “Brad’s Status” with Ben Stiller, “Ingrid Goes West” with Aubrey Plaza and particularly Steven Soderbergh’s “Logan Lucky” with Channing Tatum are also lurking.

It’s a colorful mix, and whatever wins has big shoes to fill: Last year’s comedy/musical victor “La La Land” won a record-breaking seven prizes. But as we found out soon after, broken records at the Golden Globes aren’t necessarily a golden ticket to Oscar glory.

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