‘The King’s Speech’ tops Golden Globes

Non-fiction dramas of a royal, a geek and a boxer lead the field, but what’s up with ‘Burlesque’ and ‘The Tourist’?

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With today’s announcement of the Golden Globe nominations, the Long March to the Oscars is officially underway. The King’s Speech reaped a total of seven Globe nominations, followed by The Social Network and The Fighter, with six apiece. All three movies are based on true stories of unlikely heroes triumphing over tall odds—though it’s not clear if Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg is a hero or villain, which is what makes The Social Network the most compelling of the three pictures. The Social Network has already swept film critics awards in Los Angeles, N.Y., Boston and Toronto. It has clearly emerged as the American movie of the year. But with the Globes announcement by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, The King’s Speech is showing its Oscar pedigree—as a feel-good period drama about royalty and disability, it’s overqualified. The other two films recognized by the HFPA in the Best Motion Picture/Drama category are Black Swan and Inception. Notable by its absence is the Coen brothers’ remake of True Grit, which has figured in the critics awards.

Competing with Colin Firth’s stammering royal and Jesse Eisenberg’s Facebook mogul for Best Actor in a dramatic motion picture are James Franco as a self-amputating survivor in 127 Hours, Mark Wahlberg as a working class hero in The Fighter, and Canadian Ryan Gosling as a blue-collar loser trying to saving his marriage in Blue Valentine. The Best Actress nominees in the dramatic category are: Natalie Portman as a tortured ballerina in Black Swan, Nicole Kidman as a bereft mother in The Rabbit Hole, Jennifer Lawrence as a desperate Ozark Mountain daughter going through hell in Winter’s Bone, Michelle Williams as a wife at the end of her tether in Blue Valentine, and Halle Berry as a mental patient in Frankie and Alice. (If you’re an actress and you want award consideration, you have to suffer.)

The Globes are often touted as a bellwether for the Oscars, but they really serve more as a publicity campaign for the Academy Awards. And a blow-out. The HFPA’s Jan. 16 ceremony, which involves copious food and drink, is Hollywood’s favorite party, far more relaxed that the Oscar’s quasi religious ritual. There’s also a fundamental disconnect between the Globes and the Oscars.  In their Best Picture and lead acting categories, the Globes split the field between best dramatic feature and best comedy or musical. That means more actors get nominated. And more stars show up! This year the comedy/musical slot has produced some hilarious results. Two of the most savagely panned movies of the year—The Tourist and Burlesque—both have nominations. The Tourist is neither a comedy nor a musical; it was billed as a thriller. But the junket whores at the HTPA have never met a superstar they didn’t like. By nominating The Tourist, along with Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp, they’ve dutifully enriched their guest list. Depp, who’s also nominated for Alice in Wonderland, will be competing with himself.

Also nominated in this category, Paul Giamatti may have a real shot at Golden Globe for his gonzo performance in the Canadian feature Barney’s Version, based on the Mordecai Richler novel. It’s sad, however, to see Barney didn’t get a nod in the Best Motion Picture Comedy or Musical slot, and that Rosamund Pike didn’t get cited for Best Supporting Actress. In other Canadian news, it’s also sad to see that Canada’s foreign-language hopeful, Denis Villeneuve’s Incendies, was snubbed by the Globes. Expect Biutiful, starring Javier Bardem, to take that category.

I predict that Colin Firth will win the Globe for best dramatic actor, Natalie Portman for best dramatic actress, and that The Social Network will take director, screenplay and picture, a pattern that may well be repeated at the Oscars. My own organization, the Toronto Film Critics Association also announced its winners today. We echoed other critics groups in awarding The Social Network best picture, along with another four awards—director, script, actor (Jesse Eisenberg) and supporting actor (Armie Hammer). Our best actress award went to Jennifer Lawrence for Winter’s Bone. We also recognized Thailand’s Palme D’Or winner, Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, as best foreign-language film  and as one of two runners-up for best picture.  For more on our picks, go to: TFCA Awards.

Oh, did I mention they give out Golden Globes for television? Well, they do. But no matter how much we hear that TV drama is outstripping film, TV folks are definitely poor cousins at the Globes, except for Ricky Gervais who no doubt will be slagging everyone as he returns to host the ceremony—last year he insulted the whole affair and the HTPA, but hey, these foreign press bozos were probably thrilled just to see a star talk about them.

Click here for a full list of Golden Globe nominees.