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Category: Phantom of the Opera News
Article Date: November 29, 2004 | Publication: Hollywood Reporter | Author: Stephen Galloway - Foreign Press Association
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A strong year for film means some tough choices ahead for voting members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn.

It has been a good year for film lovers: The major studios are producing large-scale ventures more lavish than usual, and specialty houses are backing auteur-driven movies that challenge conventional filmmaking. That can only mean one thing: Members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. must make some difficult decisions when selecting nominees for the upcoming Golden Globes.

"It is a relatively strong year, and the playing field is fairly even between the studio films and the independent films," Paramount Classics co-president David Dinerstein says. "There are no shoo-ins at this time; the field is wide open, and there are still opportunities out there in most of the major categories."

Rolling Stone critic Peter Travers calls 2004 "a solid year -- but I have no objection to a solid year, even if it doesn't come with life-changing movies. There has been good work done by people who are new and also by veterans."

This year the "veterans" are out in force, with studio films ranging from Oliver Stone's "Alexander" (Warner Bros. Pictures) and Martin Scorsese's "The Aviator" (Miramax) to James L. Brooks' "Spanglish" and Mike Nichols' "Closer" (both from Sony). But many of the year's most promising contenders come from filmmakers with shorter resumes and distribution deals at the studios' specialty divisions, including Alexander Payne's "Sideways" and Bill Condon's "Kinsey" (both from Fox Searchlight), Mike Leigh's "Vera Drake" (Fine Line) and Jonathan Glazer's "Birth" (New Line).

Because few titles are considered a lock for nomination at the Globes (or the Oscars, for that matter), unconventional entries such as the year's biggest animated features -- DreamWorks' "Shrek 2" and Buena Vista's "The Incredibles" -- might stand a legitimate chance for mention in the comedy/musical feature category. The widely praised "Sideways" also is touted as a likely nominee, as are high-profile titles with an indie bent such as Wes Anderson's "The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou," from Buena Vista, and Focus Features' Jim Carrey starrer "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind." "Spanglish," Brooks' story of a Latino maid who comes to live in an affluent Bel-Air household, had not been screened at press time. The list also could include MGM's "De-Lovely," Lions Gate's "Beyond the Sea" or even Sony's acclaimed blockbuster "Spider-Man 2."

The musical portion of the category complicates matters because two highly dramatic films possess significant components in that regard. The first is Warners' "The Phantom of the Opera," Joel Schumacher's rendering of Andrew Lloyd Webber's famed stage play that was receiving strong advance word in mid-November. (If "Phantom" wins, it would be the second full-blown musical to gain a Globe in the comedy/musical race, following 2003 victor "Chicago.")

The second is Universal's "Ray," the story of the late famed R&B musician Ray Charles. Directed by Taylor Hackford, the film boasts the large scope, acclaimed performances and technical prowess to make it a powerful entry. Universal has submitted "Ray" in the comedy/musical categories, but the HFPA can overrule that decision and move it into the dramatic competition.

"There is a chance that 'Ray' or any other movie or performance or TV program submitted to us may shift," HFPA president Lorenzo Soria says. "It is our call; that discussion takes place before (Friday), when Ernst & Young sends out the ballots. In the meantime, we compile a 'reminders list' and go over that list and look at what the studios have submitted. It is very likely, out of hundreds of submissions, that there will be a few that we feel are not right."

If the comedy/musical category offers fascinating scenarios, then the drama feature race is even more difficult to predict. Insiders have spent months speculating about Scorsese's Howard Hughes biopic "Aviator," but the film had not yet screened by mid-November. Scorsese's 2002 release "Gangs of New York" earned an impressive five Globe nominations and took home awards for director and song; if "Aviator" lives up to its buzz, the film quickly could become the movie to beat this time around.

"This year, that category is almost impossible to predict," says Travers, who has seen a rough cut of "Aviator." But there is no shortage of other contenders in the drama feature race. Miramax's "Finding Neverland," Marc Forster's follow-up to the 2001 award-winning drama "Monster's Ball," stars Johnny Depp as Peter Pan creator James M. Barrie. Nichols' "Closer" also has generated strong word-of-mouth with the director coming off the heavily decorated HBO miniseries "Angels in America."

Not to be seen in the drama category are the foreign-language films making news this awards season. "Any foreign-language movie can compete in any category, but not best picture," says Soria, adding that the rule can be traced back to one of the reasons the HFPA was founded: to help foreign journalists gain better access to Hollywood films.

That means no best picture trophies for such Spanish-language films as Fine Line's "The Sea Inside" or Focus Features' "The Motorcycle Diaries," or even for Newmarket's "The Passion of the Christ," filmed entirely in Aramaic and Latin -- two languages no longer spoken anywhere in the world. But "Diaries" is eligible for the foreign-language Globe -- unlike the counterpart Oscar race, from which the film has been excluded because of the range of origin of its creative team (director Walter Salles is Brazilian, star Gael Garcia Bernal is Mexican, writer Jose Rivera is American, and producer Rebecca Yeldham is British).

"These things have made our campaign complicated from Day 1," says Focus Features co-president James Schamus, no stranger to having a well-reviewed film knocked out of contention because "in 2001, I sat at a table with Ang Lee at the Golden Globes where 'Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon' was not nominated for best picture because it was in Chinese. But it was nominated at the Oscars."

Generally speaking, there is much less mystery surrounding the Globes' acting races. Even before the film's release last month, "Ray's" Jamie Foxx made headlines for his performance -- and he is practically guaranteed a best actor nomination. The notion that Foxx's intensely dramatic performance would be considered in the comedy/musical category is the type of absurd twist pundits relish. Whatever the category, if Foxx wins a Globe, many observers believe that he will be unstoppable when it comes to the Academy Awards, putting him in line to become only the third black performer to win a best actor statuette (following Sidney Poitier for 1963's "Lilies of the Field" and Denzel Washington for 2001's "Training Day").

Without Foxx in the drama category, there could be stiff competition between Depp and Spain's Javier Bardem, who recently earned the top acting nod at the Venice International Film Festival for his star turn in "Sea Inside" and won a Globe for his performance in 2000's "Before Night Falls." "The Globes have certainly recognized foreign actors before," New Line president of domestic marketing Russell Schwartz says. Don Cheadle also is drawing praise for United Artists' "Hotel Rwanda," as are Liam Neeson for "Kinsey" and Jude Law for "Closer."

Other possibilities include Tom Cruise for DreamWorks' "Collateral," Billy Crudup for Lions Gate's "Stage Beauty," John Travolta for Lions Gate's "A Love Song for Bobby Long," Bernal for "Diaries" or for Sony Pictures Classics' "Bad Education" and Mark Ruffalo for Warner Independent Pictures' "We Don't Live Here Anymore."

But one giant question mark remains: Exactly how will the 90-plus voting HFPA members respond to Leonardo DiCaprio's performance in "Aviator" and Colin Farrell's turn as the conquering "Alexander"?

On the other side of the aisle, 2004 winner Bill Murray seems a lock for nomination for his performance in "Life Aquatic," as does Paul Giamatti for his role as a misanthropic oenophile in "Sideways."

"This was something different for me," Giamatti says. "I was in every scene of the movie. I have never done that much in a movie before; even with (2003's) 'American Splendor,' I am not in every scene. Here I am in every scene, and I never stop talking!"

Rounding out the comedic contenders, Law is a potential nominee for Paramount's "Alfie," and Jim Carrey could earn a nomination for "Sunshine" or for Paramount's "Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events."

In the best actress categories, there has been a great deal of discussion this year about a dearth of good leading roles for women. Several films boasting potential contenders had not been screened at press time, including the Julia Roberts starrer "Closer" and "Spanglish," starring Tea Leoni and Paz Vega.

Among performances already generating attention, Annette Bening is a standout in Sony Pictures Classics' "Being Julia," as is Audrey Tautou in Warner Independent's "A Very Long Engagement" and Nicole Kidman in "Birth." Cate Blanchett also might earn a mention for her role in "Life Aquatic," as might Hilary Swank for her turn in Warners' "Million Dollar Baby."

The dramatic actress race seems poised to offer real possibility for surprises such as veteran British actress Imelda Staunton for "Drake," Colombian discovery Catalina Sandino Moreno for Fine Line's "Maria Full of Grace" and Zhang Ziyi for SPC's "House of Flying Daggers."

Studios might be well-advised to consider pushing some of their lead acting contenders into the supporting categories: Insiders admit they are having trouble coming up with names of male and female supporting performers. United Artists has adopted that strategy with "Rwanda's" Sophie Okonedo, previously considered for the best dramatic actress competition.

In addition to Okonedo, supporting actress possibilities include Laura Linney and Lynn Redgrave ("Kinsey"), Sharon Warren and Regina King ("Ray"), Virginia Madsen ("Sideways"), Cloris Leachman ("Spanglish"), Anjelica Huston ("Life Aquatic"), Natalie Portman ("Closer"), Kate Winslet ("Neverland"), Belen Rueda ("Sea Inside"), Blanchett and Kate Beckinsale ("Aviator"). Among supporting actors mentioned are Thomas Haden Church ("Sideways"), Alan Alda ("Aviator"), Rodrigo De la Serna ("Diaries"), Clive Owen ("Closer"), Peter O'Toole ("Troy"), Freddie Highmore ("Neverland") and Foxx ("Collateral").

 


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