LOS ANGELES, Dec. 20 (UPI) -- The announcement of nominations for the 60th annual Golden Globe Awards provided little clarity for anyone looking for clues to the Oscar race.
That's apt to happen every year, since the Hollywood Foreign Press Association does not limit itself to five best picture nominees, but names 10 finalists -- five each in the categories of drama movie and musical or comedy movie. But as a rule, the drama movie nominees tend to be more competitive come Oscar time.
This year, those nominees are "About Schmidt," "Gangs of New York," "The Hours," "The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers" and "The Pianist." To varying degrees, all have received critical acclaim, but none has asserted dominance during the awards season so far.
The National Board of Review named "The Hours" best film of 2002, but the Los Angeles Film Critics Association went with "About Schmidt," while the Boston Society of Film Critics and the newly formed San Francisco Film Critics Circle chose "The Pianist." The New York Film Critics Circle decided to give its top prize to "Far from Heaven" -- which is conspicuous by its absence from the Golden Globes list of best drama nominees.
The HFPA really liked "Chicago," rewarding it with eight nominations, including one for best musical or comedy movie. The other nominees in the category are "About a Boy," "Adaptation," "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" and "Nicholas Nickleby."
Among them, only "Chicago" and "Adaptation" are likely to get any serious consideration for the top Oscar.
"Chicago" has a lot going for it -- including a top-notch cast of Renée Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Richard Gere, and a reservoir of good feeling for the movie musical form, stoked by last year's Oscar-nominated "Moulin Rouge!"
"Adaptation" also benefits from strong casting, with two Oscar-winning actors in Nicolas Cage and Meryl Streep -- three if you count Cage twice. He plays a dual role.
The races for best actor and actress are shaping up as particularly hot this year.
Jack Nicholson is getting some of the best reviews of his well-reviewed career for his performance in "About Schmidt" as a man nearing retirement who must reevaluate his life when his basic assumptions turn out to be mistaken. However, a fourth Oscar is not a done deal for Nicholson.
Michael Caine is also getting some of the best reviews of his career for his performance as a weathered journalist in Indochina in "The Quiet American." Daniel Day-Lewis has turned in an impressive job as Bill the Butcher in "Gangs of New York." And Adrien Brody is on a number of best actor nominee lists for his work in "The Pianist" as a musician in the Warsaw Ghetto.
Besides Kidman, Moore, Streep, Zellweger and Zeta-Jones, the Golden Globe nominees for best actress include Salma Hayek ("Frida") and Diane Lane ("Unfaithful"), as well as Maggie Gyllenhaal ("Secretary"), Goldie Hawn ("The Banger Sisters") and Nia Vardalos ("My Big Fat Greek Wedding").
Oscar nominations are not considered likely for Hawn or Vardalos, although you never know. The others are all regarded as strong contenders -- including Lane and Gyllenhaal, who have registered strong impressions with critics for courageous performances that in some respects call to mind last year's Oscar-winning performance by Halle Berry in "Monster's Ball."
The 60th Annual Golden Globe Awards will be presented Jan. 19 in Beverly Hills, in ceremonies to be televised live on NBC TV.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will announce nominees for the 75th Academy Awards on Feb. 11, 2003, and hand out the Oscars on March 23.