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Analysis: Globes and biopics

By PAT NASON, UPI Hollywood Reporter   |   Dec. 13, 2004 at 6:08 PM
LOS ANGELES, Dec. 13 (UPI) -- "Sideways," a fictional account of a premarital road trip, took the most nominations with seven, but the announcement of this year's Golden Globe Award nominees confirmed recent conventional wisdom in Hollywood -- that the movie biography was the most popular genre in movies in 2004.

Five of the 11 nominees for best picture -- there are six nominees for drama and five for musical or comedy -- were based on the lives of real people. All five of the nominees for best actor in a drama movie, and three of the five nominees for best actor in a musical or comedy, played men who gained fame in their lifetimes.

Jamie Foxx had three acting nominations -- two of them for playing real-life characters. In addition to his nominations for best actor in a musical or comedy movie for "Ray" and for supporting actor in a movie for "Collateral," Foxx was also nominated for best actor in a miniseries or TV movie -- for his performance in "Redemption" as "Tookie" Williams, the founder of the Crips L.A. street gang who became a writer of children's novels and an advocate for non-violent conflict resolution.

For all of the entertainment industry's comparative preoccupation with film biographies, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association was most impressed this year with writer-director Alexander Payne's "Sideways" -- the story of two men on a road trip to California wine country, on a last fling before one of them is to be married. In addition to a best musical or comedy picture nomination, it also received acting nominations for Paul Giamatti, Thomas Haden Church and Virginia Madsen -- as well as a directing nomination for Payne and a screenplay nomination for Payne and his longtime writing partner Jim Taylor.

"Sideways" has been steadily adding to its building Oscar buzz.

On Monday, the New York Film Critics Circle named it the best picture of 2004. Over the weekend, the Los Angeles Film Critics Association and the New York Film Critics Online named it their top pick, and the American Film Institute included it on its list of the 10 best movies of the year. The National Board of Review of Motion Pictures named "Sideways" one of its Top 10 movies of the year on Dec. 1.

"The Aviator" had the second most nominations with six -- including best drama movie, best director for Martin Scorsese, drama actor for Leonardo DiCaprio and screenplay for John Logan. The movie biography of the reclusive billionaire Howard Hughes also earned a supporting actress nomination for Cate Blanchett and a nomination for composer Howard Shore's original score.

Scorsese has won the Golden Globe before -- for "Gangs of New York" in 2002 -- but he has never won the Oscar for directing. His Golden Globe nomination for "The Aviator" could put him in position to garner his fifth Oscar nomination for direction.

"Closer" -- director Mike Nichols' acerbic sex comedy -- received five nominations, the same as the J.M. Barrie biography "Finding Neverland" and director Clint Eastwood's boxing drama "Million Dollar Baby."

In addition to its best drama nomination, "Closer" was also nominated for best director (Nichols), supporting actress (Natalie Portman), supporting actor (Clive Owen) and screenplay (Patrick Marber). The Golden Globe nomination could put Nichols in contention for a fifth Oscar nomination for direction. He won in 1968 for "The Graduate."

Johnny Depp -- who earned a Golden Globe nomination and an Oscar nomination last year for "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl" -- picked up another Golden Globe nomination for his performance as Barrie in "Finding Neverland." In addition to its nomination for best drama movie, "Finding Neverland" also earned nominations for director Marc Forster, screenwriter David Magee and composer Jan A.P. Kaczmarek.

Hollywood icon Eastwood has become an awards season player for the second year in a row, following last year's highly decorated "Mystic River" with "Million Dollar Baby" -- the story of a young woman determined to succeed in the boxing ring. It's up for best drama, and Eastwood -- who won a Golden Globe and an Oscar for directing "Unforgiven" -- is up for best director. Hilary Swank and Morgan Freeman are nominated for their performances, and Eastwood also picked up a nomination for his original score.

Because it distinguishes dramas from musicals or comedies, the HFPA hands out twice as many best picture nominations as the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. As a rule, Golden Globe nominees for best drama movie stand a better chance than musical or comedy nominees of picking up Oscar nominations for Best Picture. Some notable exceptions -- "Chicago" and "Shakespeare in Love," for example -- have gone on to take the top Oscar.

Among this year's musical or comedy picture nominations, "Sideways" is widely regarded as an Oscar contender. "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" picked up three Golden Globe nominations, but it seems like something of a long shot for an Oscar nomination for Best Picture. The other Golden globe nominees for best musical or comedy movie -- "The Incredibles," "The Phantom of the Opera" and "Ray" -- all have their advocates for the top Oscar, but may find it too difficult to join "Sideways" on the short list of Best Picture nominees when the academy announces the nominations for the 77th Academy Awards on Jan. 25.

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(Please send comments to nationaldesk@upi.com.)

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