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The Butler didn't do it: Golden Globe nominations set off Oscar predictions

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Oprah Winfrey and Forest Whitaker star in Lee Daniels' The Butler
Lee Daniels' The Butler got snubbed by Golden Globe voters. Photo by © Anne Marie Fox/The Weinstein Co.
American Hustle movie scene with cast
American Hustle also received seven Golden Globe nominations. Photo by Francois Duhamel/Sony PIctures
August Osage County Julia Roberts and Meryl Streep
Julia Roberts, left, and Meryl Streep were each nominated for August Osage County, but the movie did not receive a GG nomination ContactMusic.com
Chiwetel Ejiofor in 12 Years a Slave
12 Years a Slave received seven Golden Globe nominations. Photo by Jaap Buitendijk
Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street
Leonardo DiCaprio snagged a Golden Globe nomination for The Wolf of Wall Street, even though the movie has not been released. ShowBizCafe.com
Kate Blanchett and Alec Baldwin with Peter Sarsgaard and Sally Hawkins in Blue Jasmine
Cate Blanchett, left, won a Best Actress nomination for her bravura performance in Blue Jasmine. Blue Jasmine/Facebook
Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson in Saving Mr. Banks
Emma Thompson, left, scored a Best Actress nomination for Saving Mr. Banks. Fact.co.uk
Oprah Winfrey and Forest Whitaker star in Lee Daniels' The Butler
American Hustle movie scene with cast
August Osage County Julia Roberts and Meryl Streep
Chiwetel Ejiofor in 12 Years a Slave
Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street
Kate Blanchett and Alec Baldwin with Peter Sarsgaard and Sally Hawkins in Blue Jasmine
Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson in Saving Mr. Banks
AuthorPhoto_Joe Leydon_head shot_column mug_USE THIS

The Golden Globe nominations were announced early Thursday, and you know what that means, right?

No, not that snobbish film critics will start making jokes about the taste and intelligence of Hollywood Foreign Press Association members. (Truth to tell, we snooty cineastes never stop making jokes about that less-than-illustrious group — even though, I suspect, precious few of us would ever turn down an offer of membership.) Rather, it’s time for the preseason prognostications to end as the dead-serious Academy Award handicapping begins.

Let’s face it, when it comes to selecting the best and brightest of cinematic achievements in any given year, it’s always all about Oscar. 

Because, let’s face it, when it comes to selecting the best and brightest of cinematic achievements in any given year, it’s always all about Oscar. Golden Globes doubtless matter a great deal to the folks who receive them — and even if they don’t, hey, the awards are nifty door prizes at what I’ve been told is a pretty wild and crazy, loose and boozy party.  (You can judge for yourself when the Golden Globes show airs January 12 on NBC.)

But for film critics, nonaffiliated showbiz journalists and other Oscar handicappers on the outside looking in, the Globes serve primarily as portents to be analyzed during the protracted trudge toward the Academy Awards (which won’t be given out until — gasp! — March 2).

What follows are a few purely random and utterly subjective observations regarding this year’s Golden Globe nominations, all informed (if that’s the right word) by my years of experience as a semirespectable film critic and my decades as an unrepentant Golden Globes show viewer. (Yes: I am old enough to remember when Pia Zadora won an award and the Globes lost some of their luster.) And speaking of viewing: In addition to honoring cinematic excellence, the HFPA voters also honor achievements in television. But since the Golden Globes have demonstrated little or no influence on Emmy Awards, really, who cares?

LEADERS OF THE PACK: 12 Years a Slave dominated the Drama categories with seven nominations, while American Hustle grabbed an equal number of nods in the Comedy or Musical division. I think it’s reasonably safe to say that we now know at least two of the titles that will figure into the Best Picture mix when Academy Award nominations are announced Jan. 16.

BEING NOMINATED IS AN HONOR IN ITSELF: Since the major Golden Globes are divided into separate categories for Drama and Musical or Comedy, requiring at least five nominees in each category — well, let's just say that, sometimes, it’s easy to spot the filler. For example: In the Drama division,  Rush has been nominated for Best Picture, and co-star Daniel Bruhl received honorable mention as Best Supporting Actor. No, really.

PRIVILEGED VIEW: It’s an open secret in the movie industry that some film critics’ organizations insist on announcing their year-end awards as early as possible, so they can claim bragging rights for influencing the Oscar race — by anointing early front-runners and/or turning dark horses into true contenders — and even “predicting” eventual Oscar winners.  This season, however, there has been great weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth on the part of those reviewers who have had to cast their ballots without seeing The Wolf of Wall Street, which Martin Scorsese reportedly completed too late for Paramount to provide screenings (or DVD screeners) for critics in most major cities. 

 That The Butler was snubbed in all categories might suggest that members of the Hollywood Foreign Press aren’t terribly interested or sympathetic when it comes to embracing and/or rewarding a tale about the civil rights movement in America.  

It’s obvious, however, that members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association got a sneak peek: Both Wolf and lead player Leonard Di Caprio scored Globe nominations in the Comedy or Musical category. Perhaps this might encourage some of those critics’ organizations to consider waiting just a tad longer next year?

THE BUTLER DIDN’T DO IT: Can’t say I was an enormous fan of Lee Daniels’ sincere yet facile historical pageant. But given the critical accolades it received in other quarters — and, yes, given Harvey Weinstein’s reputation for full-court-press awards-season politicking — I expected at least a few acting nominations. That The Butler was snubbed in all categories might suggest that members of the Hollywood Foreign Press aren’t terribly interested or sympathetic when it comes to embracing and/or rewarding a tale about the civil rights movement in America. On the other hand, it’s equally plausible that they just didn’t like the movie very much.

CONSPICUOUS BY THEIR ABSENCES: The HFPA voters also overlooked such other Oscar-buzzing options as August: Osage County (a no-show as Best Picture, despite acting nods for Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts), Martin Scorsese (absent from the Best Director finalists, even though his late-screening Wolf of Wall Street nabbed a Best Picture, Comedy or Musical nomination), Michael B. Jordan and Octavia Spencer of Fruitvale Station — and Best Actor nominee (for Captain Phillips) Tom Hanks, who couldn’t double-dip by also landing a Supporting Actor nomination for playing Walt Disney in Saving Mr. Banks.

ON THE OTHER HAND:  Robert Redford’s Oscar prospects for All Is Lost, viewed by some as dimming after the Screen Actors Guild shutout earlier this week, appear to have been revived by his Golden Globe nod. Likewise, Bruce Dern’s own Oscar campaign can only be helped by his Golden Globe nomination for Nebraska. Not so long ago, some “experts” were none-too-subtly suggesting that Dern should narrow his sights and aim for consideration as a supporting actor hopeful. Dern rejected those suggestions. Events of recent days — he got a SAG nomination and an L.A. Film Critics Award as well as the Globe honor — indicate Dern took the right path.

COMEDY GOLD: Tina Fey will be back co-hosting the Golden Globes (along with Amy Poehler) next month. But she was not nominated for her work in the final season of 30 Rock. (A mere TV show, to be sure, but quite a popular one, I understand.) How many jokes about that do you think we’ll hear during the January 12 awards telecast?   

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