Golden Globes nominations a head-scratcher

Bob Tremblay

Award nominations are guaranteed to elicit three reactions: Excitement from the nominees, disappointment from those who didn't get nominated and befuddlement from those who wonder what the award organization was smoking when it made its selections.

Case in point: the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the group responsible for the Golden Globes. Its nominations were announced Thursday with the awards to be bestowed Jan. 13.

Moviegoers may still be scratching their heads over the nomination of “Charlie Wilson's War” in the best comedy or musical category. The film is described on the Internet Database as a drama, and that's just what it is.

“War” tells the real-life story of Congressman Charlie Wilson whose covert actions helped fund the Afghan insurgents in their war against the Soviet Union in the 1980s. During the film, Afghans get mowed down by Soviet jet gunfire and obliterated by Soviet bombs. We see children horribly wounded. We hear horror stories of Soviet aggression. And this is funny?

Perhaps the association only saw Philip Seymour Hoffman's performance as CIA agent Gust Avrakotos. Now, Gust is funny.

That the association nominated “War” for best comedy and ignored “Knocked Up” and “Superbad,” two of the funniest and most popular comedies of the year, boggles the mind. Those films garnered critical praise, too. Also ignored was “Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story.” Critics groups frequently get criticized themselves for being out of touch with mainstream viewers. Here are Exhibits A, B and C. Another nominee in this category, “Across the Universe,” didn't exactly wow the public either. Many critics panned the film, too.

You may also wonder how Hoffman earned a best actor nomination in a musical or comedy for “The Savages.” In the film, he plays a theater professor who battles with his sister over the care of their father who suffers from dementia. “The Savages” is about as comical as a bedpan.

The association, meanwhile, did itself no favors by overlooking Josh Brolin and Frank Langella in the dramatic actor category, the former for “No Country for Old Men” and the latter for “Starting Out in the Evening.” Brolin also got ignored in the best supporting actor category for his scene-stealing performance as a crooked cop in “American Gangster.”

Tommy Lee Jones, meanwhile, batted O for 2, failing to garner nominations as best actor for “No Country for Old Men” and “In the Valley of Elah.”

In the best director category, omissions included Sidney Lumet for “Before the Devil Knows You're Dead,`” Todd Haynes for “I'm Not There” and Cambridge's own Ben Affleck for “Gone Baby Gone.” Ben Foster also got overlooked in the best supporting actor category for “3:10 to Yuma” as were Brad Bird for best screenplay for “Ratatouille,” Russell Crowe as best actor for “American Gangster” and Laura Linney as best actress for “The Savages.”

More nitpicking is always possible, but apart from the above mentioned faux pas, the association did a decent job this year.

The seven nominations for “Atonement” provide that film with favorite status in the dramatic category. Its main competition should come from “No Country for Old Men.”

Still, I wouldn't want to handicap this category as the other nominees - “American Gangster,” “The Great Debaters,” “Michael Clayton” “Eastern Promises” and “There Will Be Blood” - are all worthy contenders. Note that both “Gangster” and “Debaters” star Denzel Washington, who also directed the latter.

In case you're wondering, a tie in the voting resulted in the seven nominees in this category rather than the usual five.

Actually, front-runners are as hard to this year as Lindsay Lohan's morals. Not many shoo-ins either. An exception is best animated film. If “Ratatouille” doesn't win, the association should be nibbled to death by a pack of hyperactive rodents.

Other favorites, based on the previous votes of other critics associations, include Julie Christie as best dramatic actress for “Away from Her,” Daniel Day-Lewis as best dramatic actor for “There Will Be Blood,” Amy Ryan as best supporting actress for “Gone Baby Gone,” Javier Bardem as best supporting actor for “No Country for Old Men” (Cambridge's own Casey Affleck is also nominated in this category for “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford”) and “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” as best foreign film.

In other categories, yours truly is pulling for “Juno” as best comedy (the best musical contenders, “Across the Universe,” “Hairspray” and “Sweeney Todd” could cancel each other out), Marion Cotillard as best actress in a musical or comedy for “La Vie en Rose” (Amy Adams in “Enchanted” and Ellen Page in “Juno” provide quality competition), Ryan Gosling as best actor in a musical or comedy for “Lars and the Real Girl,” Ethan and Joel Coen as best director for “No Country for Old Men” and Diablo Cody for best screenplay for “Juno.” Cody is a former stripper. Ecdysiasts everywhere, rejoice.

Bob Tremblay can be reached at btremblay@cnc.com or 508-626-4409.