Here's my analysis of the top Golden Globe Awards races. Category per category. See a breakdown of predix from more than a dozen top pundits HERE. Film critic Gene Seymour outlined his analysis for Gold Derby readers HERE. See a full list of nominees HERE.
It's Goliath versus David — the big, epic studio film packed with superstars ("The Curious Case of Benjamin Button') up against a sly underdog indie (make that "Slumdog") featuring actors we don't know.
Usually, the Golden Globes prefer big pictures as best picture like last year's winner "Atonement" over Oscars champ "No Country for Old Men." Remember, these awards are voted upon by foreign journalists who seem to have a special appreciation for big magic made by the goliath Hollywood studios that once mesmerized them from afar, back in their native lands. If they're still so bedazzled now, they'll go for "Button," which also features the kind of A-list celebs that the voters usually demand.
But that's where things get confusing this year. Did the inclusion of Brad Pitt in "Babel" help it to win best picture two years ago? "Babel" seems to have a lot in common with "Slumdog Millionaire." Both are set overseas in poverty-stricken locales and include foreign dialogue. But "Slumdog" doesn't have Western stars like "Babel." Does that matter?
I don't think so. Instead, I suspect that these outlander journalists are comfy with foreign-set films as long as the pix are popular among the Hollywood cool crowd. "Slumdog Millionaire" seems to be Oscar-bound. Usually, the Oscars and Golden Globes agree on best picture — they've done so 42 times over the past 64 years, mostly in the drama category, of course, but some in the musical/comedy genre ("Chicago," "Shakespeare in Love"). Over the past three years they disagreed. "Slumdog Millionare" strikes me as just the kind of movie that can hit both jackpots.
BEST COMEDY/MUSICAL PICTURE
"Burn After Reading"
X - "Mamma Mia!"
"Vicky Cristina Barcelona"
Most pundits are predicting "Vicky Cristina Barcelona" because they think that Golden Globe voters think (like they do) that Woody Allen is cool. And they may be right. It was at the Globes years ago that his quirky roles in "Mighty Aphrodite" (Mira Sorvino) and "Bullets Over Broadway" (Dianne Wiest) got noticed before the Oscars and, while Globers preferred Neil Simon's "The Goodbye Girl" to "Annie Hall" for best musical/comedy picture of 1977, they did crown "Hannah and Her Sisters" as the best of 1986.
Furthermore, the foreign journalists may really like the fact that "Vicky" is set in Spain.
However, I believe in the awards-prediction theory that, at the Golden Globes, successful musicals trump comedies.
Look at the list of past winners in this race. For the most part, whenever a successful tuner was nominated, it won — "Sweeney Todd," "Dreamgirls," "Chicago," "Moulin Rouge," "Evita," "The Lion King." Other champs like "Walk the Line" and "Almost Famous" were really musicals too, let's face it. Sure, "Phantom of the Opera" and "Ray" lost to "Sideways," but that's probably because the musical vote split (and "Phantom" wasn't a success).
"Mamma Mia!" is not only a successful musical, it's one of the biggest foreign musical hits ever — back in the home countries of the members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. Don't you think voters are tempted to validate the view of their kin with a Hollywood award?
X - Danny Boyle, "Slumdog Millionaire"
Stephen Daldry, "The Reader"
David Fincher, "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"
Ron Howard, "Frost/Nixon"
Sam Mendes, "Revolutionary Road"
This race is where we often see the most dramatic evidence of voters' desire to spread the wealth — that is, those Globes of gold. Whereas the directors' award usually lines up with best picture at the Oscars, the two prizes often split here. Since the year 2000, the Globes for directing and picture(s) have split six times in eight years. However, before we get too carried away with that statistic, we should note that there was much more agreement during the 1990s.
Many kudos watchers believe these two Globes will split again this year. It makes more sense to predict that best director will go to "Slumdog's" Danny Boyle since he's British and because the director's award tends to go to the more artsy flick (like "Diving Bell and the Butterfly" helmer Julian Schnabel last year). There's a lot of backlash against "Button" helmer David Fincher of late, so it seems unlikely he can win. That's why some award gurus are predicting "Button" for best drama picture and "Slumdog's" Boyle for director.
But I'll stubbornly stick with "Slumdog" here too.
Expect an upset here. Sure, Sean Penn's won practically every precursor award so far, but he frequently snubs the Golden Globes. This year he didn't participate in the "Milk" press conference at HFPA. When he won four years ago, he didn't show up. That night Clint Eastwood raced to the stage to accept on Sean's behalf and save face for the "Mystic River" team. Afterward, Penn promised he'd attend the Globes the following year to present an award. Again, he didn't show up.
Furthermore, it's apparent that voters don't like "Milk." It's not nominated for best picture or in other top races.
That's why I think Frank Langella will prevail. He not only portrays a real person (all voters of showbiz awards are suckers for that), but a really (in)famous American one — the utterly fascinating, bizarre Richard Nixon. If you've ever met HFPA members, you know that they're mostly of a certain age. No doubt they remember his tragic presidency well and are rightfully impressed with how brilliantly Langella nails him.
BEST DRAMA ACTRESS
X - Anne Hathaway, "Rachel Getting Married"
Angelina Jolie, "Changeling"
Meryl Streep, "Doubt"
Kristin Scott Thomas, "I've Loved You So Long"
Kate Winslet, "Revolutionary Road"
First off, let's deal with this Kate Winslet problem. Support for "Revolutionary Road" is lukewarm. If voters are going to give her a Globe (she's lost five times just like she has at the Oscars), they're probably going to give it to her in supporting. I hear that voters really, really like "The Reader" a lot and want to give it a prize.
That means this lead category is between those former "The Devil Wears Prada" costars who just tied at the Critics' Choice Awards. What's great about the Globes is that they don't punish older gals like Oscar voters do. Meryl Streep hasn't won an Oscar in more than 25 years, but she bagged a Globe two years ago for "Prada" and five years ago for "Adaptation." (In between, she triumphed in the TV races for "Angels in America.")
But Globers really like to crown hot, sexy new ingenues too — they seem to like that most of all. Anne Hathaway just made an impressive crossover from blockbuster popcorn pix like "The Princess Diaries" to artsy fare. They gave a Globe to Julia Roberts for doing the same in "Erin Brockovich."
BEST COMEDY/MUSICAL ACTOR
Javier Bardem, "Vicky Cristina Barcelona"
X - Colin Farrell, "In Bruges"
James Franco, "Pineapple Express"
Brendan Gleeson, "In Bruges"
Dustin Hoffman, "Last Chance Harvey"
Everybody except Brendan Gleeson has a real chance to win. I'm going with Colin Farrell because the Globers I've spoken to are crazy for "In Bruges" and are eager to get it attention. Besides, Farrell's a sexy superstar who's overdue to be taken seriously with a chunk of kudos gold.
BEST COMEDY/MUSICAL ACTRESS
Rebecca Hall, "Vicky Cristina Barcelona"
Sally Hawkins, "Happy-Go-Lucky"
Frances McDormand, "Burn After Reading"
X - Meryl Streep, "Mamma Mia!"
Emma Thompson, "Last Chance Harvey"
Yeah, yeah, Golden Globe voters love director Mike Leigh's leading ladies (Brenda Blethyn, "Secrets and Lies") and it's true that Sally Hawkins has a shot here. But if you buy the idea that Globers will give their darling Meryl an award somewhere, here is the logical place. This is where she wowed us with her versatility. "Postcards From the Edge" was so long ago that we'd forgotten she could sing!
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Tom Cruise, "Tropic Thunder"
Robert Downey Jr., "Tropic Thunder"
Ralph Fiennes, "The Duchess"
Philip Seymour Hoffman, "Doubt"
X - Heath Ledger, "The Dark Knight"
There's a remote possibility that they'll go for Robert Downey Jr. or Philip Seymour Hoffman, but only remote. This belongs to Heath Ledger, of course.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Amy Adams, "Doubt"
Penelope Cruz, "Vicky Cristina Barcelona"
Viola Davis, "Doubt"
Marisa Tomei, "The Wrestler"
X - Kate Winslet, "The Reader"
If you buy the theory (and it does make sense) that voters will want to give "Vicky" something, here's the logical place to reward it — that is, if "Vicky" loses best musical/comedy picture to "Mamma Mia!" Penelope Cruz has several other strong pluses. She romped through early awards from the New York and Los Angeles critics and the National Board of Review. She's foreign — just like voters — and she's the kind of sexy superstar voters adore.
But I think Cruz will be hurt here by the fact that "Vicky" is a comedy and "The Reader" is a gripping drama they want to reward.
BEST ANIMATED FILM
"Kung Fu Panda"
X - "Wall-E"
No explanation necessary.
Simon Beaufoy, "Slumdog Millionaire"
David Hare, "The Reader"
Peter Morgan, "Frost/Nixon"
X - Eric Roth, "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"
John Patrick Shanley, "Doubt"
"Benjamin Button" gets this as a consolation prize because it's based upon a F. Scott Fitzgerald short story. (HERE is the full, ironic scoop.)
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
Alexandre Desplat, "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"
Clint Eastwood, "Changeling"
James Newton Howard, "Defiance"
Hans Zimmer, "Frost/Nixon"
A.R. Rahman, "Slumdog Millionaire"
"Slumdog" has better music, but "Button" has more of the lush, symphonic sound and voters are snobs about that. Clint could take this as a consolation prize, but he's probably not taken seriously enough as a composer.
"Down to Earth" ("Wall-E")
"Gran Torino" ("Gran Torino")
"I Thought I Lost You" ("Bolt")
"Once in a Lifetime" ("Cadillac Records")
"The Wrestler" ("The Wrestler")
"Wall-E" deserves this, but "Wrestler" has the Boss and he's in charge here.
Photo credits: Fox Searchlight for "Slumdog Millionaire," top; Weinstein Co. for "Vicky Cristina Barcelona," center at left; Universal for "Mamma Mia!"
NOTE: An earlier draft of this article mistakenly referred to Anne Hathaway's film as "Princess Bride" instead of "The Princess Diaries." The error has been corrected.