Reading the Golden Globe Nominations With an Eye for the Oscars

Good news for George Clooney, bad news for Scott Rudin

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There weren’t any alarming snubs or terribly unexpected successes among the Golden Globes movie nominations, which were announced yesterday. The Hollywood Foreign Press Association stuck to its time-honored tradition of recognizing as many movie stars in as many categories as possible, an understandable tactic in a year in which George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Brad Pitt, and Michelle Williams are widely considered Oscar front-runners. Here’s our take on what to make of the HFPA’s movie selections and what they say about that other, higher-profile awards show on the way:

The George and Ryan show: Clooney and Ryan Gosling better get used to hearing their names mentioned during awards season, because the HFPA nominated them both multiple times. In the Best Actor - Drama category, Clooney’s much-admired work in The Descendants goes up against Gosling’s less-acclaimed performance in The Ides of March. Gosling unexpectedly earned a second nomination for Crazy, Stupid, Love, not Drive, and Clooney came away with director and screenplay nods for Ides. While The Descendants is widely considered an Oscar front-runner and is sure to win Best Picture - Drama, no one saw The Ides of March and Crazy, Stupid, Love attention coming. The Globes’s viability as an Oscar harbinger is questionable, but the degree of affection lavished on Ides might be a sign of bigger things to come for the divisive political drama.

Can anyone beat Meryl Streep or Michelle Williams?: Awards-granting organizations are suckers for great actors embodying real people, so it’s widely accepted that the race for the Best Actress Oscar is down to Meryl Streep as Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady and Michelle Williams as Marilyn Monroe in My Week With Marilyn. With the tandem nominated in different categories (Best Actress - Drama for Streep and Comedy or Musical for Williams) by the HFPA, the Globes will offer a test of their perceived supremacy. It's unlikely that Viola Davis (The Help) or Glenn Close (Albert Nobbs) have what it takes to defeat Streep, and we’re equally sure next-in-line Charlize Theron (Young Adult) won’t stop the Williams juggernaut.

Whither War Horse?: War Horse got a token Best Picture - Drama nod and John Williams got his expected nomination for scoring the film, but Steven Spielberg was snubbed for director. Ignoring a Hollywood titan is such an uncommon practice for this organization that it likely speaks to some sort of deep-rooted disregard for the war epic. Audiences were audibly sniffling when we saw it at an Academy screening, though, so don’t rule it out when it comes to the Oscars.

Few newcomers: Rooney Mara deservingly earned a nomination for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Shailene Woodley picked up a nod for her terrific work in The Descendants, but the HFPA otherwise largely snubbed such newcomer indie successes as Elizabeth Olsen for Martha Marcy May Marlene and Felicity Jones for Like Crazy. At the same time, Jessica Chastain—who was in six movies this year—earned her expected supporting actress nod for The Help, where she’ll compete with co-star Octavia Spencer and likely throw the category toward Woodley.

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Robert Levin writes about film and other entertainment topics for amNewYork, Inside Jersey, Backstage, and elsewhere. He is a member of the New York Film Critics Online guild.

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