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True to form, Globes embrace indie films

Big-budget movies such as ‘Munich,’ ‘King Kong’ denied best movie nods
Jeff Daniels and Laura Linney each received best acting nominations for their performances in “The Squid and the Whale.” The film also received a nomination for best movie, musical or comedy.
Jeff Daniels and Laura Linney each received best acting nominations for their performances in “The Squid and the Whale.” The film also received a nomination for best movie, musical or comedy.Samuel Goldwyn Films

Ang Lee’s powerful gay love story, “Brokeback Mountain,” earned an astonishing $109,000 per screen during its opening weekend at five theaters. At the same time, it was named best picture of 2005 by the New York Critics’ Circle, the Boston Film Critics and the Los Angeles Film Critics’ Association — all of whom named Lee as the year’s best director.

This morning, the Hollywood Foreign Press Assocation added to those honors by nominating it for seven Golden Globes, including best picture (drama), director, actor (Heath Ledger) and supporting actress (Michelle Williams).

The movie, which goes into wider release Dec. 16, first started to draw attention last fall when the Venice Film Festival named it best picture. Late last month, the Independent Spirit awards nominated it for best picture, director, actor and supporting actress — though it earned fewer nominations than Noah Baumbach’s semi-autobiographical tale of a messy divorce, “The Squid and the Whale.”

While the Globes nominations would appear to make “Brokeback” a front-runner as well as a certain Oscar nominee, it faces tough competition in the drama category: David Cronenberg’s scary thriller, “A History of Violence”; Woody Allen’s ironic London-set tale of infidelity, “Match Point,” and a pair of timely political films, “Good Night, and Good Luck” and “The Constant Gardener.”

“Brokeback” won’t have to compete with “Squid and the Whale” in the Globes race because that film has been nominated in the comedy/musical category. Its competition includes the World War II theatrical tale, “Mrs. Henderson Presents”; a spirited remake of Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice”; the Broadway musical, “The Producers”; and the Johnny Cash biography, “Walk the Line.”

Big-money films left out
This collection of mostly independent movies leaves out several costly Hollywood productions, including such franchises as “Star Wars” and “Harry Potter,” Peter Jackson’s acclaimed remake of “King Kong,” the political thriller “Syriana,” and Steven Spielberg’s “Munich,” which deals with the revenge killings that followed after the massacre of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympics. Also missing are the musical “Rent” and such summer comedy smashes as “Wedding Crashers” and “The 40-Year-Old Virgin.”

However, both Jackson and Spielberg were nominated for best director, along with Allen, Lee, George Clooney (“Good Night, and Good Luck”) and Fernando Meirelles (“The Constant Gardener”). Yes, that makes six nominees. The Globes sometimes do that.

Another category with half a dozen nominees is best actor (comedy or musical division). Joaquin Phoenix’s uncanny impersonation of Johnny Cash in “Walk the Line” is there, along with Pierce Brosnan (“The Matador”), Cillian Murphy (“Breakfast on Pluto”), Johnny Depp (“Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”), Jeff Daniels (“Squid and the Whale”) and Nathan Lane, who recreates his Broadway role in “The Producers.”

Nominated for best actress in the comedy/musical category are Reese Witherspoon for playing Cash’s second wife in “Walk the Line,” as well as Laura Linney (“Squid and the Whale”), Keira Knightley (“Pride and Prejudice”), Judi Dench (“Mrs. Henderson Presents”) and Sarah Jessica Parker (“The Family Stone”).

Surprise nomination for Crowe
In the drama division, “Cinderella Man” scored a surprise best-actor nomination for Russell Crowe, whose rude off-screen behavior evidently didn’t put off the voters. Competing with him for best actor in a drama are Ledger, Terrence Howard as a rap singer in “Hustle and Flow,” Philip Seymour Hoffman as non-fiction novelist Truman Capote in “Capote,” and David Strathairn as broadcast legend Edward R. Murrow in “Good Night, and Good Luck.”

Also nominated in the drama category are Charlize Theron, a Globes and Oscar winner two years ago for “Monster,” cited again for best actress for her work in another fact-based drama, “North Country.” She’ll be competing with Gwyneth Paltrow (“Proof”), Felicity Huffman (“Transamerica”), Maria Bello (“A History of Violence”) and Ziyi Zhang (“Memoirs of a Geisha”).

In addition to being cited for best director, Clooney was nominated for best supporting actor for “Syriana.” He’ll be competing with Matt Dillon (“Crash”), Will Ferrell (“The Producers”), Bob Hoskins (“Mrs. Henderson Presents”) and Paul Giamatti (“Cinderella Man”).

Two old pros landed in the supporting actress category: Frances McDormand (“North Country”) and Shirley MacLaine (“In Her Shoes”). They’ll be joined by Williams (from “Brokeback”), Scarlett Johansson (“Match Point”) and Rachel Weisz (“The Constant Gardener”).

Always controversial because of their rather mysterious membership and their curious past choices (most famously Pia Zadora as 1981’s “new star of the year”), the Globes will be presented Jan. 16 on NBC. That’s just in time to catch the attention of Oscar voters, who will announce their nominations Jan. 31.

Criticism of the Golden Globes has escalated in recent years, in part because studios are so open about wining and dining its members. Television ratings for the most recent Globes awards show dropped 40 per cent, and a scathing documentary, “The Golden Globes: Hollywood’s Dirty Little Secret,” has questioned the legitimacy of the organization.

This year, however, more attention has been paid to problems at the National Board of Review, which is usually the first organization to name its annual awards. It had to delay announcement of prizes when such directors as Bennett Miller (“Capote”) and James Mangold (“Walk the Line”) and performers as Catherine Keener (“Capote”) were omitted from a list of potential nominees.

After correcting the oversights, the Board yesterday named “Good Night, and Good Luck” best picture of 2005. “Brokeback Mountain” won two awards: best director (Ang Lee) and supporting actor (Jake Gyllenhaal). Also honored were Hoffman (best actor), Huffman (best actress) and Gong Li (best supporting actress for “Memoirs of a Geisha”). The Palestinian film “Paradise Now” was named best foreign film, and “March of the Penguins” was chosen best documentary.

Hoffman would appear to be a Globes and Oscar shoo-in for “Capote,” though the New York Critics passed him by yesterday to name Ledger best actor. For best actress, they picked Witherspoon; the supporting awards went to Bello and William Hurt, both from “A History of Violence.”

Perhaps the most obscure of the recent prize winners is Vera Farmiga, chosen best actress by the L.A. Film Critics for her work in the little-seen Sundance Film Festival entry, “Down to the Bone.” The L.A. group also picked Hoffman for best actor, Hurt for supporting actor and Catherine Keener for supporting actress in four films: “The Interpreter,” “The Ballad of Jack and Rose,” “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” and “Capote.”

Still to weigh in with their year-end awards are the National Society of Film Critics and the Oscar voters. The Academy Award will be presented March 5 — one day after the Independent Spirit awards are announced.