Confused list tells of Hollywood's strange year

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The Independent Culture

This was always going to be an odd year for film awards. For a long time, there barely seemed to be enough worthy films to hand out prizes at all.

And besides, ever since 11 September, nobody was in the mood to celebrate.

Just how odd the cinematic year has been became clear yesterday when nominees were announced for the Golden Globes. This curious but closely followed precursor of the Oscars is decided by the few dozen freelancers and part-timers of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.

The nominations were spread more thinly than butter at a dieters' convention, over a dizzying array of films and artists – The Lord of the Rings, Moulin Rouge and Bridget Jones's Diary; David Lynch, Robert Altman and the Coen brothers.

The two leading contenders, in terms of number of mentions, were Moulin Rouge and A Beautiful Mind, the latter a Russell Crowe vehicle about, of all things, a mathematician. To call them favourites would be rash indeed.

Just about the only certainty was the extraordinarily thick presence of British acting and writing talent among the nominees, a feature likely to be maintained through the awards season, right up to Oscar night on 24 March. Judi Dench (Iris) and Tilda Swinton (The Deep End) are up for best actress; Ewan McGregor (Moulin Rouge) for best actor; Helen Mirren (Gosford Park), Maggie Smith (ditto) and Kate Winslet (Iris) for best supporting actress, and Jim Broadbent (Iris), Ben Kingsley (Sexy Beast) and Jude Law (AI) for best supporting actor.

Screenwriting honours were in the offing for Julian Fellowes (Gosford Park) and for Christopher Nolan for Memento, which he also directed.

The Golden Globes are usually touted as an early indicator of the Oscars, but what the Academy voters could take away from yesterday's list other than total confusion is difficult to see.

David Lynch's self-indulgent dream of Hollywood follies, Mulholland Drive, is pretty much the definition of a film the Academy is sure to hate, with its surreal, deliberately incoherent plot and hot lesbian sex. Likewise, Robert Altman is about as popular with the film establishment as warts, and it's hard to see how his British costume drama Gosford Park – with its unconventional narrative and refusal to obey the rules of the murder mystery genre – will persuade the Hollywood stalwarts otherwise.

Not only the Golden Globes seem confused. Early awards by critics in the United States have variously given the best film gong to Moulin Rouge (the National Board of Review), Mulholland Drive (New York critics) and an intimate, much-praised family drama called In the Bedroom (Los Angeles critics). None seems obvious Oscar material.

The usual end-of-year orgy of movie assessments has been considerably dampened this year by the terror attacks and the war in Afghanistan, which have also depressed the movie industry. For a while the feeling was that awards ceremonies were seriously going out of fashion, as much because of security concerns as any questions of taste.

The Emmys, the American television awards, have had to be postponed twice and were very thinly attended when they finally went ahead. Security worries almost scuppered plans for the Oscars' new home, the just-completed Kodak Theatre in the heart of Hollywood. And as for parties, nobody is so much as mentioning them.

The main nominees

Picture, Drama: A Beautiful Mind; In the Bedroom; The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring; The Man Who Wasn't There; Mulholland Drive.

Actress, Drama: Halle Berry, Monster's Ball; Judi Dench, Iris; Nicole Kidman, The Others; Sissy Spacek, In the Bedroom; Tilda Swinton, The Deep End.

Actor, Drama: Russell Crowe, A Beautiful Mind; Will Smith, Ali; Kevin Spacey, The Shipping News; Billy Bob Thornton, The Man Who Wasn't There; Denzel Washington, Training Day.

Picture, Musical or Comedy: Bridget Jones's Diary; Gosford Park; Legally Blonde; Moulin Rouge; Shrek.

Actress, Musical or Comedy: Thora Birch, Ghost World; Cate Blanchett, Bandits; Nicole Kidman, Moulin Rouge; Reese Witherspoon, Legally Blonde; Renée Zellweger, Bridget Jones's Diary.

Actor, Musical or Comedy: Gene Hackman, The Royal Tenenbaums; Hugh Jackman, Kate & Leopold; Ewan McGregor, Moulin Rouge; John Cameron Mitchell, Hedwig and the Angry Inch; Billy Bob Thornton, Bandits.

Supporting Actress: Jennifer Connelly, A Beautiful Mind; Cameron Diaz, Vanilla Sky; Helen Mirren, Gosford Park; Maggie Smith, Gosford Park; Marisa Tomei, In the Bedroom; Kate Winslet, Iris.

Supporting Actor: Jim Broadbent, Iris; Steve Buscemi, Ghost World; Hayden Christensen, Life as a House; Ben Kingsley, Sexy Beast; Jude Law, AI Artificial Intelligence; Jon Voight, Ali.

Director: Robert Altman, Gosford Park; Ron Howard, A Beautiful Mind; Peter Jackson, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring; Baz Luhrmann, Moulin Rouge; David Lynch, Mulholland Drive; Steven Spielberg, AI Artificial Intelligence.

Screenplay: Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, The Man Who Wasn't There; Julian Fellowes, Gosford Park; Akiva Goldsman, A Beautiful Mind; David Lynch, Mulholland Drive; Christopher Nolan, Memento.