Cowboy film leads as Globes show independent style

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The cowboy romance "Brokeback Mountain" led Golden Globe contenders today with seven nominations, among them best dramatic picture, honours for actors Heath Ledger and Michelle Williams plus director Ang Lee.

Other best drama picture contenders were the murder thriller "The Constant Gardener," the Edward R. Murrow tale "Good Night, and Good Luck," the mobster story "A History of Violence," and the infidelity drama "Match Point."

The Globes were a triumph for smaller budgeted films over big studio productions.

"This is the first time in the history of the Golden Globes that all of the best (dramatic) film nominees are independent movies made for under $30 million (£25 million)," said Philip Berk, president of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.

The Globes have a separate category for musical or comedy films. Nominated there were the theater tale "Mrs. Henderson Presents," the Jane Austen costume pageant "Pride & Prejudice," the Broadway musical "The Producers," the divorce story "The Squid and the Whale," and the Johnny Cash film biography "Walk the Line."

The Globes were the latest recognition for "Brokeback Mountain," a critical darling that has received top honors from critics groups in New York City, Los Angeles and Boston.

Along with Ledger, who plays a family man concealing a homosexual affair from his family, best dramatic actor nominees included three actors playing real-life figures: Russell Crowe as Depression-era boxer Jim Braddock in "Cinderella Man," Philip Seymour Hoffman as author Truman Capote in "Capote," and David Strathairn as newsman Murrow in "Good Night, and Good Luck." The fifth nominee was Terrence Howard as a small-time pimp-turned-rap singer in "Hustle & Flow."

"Good Night, and Good Luck" was tied for second-most film nominations with four, along with "Match Point" and "The Producers." The Murrow tale earned a best-director nomination for George Clooney, who also had a supporting actor movie nomination for the oil industry thriller "Syriana."

Felicity Huffman received two nominations, best dramatic actress in a film for her role as a man preparing for sex-change surgery in "Transamerica" and best actress in a TV musical or comedy for "Desperate Housewives." Her "Desperate Housewives" co-stars Marcia Cross, Teri Hatcher and Eva Longoria also were nominated.

Other best dramatic film actress nominees were Maria Bello as a wife learning painful secrets about her husband in "A History of Violence," Gwyneth Paltrow as an unstable math genius' daughter in "Proof," Charlize Theron as a woman leading a sexual harassment lawsuit in "North Country" and Ziyi Zhang as a poor girl who becomes the belle of Japan's geisha houses in "Memoirs of a Geisha."

Based on a short story by Annie Proulx, "Brokeback Mountain" grabbed a supporting actress nomination for Williams as Ledger's wife, who chooses to ignore his affair with a man (Jake Gyllenhaal) to hold her family together. The movie also scored a directing nomination for Lee and received nominations for best screenplay, score and song.

For best actor in a movie, musical or comedy, Globe voters nominated Pierce Brosnan as a burned-out hit man in "The Matador," Jeff Daniels as a husband unglued by divorce in "The Squid and the Whale," Johnny Depp as candyman Willy Wonka in "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," Nathan Lane as a Broadway con man in "The Producers," Cillian Murphy as a cross-dressing Irishman in "Breakfast on Pluto," and Joaquin Phoenix as country legend Cash in "Walk the Line."

Best musical or comedy film actress nominees were Judi Dench as a 1930s British dame who opens a nude theatrical review in "Mrs. Henderson Presents," Keira Knightley as the romantic heroine in "Pride & Prejudice," Laura Linney as a divorcing wife in "The Squid and the Whale," Sarah Jessica Parker as a woman hated by her fiancee's relations in "The Family Stone," and Reese Witherspoon as country singer June Carter in "Walk the Line."

Besides Lee and Clooney, the directing contenders were Woody Allen for "Match Point," Peter Jackson for "King Kong," Fernando Meirelles for "The Constant Gardener," and Steven Spielberg for "Munich."

In addition to Clooney, supporting movie actor nominees were Matt Dillon for "Crash," Will Ferrell for "The Producers," Paul Giamatti for "Cinderella Man," and Bob Hoskins for "Mrs. Henderson Presents."

Supporting actress nominees were Scarlett Johansson for "Match Point," Shirley MacLaine for "In Her Shoes," Frances McDormand for "North Country," Rachel Weisz for "The Constant Gardener," and Williams for "Brokeback Mountain."

Two years ago, the Golden Globes correctly predicted Oscar winners in all key categories, including best-picture champ "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" and actors Sean Penn, Charlize Theron, Tim Robbins and Renee Zellweger.

Yet a year ago, the Globes missed the mark, picking "The Aviator" as best picture, an honor that went to "Million Dollar Baby" at the Oscars. Jamie Foxx and Hilary Swank won lead-acting Globes and went on to earn Oscars, but Globe voters chose Clive Owen and Natalie Portman of "Closer" for the supporting-actor honors, which were won at the Oscars by Morgan Freeman for "Million Dollar Baby" and Cate Blanchett for "The Aviator."

The Globes are handed out by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, a relatively small group of about 90 reporters for overseas news outlets. Yet with a nationally televised awards ceremony on NBC and a historically solid knack for picking eventual Academy Award winners, the Globes wield a fair amount of sway among the 5,800 Oscar voters.

Winners of the Golden Globes will be announced on 16 January, five days before polls close for Oscar voters. Oscar nominations come out on 31 January, and the awards will be presented on 5 March.

The Globes feature 13 categories for film and 11 for television. Unlike other major movie awards, the Globes have separate divisions for dramas and comedies or musicals in the best-picture and lead-acting categories.

Anthony Hopkins will receive the group's Cecil B. DeMille Award for lifetime achievement.