Golden Globes nominations launch Oscars race

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The Independent Culture

The field of contenders for the race to the Oscars takes shape here Tuesday as nominees for the 67th Golden Globes are revealed, offering vital clues to which films may strike awards season gold.

The Golden Globes, organized and chosen by members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA), take place in Beverly Hills on January 17 and are often viewed as a key indicator in the battle for honors at the Oscars.

Although 67.4 percent of films which won best picture at the Academy Awards also won a Golden Globe, in recent years the awards have proved an unreliable barometer of Oscar winners.

Rags-to-riches drama "Slumdog Millionaire" is the only film in the past five years to have followed up a best picture statuette at the Golden Globes with victory at the Oscars.

Critics of the Golden Globes have also questioned the relevance of the 85-strong HFPA, saying that the organization's small size makes it more susceptible to influence by studios and publicists.

But HFPA president Philip Berk dismissed the criticisms of the awards as he prepares to join celebrities including Justin Timberlake and John Krasinski for Tuesday's nomination announcement set for 5:00 am local time.

"We have heard these petty criticisms before," Berk said. "They are motivated by pure envy. We've been around 67 years and I don't think we need to justify ourselves."

So far this year, no one film has emerged as a clear awards season contender, although comedy "Up In the Air", starring George Clooney as a lonely corporate down-sizer who begins to question his life, received a boost earlier this month after being named best film by the National Board of Review.

The film also grabbed a share of the best actor prize for Clooney, with veteran Morgan Freeman also winning for his portrayal of former South Africa President Nelson Mandela in Clint Eastwood's "Invictus."

"Invictus," - based on journalist John Carlin's book "Playing the Enemy" - tells the story of how Mandela used the 1995 Rugby World Cup staged in South Africa to help unify the country in the early post-apartheid years.

Unlike the Oscars, the Golden Globes have two categories for best picture - one for musicals and comedies, the other for dramas.

Other leading contenders for best drama include the Iraq War movie "The Hurt Locker," director Kathryn Bigelow's gripping drama about a maverick army bomb disposal expert, and Quentin Tarantino's schlocky World War II revenge fantasy "Inglourious Basterds."

"Up In the Air" is expected to feature in the musical and comedy contenders, where it is likely to face stiff competition from "Julie & Julia," starring Meryl Streep as trail-blazing television chef Julia Child.

However the favorite may turn out to be "Nine", director Rob Marshall's star-studded musical about an Italian film director played by Daniel Day-Lewis struggling to balance the demands of his wife (Marion Cotillard) and mistress (Penelope Cruz). The film's cast also includes luminaries such as Nicole Kidman, Judi Dench, and Kate Hudson.

Other films expected to pick up nominations on Tuesday include Pixar's latest delightful animated offering "Up."

One possible dark horse is James Cameron's big-budget fantasy blockbuster "Avatar", which has yet to be released in the United States but has generated strong early reviews following its world premiere in London last week.

Critics have described the latest film from the Oscar-winning director of 1997 blockbuster "Titanic" as a new milestone in movie-making, with the Hollywood Reporter hailing it as "titanic entertainment."

What was the most memorable arts event of 2009? In the comments form below (or via email to nominate your favourite - in film, music, theatre, comedy, dance or visual arts - with a brief explanation as to why it tops your list and we'll print a selection in The Independent Readers' Review of 2009.