Kate's blonde ambition

Winslet could finally be a winner at tonight's Golden Globes, but are her 'downbeat' roles what America wants to see? Guy Adams reports from Los Angeles

Is this Kate Winslet's year? The actress has received five Oscar nominations and five Golden Globe nominations to date, but never won. In a pincer movement that might see her break her duck, she is up for awards in two separate categories at tonight's Globes ceremony.

She is the lead actress in both the fifties US suburbs tragi-drama Revolutionary Road, directed by her husband Sam Mendes, and Stephen Daldry's Nazi-themed The Reader. To double her chances of success, she is nominated in the best supporting role for the latter.

The question is: will judges steer clear of celebrating such downbeat films, when the cinema-goers and TV audiences show signs of rejecting what they see as "worthy" themes?

Audiences have been turned off by the awards' tendency to ignore commercial hits. The biggest Oscar-viewing figures in recent times came in 1998, when 55 million saw Titanic sweep the board. Just 38 million tuned in three years ago, when Paul Haggis's Crash won Best Picture.

Declining TV audiences and a new appetite for austerity have left the film industry wondering if it can continue to subsidise the two-month festival of champagne-fuelled backslapping that constitutes its annual awards season. Last year's Oscar ceremony had the worst TV ratings in its history, with just 32 million viewers. The Golden Globes managed an audience of just four and a half million, less than a third of its usual level.

The Globes last broke the 15 million viewer mark in 2004. The Oscars, which in their 1980s prime would regularly boast a 70 or even 80 per cent viewer share, have been at half that level for each of the past four years.

The organisers of tonight's Globes are attempting to buck the trend. More than 30 A-listers have been booked to present gongs, including Martin Scorsese, Drew Barrymore, Salma Hayek and Jennifer Lopez. Nominees include Brad Pitt, Anne Hathaway and Clint Eastwood. "This year is going to be spectacular," says Tom O'Neil, an awards pundit for the Los Angeles Times. "The star power is almost unprecedented. You've got both halves of Brangelina, Kate Winslet, Leo, Tom Cruise, and almost anyone you care to name. There's just this incredible wattage."

Because they have separate categories for drama and comedy films, the Globes can also shortlist commercial (if not critical) hits such as Mamma Mia! and In Bruges in some categories. One critical and commercial success might well get a nod: the late Heath Ledger is at odds of 12/1 on to win the best supporting actor award for his role in The Dark Knight.

Winslet, meanwhile, may find that her double nomination doesn't mean better odds: bookmakers make Hathaway the favourite in the prestigious "best actress in a drama" category.

Globe hopefuls: British talent tipped to triumph – yet again

It's difficult to remember a recent Hollywood awards that hasn't prompted headline writers to dust down that old quote to the effect that "the British are coming". Tonight is no different. Of the 25 Golden Globes to be handed out, Britain can claim to have performers, directors or others shortlisted in no fewer than 15 categories.

Top billing goes to 'Slumdog Millionaire', Danny Boyle's feel-good masterpiece about India, which has been nominated in four categories, including Best Drama Film, and is riding a growing wave of expectation towards next month's Oscars. Another British title in the running for Best Drama Film is 'Frost/Nixon', a Working Title adaptation of the Peter Morgan play.

In the Best Comedy department, two of the five shortlisted movies – Working Title's 'Burn After Reading' and 'In Bruges', starring Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson – have a home pedigree. Emma Thompson, Ralph Fiennes and Hugh Laurie may add to their collection of major awards across a variety of disciplines, while Dames Judi Dench and Eileen Atkins may also cement their standing as the queens of costume drama for the BBC TV series 'Cranford'.

If director Stephen Daldry and writer David Hare also clean up for 'The Reader', pundits may start scratching their heads and wondering how Hollywood, rather than London, can still claim to be home to the world's most profitable film industry.