When Harvey Weinstein phoned his brother and business partner, Bob, from this year's Cannes Film Festival and announced that he had just spent "a lot of millions" acquiring a silent, black-and-white movie by a little-known French director, he is said to have received a two-word response: "You're mad!"
Yesterday, things looked different. Amid stellar reviews and rapidly-growing box office takings, The Artist was nominated for no less than six Golden Globe awards. The Frenchman, Michel Hazanavicius, found himself alongside Martin Scorsese, Woody Allen, and George Clooney on the shortlist for Best Director.
In the era of 3D, effects-laden blockbusters and $200m budgets, the self-consciously old-fashioned title, which cost $15m (£10m) to make, becomes odds-on favourite to win Best Comedy or Musical at the 15 January event in Los Angeles, which is regarded as a curtain-raiser for Oscar season.
Jean Dujardin, who plays a 1920s silent film actor threatened by the rise of "talkies", will compete with the likes of Ryan Gosling and Owen Wilson for a Best Actor award. He described the news as "an incredible gift", adding: "I am literally speechless."
His co-star, Berenice Bejo, will contest Best Supporting Actress.
It has been a tricky year for Hollywood, which is suffering falling revenues, rising costs and critical apathy towards many major titles. To that end, it was perhaps inevitable that Globes voters would have to cast their minds back to the summer for this year's other big winner: the movie adaptation of Kathryn Stockett's civil rights-era novel The Help. It tied for five nominations with The Descendants, a family drama starring George Clooney, who is nominated for Best Actor in a Drama for his performance. Ironically, the film will compete with The Ides of March, a political thriller written and directed by Clooney, for Best Drama.
Other strong showings came from Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris, and Moneyball, the adaptation of Michael Lewis's book. Along with The Ides of March, they each scored four nominations.
Martin Scorsese's film Hugo was shortlisted in three categories, while his television series Boardwalk Empire got three, including one for the Scottish actress, Trainspotting star Kelly MacDonald. It was an underwhelming day for United Kingdom talent. While the smash hit, Downton Abbey, was nominated for Best Mini-series – its stars Maggie Smith and Hugh Bonneville also got nods – and Kate Winslet is in the mix for the TV series Mildred Pierce, not one British title is in the major film categories.
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