Some folks find him smugly obnoxious. Others think he’s aggressively offensive. But never mind: The folks who make decisions for the Hollywood Foreign Press Association just can’t quit Ricky Gervais. And that’s why, despite all the hue and cry that ensued after (and even during) his outrageous antics at last year’s show, the gleefully acerbic Brit humorist will be back for his third consecutive hosting gig Sunday evening when NBC airs the 69th annual Golden Globe Awards extravaganza.
Robert Downey Jr., consider yourself warned.
Let the critics be damned: Gervais’ naughty-boy behavior makes him the perfect master of ceremonies for an awards show that has long been notable for the freewheeling ad libs and wisecracks of presenters and receivers obviously under the influence of excessive libation. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences may pride itself on honoring cinema as, well, art and science during its annual Oscarcast. But for members of the HFPA, their annual shindig seems more like an opportunity to party hearty.
Let the critics be damned: Gervais’ naughty-boy behavior makes him the perfect master of ceremonies for an awards show that has long been notable for the freewheeling ad libs and wisecracks of presenters and receivers obviously under the influence of excessive libation.
And, yes, to suck up to the stars.
HFPA voters are justly notorious for their unbridled eagerness to nominate A-list celebrities in every conceivable category, in the hope of assembling a galaxy of superstars for each year’s Golden Globes telecast. The stars co-operate, of course, mostly to gain and sustain abundant and worshipful press coverage – and, perhaps, generate Oscar momentum – but also to see and be seen while enjoying the party.
And if the host of that party makes the occasional rude remark – well, then the celebrity targeted by Gervais has an opportunity to look like a terrifically good sport by laughing at the comic’s jibes. (Unless, of course, you’re Robert Downey Jr.)
This year, it looks like many of the Golden Globes will go to The Artist, the immensely popular but conspicuously non-star-studded comedy about a silent movie luminary who makes an uneasy transition to talking pictures. But you can rest assured that several other prizes will go to the sort of high-profile movies and movie stars guaranteed to attract the maximum number of TV viewers.
What follows are my predictions of who and what will win the Golden Globes for motion pictures. (Yes, I know: HFPA members also recognize television shows as well. But they didn’t nominate Justified in any category, so, really, who gives a damn about those awards?) Please keep in mind that these are indeed predictions, not necessarily selections. (My own picks for the best movies of 2011 can be found here.)
And if you are affronted by Ricky Gervais’ trademark snark at any point during Sunday evening’s Golden Globes show (Sunday 7 p.m., NBC) consider what the gentleman himself had to say in a recent essay for Entertainment Weekly:
“Several of my jokes at last year’s Golden Globes were deemed offensive by some. That’s fine. Everyone has the right to be offended. And I have the right to offend. The simple fact is, offense is taken, not given. It’s up to you if you’re offended or not. And remember, just because you’re offended, it doesn’t mean you’re right. Some people are offended by equality, mixed marriage, and homosexuality, for example. Who cares?”
Best Motion Picture, Drama
Nominees: The Descendants; The Help; Hugo; The Ides of March; Moneyball; War Horse.
Likely winner: The Descendants.
Reason: Never underestimate the appeal of George Clooney’s star power. Especially when he’s giving one of his all-time best performances in one of the year’s very best movies.
Best Actor in a Motion Picture, Drama
Nominees: George Clooney, The Descendants; Leonardo DiCaprio, J. Edgar; Michael Fassbender, Shame; Ryan Gosling, The Ides of March; Brad Pitt, Moneyball.
Likely winner: George Clooney.
Reason: See Best Motion Picture, Drama.
Best Actress in a Motion Picture, Drama
Nominees: Glenn Close, Albert Nobbs; Viola Davis, The Help; Rooney Mara, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo; Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady; Tilda Swinton, We Need to Talk About Kevin.
Likely winner: Meryl Streep
Reason: She’s Meryl Freakin’ Streep.
Best Motion Picture, Comedy or Musical
Nominees: 50/50; The Artist; Bridesmaids; Midnight in Paris; My Week With Marilyn.
Likely winner: The Artist.
Reason: The Artist is like The Borg — resistance is futile.
Best Actor in a Motion Picture, Comedy or Musical
Nominees: Jean Dujardin, The Artist; Brendan Gleeson, The Guard; Joseph Gordon-Levitt, 50/50; Ryan Gosling, Crazy, Stupid, Love; Owen Wilson, Midnight in Paris.
Likely winner: Jean Dujardin.
Reason: See Best Motion Picture, Comedy or Musical.
Best Actress in a Motion Picture, Comedy or Musical
Likely winner: Michelle Williams.
Reason: My heart tells me Charlize Theron – who gave the most flat-out fearless performance by any nominee in any category this year – but my head tells me Williams is the prohibitive odds-on favorite.
Best Animated Feature Film
Nominees: The Adventures of Tintin; Arthur Christmas; Cars 2; Puss in Boots; Rango.
Likely winner: The Adventures of Tintin.
Reason: It’s directed by Steven Spielberg and, perhaps more important, the source material remains immensely popular overseas. (This is the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, remember?)
Best Foreign Language Film
Nominees: The Flowers of War; In the Land of Blood and Honey; The Kid With a Bike; A Separation; The Skin I Live In.
Likely Winner: In the Land of Blood and Honey.
Reason: Go ahead, admit it – just like the HFPA members, you, too, want to see Angelina Jolie slink onto the stage and pick up the prize for her directorial debut.
Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture
Nominees: Kenneth Branagh, My Week With Marilyn; Albert Brooks, Drive; Jonah Hill, Moneyball; Viggo Mortensen, A Dangerous Method; Christopher Plummer, Beginners.
Likely winner: Christopher Plummer.
Reason: Plummer is a living legend — no, seriously —and HFPA voters can be just as sentimental as members of the Motion Picture Academy. It doesn’t hurt that the guy has received near-unanimous raves for his performance.
Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture
Nominees: Berenice Bejo, The Artist; Jessica Chastain, The Help; Janet McTeer, Albert Nobbs; Octavia Spencer, The Help; Shailene Woodley, The Descendants.
Likely winner: Berenice Bejo.
Reason: See Best Motion Picture, Comedy or Musical.
Best Director - Motion Picture
Nominees: Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris; George Clooney, The Ides of March; Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist; Alexander Payne, The Descendants; Martin Scorsese, Hugo.
Likely winner: Michel Hazanavicius.
Reason: I would be overjoyed if Scorsese or Payne claimed the prize, and pleasantly surprised if Allen or Clooney won. (Actually, I strongly suspect Allen would be the winner if HFPA members thought he’d show up for the awards telecast.) But… well… see Best Motion Picture, Comedy or Musical.
Best Screenplay - Motion Picture
Nominees: Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris; George Clooney, Grant Heslov and Beau Willimon, The Ides of March; Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist; Nat Faxon, Alexander Payne and Jim Rash, The Descendants; Stan Chervin, Aaron Sorkin, Steven Zaillian, Moneyball.
Likely winner: Midnight in Paris.
Reason: I’m predicting a razor-thin win over The Borg… er, I mean, The Artist… if only because Allen’s richly amusing and cleverly inventive script is at heart an American’s mash note to the French capital. (Again: This is the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.)
Best Original Score - Motion Picture
Nominees: Ludovic Bource, The Artist; Abel Korzeniowski, W.E.; Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Howard Shore, Hugo; John Williams, War Horse.
Likely winner: John Williams.
Reason: Irresistible force (brazenly manipulative War Horse musical score) trumps immovable object (The Artist).
Best Original Song - Motion Picture
Nominees: “Hello Hello,” Gnomeo and Juliet; “The Keeper,” Machine Gun Preacher; “Lay Your Head Down,” Albert Nobbs; “The Living Proof,” The Help; “Masterpiece,” W.E.
Likely winner: “Masterpiece,” W.E.
Reason: You don’t seriously believe the HFPA members will pass up a chance to get Madonna on stage, do you?