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    Gauging the Globes

    Thirty English-language films received Golden Globe nominations Thursday. More importantly, award-watchers say, 30 films stayed in a wide-open Oscar race.

    To David Poland, editor of MovieCityNews.com, this means the biggest winner off the Globe announcements is Variety editor Peter Bart. His Hollywood trade magazine, Poland says, "will be fat with ads until the Academy says nope or yes."

    Oscar historian Damien Bona says hope springs eternal this award-show season for the likes of In America ("not out of the running" with two Globe nominations in lesser categories) and Seabiscuit ("still a contender" even with just one Globe nod, albeit one for Best Drama).

    Even House of Sand and Fog, DreamWorks' great Oscar hope, shut out at the Globes but for Ben Kingsley's Best Dramatic Actor nomination, "has a shot," Poland says. (Provided, of course, the studio decides it does, and funds the ad campaign accordingly.)

    Last year, 28 films received Globe nominations from the Hollywood Foreign Press. But three of those movies--800-pound gorillas Chicago, The Hours and Adaptation--hogged 75 percent of the glory.

    For the 61st Annual Globe Globes, the top three nominated films--Cold Mountain, Mystic River and Lost in Translation--account for just 60 percent of the nods.

    "They spread it out more than they usually do," Poland says. "It keeps everybody in play."

    Among those happy to be in the game (at least until Oscar nominations come out January 27): Tim Burton's Big Fish, which has been all but ignored in the early critics awards. The tall-tale-telling fantasy received four Globe nominations, including ones for Best Musical/Comedy and Supporting Actor hopeful Albert Finney. In a statement, Burton said he was "thrilled that our film is such great company."

    "Thrilled" was the word of the day Thursday. Sting was "thrilled" by his nod for the Cold Mountain song, "You Will Be My Ain True Love." Lord of the Rings master Peter Jackson was "thrilled and honored" to be a Best Director nominee for The Return of the King.

    "Delighted" was the other word. Cold Mountain's Jude Law was "delighted" with his best drama actor nomination, just as his director, Anthony Minghella, was "delighted" with his film's leading eight nods. For the record, Jackson was "delighted," too.

    To Bona, author of the Inside Oscar 2, Jackson has good reason for his good mood. For all the wide-openness of the field, one which Bona generally finds weak, there are still front-runners, and perhaps none more out in front than Lord of the Rings: Return of the King for Best Picture. At the Oscars. Not necessarily the Globes.

    "It seems like the foreign press just doesn't get Lord of the Rings," Bona says.

    Return of the King is up for four Globes, including Best Drama and Best Director. But, as with the trilogy's first two films, the epic failed to land any of its stars--Sean Astin, Ian McKellen and Viggo Mortensen have all received the promotional push--in the high-profile acting categories. Still, says Bona, "I wouldn't be too worried if I were New Line." (Word was, the studio wasn't--not with a $34.1 million opening-day take on Wednesday.)

    Meanwhile, Internet oddsmakers BetWWTS.com immediately established the line for the Globes race, with Return of the King the early favorite for Best Drama.

    If the Globes can't impede Return of the King's expected Oscar coronation, perhaps that's because the Globes results won't figure at all into this season's Oscar voting.

    Because of the newly compressed award-show timetable, the Academy's nomination polls will close on January 17--eight days before the Globes are presented in a live NBC telecast. In past years, Academy voting on nominees extended into February.

    All that matters then for the 30 Globe-nominated films, either confident or clinging to hope that the foreign press' regard will translate into Oscar regalia, is the next month.

    Says Poland: "A lot can happen."

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