And this year the Golden Globes race looks to be as incongruous as ever. Heck, even Sean Penn has become friendly with The Hollywood Foreign Press Association this season.
For actors and filmmakers whose work falls in the comedic realm that the Oscars are well-known for ignoring, the Golden Globes is the best award show in town.
It's the one night where Johnny Depp can actually win a best-actor award for "Pirates of the Caribbean." And where "Dreamgirls" and Bill Murray and Sacha Baron Cohen can take home top prizes.
With double the number of nominees in three significant categories, courtesy of the best picture, best actor and best actress awards being split into dramatic and musical or comedy divisions, the Globes open the field to a slew of contenders who know they probably won't be getting prime seats for that more sedate late-February shindig at the Kodak Theater.
With this year's nominations, due to be announced on December 13, the 65th Golden Globes are shaping up to be unusually crowded in the "Best Picture, Musical or Comedy" field, a category that has seen such dubious recent nominees as "The Producers" and "The Phantom of the Opera."
"There have been years recently when that category was really dull, and we were choosing between a poor batch of films," according to Mike Goodridge, a British journalist who serves as vice president of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which bestows the Globes.
"But it's very full this year," Goodridge added. "Obviously you have the two big musicals in 'Sweeney Todd' and 'Hairspray,' and then some great comedies as well. Which is curious, because everybody's been saying this is the year of the dark dramas."
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Exactly which films make the cut is up to the likes, dislikes and whims of the 82 voting members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.
No longer regularly hit with the charge that they can be wined, dined and flattered for votes (the way they were when they gave Globes to the likes of Pia Zadora), they can still be a strange, unpredictable lot, who often as not see films together and form opinions during exclusive Q&A sessions with the filmmakers.
According to several Oscar consultants who keep tabs on the members' likes and dislikes (but don't want to antagonize the group by being named), this year's HFPA favorites on the musical/comedy front include "Hairspray," "Juno " and "The Savages."
The first two films are considered near locks for nominations, with "The Savages" fighting it out with a diverse list that includes big hits ("Knocked Up"), small critical favorites ("Once") and even director Julie Taymor's audacious Beatles musical "Across the Universe" which garnered wildly mixed reviews.
"I do know members who loved 'Across the Universe,'" Goodridge said. "But I'm always amazed by what people think they can predict."
Even Goodridge, though, predicts that Tim Burton's "Sweeney Todd" will have a strong presence in the category, assuming it lives up to the advance hype once the HFPA actually sees it.
Also on the unseen list are "Charlie Wilson's War" (which was submitted by Universal as a drama but could conceivably be deemed a comedy by the HFPA classification committee), "The Bucket List," "The Great Debaters," "I Am Legend" ("There's been some talk about Will Smith's performance," Goodridge said)."
Outside the musical/comedy category, this year's awards offer intrigue in several other areas.
It's rare, given the ten slots for best-picture nominees, to find a Golden Globes best-director nominee whose film hasn't also received a nod.
However, one consultant -- without a horse in this particular race -- thinks that might well happen this year, and possibly more than once.
The contenders: Sean Penn, who has worked hard to support "Into the Wild" but may have turned off a few voters in the process ("For years he's completely avoided us," says one longtime European member, "and now he's suddenly everybody's best friend").
Also in the mix are veteran director Sidney Lumet, who reportedly held an extremely well-received Q&A session after a HFPA screening of "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead;" and Julian Schnabel, whose "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" is in French and is therefore eligible for best foreign-language film rather than best picture, drama.
Schnabel's film, by most reports an absolute favorite among Globe voters, finds itself in another extremely crowded category, and one that is undergoing changes after this year's Globes.
While the Oscars accept one film per country, and require the film's creative team to be from that country, the Globes have long welcomed into their foreign-language category any film whose dialogue is 51 percent in a language other than English.
This year, that means "The Diving Bell," shot in French by an American director, will be eligible; so will "The Kite Runner," which boasts a German-born, Swiss-raised, Los Angeles-based director (Marc Forster), an international cast and dialogue in English, Pashtu, Urdu, Dari and Russian.
Neither of those likely nominees is eligible for the foreign-film Oscar, and neither is another probably Globe nominee, Ang Lee's "Lust, Caution."
But if the films had been released next year, "The Diving Bell" and "The Kite Runner" would likely be in a different category at the Globes, too; 2007 is the final year that American-made foreign-language films will be considered in the foreign-language category.
"We like the fact that we're far less stringent than the Academy Awards, and we're not limited to one film per country," says Goodrich. "But I think we knew we had to make a rule change last year, when you had 'Letters from Iwo Jima' and 'Apocalypto' nominated."
"It just seemed incongruous to have genuine foreign films going up against something like 'Letters from Iwo Jima,' which was shot in Barstow and backed by Warner Bros."
Incongruous? Sure. Curious? Of course.
Welcome to the Golden Globes.