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'Social Network' leads night of obvious winners

Was Ricky Gervais funny on the Golden Globes?
Posted 7:42am on Monday, Jan. 17, 2011

The Hollywood Foreign Press Association hit the "Like" button repeatedly on The Social Network on Sunday night, giving the drama about the controversial founding of Facebook four awards, including best picture, best director (David Fincher), best screenplay (Aaron Sorkin) and best original score.

The film entered the evening as the heavy favorite; if the Golden Globes are any harbinger of the Oscars -- and they usually are -- we'll be seeing a lot of these victories repeated late next month.

Indeed, there was a strange air of deja vu, particularly if you've been paying attention to critics awards and blogosphere buzz. It was almost as if Globes voters were determined to make up for more than a few genuinely embarrassing nominees (paging Angelina Jolie, nominated for The Tourist) by sticking to a very conventional awards season playbook.

In the musical/comedy category, Lisa Cholodenko's charming The Kids Are All Right won the best picture prize. The film was really the only legitimate contender in that category, where such widely reviled titles like Burlesque and Alice in Wonderland were also in the running.

As was expected, the actress awards were split between Natalie Portman for Black Swan (in the drama category) and Annette Bening for The Kids Are All Right (in comedy/musical). Both proved utterly endearing in their acceptance speeches, especially Portman, who paid tribute to the film's ballet coach Benjamin Millepied, with whom she has since developed an off-screen relationship. This sets up what is sure to be the most heated race come Oscar night, though the early edge has to go to Portman, whose Black Swan has showed very impressive legs at the box office.

In one of the few categories where The Social Network didn't triumph, Colin Firth won best actor in a drama for his turn as a stuttering British monarch in The King's Speech. A journeyman character actor finally getting his turn in the spotlight, Firth is considered the long overdue favorite for the Oscar.

The only modest surprise of the evening was Paul Giamatti's victory over Johnny Depp (who was nominated for two different films) in the best actor in a comedy/musical category for the barely seen infidelity comedy Barney's Version. (It will open in North Texas on Feb. 11.)

Is it me or is this all starting to sound tiresome? We're barely three weeks into January, and already the film awards have taken on a been-there done-that quality. Melissa Leo, who was named best supporting actress for The Fighter, seemed to cite the same laundry list of thank-yous that she had cited a few days earlier when she won the Critic's Choice award for the same category. Christian Bale, who has won at least a dozen awards from critics groups thus far, picked up the best supporting actor prize for the same film. Watching these people thank the same sets of co-stars, agents, and producers makes for mostly tedious viewing.

It's an issue the Academy Awards' Board of Governors has struggled with in recent years: By the time the Oscars roll around (nominations will be announced Jan. 24, prizes will be handed out Feb. 27), the winners feel like old news. The Golden Globes are usually reliable for throwing a few curveballs into the mix (remember the year Madonna won best actress for Evita), but this year they didn't quite oblige.

Some charming moments emerged from the predictability: It was nice to see Emma Stone, so terrific in the vastly underappreciated comedy Easy A, enjoy her moment alongside far more famous performances in the best actress in a comedy category; and it was even nicer to see True Grit's Hailee Steinfeld -- inexplicably snubbed by the Hollywood Foreign Press -- take the high road and turn up to hand out the best animated film prize (Toy Story 3, yet another heavy favorite, won that one). Here's hoping Oscar voters give her some much-deserved recognition.

And if you're a foreign film geek, keep your eyes peeled for the Danish In a Better World, a superb melodrama that deservedly triumphed in the foreign language film category. It will open in the U.S. this spring.

Christopher Kelly, 817 390-7032

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