Colin Firth quaking before a radio microphone. Jesse Eisenberg keeping friends in touch online.
The top prize at Sunday’s Golden Globes sets old media against new media as the 1930s-era British monarchy saga “The King’s Speech” and the up-to-the-minute Facebook drama “The Social Network” square off as front-runners.
“The King’s Speech” leads with seven Globe nominations, including best drama and dramatic actor for Firth as Queen Elizabeth II’s dad, George VI — who takes the throne at the worst-possible time for a guy with a stammer, as that newfangled thing called radio forces heads of state to become mass communicators.
Firth’s competition includes Eisenberg as Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg in “The Social Network,” which is tied with the Mark Wahlberg’s boxing drama “The Fighter” for second with six Globe nominations. The film, which has dominated awards from key critics groups, chronicles Facebook’s runaway success and Zuckerberg’s legal conflicts as former friends and associates sue over the proceeds.
“It’s just this incredible story about betrayal and power and greed and friendship,” said co-star Andrew Garfield, a supporting-actor nominee as the best pal and Facebook co-founder that Zuckerberg casts aside as the Web site’s riches pile up.
Along with “The Fighter,” '‘The King’s Speech” and “The Social Network,” best-drama nominees are Natalie Portman’s psychosexual thriller “Black Swan” and Leonardo DiCaprio’s sci-fi blockbuster “Inception.”
The Globes also have a best-picture prize for musical or comedy. Nominees include the Lewis Carroll update “Alice in Wonderland” and the romantic thriller “The Tourist,” each starring Johnny Depp, who earned best-actor nominations in the category for both films.
Other nominees for best musical or comedy are Christina Aguilera’s song-and-dance extravaganza “Burlesque,” Annette Bening and Julianne Moore’s lesbian-family tale “The Kids Are All Right” and Bruce Willis’ action caper “Red.”
Conspicuously missing at this year’s Globes ceremony are any nominations at all for one of the season’s major critical and commercial hits — the Coen Brothers’ reboot of the Western classic “True Grit.” But stars Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon and Hailee Steinfeld will be presenters.
Essentially a pre-party before Hollywood’s main event — Feb. 27’s Academy Awards — the Globes are a loose, boozy cousin to the stately Oscars. While Oscar organizers have been trying to liven up their ceremony from its traditional procession of stars and teary acceptance speeches, the Globes offer television audiences a peak at Hollywood letting its hair down as celebrities share a meal and plenty of drinks.
Winners occasionally have been caught in the bathroom when their names were announced, and Jack Nicholson once bent over to moon the crowd at the Globes.
“This is a party where you get drunk. It’s a little more relaxed than the other ones and you celebrate with your team,” said Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, director of foreign-film nominee “Biutiful,” whose 2006 film “Babel” won the Globe for best drama.
Ricky Gervais returns as Globes host for the second-straight year, saying he wants to make amends because “I don’t think I went far enough” last time.
“Obviously not, because they invited me back,” Gervais said. “So, I’m going to do it again, do a proper job. And I guarantee they will not invite me back.”
Presented by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, a group of about 85 entertainment reporters for overseas outlets, the Globes have been, for most of their nearly 70-year history, a solid forecast for how the Oscars might play out.
But in recent times, the two shows have diverged. Only once in the last six years has the winner of one of the Globe best-film prizes gone on to win best picture at the Oscars — 2008’s “Slumdog Millionaire.”
That came after a stretch of eight-straight years when a Globe winner in either the dramatic or musical-comedy category went on to claim the best-picture Oscar.
Last year, the sci-fi sensation “Avatar” won best drama at the Globes, while “The Hangover” won for best musical or comedy. At the Oscars, the best-picture prize went to the Iraq War drama “The Hurt Locker.”
The Globes generally do better predicting the acting winners at the Oscars. A year ago, all four Oscar winners —Sandra Bullock for “The Blind Side,” Jeff Bridges for “Crazy Heart,” Mo’Nique for “Precious” and Christoph Waltz for “Inglourious Basterds” — earned prizes at the Globes first.
Win or lose, actors like the awards attention because it can help them land more work.
“It’s always nice to get a nomination, but my main thing with nominations and awards is, if my name is mentioned, my main ambition is just to get another part,” said Helena Bonham Carter, a supporting-actress nominee as George VI’s devoted queen in “The King’s Speech.” To make some director or producer wake up and go, ‘Oh, she’s still alive.’”
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