For its best director Golden Globe award, the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. chose to nominate the helmers of all five movies it also shortlisted for best picture/drama, steering away from comedy/musical directors David O. Russell and Tom Hooper.
Ben Affleck (“Argo,”) Kathryn Bigelow (“Zero Dark Thirty”), Ang Lee (“Life of Pi”), Steven Spielberg ("Lincoln”) and Quentin Tarantino (“Django Unchained”) were all nominated in the category. Tarantino was perhaps the biggest surprise; his violent revenge-fantasy film has only begun screening in the last two weeks and he was not seen as an established front-runner. Hooper (Les Miserables") and Russell ("Silver Linings Playbook”), on the other hand, were considered contenders coming into Thursday morning's nominations announcement.
“I guess there’s a certain logic to it since they decided to correlate it to drama,” Hooper shrugged, saying he took pride in stars Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway landing acting nominations and the movie garnering a best comedy/musical nod.
The list of director nominations featured several HFPA favorites: Spielberg and Lee have each won the prize twice before. Tarantino and Bigelow have been nominated previously but not won.
For Lee and his visual-effects-heavy “Life of Pi,” the announcement brought a certain vindication.
"I think it’s an acknowledgment that visual effects can be a directorial achievement as well,” the director said in a phone interview from Mexico City, where he arrived Wednesday night to promote his movie.
As he spoke, Lee said he was staring at a bottle of tequila that had been sent him as a gift on arriving in the city. Told by a reporter he should crack it open a little early, he laughed. “I probably should.”
Though “Argo” was a favorite coming into the nominations, that didn’t stop its director from exulting.
“There are plenty of mornings when I’ve not been nominated so it makes me happy,” he said. “When you’re dealing with Iran and the United States you’re walking a minefield—militarily, politically and culturally.”
For her part, Bigelow said that the nomination brought a different kind of validation. “We’re grateful and encouraged by the [HFPA’s] support, especially since our film has such a diverse international cast, and as the HFPA represents so many countries across the globe,” she said in a statement.
Unlike the best picture category, which the Golden Globes splits into separate drama and comedy/musical categories, a director nomination is tougher to snag. And Russell, Hooper and others who were overlooked can take heart. The Globes can be somewhat but not totally predictive when it comes to the Oscars: In each of the last four years, the two awards have shared four nominees and differed on a fifth.