Studio films are on the rebound, judging by the Golden Globe nominees announced Thursday. "Titanic," James Cameron's epic about the sinking of the world's most famous ship, led the pack with a Globe record of eight nods, including best film drama, in the 55th annual awards nominations.
James L. Brooks' comedy "As Good as It Gets" placed second, with six nominations. "L.A. Confidential," Curtis Hanson's noir thriller that has been a critics' favorite, got five nods. "Amistad," Steven Spielberg's tale of a rebellion aboard a slave ship, got four.
Of the five films that garnered most recognition, only "Good Will Hunting"--which also received four nominations--was produced by an independent studio, Miramax.
The Golden Globes will be awarded by the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. on Jan. 18, in a gala ceremony telecast live on NBC. The Globes are commonly regarded as a bellwether for the Academy Awards, which are presented in March, but even the most lauded nominees were reluctant Thursday to look ahead to Oscar night.
"This is new game for me," said Cameron, whose $200-million film was nominated in every possible category except supporting actor. "My films, at least since 'Aliens,' have been nominated mostly in the technical categories. . . . To be embraced for directing and screenwriting has not happened [before], so I don't know what it means."
This year's nominations contrasted sharply with those of last year, when independent and foreign-made films made a strong showing. Also notable was the way the foreign press association spread the spoils around. In addition to the five top films, three films got three nominations, four films got two nods and 22 films got one nomination each.
Sigourney Weaver's best supporting actress nomination, for example, was the sole nomination for "The Ice Storm," Ang Lee's sober family drama set in the 1970s.
"This is an unexpected bonus. Joy to the fishes in the deep blue sea!" Weaver said, quoting a Three Dog Night song from the period.
Among actresses, Helen Hunt wowed the foreign press association most. Hunt, 34, was alone in receiving best actress nominations in two categories: movie musical/comedy ("As Good as It Gets") and television series musical/comedy ("Mad About You").
Among actors, multiple nominations went to Matt Damon, 27, who starred in and co-wrote "Good Will Hunting" with his childhood friend Ben Affleck. Reached on the set of John Dahl's "Rounders," Damon sounded shocked by the film's success: nominations for best drama, best screenplay, best actor-drama (Damon) and best supporting actor (Robin Williams).
Damon was especially grateful for the nod to Williams, he said, because without the A-list actor's commitment to the project, which had a estimated budget of $20 million, it might not have been made.
"Hopefully this will encourage other established actors to take chances like that," Damon said.
The nominations were so widely dispersed that Greg Kinnear, a best supporting actor nominee for his role as a gay artist in "As Good as It Gets," joked that Jill--the Brussels Griffon who played his dog in the film--had been overlooked.
"Jill was quite an actress," Kinnear said. "She walked onto the stage and sucked the oxygen out of the room. . . . That was the only glaring omission from the Globes."
The dog was not alone, however. Two A-list actor-directors--Kevin Costner and Clint Eastwood--were passed over Thursday. Costner directed and starred in the upcoming "The Postman." Eastwood directed "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil."
"The Sweet Hereafter" and star Ian Holm were bypassed, as were Robert Duvall and his "The Apostle." Julie Christie and "Afterglow" came up empty-handed, as did Al Pacino and Johnny Depp, the stars of "Donnie Brasco," directed by Mike Newell.
Several up-and-coming actors received Globe nominations for the first time.
"I guess this is the year for the young generation," said 33-year-old Djimon Hounsou, a nominee in the best actor-drama category for his work in "Amistad." Hounsou said he was excited to receive a congratulatory phone call from the ambassador of Benin, his West African homeland.
"There is so much talk about it already over there [in Benin]," he said. "I'm feeling like an angel--flying high."
Joey Lauren Adams, a nominee for best actress-musical/comedy for her role in "Chasing Amy," was so sure she wasn't going to be nominated that she turned off her phone. Adams, 29, only learned of her error when her publicist sent someone to pound on her front door.
"My house is a mess and they're saying, 'All these TV crews are coming to interview you,' " she said, still jet-lagged from the film's Paris premiere. "I was like, 'Oh my God! I have Christmas shopping to do.' "
Adams was one of several actors who were nominated for playing roles depicting gays and lesbians. In addition to Adams and Kinnear, Kevin Kline was nominated as best actor-musical/comedy for his role as a closeted high school teacher in the comedy "In & Out." And Rupert Everett got a supporting actor nomination for his role as Julia Roberts' gay confidante in "My Best Friend's Wedding."
Helena Bonham Carter received her first-ever nomination for best actress-drama for her role in "The Wings of the Dove." Joking that she is a "geriatric ingenue," the 31-year-old actress--a veteran of such films as "Howards End" and "Room With a View"--said the nomination mattered more than she wanted to admit.
"Most of us wander around besieged by a sense of doubt about whether we're good enough, whether we're frauds. The awards squelch that feeling, at least for a day or two," she said. If nothing else, she added, the award ceremony would give her something to think about: "Another dress."
One of Bonham Carter's competitors was Kate Winslet, 22, who was on location in Marrakesh when she got the news of her best actress-drama nomination for "Titanic." (This was her second nod: She was nominated for best supporting actress for the 1995 film "Sense and Sensibility.")
"When you are an actor you have to love what you do," Winslet said just minutes after completing work on "Hideous Kinky," Scottish director Gillies MacKinnon's next film. "It's not about awards."
Nevertheless, she admitted to being overjoyed for the whole "Titanic" crew, especially Cameron and her co-star, 23-year-old Leonardo DiCaprio, who received a best actor-drama nomination.
"It was a very long shoot and very hard for everyone and a complete challenge on all parts," she said. "I'm so thrilled that people are recognizing the emotional impact of this film. It's a love story, not another movie about a sinking ship. Jim deserves it. He's a genius."
In addition to fresh faces, there were several seasoned actors who got Globe nominations Thursday. Gloria Stuart, 87, whose acting credits stretch back to the early 1930s, got a best supporting actress nomination for her role as a 101-year-old survivor of the Titanic's voyage.
Burt Reynolds, 61, received his fourth Golden Globe nomination in 23 years--this one for best supporting actor for his portrayal of a pornographer in Paul Thomas Anderson's "Boogie Nights." He and Julianne Moore, who was tapped in the best supporting actress category, were the movie's only nominations.
Then there was Pam Grier, 48, nominated for best actress-musical/comedy for her starring role in Quentin Tarantino's "Jackie Brown," an adaptation of Elmore Leonard's novel "Rum Punch." Grier, who starred in such 1970s films as "Foxy Brown" and "Sheba Baby," said she owed her nomination to Tarantino.
"Quentin was one who said my work mattered over so many years," Grier said. "He invested two years of his life to write 'Jackie Brown' for me. That doesn't happen every day, not only for me but for a lot of the finest actors and actresses. I have no words. 'Gratitude' and 'appreciation' and 'love from the bottom of my heart' is almost an understatement."
* LIST OF NOMINEES: F26