When Kate Beckinsale and Jeremy Piven take the stage in Beverly Hills on Thursday to announce nominations for the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn.'s Golden Globes, you can expect some juicy surprises and a couple of eyebrow-raisers to go with it. After all, the 90 or so international correspondents who compose the HFPA are known for following the conventional awards wisdom in some areas and veering off into flights of fancy in others ("The Tourist" anyone?).
As the HFPA unveils its nominations Thursday, here are some categories and story lines to watch for.
Dramatics. You can put four movies in the bag for motion picture-drama. Barring an upset that, well, only the HFPA is capable of, you can pretty much expect "Boyhood," "The Imitation Game," "Selma" and "Unbroken" to be called out from the Beckinsale-Piven podium. The fifth spot? It's anyone's guess. "The Theory of Everything" has the British factor (an HFPA favorite), "Foxcatcher" has the celebrity factor, and "Gone Girl" has the major blockbuster factor and the celebrity factor. And there's always a dark horse in "Interstellar" — though the movie has fallen off many awards pundits' radars, a splashy movie with big stars is something that, like Murph's beseeching eyes in a cornfield, the HFPA has a hard time saying no to.
Comedically musical. This is the wild west of HFPA nominations. By combining two categories that have little in common save for the fact that they're not dramas, you end up with weird choices and odd pairings. "Into the Woods" is a virtual lock, as is "Birdman." But does Weinstein Co., an HFPA favorite, land a nomination for "Big Eyes" — or even "St. Vincent"? Can "The Grand Budapest Hotel" continue its SAG Awards hot streak? And does Paul Thomas Anderson make the grade for his cultish comedy "Inherent Vice?" With commercial power always a factor, don't be surprised if "Annie" is in there or even — Marvelites rejoice — "Guardians of the Galaxy."
Just acting. Some lead actor races are deep, others are deeper and others are, well, what's happening this year. With so many great male performances, the assumption has been that a few big ones — Bradley Cooper in "American Sniper," Oscar Isaac in "A Most Violent Year" — could be left off the Oscar shortlist. Not so at the Golden Globes, where separate categories for actor in a comedy or musical ensures there's room for everybody, or at least for more bodies. Michael Keaton's turn as a washed-up actor in "Birdman" will land in comedy, while Bill Murray will likely grab a spot there for his role as a cranky Vietnam vet in "St. Vincent." That means the lead actor in a drama category will get roomier — though with Eddie Redmayne, Benedict Cumberbatch, David Oyelowo, Steve Carell, Timothy Spall, Jake Gyllenhaal, Cooper and Isaac all vying for a presumed five spots, expect some good ones to miss the cut even at the more accommodating Globes. And don't count out Ben Affleck for "Gone Girl" either — the HFPA loves it some superhero star power.
Or just actressing. Lead actress has the opposite problem this year — even the Oscars may have trouble filling out its slate. That could make for some surrealness at the Golden Globes, where voters will have to reach to spread out noms across 10 slots. A sample of some of the strangeness that could go down? Hilary Swank could land a spot in drama for "The Homesman" and Scarlett Johanssen in same for "Under the Skin." Shailene Woodley, meanwhile, is starting to look like a favorite to pick up a spot for "The Fault in Our Stars." Comedy-musical could bring even more names you won't see at the Oscars — one or more of the following could have their name called Thursday: Angelina Jolie ("Maleficent"), Quvenzhané Wallis ("Annie"), Tina Fey ("This Is Where I Leave You") and Helen Mirren ("The Hundred-Foot Journey").
The outlier. Every year sees one — the movie that seems like a front-runner for a Razzie and somehow ends up on the Golden Globes list. "The Tourist." "Burlesque." "Patch Adams." The comedy-musical category in particular is a generous and forgiving one, which means it's also the howler one. It's impossible to predict how far the Globes can go with one of these choices. But if they really wanted to mix things up and get people talking, may we suggest some nomination love for "The Interview"?