‘Avatar’ eyes gold at Golden Globes

Hollywood’s awards season cranks into overdrive on Sunday with science-fiction epic “Avatar” hoping to score vital pre-Oscars momentum with victory at the 67th Golden Globe Awards.

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James Cameron’s 3-D spectacular has electrified the movie world since its release in mid-December, becoming the second highest-grossing movie of all time and earning more than 1.3 billion dollars in a matter of weeks.

The film — about peace-loving blue aliens battling a greedy human corporation seeking to plunder their planet’s resources — is being talked about as a milestone in the history of cinema.

As well as best picture, “Avatar” has nods for best director (Cameron), best original score and best original song.

However the film faces stiff competition from recession-era drama-comedy “Up In the Air”, which has six nominations, as well as the gripping Iraq war drama “The Hurt Locker”, which has three nominations.

Nods for “Up In the Air” include best actor (George Clooney), best director (Jason Reitman) as well as nominations for Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick.

In a quirk of fate, “The Hurt Locker’s” director Kathryn Bigelow finds herself nominated for best director alongside ex-husband Cameron.

Quentin Tarantino (“Inglourious Basterds”) and Clint Eastwood (“Invictus”) complete the field.

But while “Up In the Air” and “The Hurt Locker” remain critical darlings, awards season pundits say the 85 members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) who pick the Golden Globes may lean towards “Avatar.”

“Globes voters are foreign journalists who consider it their job to track the hot new thing,” said Tom O’Neil, of the Los Angeles Times’s theenvelope.com. “And there’s nothing hotter right now than ‘Avatar’.”

O’Neil noted that while the Golden Globes traditionally preferred to honor arthouse movies “they do occasionally go for the blockbusters.

“Remember they picked ‘Lord of the Rings (The Return of the King)’ for best picture,” he said.

However “Avatar” almost certainly needed to triumph this weekend if it was to emerge as an awards season favorite for the coveted best picture prize at the Oscars, which will be handed out in Hollywood this year on March 7.

“This is the award that ‘Avatar’ needs if it’s going to become the official front-runner for the Oscars,” O’Neil said. “If ‘Avatar’ gets crowned ahead of time then it could be Oscar-bound.”

Sasha Stone, who runs the Los Angeles-based awards blog Awards Daily (www.awardsdaily.com) described this year’s season as “one of the most open for years.”

“‘Avatar’ can win. But there’s a question mark right now as to which are the top three movies — it seems to be between ‘Avatar’, ‘Up In the Air’ and ‘The Hurt Locker’,” Stone told AFP.

“Traditionally the Hollywood Foreign Press prefer intimate dramas to epic sci-fi films. But ‘Avatar’ is so emotionally affecting that they might go for it. Even so I think it’s between ‘Up In the Air’ and ‘The Hurt Locker.'”

In the acting stakes, Clooney will be up against Jeff Bridges (“Crazy Heart”), Colin Firth (“A Single Man”), Morgan Freeman (“Invictus”), and Tobey Maguire (“Brothers”) for best drama actor.

The women’s acting awards could unfold as a duel between Sandra Bullock and Meryl Streep, who both have two nominations each.

Bullock is nominated as best actress in both drama and comedy categories for her respective roles in “The Blind Side” and “The Proposal,” while Streep — hoping to win her seventh Globe — is a double nominee in the comedy category for her performances in “Julie & Julia” and “It’s Complicated.”

Unlike the Oscars, the Golden Globes splits its best picture prizes between genres, honoring best drama and best comedy/musical.

The Globes are often viewed as a key barometer of which films may go on to challenge for honors at the Oscars.

Although 67.4 percent of films which won best picture at the Academy Awards also won a Golden Globe, in recent years the awards have proved an unreliable guide for likely Oscar winners.

Rags-to-riches drama “Slumdog Millionaire” is the only film in the past five years to have followed up a best picture statuette at the Golden Globes with victory at the Oscars.s

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