Surreal show business satire "Birdman," a darling of critics for its innovative storytelling, led the Golden Globe Awards film nominations on Thursday, with its seven nods making it a front-runner early in the Hollywood awards season.
More than two months before the Academy Awards, the nominations from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association suggest it could be a battle of "Birdman" against "Boyhood," which earned five nominations and also pushed cinematic boundaries.
But at the Golden Globes on Jan. 11, the two will compete in different categories: "Birdman" for best comedy or musical film and "Boyhood" in the more coveted best drama race. The coming-of-age movie filmed over 12 years with the same actors could be challenged by World War Two biopic "The Imitation Game," which also received five nominations.
Fox Searchlight Pictures' "Birdman" was directed by Mexican filmmaker Alejandro G. Inarritu and stars Michael Keaton as a washed-up superhero actor trying to make a comeback on Broadway. It consists of what appears to be one seamless take through the cramped confines of a Broadway theater and serves up an acerbic commentary on celebrity.
"Although at times it felt we were flying without a net in this crazy film experiment, this has brought enormous joy to me," Inarritu said of the film's seven nominations, including best director for him.
The big omission was World War Two drama "Unbroken." The film, Angelina Jolie's second as director, got no nominations.
But Martin Luther King Jr. biopic "Selma" landed four nods, including best director for Ava DuVernay, the first black woman to be nominated in that Golden Globe category. The film, which will likely resonate amid the current debate about race relations in America, also received nominations for best drama and best actor for David Oyelowo as King.
DuVernay said it was "a really, really beautiful morning" and that her highest hope had been that Oyelowo get recognition.
"For him to be in the center of this film, to hold it down so beautifully and to be recognized for that. Really, if I think about it too much, I will start to cry," she told Reuters from Toronto, where the two are promoting "Selma."
Other films that fortified their Oscar chances on Thursday were Wes Anderson's quirky period caper, "The Grand Budapest Hotel"; David Fincher's adaptation of bestselling thriller novel "Gone Girl"; and "The Theory of Everything," the story of physicist Stephen Hawking and his first wife, Jane.
Julianne Moore's double feat
In the very competitive category of best actor in a drama, Eddie Redmayne was nominated for his portrayal of the severely disabled Hawking. Besides Oyelowo, he will compete against Steve Carell for "Foxcatcher," Benedict Cumberbatch for "The Imitation Game" and Jake Gyllenhaal for "Nightcrawler."
"Birdman" also offered a career comeback for Keaton, who like his character is a former superhero star. He was nominated for best actor in a comedy or musical against Ralph Fiennes for "The Grand Budapest Hotel," Bill Murray for "St. Vincent," Joaquin Phoenix for "Inherent Vice" and Christoph Waltz for "Big Eyes."
Julianne Moore scored a rare double nomination as best actress in two categories. In the drama "Still Alice", her character struggles with early-onset Alzheimer's disease, while in Hollywood critique "Maps to the Stars," she plays a fading actress.
Although voting by the 90 or so HFPA members can differ from the 6,000 Oscar voters in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, this year's Globe nominations largely mirror awards from critics' groups. And in the past two years, the Golden Globe best drama winners, "Argo" and "12 Years a Slave," have gone on to win the best picture Oscar.
The biggest awards surprise could be "Boyhood," which is backed by the small IFC Films studio and chronicles a boy's journey from age 5 to 18. It earned writing and directing nominations for Richard Linklater and best supporting acting nods for Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke.