http://chud.com/nextraimages/piazadorajermaine.jpgBefore you read too much into the Hollywood Foreign Press expanding their Best Picture (Drama) nominees from five to seven and still finding a way to snub the phenomenally deserving Into the Wild, it’s important to remember that the Golden Globes have always been about rewarding influence, not quality. They also play favorites more brazenly than any other awards group: this is why the nominating of a Harvey Weinstein produced/distributed film is an annual rite (even when the best he’s got to offer is Bobby or Mrs. Henderson Presents). And it does not behoove the HFPA to go heavy on nominations for one particular studio; to do so would be to shorten the invite list for what is traditionally Hollywood’s drunkest night of the year.

In other words, Paramount Vantage was never going to get four nominations in one top category; this leaves Into the Wild on the outside in favor of There Will Be Blood (and No Country for Old Men, though Miramax is running that campaign), which then makes room for The Weinstein Company’s thoroughly innocuous The Great Debaters. Still, there is an anomaly among the seven:

American Gangster (Universal)
Atonement (Focus)
Eastern Promises (Focus)
The Great Debaters (The Weinstein Company)
Michael Clayton (Warner Brothers)
No Country for Old Men (Miramax/Paramount Vantage)
There Will Be Blood (Paramount Vantage/Miramax)

Far be it from me to further break down the HFPA’s goofy logic, but I’ve got to assume that Eastern Promises was the other beneficiary of the expanded field. As for why they’d add a third Universal movie over a much more widely lauded Paramount release like Into the Wild… perhaps they just plain preferred the Cronenberg. It certainly has a much more international flavor than Penn’s film.

So now that I’ve explained why this isn’t necessarily a blow to Into the Wild‘s Oscar chances, here’s why it kinda is: after taking down a number of top prizes from the critics this week, There Will Be Blood is starting to look like Vantage’s Best Picture thoroughbred. Though Into the Wild did snag seven nominations from the Broadcast Film Critics Association the other day, the media (and the many, mostly aged Academy voters) tend to pay more attention to the Globes. Combine this with a general dampening of enthusiasm for Into the Wild around town (it’s just not getting talked up anymore), and this very wonderful movie could be in danger of a widespread snub come January. That would be a shame.

As for the absence of strong contenders The Kite Runner and The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, they were eligible for Best Foreign Language Film – and both were nominated (along with 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, Lust, Caution and Persepolis).

As usual, the most amusingly eclectic (and moronic) nominations turn up in the Best Picture (Comedy) category:

Across the Universe (Sony)
Charlie Wilson’s War (Universal)
Hairspray (New Line)
Juno (Fox Searchlight)
Sweeney Todd (Warner Brothers)

Though I think the film is noxious and ineptly directed, Hairspray‘s inclusion was a fait accompli in that a) New Line needed a nod, and b) too many fucking people love this deeply shitty movie. The real surprise is Across the Universe representing Sony at the celebrity drink-a-thon; Superbad would’ve been a more dignified choice, especially since the HFPA chose to exclude Knocked Up (which would’ve given Universal five nominations in the top two categories). Juno may look like the favorite in this group, but a very reliable source tells me that the HFPA is in love with Sweeney Todd.

Now, the acting nominations:

Best Actor – Drama

George Clooney – Michael Clayton
Daniel Day-Lewis – There Will Be Blood
James McAvoy – Atonement
Viggo Mortensen – Eastern Promises
Denzel Washington – American Gangster

Best Actor – Comedy/Musical

Johnny Depp – Sweeney Todd
Ryan Gosling – Lars & The Real Girl
Tom Hanks – Charlie Wilson’s War
Phillips Seymour Hoffman – The Savages
John C Reilly – Walk Hard

Best Actress – Drama

Cate Blanchett – Elizabeth: The Golden Age
Julie Christie – Away From Her
Jodie Foster – The Brave One
Angelina Jolie – A Mighty Heart
Keira Knightley – Atonement

Best Actress – Comedy/Musical

Amy Adams – Enchanted
Nikki Blonsky – Hairspray
Helena Bonham Carter – Sweeney Todd
Marion Cotillard – La vie en rose
Ellen Page – Juno

Best Supporting Actor

Casey Affleck – The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
Javier Bardem – No Country for Old Men
Philip Seymour Hoffman – Charlie Wilson’s War
John Travolta – Hairspray
Tom Wilkinson – Michael Clayton

Best Supporting Actress

Cate Blanchett – I’m Not There
Saoirse Ronan – Atonement
Julia Roberts – Charlie Wilson’s War
Amy Ryan – Gone Baby Gone
Tilda Swinton – Michael Clayton

No real surprises here. Nikki Blonsky nudging out The Savages‘ Laura Linney in the Best Actress Comedy/Musical category is egregious, but the HFPA’s love for Hairspray shall not be denied. This means John Travolta picks up a laughably undeserving Best Supporting Actor nomination for one of his worst performances in some time; meanwhile, no Hal Holbrook, Phillip Bosco or Paul Dano. It’s all about who’s seated at the featured tables, folks.

And here’s the rest (of the film nominees, that is)…

Best Director

TIm Burton – Sweeney Todd
Ethan & Joel Coen – No Country For Old Men
Julian Schnabel – The Diving Bell & The Butterfly
Ridley Scott – American Gangster
Joe Wright – Atonement

Best Writer

Diablo Cody – Juno
Joel Coen and Ethan Coen – No Country for Old Men
Christopher Hampton – Atonement
Ronald Harwood – The Diving Bell & The Butterfly
Aaron Sorkin – Charlie Wilson’s War

Animation

Bee Movie (DreamWorks Animation)
Ratatouille (Pixar; Disney)
The Simpsons Movie (20th Century Fox)

Original Score

Into the Wild – Michael Brook, Kaki King, Eddie Edder
Grace Is Gone – Clint Eastwood
The Kite Runner – Alberto Iglesias
Atonement – Dario Marianelli
Eastern Promises - Howard Shore

Original Song

"Despedida" – Love In The Time Of Cholera
Music By: Shakira and Antonio Pinto
Lyrics By: Shakira

"Grace Is Gone" – Grace Is Gone
Music By: Clint Eastwood
Lyrics By: Carole Bayer Sager

"Guaranteed" – Into The Wild
Music & Lyrics By: Eddie Vedder

"That’s How You Know" – Enchanted
Music & Lyrics By: Alan Menken

"Walk Hard" – Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story
Music & Lyrics By: Judd Apatow, Kasdan, John C. Reilly and Marshall Crenshaw