Awards season heats up Jan. 12 with Golden Globes

Inside Llewyn Davis scene photo

Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild nominations are out, and the Academy Award nominations will be announced Jan. 16, so now is the time to catch all the nominated films still in theaters or coming soon.

There is a lot of buzz for “Inside Llewyn Davis,” the latest film from the Coen brothers set in Greenwich Village folk music scene in the ’60s. Starring Oscar Isaac as the titular character, the film feels slightly unfinished — not quite a masterpiece, but darn close. The movie spans a week in the folk singer’s life as he insinuates himself into the lives of everyone around him — sleeping on couches, borrowing money, hitching rides, and generally making a nuisance of himself.

It seems certain he is destined not to make it as a solo artist (we learn early in the film he was one half of a duo before his partner killed himself), but when he sings, it’s so clear his songs are heads above what is passing for popular. Much is being made about co-stars Justin Timberlake and Carey Mulligan, but the film’s middle involving Davis thumbing a ride to Chicago to talk to a music promoter is the best. Stuck in a car with a cranky, heroin-addicted jazz musician (John Goodman) and his driver (Garrett Hedlund), the proceedings are slightly surreal, but Davis’s reactions are priceless.

With T-Bone Burnett as the music supervisor, it would be hard to go wrong with the essential component in “Inside,” and the musical performances provide some of the best scenes with all actors singing and playing their own instruments. The choice of de-saturated photography gives the film an authentic vintage feel. Add it to any Top 10 list, but whether it will earn the big prizes remains to be seen.

The highly anticipated Martin Scorsese film “The Wolf of Wall Street” arrived in theaters on Christmas Day. That’s not big news, but you have to wonder about pushing a critical hit like “August: Osage County” into January to make way for this debauched biopic based on Jordan Belfort, a financial con artist who took innocent investors for hundreds of millions.

Starring frequent Scorsese collaborator Leonardo DiCaprio, the movie does more to promote the use of drugs and strippers than anything. So what is so special about Belfort that he deserves the Scorsese treatment? Nothing. Better to skip the last two hours, which are just repeated scenes of DiCaprio and his co-conspirator (Jonah Hill) snorting coke, dropping Quaaludes and chasing half naked women. How ever did Belfort find the time to con thousands of people out of their savings?

The best scene is front-loaded into the movie as Belfort begins his career on Wall Street. His first day on the job, he captures the attention of a top broker, played by Matthew McConaughey. The drugged up, designer-suited fellow invites Belfort to lunch and offers up some hilarious advice as a self appointed quasi-mentor, which includes a lot of tips that cannot be mentioned here. After McConaughey departs, it’s all downhill and while there are nominations for the film itself, it’s noteworthy that its actors have yet to receive any.

Seeing “Saving Mr. Banks” reminded me that Emma Thompson is an actor who rarely disappoints. While the movie follows a predictable trajectory, it is Thompson who elevates the story of how Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) charmed notoriously cantankerous author P.L. Travers (Thompson) into signing over the rights to her beloved novel, “Mary Poppins.” The film being, more treacly than supercalfraga … well, you know, will probably hurt Thompson’s chances to win any awards, but she is earning much deserved nominations.

Also on your “must see” short list are two films unlikely to make it to local theaters: “Philomena” starring Judi Dench and Alexander Payne’s “Nebraska” starring Bruce Dern, with both stars earning a lot of attention. “Inside Llewyn Davis” goes into wide release this weekend. “August: Osage County,” which is producing multiple nominations for actors and the film, is in theaters next weekend. As is “She,” the futuristic Spike Jonze film that has received much critical acclaim recently.

The Golden Globe Awards will air Jan. 12 on NBC. The SAG Awards will air on TNT/TBS on Jan. 17. The 2014 Oscar nominations will be announced Jan. 16, and the awards show will be broadcast March 2 beginning at 6 p.m. on ABC.

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