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'Avatar' vying for honours at 67th Golden Globes

Hollywood’s awards season kicks off Sunday with the 67th Golden Globes. Avatar will be hoping that its record-breaking box office run will covert into movie industry statues.


AFP - Science-fiction blockbuster "Avatar" will be aiming to convert box office riches into movie industry accolades Sunday as Hollywood's awards season gets underway in earnest at the 67th Golden Globes.

The horrors of the Haiti earthquake are likely to give a somber tone to proceedings, with many celebrities including best actor nominee George Clooney expected to encourage donations to help the relief effort.

Clooney will host a telethon to raise funds for Haiti next Friday while Globes organizers, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, have announced a 100,000 dollar donation to musician Wyclef Jean's relief effort.

All eyes are on James Cameron's "Avatar" to see if its remarkable box office performance -- 1.3 billion dollars worldwide since December -- translates into awards season honors.

The 500-million-dollar epic is vying for four honors at the Globes, which begin in Beverly Hills at 5.30 pm (0130 GMT Monday).

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 (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.

Bigelow scored a pre-Globes boost late Friday when "The Hurt Locker" was named best picture at the Broadcast Film Critics Awards (BFCA) in Los Angeles. Bigelow also beat Cameron for the best director prize.

Yet 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 "And there's nothing hotter right now than 'Avatar.'"

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."

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."

Bullock and Streep shared the best actress prize at the BFCA Awards on Friday, and delighted a star-studded audience by engaging in a mock playfight on stage, underscoring the good-natured rivalry between the two.

For actors, the Golden Globes are often seen as a vital dress rehearsal for the Oscars. A well-received acceptance speech at the Globes can help build unstoppable momentum while a poor performance can derail even best laid plans.

"The Golden Globes is your Oscars audition," O'Neil said. "Hilary Swank won for 'Boys Don't Cry' because she wowed the audience with her speech at the Globes. Same thing for Jamie Foxx. He sealed his Oscar win at the Globes."

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.

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