Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Jennifer Hudson Scores Golden Globe Award for Dreamgirls

January 16, 2007

‘Babel’ and ‘Dreamgirls’ Win Top Honors at Golden Globe Awards

New York Times

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif., Jan. 15 — As the 64th annual Golden Globes unfolded on Monday, “Babel” won the award for best dramatic movie. And Martin Scorsese won for directing “The Departed,” while “Dreamgirls” scooped up awards for best comedy/musical and for a pair of its actors — keeping the films in tight competition for top honors in the Hollywood awards race.

In a rather remarkable feat, Helen Mirren won best actress awards for playing two Queen Elizabeths: one for the television mini-series “Elizabeth I” and the second for portraying Elizabeth II in the film “The Queen.”

Still, the evening’s real significance lay in the ritual: Hollywood’s first big awards party of the year was under way.

No film truly dominated the affair. Jennifer Hudson, a newcomer, won for best supporting actress in a motion picture for playing a determined but less-than-svelte singer in “Dreamgirls,” while the longtime Hollywood star Eddie Murphy — himself a newcomer to awards glory — won best supporting actor as a singer on the decline.

Dozens of television and movie stars braving unusually chilly temperatures made their way along 30,000 square feet of red carpet, the longest such artifact in the awards world, and were greeted by approximately 1,500 credentialed journalists, who could well have matched the number of guests at the event.

Mr. Murphy’s and Ms. Hudson’s wins gave early moments of triumph to “Dreamgirls” in a season in which no single film has dominated audience interest, or critical enthusiasm.

Bursting into tears, Ms. Hudson, who first gained notice on “American Idol” and had her first screen role in this film, told the audience filled with Hollywood’s top movie and television stars: “You don’t know how much this does for my confidence. Because of this, it makes me feel like I’m part of a community, it makes me feel like an actress, and you don’t understand how much that feels good today.” Afterwards, Ms. Hudson dedicated her award to Florence Ballard, one of the original Supremes, “a lady who never got a fair chance.”

Speaking to reporters after receiving his award, Mr. Murphy, whose career has seen a jagged series of highs and lows, said that, much like older women, actors of color can also find it difficult to land choice roles. “Hey, I’m a minority, too,” he said. “It’s tough to be a black person in this town as well.”

Forest Whitaker was named best actor in a dramatic movie for his portrayal of Idi Amin in “The Last King of Scotland.”

And as she won best actress in a comedy or musical for “The Devil Wears Prada,” one somewhat older woman, Meryl Streep, rocked the gathering when she donned a pair of reading glasses and declared, “I think I’ve worked with everybody in the room.” She paused. “Yes, I have,” she concluded.

She won for playing an entertainingly monstrous fashion editor savaging her assistants, played by Anne Hathaway and Emily Blunt. Ms. Blunt won her own Golden Globe, for best actress in a television mini-series, for “Gideon’s Daughter.”

The best foreign language film prize went to “Letters From Iwo Jima,” an unusual twist, in that the movie, with dialogue in Japanese, was directed by Clint Eastwood. Backstage, Mr. Eastwood, positively ebullient, told the press that he might make a Hungarian or Lithuanian movie next. When he was asked to pose with a statue, he said, "You want me to do my Paris Hilton."

The Globes are voted on by the 80 or so members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. By contrast, the Oscars are voted on by the nearly 6,000 members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Throughout the night, those who made or starred in the dozens of contending movies and programs looked for any edge from the event.

Mr. Scorsese is now firmly a contender for this year’s Academy Awards; he has never received that honor, despite repeated nominations.

Graham King, a producer of “The Departed,” said shortly before the show began: “Of course I care. I didn’t care yesterday. But now I care a lot. We’re under a microscope right now, and the whole world is watching. A win would be nice.”

Sacha Baron Cohen was named best actor in a musical or comedy for his performance in “Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan.”

The box-office performance of the contenders for best dramatic picture was certainly uneven. “Babel,” which had the most Globe nominations, seven, has taken in only $21 million in this country. This multi-character drama about cultural misunderstanding across the globe, directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu, vied for best picture in the drama category with Martin Scorsese’s “Departed,” which had six nominations. That film, a bloody Irish mob drama with a scene-chewing performance by Jack Nicholson and a cast of younger stars, has been more like a blockbuster success, taking in $121 million in this country and about as much again overseas.

Other nominees for best film drama included “Little Children,” a sober story of married couples in suburbia; “Bobby,” which portrays the interlocking lives of people who meet on the night of Robert F. Kennedy’s assassination in Los Angeles; and “The Queen,” a character study of Queen Elizabeth II in the days following the death of Diana, Princess of Wales.

The HBO film, “Elizabeth I,” also won best TV film, and won a statue for Jeremy Irons as best supporting actor in his portrayal of Elizabeth I’s devoted admirer. Peter Morgan won best screenplay for “The Queen.”

On the television side, Hugh Laurie won for best actor in a series, for his portrayal of a tortured, but talented doctor in “House.” He said he was surprised at the win, adding, “I’m literally without a speech,” and suggested that with all the presents that come to nominees, no one had thought to offer a free speech. “There’s a gap in the market,” he said.

Alec Baldwin won for best actor in a television series, musical or comedy for his work in “30 Rock.”

“Ugly Betty,” originally a hit Spanish-language telenovela brought to the United States and shown on ABC, won for best musical or comedy series. The cast, including the producer Salma Hayek and the co-star Vanessa Williams, poured onto the stage to celebrate. America Ferrera, fighting back tears and looking quite beautiful, won best actress in a comedy for playing the lead. “Thank you for recognizing a character who is truly bringing a new face to television,” she said, and for bringing a message to young girls that they are “worthy and lovable.”

The Disney-Pixar film “Cars” won best animated feature, in the debut of the category for the Globes.

From the outset, “Dreamgirls,” with five nominations, was favored to win the Golden Globe for best comedy or musical. But it has yet to break out as a major hit at the box office, having taken in about $67 million so far in domestic markets.

Other nominees in that category included the mockumentary “Borat”; “Little Miss Sunshine,” the independent hit about a dysfunctional family on the road to a children’s beauty contest; “The Devil Wears Prada”; and “Thank You for Smoking,” a satire about lobbying.

In addition to 25 awards for work during 2006, the honorary Cecil B. DeMille Award went to the actor and filmmaker Warren Beatty for what the association called his “outstanding contribution to the entertainment field.” Mr. Beatty, 69, has made his mark as a political thinker and industry statesman, while directing five films and appearing in nearly two dozen since his 1961 performance in “Splendor in the Grass.”

Following the event, celebrities, their guests and anyone who could find a way in were scheduled to attend at least seven parties, including two off-site. The physical feat of accommodating so many people can lead to extraordinary measures: HBO had work crews build a floor over the pool at the Beverly Hilton Hotel to accommodate the crowd.

The timing of the Globes — right after Oscar nomination ballots have been returned, but before those results are announced — makes for a significant stirring of the awards season tea leaves.

Because the Globes split feature films into two categories — there are best picture awards for both drama and musical/comedy — their implications for the Oscar race are not always easy to discern. Last year, “Brokeback Mountain” won the Globe for best dramatic picture, but “Crash,” an also-ran at the Globes, won the Academy Award for best picture.

This year, early awards season favorites like “The Departed” and “Dreamgirls” were not in direct competition. Yet several films and individuals arrived this year with much to be gained or lost. “Dreamgirls” fell short of early awards hype, and a win gave the musical much needed oxygen for the rest of the awards season.

“Right now I’m conserving my energy for future projects,” Mr. Scorsese said before the show of his decision not to campaign actively for awards after having often been spurned in the past. “But it’s good to be here.”

The Academy Award nominations are to be announced on Jan. 23, with the awards given on Feb. 25.

BIOGRAPHY More On 'Jennifer Hudson'

Jennifer Hudson
Actor: Born, September 12, 1981

From All Movie Guide: A source of perpetual inspiration to millions of young hopefuls, African-American pop diva-turned-actress Jennifer Hudson has proven -- with glorious bravado -- that the most gifted and determined young talents can bounce back from a painful and public rejection and land squarely at the pinnacle of success, transcending even what they might have accomplished had the initial rejection never occurred.

Born September 12, 1981, in Chicago, IL, Hudson was blessed with an astounding vocal range of six octaves and a perfect musical ear as a young girl, and rigorously trained as a chanteuse from the age of seven, initially in her Baptist church choir, then in dozens upon dozens of stage musicals and talent shows during adolescence. After high school, she briefly attended college but dropped out not long after. In 2002, 21-year-old Hudson landed a job as featured vocalist on the Disney Wonder cruise ship.

Circa 2004, with American audiences deep in the throes of reality television, Hudson auditioned in Atlanta, GA, for the third season of Fox's American Idol series, made the cut, and quickly moved along to the semifinalist round. Her songs as a participant in the series included Whitney Houston's "I Have Nothing," Elton John's "The Circle of Life," and Martha & the Vandellas' "(Love Is Like a) Heat Wave." Though Ryan Seacrest later indicated that Hudson received a higher number of votes than any performer from a previous episode, Hudson was unceremoniously eliminated from the running. Reigning judge Randy Jackson -- a highly respected music producer -- brought Hudson back in the "wildcard" round to join the finalists, but with seven contenders remaining, Hudson was booted off of the series -- despite the well-publicized fact that her range and ability clearly outflanked those of her competitors.

That decision infuriated millions; Elton John -- a previous guest judge on Idol -- accused Simon Cowell and others of stark racism, while other commentators, acknowledging that two of Hudson's competitors were also African-American, suspected a deliberate decision to split the contenders demographically. Regardless of the reason, Hudson quickly overcame her disappointment. She later reflected, "It just meant that wasn't the place for me....I figured if they couldn't accept me for the talent that I am, then I didn't need to be there....The Idol judges told me, 'Everything about you is too much....Your voice is too much. Your look is too much. Your hair is too much.' I didn't understand. Isn't that what a star is: bigger than average?"

In late 2005, Hudson auditioned among 783 hopefuls for the lead role of Effi "Melody" White, a female vocalist unfairly ousted from the ranks of a three-member female pop group in the early '60s -- because, ironically, her "look" isn't right -- in Chicago scribe Bill Condon's hotly anticipated late 2006 film musical Dreamgirls -- an adaptation of the early-'80s Tony award-winning Broadway hit. An ecstatic Hudson landed the part while cutting her first album (roundly trumping the 2004 Idol winner, Fantasia Barrino, in the process), and had to gain almost 25 pounds to perfect Effi's "look" onscreen. Production commenced in January 2006.

A media blitz surrounded Hudson's triumph in the role that lifted her into the limelight even months prior to the stateside release of Dreamgirls in December 2006. This buzz included advance talk of a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination and widespread comparisons to Jennifer Holliday, who originated the Effi role on Broadway in 1981. The press helped Hudson land a record deal with Clive Davis' J Records, which slated the release of her premiere album for January 2007, mere weeks after the stateside debut of Dreamgirls. ~

Nathan Southern, All Movie Guide

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