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Wesley Morris: ‘Lincoln’ and the Golden Globes

Daniel Day-Lewis stars as President Abraham Lincoln in the 2012 film "Lincoln," directed by Steven Spielberg.

DreamWorks Pictures and 20th Century Fox

Daniel Day-Lewis stars as President Abraham Lincoln in the 2012 film "Lincoln," directed by Steven Spielberg.

The Golden Globes often seem to come out of nowhere. Not the nominations, per se (although there's always those) but the the announcement itself. Weren't just in August? In any case, the fine, starstruck men and women of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association -- that 68-year-old media outfit that cooks up the Golden Globe Awards -- boldly asked Jessica Alba and Megan Fox to read the 2012 nominees (for what it's worth, Ed Helms was there, too).

The headline news included the seven nominations for "Lincoln," Steven Spielberg's 13th Amendment drama. Before it even opened, its award-worthiness was somewhat preordained. Its excellence makes it a more than tolerable companion for the next three months of acceptance speeches, red carpets, and decolletage that will culminate with the Academy Awards broadcast at the end of February.

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Lincoln is about the abolition of slavery. The surprise of the day was the strong showing for Quentin Tarantino's grisly exploitation film about a former slave on a mission to rescue his enslaved wife. Yes, "Django Unchained" received five nominations (it opens Christmas Day), although none was for its black actors, which is an uncomfortable irony best discussed in the future. The movie hasn't opened yet, and it's sparked curiosity, excitement, and preemptive outrage. "Lincoln," which opened last month, has also annoyed people for its omission of black Americans' participation in the passing of the amendment. So we'll have great controversy for the next three months, too.

It was a strong end of the year for Hollywood and the Foreign Press's obsession with its movies. Ben Affleck's hit Iranian hostage drama, "Argo," also had five nominations, including for Affleck's directing. The desperately anticipated French Revolution musical "Les Misérables" (it, too, opens Christmas Day); David O. Russell's ensemble romantic sports comedy, "Silver Linings Playbook"; and "Zero Dark Thirty," Kathryn Bigelow's yet-to-open thriller about the manhunt for Osama bin Laden, each had four. Ang Lee's "The Life of Pi" and Paul Thomas Anderson's "The Master" scored three.

The happy surprise on the acting side of things continues to be the mounting enthusiasm for whatever Nicole Kidman was doing in Lee Daniels' superbly filthy racial bomb, "The Paperboy." And Rachel Weisz's best actress nomination for Terrence Davis's romantic drama "The Deep Blue Sea" makes it hard to dismiss the Foreign Press as a band of nitwits. Sometimes they're toeing the movie-industry line. But they get a lot right, too.

That said, there was nothing for a critically beloved, made-from-scratch movie like "Beasts of the Southern Wild." It was ineligible for the Screen Actors Guild Awards (none of the cast is in the union!), but it did well in last month's Independent Spirit Award nominations. The movie will likely speak to enough voters to figure into the Academy Award nominations, which have been defensively (albeit understandably) moved up about two weeks to January 10th, before the Globes broadcast on the 13th, because nobody puts Oscar in a corner. Not this year, anyway.

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