Julia Roberts won't need that babysitter after all. And Mel Gibson will finally have time to arrange his sock drawer. In an unexpected twist, the red carpet at the Jan. 16 Golden Globes will emphasize critical favorites over star power. Sure, Nicole Kidman, who scored her fourth straight nod when the Hollywood Foreign Press announced its nominations on Dec. 13, will be back, but this time she'll be joined by first-timers like Vera Drake's Imelda Staunton and Closer's Clive Owen.
The year's big success stories? Not Gibson or his The Passion of the Christ, 2004's third-highest-grossing film, which earned zero nods, but actor Jamie Foxx (who scored a single-year record with three acting nods: for Ray, Collateral, and the telepic Redemption); and director Alexander Payne's A-list-free Sideways, which grabbed the most film nominations (seven), including best comedy. ''I'm the comeback kid,'' jokes former Wings star and Sideways supporting-actor nominee Thomas Haden Church. ''This has reignited my passion for performing.''
Even many of the marquee names who did make the cut (Finding Neverland's Johnny Depp, Hotel Rwanda's Don Cheadle, Birth's Kidman) did so for roles in smaller movies that weren't headline-making hits. ''The film has no sex, no violence nothing that normally sells,'' says Neverland director and first-time nominee Marc Forster. ''Since we live in such a cynical world, I wasn't sure how people would respond to the innocence in it.''
While that very quality may help make Neverland more Globes-friendly, the TV picks were definitely short on sentimentality. In the comedy race, it's sex and the suburbs versus Sex and the City, as ABC's breakout hit Desperate Housewives earned five nods, including best comedy series (see sidebar) and acting honors for stars Marcia Cross, Felicity Huffman, and Teri Hatcher. ''It feels like we've arrived,'' says Housewives exec producer Marc Cherry. ''It's official now.''
Ditto for FX. HBO received a lion's share of 20 nominations, but the newly anointed hot cable channel was FX, with six nods for darker fare like The Shield and Nip/Tuck. ''It's an aggressive statement from a cable channel that still needs commercials,'' says Nip/Tuck best-actor nominee Julian McMahon. ''It adds credibility to the network.'' And, ironically, to the good old Globes.