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‘Nowhere Boy’ Finds Somewhere to Go: Golden Globes

To the surprise of its distributor, bio of teenage John Lennon may find receptive audience in Globes’ comedy or musical category

Not long ago, the title “Nowhere Boy” seemed to accurately capture where the film stood in the awards picture: nowhere.

But after some key in-flight showings on British Airways, and given the scarcity of contenders in certain categories and an unusual interpretation of what constitutes a comedy or musical among the always-eccentric Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the drama about John Lennon’s teenage years might suddenly be player at this year’s Golden Globes.

Aaron JohnsonAnd the news could come as a surprise not only to awards-watchers who figured “Nowhere Boy” wasn’t likely to figure in the race, but to the studio that released it as well.

The key is that the Globes separates their Best Picture award into two separate categories: one for Best Motion Picture – Drama, the other for Best Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical.

And while “Nowhere Boy” is clearly a drama, it also contains a fair amount of music, mostly in the skiffle and early rock songs played by Lennon and his friends.

In the curious world of the Golden Globes, where the dramas “Ray” and “Walk the Line” were considered musicals, that’s enough to put “Nowhere Boy” in contention in a thin field.

In recent weeks, the Weinstein Company reportedly began hearing from Hollywood Foreign Press Association members who’d seen and loved the movie, both in its official HFPA screening on September 23 and on British Airways flights, where it was apparently seen by members on their way to or from the Venice Film Festival.

The message, according to a person close to the film, was clear: submit it in the Comedy or Musical category and you might have a real shot.

This news reportedly took Weinstein by surprise. The company was focusing its awards efforts on the likes of “The King’s Speech” and “Blue Valentine,” and didn’t consider “Nowhere Boy” much of a Globes or Oscar contender, apart perhaps from the strong buzz surrounding Kristin Scott Thomas’ performance as Lennon’s aunt Mimi.

“Nowhere Boy,” directed by Sam Taylor-Wood and starring Aaron Johnson as the young Lennon, had already run its awards course in Europe. It was released in England in December 2009, and was subsequently nominated for four BAFTA awards, including Outstanding British Film, Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer (for Taylor-Wood) and two for best supporting actress (Anne-Marie Duff and Kristin Scott Thomas). It also received five nominations for the British Independent Film awards, where Duff won.

The film was released in four theaters in Los Angeles and New York on Friday, the day before what would have been Lennon’s 70th birthday. A variety of events were held in both cities to commemorate the birthday, including screenings and premieres of “Nowhere Boy” and of the new Lennon documentary “LennonNYC.” The Quarrymen, a band that includes original members of the group that the teenage Lennon is shown joining in “Nowhere Boy,” have made appearances and performed at film-related events.

“Nowhere Boy” grossed about $56,000 in its four theaters, a decent showing. Weinstein plans to expand into additional cities over the coming weeks.

Weinstein will now reportedly submit the film to the Globes as a comedy or musical, which would put it in a category that appears likely to contain almost none of the year’s most acclaimed films. “The Kids Are All Right” could conceivably fit (and if it does, it'll certainly be the frontrunner), but otherwise you have to look to the likes of “Casino Jack,” “Made in Dagenham,” “Red,” “Easy A,” the little-seen “Solitary Man,” the indifferently-received “The Other Guys” and the yet-unseen “How Do You Know” and “Country Strong,” among others Some have speculated that Ed Zwick’s “Love and Other Drugs” and Sofia Coopola’s “Somewhere” could fit as well, though they’re certainly not traditional comedies.