The 2013 Golden Globe nominations were announced on Thursday and one of the biggest shocks was the three major nominations for "Salmon Fishing in the Yemen." Emily Blunt and Ewan McGregor earned nods for their performances in the comedy while the film itself is up for Best Picture in the Musical or Comedy category.
Directed by Lasse Hallstrom ("Chocolate") and written by Oscar-winning screenwriter Simon Beaufoy ("Slumdog Millionaire"), "Salmon Fishing" follows a Yemenis man (Amr Waked), his representative (Emily Blunt), and a fisheries expert (Ewan McGregor) as they attempt to introduce salmon fishing to the Middle East. The film also stars Kristin Scott Thomas as the British Prime Minister's public relations exec, who has a vested interest in their story.
The movie's cast and crew were pleasantly surprised by the nominations that had some film buffs scratching their heads.
"I'm so incredibly thankful to the Hollywood Foreign Press for recognizing our little movie that could," Blunt said in a statement. "Ewan and the entire cast and crew could not be more deserving of this honor, and I'm thrilled that I'm able to share this moment among such a fantastic group of nominees."
"I am happy as a clam! Many thanks to the HFPA for recognizing our film with these nominations," added Hallstrom. "I loved making this movie, and I am so happy for Ewan and Emily, and on top of being outstanding actors, they are two of the funniest and nicest people in the business, in my mind!"
It is indeed surprising that "Salmon Fishing," based on the acclaimed novel by Paul Torday, is being recognized now. The film grossed a modest $9 million after it was released in March and earned mixed reviews -- it has a 67 percent favorability rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Even some of the praise it drew was lukewarm.
"Despite sporting the worst cinematic title since 'The Chumscrubber,' Salmon Fishing in the Yemen hooks some charming laughs and a quaint romance by not delving too deeply into its subject matter," John Anderson of USA Today said.
Mark Holcomb of the Village Voice noted that the film, "Mostly sacrifices the political satire and epistolary structure of Paul Torday's source novel in favor of cute, if strained, rom-com shenanigans."
The dearth of successful comedies released in 2012 may account for "Salmon Fishing's" Best Picture nomination. The year has been filled with acclaimed action films like "The Dark Knight Rises" and riveting dramas, such as "Argo" and "Zero Dark Thirty." Wes Anderson's "Moonrise Kingdom" and David O. Russell's "Silver Linings Playbook" are among the few comedies that have warranted awards season recognition.
In terms of Blunt and McGregor's nods, it's possible that the two are being recognized for their body of work this year rather than "Salmon Fishing" alone.
McGregor had a memorable supporting role in Steven Soderbergh's "Haywire" and has been earning rave reviews for his turn in the Tsunami drama "The Impossible," a performance that was recently endorsed via an industry screening held by Angelina Jolie. Blunt gave moving performances in the light-hearted indie "Your Sister's Sister," the rom-com "The Five-Year Engagement" and the futuristic thriller "Looper."
"Salmon Fishing" has received extensive coverage since the nominations were announced. Yahoo! Movies has named it the Romantic Comedy of 2012 while Hollywood.com released a list of reasons why the film deserves recognition.
Oscar ballots are due on Jan. 3, which means that in the wake of "Salmon Fishing's" newfound attention, Academy members may take the film into consideration. Additionally, since it might be tough to fill the 10 Best Picture slots this year, the film may have a slim chance of earning a nomination for for the coveted award.
However, not every industry professional takes their cues from the HFP -- let's not forget that the critically panned "Burlesque" and "The Tourist" earned Best Picture nods for Musical or Comedy in 2011.
The 70th Annual Golden Globe Awards will be held on Jan. 15. Nominations for the 2013 85th Annual Academy Awards will be announced on Jan. 10.
To contact the editor, e-mail: