|Brokeback Mountain, the story of forbidden love between two cowboys, is emerging as the front runner for a best-picture Golden Globe nomination.
Wildly varying films have received kudos from critics during this busy awards season, from biopics about Johnny Cash and Truman Capote to classic stories about romance and a royal ape.
Brokeback Mountain has been named the year's best picture in recent days by critics groups in New York, Los Angeles and Boston; its director, Ang Lee, has received top honours from all three and from the National Board of Review of Motion Pictures.
One of the film's stars, Heath Ledger, won the best actor award on Monday from the New York Film Critics Circle, and his co-star, Jake Gyllenhaal, was named best supporting actor by the National Board of Review. Brokeback Mountain also appears on the American Film Institute's list of the top 10 movies of the year.
Tom O'Neil, a columnist for the awards website theenvelope.com, said Brokeback Mountain was one of only two certain nominees for best drama at the Golden Globes, scheduled for January 16.
The other is Good Night, and Good Luck, about Edward R Murrow's battles with Senator Joseph McCarthy. The film from director George Clooney received the best-picture award on Monday from the National Board of Review, which described it as "extraordinary".
"There is a curious consensus building behind Brokeback Mountain," O'Neil said. "At the same time, we're seeing previous front-runners like Munich and (Memoirs of a) Geisha fall behind. Neither film has received the enthusiastic support of film critics, which is a crucial element behind a best-picture rival."
Brokeback also has all the key ingredients needed for a best-picture Oscar nominee, O'Neil says - and the Golden Globes have increasingly been a predictor for Academy Awards success in recent years.
"It is epic, it's a wide-screen, big-canvas movie. Oscar voters frequently confuse best picture with big picture. This is big in its ideas, in its cinematic range, in its landscape views of Wyoming in the 60s," he said. "It feels important - it's making a social statement about something that's becoming more acceptable in America but is still slightly dangerous."
Similarly, the fact that Lee has received so much praise could bode well for him. The veteran Taiwanese helmer lost the best-picture and best-director Oscars for his 2000 martial arts epic Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, although the movie did win best foreign-language film and Lee won a Golden Globe from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association for best director.