No one can lay a glove on the Golden Globes. It's the award show that has survived so many crazy incidents and outrageous behavior over the years that it has developed an an almost absolute immunity to criticism.
Showbiz journalists have penned detailed exposes, columnists have mocked the movies nominated by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, TV critics have panned the show, but nothing — not even the infamous choice of Pia Zadora as new female star of the year — has been able to stop the Globes from motoring along as one of Hollywood's most unlikely institutions.
I suspect the Globes owe their robust health less to their value as an award season barometer than to the fact that everyone in Hollywood enjoys the idea of having an award show that is as raucous and silly as the Academy Awards is stuffy and tame. The Globes are Hollywood's ultimate guilty pleasure. If the Oscars are as earnest as an Ed Zwick movie, the Globes are as daffy and unpredictable as a Sacha Baron Cohen comedy.
They are also refreshingly populist, which surely has earned the Globes a big dose of goodwill from the studios, which have been complaining for years about the Oscars' fondness for dark, dreary dramas that barely make a dent at the box office. No one will accuse the Globes of dreariness. In fact, the Globes' nominations are clearly weighted toward pop appeal, with a separate (but equal) category for best musical or comedy, for its best picture and best actor and actress awards.
That's why this year's nominations have far more in common with the Joe Beer Can tastes of the multiplexes than what we'll see on Feb. 2nd, when the Oscar nominations arrive. The Globes have made room for populist films such as "The Hangover," "Julie & Julia" and "It's Complicated," which are long-shots for Oscar best picturedom.
The Globes category for best actor in a musical or comedy is also weighted toward mainstream entertainment, with Robert Downey Jr. (from "Sherlock Holmes") and Matt Damon (from "The Informant!") getting nominations, while Sandra Bullock, the kind of actress who rarely gets any love from the academy, earned a Globes nomination for both of her 2009 hits, a best musical or comedy actress nod for "The Proposal" and a best dramatic actress nod for "The Blind Side."
Of course, big movie stars — especially big movie stars who are willing to show up for the Globes TV broadcast — seem to cast a potent hypnotic spell over the 83 international journalists who make up the Foreign Press Association. The bigger the star, the bigger the whopper when it comes to unlikely nominations. In 2005, Nicole Kidman earned a best dramatic actress nod for "Birth," a little-seen drama that ended up making a grand total of $5 million.
This year the stars are equally dominant. As you scan the nominations, some of the choices, notably Matt Damon for "The Informant!," Julia Roberts for best musical or comedy actress in the blink-and-you-missed-it "Duplicity" and Tobey Maguire for best dramatic actor in "Brothers," seem geared far more for the value of their appearance on the Globes broadcast than any appreciation for their bravura acting.
The easiest odds to lay are that the Globes will lavish attention on a film bankrolled by Harvey Weinstein, who gets the love for movies that are largely ignored by most critics groups and Oscar voters.
This year, that movie is "Nine." Even though the Weinstein-produced film got a woefully lukewarm reception, it managed to earn five nominations, including a host of acting nods (just as Weinstein's "Vicky Cristina Barcelona" did last year).
Unfortunately, the film is too distant and chilly to be populist entertainment.
But give the Globes credit for consistency. Despite all of their members' oddball behavior, from the cat fights at cocktail parties to an incident in which a Foreign Press member grabbed Brendan Fraser's bottom, the Golden Globes know how to put on a star-friendly show. Call it lightweight or call it giddy fun, but in Hollywood, that's what they call entertainment.
Golden Globe nominees for movies
Best picture, drama
"The Hurt Locker"
"Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire"
"Up in the Air"
Emily Blunt, "The Young Victoria"
Sandra Bullock, "The Blind Side"
Helen Mirren, "The Last Station"
Carey Mulligan, "An Education"
Gabourey Sidibe, "Precious"
Jeff Bridges, "Crazy Heart"
George Clooney, "Up in the Air"
Colin Firth, "A Single Man"
Morgan Freeman, "Invictus"
Tobey Maguire, "Brothers"
Best picture, musical or comedy
" (500) Days of Summer"
"Julie & Julia"
Actress, musical or comedy
Sandra Bullock, "The Proposal"
Marion Cotillard, "Nine"
Julia Roberts, "Duplicity"
Meryl Streep, "It's Complicated"
Meryl Streep, "Julie & Julia"
Actor, musical or comedy
Matt Damon, "The Informant!"
Daniel Day-Lewis, "Nine"
Robert Downey Jr., "Sherlock Holmes"
Joseph Gordon-Levitt, "(500) Days of Summer"
Michael Stuhlbarg, "A Serious Man"
Penelope Cruz, "Nine"
Vera Farmiga, "Up in the Air"
Anna Kendrick, "Up in the Air"
Julianne Moore, "A Single Man"
Matt Damon, "Invictus"
Woody Harrelson, "The Messenger"
Christopher Plummer, "The Last Station"
Stanley Tucci, "The Lovely Bones"
Christoph Waltz, "Inglourious Basterds"
"Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs"
"Fantastic Mr. Fox"
"The Princess and the Frog"
Kathryn Bigelow, "The Hurt Locker"
James Cameron, "Avatar"
Clint Eastwood, "Invictus"
Jason Reitman, "Up in the Air"
Quentin Tarantino, "Inglorious Basterds"