This year's set of Golden Globes nominees may or may not be deserving, and may or may not serve as good predictors of the Oscars, but one thing they certainly will do: they'll make for a pretty procession along the red carpet. (See some of this year's hunky nominees on Esquire.)
Looking at some of the nominees announced this morning, it seems as if the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (the handful of reporters who pick the Globe nominees and vote for the winners) made sure to get some glamorous, boldface-name stars to come to their awards show, whether or not those performers actually did awards-quality work.
After all, the presence of such stars on the guest list makes for a more glittering party (which is what the Globes ceremony, with its table-hopping and free-flowing alcohol, usually is). It may also make for a bigger TV audience, which is something the major awards shows have all been struggling to draw in recent years.
The apparent preference for megawattage over merit seems to be the only way to explain the three nominations for 'The Tourist' (Best Comedy, Best Comedy Actor for Johnny Depp and Best Comedy Actress for Angelina Jolie). First, the movie wasn't well-liked by critics and earned a middling response from audiences. Second, it was a comedy? A light caper, yes, but comedy is kind of a stretch.
The comedy tag is a similar stretch for tongue-in-cheek action film 'Red' and whimsical fantasy 'Alice in Wonderland,' which also got three nominations, including another acting nod for Depp. Still, nominating Depp twice does double the chances of luring him away from his home in France to travel thousands of miles to stroll the red carpet at the Beverly Hilton. And nominating Jolie is a good way to get not just her but Brad Pitt to show up for the festivities. Then there's the cast of 'Red,' which includes such potential red-carpet brighteners as Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, and Helen Mirren.
Halle Berry has been off the awards radar for years. Her role as a woman with multiple personalities in 'Frankie & Alice' hasn't been seen by audiences and hasn't earned much love from critics, but it's the kind of showy performance awards voters like, and she adds luster to any awards show, so here she is.
'Burlesque' wasn't the greatest musical (not that there were too many to choose from this year), but who doesn't want to see what Cher and Christina Aguilera will wear on the red carpet? Now we'll get to find out.
James Franco and Anne Hathaway are both talented, but they're also young and attractive, which is a large part of the reasoning behind their selection as this year's Oscar hosts. But since they were both nominated this morning, they'll lend their youth and attractiveness to the Globes first.
Globe nominee Emma Stone probably won't get nominated for an Oscar, which says less about her performance in 'Easy A' (which delighted both critics and audiences) than it does about the Oscars, which aren't as fond of comedy as the Globes are. So while she may deserve a Globe, she's also probably not going to get too many other award nominations this winter, so hers will be a youthful and attractive presence you'll see only at the Globes.
Certainly, some of the nominees were chosen strictly on their merits. Not many viewers have seen Jacki Weaver's performance as a grandmother named Smurf who's a crime family matriarch in the Australian import 'Animal Kingdom,' and she's certainly no fashion plate or household name, but the critical groundswell in favor of her performance this awards season has been too big for the HFPA to ignore.
Same goes for little-known Jennifer Lawrence's commanding turn as a poverty-stricken Ozark teen trying to take care of her family in indie drama 'Winter's Bone.' Paul Giamatti and Jesse Eisenberg are better-known names, but neither the rumpled star of the little-seen 'Barney's Version' nor the nerd-supreme at the center of 'The Social Network' can be said to be a glamour pick.
Other names on the list -- including Annette Bening, Julianne Moore, Colin Firth, Ryan Gosling, Michelle Williams, Nicole Kidman, Natalie Portman, Jake Gyllenhaal and Mark Wahlberg -- are on nearly everybody's shortlist for awards this season and are likely Oscar contenders. That they're also attractive and well-known is gravy for Globes voters.
Whether nominating pretty, boldfaced-named stars will actually get people to watch the Jan. 16 awards ceremony is another question. Usually, what draws audiences to these shows is not the stars but movies in which viewers have a rooting interest. Of this year's most nominated films, however, only 'The Social Network,' 'Inception' and 'Alice in Wonderland' have been big hits. 'The Kids Are All Right' was a big hit in art-house theaters, and there's still time for 'The King's Speech' and 'Black Swan' to become popular before the Globe ceremony rolls around (both have done very well in limited release and are slowly expanding to screens across the country). Otherwise, however, the show may find viewers changing channels as stars win awards for movies few have seen. And the HFPA may discover it has the same problem the Academy has already discovered with the Oscars: that a glittery red carpet procession isn't enough to hold audience interest anymore.
•Follow Gary Susman on Twitter @garysusman.