When the Hollywood Foreign Press Association announced their list of nominees last week for their annual Golden Globes cocktail party, they drew almost unanimous shock for their selections in the "comedy / musical" department. Out were options like 'Cyrus,' 'Get Low,' 'Four Lions,' 'Easy A,' and 'The Other Guys.' In were the likes of 'Alice In Wonderland,' 'Burlesque,' and 'The Tourist.' Yes, really.

Now get this: According to Guy Adams at The Independent, Sony Pictures flew members of the HFPA to Las Vegas for a last minute pitch for 'Burlesque' (put out by their Screen Gems division). The package included "luxury hotel accommodations, free meals and a private concert performed by the film's star, Cher." The film then went on to receive three Golden Globe nominations including the aforementioned Best Picture nod and two for Best Original Song, one of them performed in the film by ... Cher.

The usual qualification to get a nomination in the Best Comedy/Musical category over the years has usually just been to BE a musical. 'Across the Universe,' 'Dreamgirls,' 'Mamma Mia', 'Nine,' 'The Phantom of the Opera,' and 'The Producers' have all received nods the past six years despite (wildly) varying opinoins on quality. But even when the appropriate category is debatable -- Jamie Foxx for 'Ray' as a Comedy/Musical nominee; Jeff Bridges ('Crazy Heart') was in Drama -- observers should be left debating subjective opinions, and not whether an all-expenses-paid trip directly influenced the voters.

As mentioned in Adams' piece, the HFPA has not been above bribes in the past. Sharon Stone took swag to the next level by giving each member a gold watch before receiving their ballots. Result? Stone and 'The Muse' received their only nomination throughout that entire award season. More infamously in 1981, Pia Zadora won the group's New Star of the Year Award for her work in 'Butterfly.' The film's producer, Zadora's husband, had also flown HFPA voters out to Vegas the weekend before they voted. That particular award was jettisoned a year later.

What nefarious machinations lurk in the mind of a voter is anyone's guess. We could ask the 80-some members of the Hollywood Foreign Press -- if only they were not anonymous shadows scattered around the world. The Broadcast Film Critics Association may be jam-packed with junket press who often receive special treatment, but at least we have names to go along with the opinions and ad quotes.

This all seems sort of tacky and perhaps the story is a bit "inside baseball," but it all boils down to simple integrity. In other words, the phrase "award-winning" should actually mean something. Nobody likes being lied to.