Golden Globe Nominations: Rite of Too Many Stars

'Lincoln,' 'Argo' and 'Django Unchained' lead the pack, while no-star masterpieces like 'Beasts of the Southern Wild' get the shaft

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Marco Grob for TIME

The invitations have gone out for Hollywood’s favorite annual party. This morning the Hollywood Foreign Press Association announced its nominations for the 70th Golden Globe awards, and the guest list was predictably star-encrusted.

On Jan. 13, when Tina Fey and Amy Poehler host NBC‘s gala schmooze fest, the A-list nominees who’ll be sitting and sipping at the crowded tables in the Beverly Hilton Hotel ballroom will include Denzel Washington, Meryl Streep, Daniel Day-Lewis, Maggie Smith, Bill Murray, Judi Dench, Richard Gere, Helen Mirren and, representing the under-50s, Jennifer Lawrence. (The full list of movie nominations appears below.) Some of them will get to give acceptance speeches at this televised exercise in back-patting aerobics. Others will just get face time, which is a celebrity’s job and the HFPA’s one-night-a-year glory.

(LIST: TIME’s 10 Best Movies of 2012)

Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln led the pack with seven nominations. Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained — another movie about freeing the slaves — and Ben Affleck’s Argo each picked up five citations. Les Misérables, Silver Linings Playbook and Zero Dark Thirty received four apiece, and Life of Pi and surprise guest Salmon Fishing in the Yemen got three. All eight of these films are nominated for Best Picture, thanks to the HFPA’s separation of eligible titles into Drama and Comedy or Musical — five each. And whereas the Academy Awards hand out a mere 20 nominations for actors, the Golden Globes have 30: by applying the same rules as Best Picture, it doubles the pleasure in the Actor and Actress sweepstakes.

(READ: Mary Pols on Salmon Fishing in Yemen and Richard Corliss on Django Unchained)

That’s why The Master, a critics’ favorite that struck out with paying customers, earned more nominations (three, for actors Joaquin Phoenix, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams) than the much-loved, Academy-friendly Life of Pi (two, for Dramatic Picture and Director), and nearly as many as the putative Oscar front-runner Zero Dark Thirty (four). Kathryn Bigelow’s docudrama about the hunt for Osama bin Laden gleaned Drama, Director and Screenplay nods but just one Acting mention, for leading lady Jessica Chastain.

(READ: Mary Pols’ choices for the 10 Worst Movies of 2012)

The overloading of the actor categories is just smart business for the HFPA, a group of 88 L.A.-based entertainment journalists representing the international media. Their job is not to review movies, as the members of the 30 or so U.S. critics groups do, but to snag interviews with the stars. The more prizes they can dangle before the glamorati, the more likely a celebrity is to sit down for a chat with an HFPA member some other time.

(READ: The Golden Globes — Who Cares?)

Hence the proliferation of famous people in bad movies — a category that this year would include Murray for Hyde Park on Hudson and Nicole Kidman for The Paperboy — while fabulous films with no big names get the shaft. This year, in the nominations for Best Actress, Drama, HFPA voters had the opportunity, if not its solemn duty, to pay tribute to splendid turns by two performers at opposite ends of the age spectrum. And they blew it.

(READ: TIME’s reviews of Hyde Park on Hudson and The Paperboy)

Sorry, Quvenzhané Wallis. In Beasts of the Southern Wild, you gave the performance of your life — which was also your first, you being only six when the film was shot. (You’re now nine.) Lighting up the screen like a sparkler at a down-home block party, Wallis has star quality galore, but she and her movie got zero HFPA nominations.

(READ: Richard Corliss’s review of Beasts of the Southern Wild)

And c’est dommage, Emmanuelle Riva. Your achievement as the invalid wife in Michael Haneke’s Amour (one nomination, for Foreign Language Film) has already won Best Actress in three of the seven critics group that have announced their winners. You’re almost guaranteed an Oscar nomination; you might well win. And if any group should recognize a legendary French actress, it’s the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. And yet, at 85, you got stiffed. Maybe when you’re older.

(READ: Mary Corliss’s review of Amour)

That left Chastain as the only American in a global roller derby with two Englishwomen (Mirren for Hitchcock, Rachel Weisz for The Deep Blue Sea), an Australian (Naomi Watts in The Impossible) and a Frenchie (Marion Cotillard, Rust and Bone). Foreign femmes also dominated the shortlist for Best Actress in a Comedy or Musical: Dench (The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel), Smith (Quartet) and Emily Blunt (Salmon Fishing) from across the pond, Streep (Hope Springs) and Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook) for the home team.

(FIND: Jennifer Lawrence on TIME’S Top 10 Movie Performances of 2012 list)

In the Oscar race for Best Actor, Day-Lewis’s portrait of Lincoln is favored over Bradley Cooper in Silver Linings Playbook and Hugh Jackman in Les Misérables. At the Globes, Day-Lewis will have clear sailing in the Drama category — though it was nice to see Washington (Flight), Richard Gere (Arbitrage) and John Hawkes (Sessions) listed as finalists — leaving Jackman and Cooper to fight for the scraps in Comedy or Musical.

(READ: Joe Klein on Lincoln and Lincoln)

Even at the Globes, class distinctions apply, with Drama usually taking the top award — as at the Oscars — and Comedy or Musical the door prize. (Last year was an anomaly for both groups, where the silent comedy The Artist won.) This year, the nominees for Best Director (Ben Affleck, Quentin Tarantino, Ang Lee, Spielberg and Bigelow) were the exact five who directed the finalists for Best Picture, Drama (Argo, Django Unchained, Life of Pi, Lincoln and Zero Dark Thirty). That left no room for Les Mis helmer Tom Hooper and Silver Linings Playbook‘s David O. Russell, both of whom have a plausible shot at an Oscar nomination. But Hooper and Russell will be allowed to sit at a front table with their films’ nominees. That’s just common courtesy for uncommon honchos.

(READ: Richard Corliss’s review of Les Misérables)

The star-wrangling gets truly manic in the compiling of the Best Original Song nominees. Should Stand Up Guys, The Hunger Games and Act of Valor be nominated by any self-respecting group of movie watchers? Maybe not, but they all got cited, because their theme songs were written and performed by, respectively, Jon Bon Jovi, Taylor Swift and Keith Urban (Mr. Nicole Kidman). It’s not so much about rewarding excellence as about packing the hall with bold face names. And for the HFPA members, it’s less Who’s Best? than What Celebrity Are You Dying to Meet?

Best Picture, Drama
“Django Unchained”
“Life of Pi”
“Zero Dark Thirty”

Best Picture, Musical or Comedy
“The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”
“Les Misérables”
“Moonrise Kindgom”
“Salmon Fishing in the Yemen”
“Silver Linings Playbook”

Best Director
Ben Affleck, “Argo”
Kathryn Bigelow, “Zero Dark Thirty”
Ang Lee, “Life of Pi”
Steven Spielberg, “Lincoln”
Quentin Tarantino, “Django Unchained”

Best Actress, Drama
Jessica Chastain, “Zero Dark Thirty”
Marian Cotillard, “Rust and Bone”
Helen Mirren, “Hitchcock”
Naomi Watts, “The Impossible”
Rachel Weisz, “The Deep Blue Sea”

Best Actor, Drama
Daniel Day-Lewis, “Lincoln”
Richard Gere, “Arbitrage”
John Hawkes, “The Sessions”
Joaquin Phoenix, “The Master”
Denzel Washington, “Flight”

Best Actor, Musical or Comedy
Jack Black, “Bernie”
Bradley Cooper, “Silver Linings Playbook”
Hugh Jackman, “Les Misérables ”
Ewan McGregor, “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen”
Bill Murray, “Hyde Park on Hudson”

Best Actress, Musical or Comedy
Emily Blunt, “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen”
Judi Dench, “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”
Jennifer Lawrence, “Silver Linings Playbook”
Maggie Smith, “Quartet”
Meryl Streep, “Hope Springs

Best Supporting Actress
Amy Adams, “The Master”
Sally Field, “Lincoln”
Anne Hathaway, “Les Misérables ”
Helen Hunt, “The Sessions”
Nicole Kidman, “The Paperboy”

Best Supporting Actor
Alan Arkin, “Argo”
Leonardo DiCaprio, “Django Unchained”
Philip Seymour Hoffman, “The Master”
Tommy Lee Jones, “Lincoln”
Christoph Waltz, “Django Unchained”

Best Screenplay
Mark Boal, “Zero Dark Thirty”
Tony Kushner, “Lincoln”
David O’Russell, “Silver Linings Playbook”
Quentin Tarantino, “Django Unchained”
Chris Terrio, “Argo”

Best Musical Score
Mychael Danna, “Life of Pi”
Alexandre DSesplat, “Argo”
Dario Marianelli, “Anna Karenina”
Tom Tykwer, Johnny Klimek, Reinhold Heil, “Cloud Atlas”
John Williams, “Lincoln”

Best Foreign Language Film
“A Royal Affair”
“The Intouchables”
“Rust and Bone”

Best Animated Feature
“Rise of the Guardians”
“Hotel Transylvania”
“Wreck-It Ralph”

Best Original Song
“For You” from “Act of Valor” (Keith Urban)
“Not Running Anymore” from “Stand Up Guys” (Jon Bon Jovi)
“Safe & Sound” from “The Hunger Games” (Taylor Swift)
“Skyfall” from “Skyfall” (Adele)
“Suddenly” from “Les Misérables” (Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alain Boubil)