Lisa Schwarzbaum says the Hollywood Foreign Press Association did a surprisingly good job this year
Marisa Tomei
Credit: Marisa Tomei: Fashion Wire Daily/Retna makes its Golden Globe movie picks

On the one hand, the Golden Globes are the oldest, silliest, Cracker Jack box trinket-for-everyone awards in old Cracker Jack-chomping, trinket-loving Hollywood. And the fact that they have come to be taken seriously as a harbinger of Oscar voting (let alone a harbinger of Oscar fashion) is a kind of benign crime to which we all — entertainment journalists, personal publicists, TV ad salesmen, nominees happy to dress up and drink up on camera, you reading this stuff — are guilty accomplices.

On the other hand, any outfit that recognizes the superior achievements of ”The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring” is jake with me. So with a collegial wave of the computer mouse to the wacky handful who constitute the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, I salute their inclusion of ”LOTR” and its director, Peter Jackson, among the nominees for Best Drama and Best Director.

I flick my Indiglo Timex — the critic’s most critically useful tool — in a gesture of appreciation for their good taste in nominating Gene Hackman as Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy for ”The Royal Tenenbaums,” Thora Birch as Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy for ”Ghost World,” and Marisa Tomei as Best Supporting Actress for ”In the Bedroom.”

In fact, I go further: The choices made by whoever-they-are over at the HFPA for this year’s Golden Globes awards list are as interesting, open-minded, and, let’s face it, correct — because they think like me — as I could hope for. The Oscar noms should only be so smart.

True, the GG crowd fell for some of what I consider hooey — feel free to disagree — buying Halle Berry’s self-conscious swanning in ”Monster’s Ball” and the wig-parade performances of Billy Bob Thornton and Cate Blanchett in ”Bandits.” But the nominating committee also had the independent good taste to single out Hayden Christensen in the otherwise forgettable weep-and-learn drama ”Life as a House” and Jude Law in the unfairly undervalued gem ”A.I.” As expected, they applauded ”Shrek” and ”Gosford Park” as nominees for Best Musical or Comedy. But they also recognized the fine, light-touch virtues of ”Legally Blonde” and ”Bridget Jones’s Diary.”

And the choices for Best Foreign Language Picture are mainstream — ”Amélie,” ”No Man’s Land,” crowd-pleasers like that — but faultless.

Does this mean I have to rethink my whole comfy yearly rant about Globe fever? Among the GG television nominations, in addition to the usual ”Sopranos”/”West Wing” smackdown and the ”Will & Grace”/”Friends”/”Sex and the City” axis, there’s welcome acknowledgment of such outstanding newbies as Jennifer Garner in ”Alias,” Kiefer Sutherland in ”24,” and Peter Krause in ”Six Feet Under.” I could try to drum up some outrage because ”Curb Your Enthusiasm” was overlooked when everybody knows it’s the best, most subversive, most original comedy on television, but what’s the point? Creator and star Larry David would probably freak and kvetch, peeved by his own popularity, if a Globe nomination ever did roll his way.

This year’s Golden Globe nominees, sheesh, they’re pretty good. I can only hope the presenters and award recipients will make drunken fools of themselves on TV so I can hang onto my bias while watching every second of the show, safe in my sweatpants, cozy in my hobbity living room.