LOS ANGELES (AP) – Formal irreverence.

That’s what the Golden Globes telecast promises viewers each year.

Pack some celebrities into tuxedos and elegant (or not so elegant) dresses, load them into a big room at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, sprinkle liberally with alcohol and – who knows? – maybe Jack Nicholson will moon the crowd.

Hey, it’s happened before.

Although the Globes are distributed by the relatively small Hollywood Foreign Press Association (a group of about 90 journalists who cover entertainment for foreign-based media outlets), a winning spot on the nationally televised NBC ceremony is highly coveted.

Many actors and filmmakers use the Globes as a way to pique audience interest in their films and build momentum for the more prestigious Academy Awards, which are voted on by about 5,700 industry figures.

Others just show up for a good time.

“I’m stoked, but I’m pretty disoriented though,” Jack Black told The Associated Press when he learned of his best comedy actor nomination for “The School of Rock.”

His rivals include Nicholson for “Something’s Gotta Give,” Johnny Depp for “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl,” Bill Murray for “Lost in Translation” and Billy Bob Thornton for “Bad Santa.”

“I was like, ‘Who else got nominated?”‘ Black recalled. “When they told me, it really sounded surreal because those guys – this is nothing new to those guys. I’m definitely the what’s-wrong-with-this-picture in that group of actor studs.”

Black said that, if he did win, he’d probably play a little air-guitar to the tune of Queen’s “We Are the Champions.”

“But I’m not counting on that,” he said.

“Cold Mountain,” about a Civil War deserter whose journey to find his sweetheart is marked by heartbreak and death, led the nominations with eight, including best dramatic film.

The Foreign Press also has separate categories for comedies and dramas – the Oscars don’t – which doubles the Globes’ chances of selecting future Academy Award winners.

Besides “Cold Mountain,” best drama nominees were “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King,” “Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World,” “Mystic River” and “Seabiscuit”.

while comedy movie contenders were “Bend It Like Beckham,” “Big Fish,” “Finding Nemo,” “Lost in Translation” and “Love Actually.”

Sunday’s live telecast comes just two days before Oscar nominations are announced. The Oscar ceremony is set for Feb. 29, about three weeks earlier than usual.

After months on the busy Hollywood-awards campaign trail, many stars say they look forward to the Globes as a way to let off steam. Many have spent the last two months talking about dark, grim, somber or savage performances – and it’s time to lighten up.

“After this I want to do something like ‘The Fred Rogers Story,” said Alec Baldwin, a supporting actor nominee for playing a ruthless casino boss in “The Cooler. “It’s tough. Horrible people are challenging, but interesting … I think I owe the performance to a lot of coffee.”

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AP-ES-01-22-04 1411EST

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