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Golden Globes: Fix Is In for Some Nominees

Golden Globe Nods | Oliver Stone | Michele Lee; Victoria Rowell | iTunes

Golden Globes: Fix Is In for Some Nominees

Thursday morning, 8:30 E.T., get ready for the annual Golden Globe nominations.

They’re presented by the Hollywood Foreign Press, a group of 80 or so mostly senior citizens, many of whom aren’t foreign, or even press. In their own countries, more than half of these so-called journalists are considered laughingstocks.

But wait: first things first. One guarantee of this year’s Golden Globes: it will be a Warren Beatty-Jack Nicholson love fest. That’s good for NBC, which pays the HFPA $6 million a year for the rights to the Golden Globes name. They don’t care who does the nominating as long as the movie stars show up. And now they will, considering the very clever positioning of the awards group.

In a couple of strategic moves, Beatty will be given the Cecil B. DeMille Award, a lifetime achievement thing he certainly deserves.

But watch at the same time for Mrs. Beatty, Annette Bening, to get a nomination for Best Actress for "Running with Scissors." Bening gave a great performance, but the film was a mess, and her Oscar chances went from certain to nil overnight once people saw the whole movie.

Because the Globes divide their awards into drama and comedy/musical, Bening should wind up in that second category along with Penelope Cruz, Beyonce, Meryl Streep and a wild card fifth entrant.

This would leave the drama division to Helen Mirren, Judi Dench, Naomi Watts and two others who won’t make the Oscar short list. One of those will likely be Renee Zellweger, aka Miss Golden Globes, for her turn in the unseen “Miss Potter.”

Then add this to the equation: the actual Miss Golden Globes is Lorraine Nicholson, daughter of Jack. This is the annual gift to the daughter of a celebrity. And what better choice is Miss Lorraine in 2007, since her dad is undoubtedly headed for a nomination for “The Departed”? It’s a good move all the way around. Expect appearances by family friend Anjelica Huston, as well as possibly Beatty’s sister Shirley MacLaine.

And thus you have what the Golden Globes are really about: not prizes for merit or accomplishment, but simply a way to maneuver stars into the glow of a TV broadcast. Check. Mate.

For all this game playing, the head of the HFPA, Philip Berk, gets a nice salary: $67,000, according to the group’s most recent tax filing.

The HFPA, you see, is smart enough to call itself a charity and give away some of that $6 million so they can receive the whole amount tax-free. Small salaries are doled out to several other full-timers, and the HFPA lists about $600,000 totally in salaries.

At the same time, even though the group gets freebies from every studio, they still spent $585,000 on travel to places like the Cannes Film Festival and other locales during the last year.

Their other expenses included $82,000 for meetings and press conferences; $65,777 for photography; $56,000 for “online research”; $72,722 for unspecified “outside services”; and $38,515 for miscellaneous “other.”

The total for all those expenses: $1,119,938.

The group is indeed charitable, giving away only a little more than that -- $1,264,980 — to other non-profit groups including the Red Cross ($250,000) and Martin Scorsese’s Film Foundation ($250,000).

As always, though, it’s the little amounts that are the most interesting. Whatever Chabad in Brooklyn has to do with film remains a secret, but they got $1,000. And "Exorcist" star Linda Blair’s World Heart Foundation got $750.

And the rest are just weird: The Spiral Foundation ($140), Hudson Valley Community College ($1,000); The Thalians of Beverly Hills ($2,500); and the Young Artists Awards ($1,500), which is an annual sop to an HFPA founder’s pet charity.

As usual, the HFPA gave a nice piece of change to the Local IATSE union: $3,200. The group sponsors something called The International Media Award, which every year is given to a member of the … Hollywood Foreign Press.

Last year it was Paola Abou-Jouade of Brazil. In other words: the HFPA uses NBC’s money to make a tax-free donation to a group that gives one of its own members an award.

As Borat would say, “Niiiiice!”

Oliver Stone Still Looking for Conspiracies

Now that “World Trade Center” is almost over, Oliver Stone is starting to look for conspiracies again.

The Oscar-winning director told me at a private dinner Monday night for the DVD release of “World Trade Center” that he’s going to choose his next film from among five new projects.

“Afghanistan is one of them,” he said.

And that would mean a real exploration of Usama bin Laden, the Taliban, what brought us to Sept. 11 and what happened afterward.

“No one has ever told the real story,” Stone told me, and it’s pretty clear he thinks he has it.

Stone should be one of five final nominees for Best Director when the announcements are made next month. He should be joining Martin Scorsese, Clint Eastwood, Bill Condon and Pedro Almodovar at the very least, along with several others — including Richard Eyre and Stephen Frears — jockeying for position.

“World Trade Center,” more so than “United 93,” is a movie that acts as more than a documentary in telling a complex story of what happened on Sept. 11. While the latter seems like a custom-made tale for the families of the fated United Airlines flight, “World Trade Center” is a universal story of hope and survival.

Certainly, the policemen who survived Sept. 11 feel that way. Many of them were in attendance on Monday night, including John McLoughlin (played by Nicolas Cage) and Will Jimeno (Michael Pena). They, along with producers Michael Shamberg and Stacey Sher, have become a family of sorts since the movie was made.

Among those who turned out for the dinner and screening of the film were documentary filmmakers Barbara Kopple and Albert Maysles, as well as actors Celeste Holm and Tony LoBianco.

But I was more interested in the young man and two women sitting at Stone’s table: his mother, Jacqueline, and first wife, Najwa, to whom he was married from 1970 to 1977. She and Stone have remained quite friendly all these years, and she’s apparently like an aunt to Stone’s son Sean, 21, who just graduated from Princeton.

“His mother is coming in this week,” said Najwa Stone of Sean’s mother, Elizabeth, “and we’re all getting together.”

Hello! Give Stone an Oscar for modern family relations, if nothing else. He’s become in films what Picasso was in art when it comes to his domestic business.

And by the way, just in case you were wondering, Stone doesn’t believe in nepotism or coddling. Sean, 21, has gotten a job since graduation, and it’s not carrying daddy’s coat. He’s been working in construction downtown until he decides what his next move is.

“Oliver went down to see him,” Najwa said, “and he was very impressed.”

Michele's a Caricature; Victoria Victorious

Broadway and “Knots Landing” star Michele Lee had an emotional moment yesterday. She finally got her caricature placed at the legendary Sardi’s.

Her husband, Fred Rappoport, had arranged for it to be drawn long ago, but somehow the hanging ceremony had not taken place.

For Lee, who last starred on Broadway in “The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife,” it was a sentimental experience indeed. Years ago her mother had sent her from Hollywood, where she’d grown up, to New York with the idea of Sardi’s as the “in” place.

“It was the first place I ever ate lunch in New York,” said Michele, whose father, Jack Dusick, was a famous makeup man. Now if only someone would find this woman a musical to star in, Broadway would be a better place. …

You may know Victoria Rowell from her from 13 years on “The Young and the Restless,” or from her four seasons on “Diagnosis Murder.” Now she’s written a memoir called “The Women Who Raised Me,” which HarperCollins will publish next spring.

Rowell has quite an interesting story, and one that should be made into a movie. Born in Maine, she was reared in Massachusetts by foster parents. They were smart enough to send her to New York and encourage an acting and dancing career.

Along the way, Rowell was mentored by a number of teachers in all fields. What an amazing story indeed. But Rowell was born under a good sign. While we lunched at Michael’s, she ran into her boss, CBS’s Les Moonves, and HarperCollins editor-in-chief David Hirshey. What are the odds?

Victoria, by the way, plays Samuel L. Jackson’s wife in Irwin Winkler’s new movie “Home of the Brave,” a saga about Iraq war veterans who have trouble coming home. She’s great, too, which could mean yet another career making movies. It doesn’t hurt that she’s beautiful, smart, etc. …

Another beautiful woman, Bebe Neuwirth, returns to her Tony-winning role on Broadway in “Chicago” beginning New Year’s Eve. Now the world feels like it’s in balance again. It’s also Bebe’s birthday. Many celebrations!

Did Apple Eat Itself?

There’s news today that iTunes downloads have fallen 65 percent, and people just aren’t pouring money into Apple’s online music service like they used to.

To no one's surprise, it’s not Apple’s fault: it’s the record companies. Their refusal to invest in careers of new artists outside of a handful has made iTunes and services like it merely catalogue companies.

The result: It’s likely that most people who have iTunes have downloaded everything they want, need or didn’t already own on CD. To revive sales, record companies (it’s funny that they’re still called that) would have to sign and significantly promote new artists. They would also have to nurture them, so that said artists would last beyond one hit or one album.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: The current generation of musicians and fans are living off the 1960s and '70s. They aren’t creating anything new. Hip-hop is an end unto itself. The “songs” aren’t coverable by other artists, and since they are largely sampled from old material, they are dead ends.

If the iTunes sales downturn is for real, and not just a blip, watch for real panic at the record companies. If you thought layoffs were bad before, this news should cause pandemonium.

Legal downloading was the last bastion of the business, and the last great hope for revenue streams. With all of their methods of delivery shot, the record companies may actually have to make music. Ouch!

HarperCollins is owned by News Corp., the parent company of FOXNews.com.