In case anyone's still keeping count amid the writers strike that has hobbled Hollywood's awards season, the tragic romance "Atonement" led the pack for Sunday's Golden Globes with seven nominations.
Films and performances have taken a back seat to the business side of show business -- intractable management and unyielding writers, the latter taking a hardball stance that forced Globe organizers to scrap their swanky telecast for a humdrum news conference to announce winners.
On strike since Nov. 5, the Writers Guild of America refused to let union members work on the star-studded banquet-style show, prompting actors to boycott the ceremony rather than cross picket lines.
Although the guild called off pickets it had planned outside the news conference, the strike left one of Hollywood's brightest and giddiest nights in shambles. Despite the gowns and formal wear, the Globes are known as a freewheeling cousin of the Academy Awards, a place where stars can have a few drinks and cut loose as they celebrate the year's achievements in film and television.
Sunday's event was recast as an hour-long announcement that would feature TV news personalities disclosing the winners in between clips of nominated movies and shows. The news conference format was a far cry from a ceremony whose star wattage would have been powered by the likes of Julia Roberts, Tom Hanks, George Clooney, Denzel Washington, Cate Blanchett, Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie, who all had acting nominations.
The nods for "Atonement" included best drama, plus honors for lead actors Keira Knightley and James McAvoy, director Joe Wright and screenwriter Christopher Hampton.
Some nominees were relieved at the thought of avoiding scrutiny by TV audiences.
"Frankly, for me, the prospect of being on television is what's so frightening about it," said Hampton, an Oscar winner for the screenplay of 1988's "Dangerous Liaisons." "It was terrifying, the Oscars, with 1 billion people watching them. I didn't want to think about that. It paralyzes you, sitting there for three hours terrified, waiting to find out whether you've won."
The fate of Hollywood's biggest night, the Feb. 24 Oscars, remains uncertain. Guild leader Patric Verrone has said writers would not be allowed to work on that show, either, which could force stars to make an even tougher choice on whether to stay away or cross the picket line.
Oscar organizers insist their show will come off as planned, with or without the writers.
With two best-picture categories, drama and musical or comedy, the Globes traditionally have had a good shot for one of its movie winners to come away with the top prize at the Oscars. But the Globes have not correctly forecast an Oscar best-picture winner in four years, the last one being "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King."
Writers walked off the job over their share of potential profits from programming on the Internet and other new media.
As a result of their strike, films may not get quite the same box-office bounce they typically receive after winning high-profile prizes, which can add tens of millions of dollars to their haul during the long awards season. Yet actors and writers say tough action is needed to make sure creative people get their fair financial share for the long haul.
"I feel bad for my friends who have movies that would get a lift from a Globe or an Oscar," said Don Cheadle, a past Globe winner and Oscar nominee. "But the Oscar ratings have gone down steadily for the last 10 years. Fewer and fewer people are interested in seeing Hollywood fete itself. For what we're fighting for and what we're trying to achieve, these are the necessary sacrifices."