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BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. -- Silent film is taking over Hollywood's awards scene. The silent-era tale The Artist heads the Golden Globes with six nominations, among them best comedy or musical, and acting honors for its French stars, Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo.
Tied for second-place with five nominations Thursday are the 1960s racial tale The Help and George Clooney's Hawaiian family story The Descendants. Both films are up for best drama, while Clooney was nominated for best dramatic actor and The Help earned acting slots for Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, and Jessica Chastain.
"We've all been striking out trying to make our dreams come true, and the fact that our very first studio film is being so well received and embraced is humbling and exciting," said supporting-actress nominee Spencer, an awards-season newcomer and longtime friend of Tate Taylor, the first-time director of The Help, based on his childhood pal Kathryn Stockett's best-seller.
Also competing for best drama: Martin Scorsese's Paris adventure Hugo; Clooney's political thriller The Ides of March; Brad Pitt's baseball chronicle Moneyball; and Steven Spielberg's World War I epic War Horse.
Joining The Artist in the best musical or comedy category are: the cancer story 50/50; Kristen Wiig's wedding romp Bridesmaids; Woody Allen's romantic fantasy Midnight in Paris; and Michelle Williams' Marilyn Monroe tale My Week With Marilyn.
Dujardin, who won the best-actor prize for The Artist in its premiere at May's Cannes Film Festival, was nominated for best actor in a musical or comedy. He plays a silent-film star whose career nosedives as talking pictures take over in the late 1920s in The Artist, which has virtually no spoken dialogue and is shot in the boxy, black-and-white format of the silent era.
The actor called his nomination an "incredible gift."
The Artist also picked up a supporting actress honor for Bejo as a rising star of the sound era. Filmmaker Michel Hazanavicius earned directing and screenplay nominations for the film, which also is up for best musical score.
Along with the Screen Actors Guild Award nominations a day earlier, the Globes help narrow down prospects for the Academy Awards, whose nominations come out Jan. 24. If The Artist earns a best-picture nomination then, it will be the first silent movie with a serious shot at Hollywood's top prize since the very first year of the Oscars, for 1927-28, when the silent flicks Wings and Sunset took top honors.
Clooney has three nominations. Besides best dramatic actor as a neglectful dad tending his daughters in The Descendants, he's up for directing and screenplay for The Ides of March. For the acting prize, Clooney will compete against his Ides co-star Ryan Gosling, who plays a presidential candidate's aide. Gosling had a second nomination for best musical or comedy actor as a ladies man in the romance Crazy, Stupid, Love.
Glenn Close is also a dual contender, as best dramatic actress as a woman masquerading as a male butler in the Irish drama Albert Nobbs and for best song for writing the lyrics to "Lay Your Head Down," the film's theme tune.
Besides Bejo and Spencer, who plays a sassy maid in The Help, supporting-actress nominees include The Help co-star Chastain as Spencer's lonely new boss. The other nominees are Janet McTeer as a cross-dressing laborer in Albert Nobbs, and Shailene Woodley as a troubled teen in The Descendants.
Kate Winslet had a second nomination, as best actress in a TV miniseries or movie for Mildred Pierce. Downton Abbey and Mildred Pierce tied for the most television nominations with four, with both shows competing for best miniseries or movie.
Several TV newcomers were among the nominees, including Boss, New Girl, American Horror Story, and Homeland.
With drinks and dinner, the Globes are a laid-back affair for Hollywood's elite compared to the Oscars. The show turned a bit touchy last year as host Ricky Gervais repeatedly made sharp wisecracks about stars and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, a group of about 85 entertainment reporters for overseas outlets that presents the Globes.
But Gervais helped give the show a TV ratings boost, and he's been invited back as host for a third straight year.
Before the nominations announcement, the press group's president, Aida Takla-O'Reilly, joked that Gervais is a "naughty, naughty schoolboy."
Five-time Academy Award and Globe nominee Morgan Freeman -- who won the supporting-actor Oscar for Million Dollar Baby and a best-actor Globe for Driving Miss Daisy -- will receive the group's Cecil B. DeMille Award for lifetime achievement at the Jan. 15 ceremony.