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Geoff Boucher, Los Angeles Times, Published December 15 2011

'Hugo,' 'War Horse' and Clooney win Golden Globe nominations

LOS ANGELES — It's Martin Scorsese vs. Steven Spielberg, and George Clooney going against himself — that's one way to look at the nominations for best dramatic film at the 69th annual Golden Globes, where the rich visual epics "Hugo" and "War Horse" will vie for the trophy along with two films starring Clooney: "The Ides of March" and "The Descendants."

"The Help," an emotional tale set against the race and class backdrop of 1960s Mississippi, was also nominated in the category, along with "Moneyball," which stars Clooney's pal Brad Pitt as a maverick major league manager but also serves as commentary on people finding their place in a culture where their value is unappreciated.

The Globes split their best picture candidates into two fields — drama and comedy or musical — and in the latter the nominations went to "The Artist," the spirited black-and-white and mostly silent film about old Hollywood; "Midnight in Paris," Woody Allen's dreamy visit to the grand city during the Jazz Age; "Bridesmaids," a crowd-pleasing comedy that earned every bit of its R rating; "My Week With Marilyn," which saw Michelle Williams take on the audacious platinum challenge of portraying Marilyn Monroe; and "50/50," the rare heartfelt film to find comedy in the travails of a cancer patient.

"The Artist" led the field with six nominations, followed by "The Help" and "The Descendants," which walked away with five each.

For television, "Boardwalk Empire," 'Game of Thrones," 'Boss," 'Homeland" and "American Horror Story" earned nods for drama series and "Modern Family," 'Episodes," 'New Girl," 'Glee" and "Enlightened" took the comedy series nominations.

Award shows love to have stars, and Clooney and Pitt guarantee a considerable amount of Hollywood wattage. Each is nominated in the lead actor in a dramatic film category, Pitt for playing Oakland A's manager Billy Beane and Clooney for playing a father feeling the ground sliding out from under him amid a family crisis in "The Descendants."

Pitt and Clooney, who have appeared in five movies together, will vie for the Globes trophy with Leonardo DiCaprio for "J. Edgar," Michael Fassbender for "Shame" and Ryan Gosling for "The Ides of March."

In the best actress in a dramatic film race, it's Meryl Streep for her transformation into Downing Street icon Margaret Thatcher in "The Iron Lady"; Viola Davis for channeling the angst of a Mississippi maid in "The Help"; Rooney Mara for the under-the-skin title role in "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo"; Tilda Swinton for playing a mother of a teen on the edge in "We Need to Talk About Kevin"; and Glenn Close for playing a 19th century Irish woman living her life as a man in "Albert Nobbs."

In the counterpart category for comedy, two stars of Roman Polanksi's "Carnage," Jodie Foster and Kate Winslet, will go at each other again but with more decorum than they showed in the film, an adaption of a stage play about two sets of parents who go for one another's throats after an altercation between their kids. Also nominated in the field: Charlize Theron for "Young Adult," Michelle Williams for "My Week with Marilyn" and Kristen Wiig for the raunchfest with heart "Bridesmaids."

In television, "Downton Abbey," the British series that aired on PBS in the States, and HBO's "Mildred Pierce" led with four nominations each.

"Homeland" star Claire Danes, who this week was a noticeable absentee in the Screen Actors Guild Award nominations, heard her name called out on Thursday morning in the category of lead actress in a television drama series. The other nominees: Mireille Enos of "The Killing"; Julianna Margulies of "The Good Wife"; Madeleine Stowe of "Revenge"; and Callie Thorne of "Necessary Roughness."

Alec Baldwin, who encountered a bit of turbulence in his off-camera travels recently, is back as a frequent flyer at the Globes; the three-time Globe winner got his ninth career nomination from the HFPA voters. He joins four others in the category of lead actor in a television comedy series: David Duchovny of "Californication"; Johnny Galecki of "The Big Bang Theory"; Thomas Jane of "Hung" and Matt LeBlanc of "Episodes."

It was a good day for director Spielberg, who also saw his first animated feature film, "The Adventures of Tintin," nominated for best animated movie. It will compete with two films that got great reviews, "Rango" and "Puss in Boots," and one that didn't, "Cars 2," which did, however, finish as the highest-grossing animated film of the year with $551 million in worldwide box office.

Overall, the nominations showed the sway of the bookshelf in contemporary Hollywood, with adaptations of bestsellers such as "The Help" and "Moneyball" and even those aimed at young readers, such as "War Horse," which adapts a 1982 young adult novel about a horse named Joey making his way through the battlefields of the World War I, and "Hugo," a picture-book tale of an orphan and a French filmmaking titan who cross paths in a train station where both are hiding out from life.

The Golden Globe awards will be handed out Jan. 15 at the Beverly Hilton and the gala will be broadcast on NBC. Ricky Gervais, who as host last January shook up Hollywood with some scorching insults, will again emcee the broadcast.