By Bob Tourtellotte
BEVERLY HILLS, California (Reuters) - Silent movie "The Artist" painted a pretty picture at the Golden Globe nominations Thursday, leading all movies with six nods, including best film comedy or musical in the race to Hollywood's Oscars.
"The Artist," a silent movie shot in black and white and made in the same way films were before the "talkies," has earned numerous spots atop critics' lists and its director, Frenchman Michel Hazanavicius, thinks he knows why.
"Whether in Italy, the U.K., Spain or Germany, everywhere is the same kind of reaction, and I think that says something about the format. Silent used to be thought of as old. Now, it's no more old or new. It's ageless," he told Reuters.
Along with best film musical or comedy, "The Artist" earned nods for French actor Jean Dujardin, supporting actress Berenice Bejo, director and writer Hazanavicus and musical score.
The Golden Globes, voted on by about 90 members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, are among the most-watched awards programs leading up to the Oscars in February.
But in the race for Oscars, the world's top movie honors from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, "The Artist" already faces competition from drama "The Descendants," starring George Clooney as a man struggling to keep his family together, and civil rights-era film "The Help," which tells of black maids in segregated Mississippi dealing with racism.
Each of those two films earned five Golden Globe nods, including both in the category of best film drama, and both have won fans among critics and audiences in a year shaping up as one in which feel-good films or those with a cathartic ending are winning fans and award votes.
Director Tate Taylor called "The Help" a movie about people doing things to change their lives, and Jim Burke, producer for the "Descendants," said that film sent audiences a message of hope.
Along with best film drama, "Descendants" scored nominations for Clooney as best actor and Alexander Payne for directing and writing, among its honors. "The Help" earned nominations for Viola Davis for best actress in a drama and Octavia Spencer and Jessica Chastain for supporting actress.
HELP FOR 'HUGO'
Those are not the only movies making their mark this award season, and industry watchers should not count out Martin Scorsese's love letter to movies and the creative arts with 3D film "Hugo," which similarly wowed critics.
"Hugo rallied spectacularly today after being shut out at SAG," said Oscar pundit Tom O'Neil of website Gold Derby, noting Wednesday's nominees by the Screen Actors Guild. "Hugo" producer Graham King told Reuters he hoped the recognition by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association would help lure more people to theaters to see it.
"The Help," "Descendants" and "Hugo" will compete for best film drama at the Golden Globes against Steven Spielberg's "War Horse," baseball movie "Moneyball" and Clooney's political film "The Ides of March."
Golden Globe movie nominations are grouped into two categories -- dramas and musicals or comedies -- and "The Artist" will vie for best comedy or musical.
In that group, it faces director Woody Allen's "Midnight in Paris," cancer comedy "50/50," box-office hit "Bridesmaids" and "My Week with Marilyn,' starring Michelle Williams in the role of Marilyn Monroe. Her work put Williams in the Golden Globe race for best actress in a musical or comedy.
Vying for best dramatic actress alongside "Help" star Davis are perennial favorite Meryl Streep as Margaret Thatcher in "The Iron Lady," Glenn Close playing a woman masquerading as a male butler in "Albert Nobbs," newcomer Rooney Mara for "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" and Tilda Swinton in dark parenting movie, "We Need to Talk About Kevin."
In the race for dramatic actor, Clooney squares off against Leonardo DiCaprio as FBI boss J. Edgar Hoover in "J. Edgar," Michael Fassbender playing a sex addict in "Shame," Brad Pitt in "Moneyball" and Ryan Gosling for "The Ides of March." Gosling earned two nominations Thursday, his second coming in the comedic actor category for "Crazy, Stupid, Love."
In the director group, Payne and Hazanavicius take on Scorsese ("Hugo") and Allen ("Midnight in Paris,") along with Clooney for "The Ides of March."
Foreign-language film nominees were Angelina Jolie's Bosnian war movie "In the Land of Blood and Honey," Chinese movie "The Flowers of War," Belgian film "The Kid with a Bike," Iran's "A Separation," and Spanish movie "The Skin I Live In."
The Golden Globe Awards will be given out on January 15, hosted by British comedian Ricky Gervais and telecast live on NBC. Oscar nods come out on January 24.
Last year at the Golden Globes, Gervais ruffled the feathers of the HFPA with caustic jokes about the award show's reputation, but was invited back to emcee the event this year.
HFPA President Takla-O'Reilly made light of that dust-up on Thursday, calling Gervais a "naughty, naughty schoolboy" and saying only one topic was off-limits - religion.
(Additional reporting by Piya Sinha-Roy; Editing by Peter Cooney)