Two vastly different films about the scourge of slavery in America, a thriller about the rescue of American hostages in Iran and a study of the dogged quest to capture one of the world's most wanted men -- Osama bin Laden -- were among the top nominees Thursday morning for the Golden Globe awards.
The Hollywood Foreign Press Assn., made up of journalists from around the world, put their focus on U.S. events with their nominations for best dramatic films of the year.
The Civil War epic "Lincoln," which revolved around the 16th U.S. president's efforts to end slavery and the Civil War, scored a record seven Golden Globe nominations for director Steven Spielberg. The nominations included best director, best picture, and best actor honors for Daniel Day-Lewis, best supporting nods for Tommy Lee Jones and Sally Field, as well as best screenplay and score. By contrast, his 1993 classic "Schindler's List" earned six Golden Globe nominations.
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"Django Unchained," a spaghetti Western opening on Christmas Day, revolves around a slave turned bounty hunter. It earned five nominations including best picture, best director and screenplay for filmmaker Quentin Tarantino, and two supporting actor nominations, for Leonardo DiCaprio and Christoph Waltz.
Ben Affleck's political thriller "Argo," about the courageous operation to recover American hostages in Iran in 1980, also received five nominations, including best picture, director, screenplay, score and a best supporting actor nod for Alan Arkin.
And then Kathryn Bigelow's "Zero Dark Thirty," which chronicles the 10-year-search for Al Qaeda mastermind Osama bin Laden, earned four nominations, including best film, director, screenplay and best actress for Jessica Chastain. It opens Dec. 19.
Rounding out the best dramatic picture nominees was Ang Lee's "Life of Pi," about an amazing journey of two shipwreck survivors: A young man and a tiger. The film also earned nominations for best director and score.
The nominations wrap one of the most closely watched weeks of the awards season, which kicked off Monday with the announcement of nominations for the Critics’ Choice Movie Awards, followed by the SAG Award nominations. The films and performers honored this week gain front-runner status leading up to the Academy Award nominations, which are to be announced Jan. 10.
Swimming upstream with three nominations Thursday morning was one of the biggest surprises of the award season: "Salmon Fishing in the Yemen." The quirky romantic comedy was nominated for best comedy or musical picture, and also earned best actor and actress nominations for stars Emily Blunt and Ewan McGregor.
On the TV side of the nominations, HBO's drama "Game Change" -- chronicling Sarah Palin's 2008 vice presidential run -- earned the most nominations with five, including a best actress nod for Julianne Moore. "Homeland" followed with four nominations and "Downton Abbey," "Modern Family" and the TV movie "The Girl" picked up three apiece.
There's also a suggestion that the love affair with "Mad Men" may be coming to an end. The AMC period drama that has dominated award shows in recent years was noticeably missing from the best dramatic TV series nominees, although it did pick up a nod for star Jon Hamm. Earlier this year, the show failed to take home a single Emmy.
It was another good morning for veteran actress Maggie Smith. The 77 year-old -- who earned the most Screen Actors Guild Award nominations Wednesday -- picked up two Golden Globe nods for best actress in a comedy or musical for "Quartet" and for best performance in a supporting role for the TV series "Downton Abbey."
Vying for best actress in a dramatic motion picture along with Chastain are Marion Cotillard for "Rust and Bone," Hellen Mirren for "Hitchcock," Naomi Watts for "The Impossible" and Rachael Weisz for "The Deep Blue Sea."
There were several surprising omissions Thursday morning. Both "Les Miserables" director Tom Hooper and "Silver Linings Playbook" filmmaker David O. Russell failed to earn directing nods. Also shut out: Robert De Niro, who has earned several nominations this awards season for his supporting role in "Silver Linings Playbook."
And the critics’ darling, "Beasts of the Southern Wild," failed to receive any nominations.MORE: All nominees | Top nominees | Snubs & surprises | Celeb reactions | TV picks | Full coverage
The Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. divides its film honors between drama and comedy or musical, opening up of the field that led to best picture nominations for "Les Miserables," “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel," “Moonrise Kingdom,” "Salmon Fishing in the Yemen" and "Silver Linings Playbook."
Joining Blunt and Smith as nominees for best actress in a comedy or musical are Judi Dench for "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel," Jennifer Lawrence for "Silver Linings Playbook" and Meryl Streep for "Hope Springs."
Vying with McGregor in the best actor in a comedy or musical category are Jack Black for "Bernie," Bradley Cooper for "Silver Linings Playbook," Hugh Jackman for "Les Miserables" and Bill Murray for "Hyde Park on the Hudson."
Earning nominations for best miniseries or motion picture are "Game Change," "The Girl," "Hatfields & McCoys," "The Hour" and "Political Animals."
The Golden Globes are to be presented Jan. 13 live on NBC from the Beverly Hilton Hotel, with Amy Poehler and Tina Fey as hosts. The two will also be competing against each other that night in the best performance by an actress in a TV comedy or musical category, with Fey earning a nomination for "30 Rock" and Poehler scoring a nomination for "Parks & Recreation."