George Clooney's family film The Descendants and his political thriller The Ides of March are contenders in the awards season race, with both of the actor-director's 2011 titles earning Golden Globe nominations on Thursday.

The two movies are Golden Globe contenders for best dramatic film, joined by southern drama The Help, baseball tale Moneyball, 3D children's drama Hugo and the wartime epic War Horse.

Still, French film The Artist led the pack at Thursday's Globes announcement — read out by actors Rashida Jones, Gerard Butler, Sofia Vergara and Woody Harrelson. The story of a fading silent movies star earned six nominations, including best musical or comedy film, lead actor Jean Dujardin and supporting actress Bérénice Bejo.

"To be recognized alongside such brilliant actors is an honour," Dujardin said on Thursday. "The Golden Globe nomination for The Artist has left me speechless!"

Along with the best drama nomination, the Hawaiian-set The Descendants is a contender in three other categories: best director for Alexander Payne, best actor in a dramatic film for Clooney's portrayal of a father in crisis and best supporting actress for Shailene Woodley, who portrays one of his daughters.

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Viola Davis earned one of four Golden Globe nominations for The Help, based on the bestselling novel. (Dale Robinette/Disney/Associated Press )

Clooney earned three nominations overall. He is also up for directing and co-writing the screenplay for The Ides of March. For his acting nod, he will compete against his Ides star, actor Ryan Gosling.

Another Clooney buddy and Hollywood heavyweight, Brad Pitt, is a dramatic actor nominee for his role an ambitious, unconventional Major League Baseball manager in Moneyball. Rounding out the category are Michael Fassbender for his raw portrayal of a sex addict in Shame and Leonardo DiCaprio's J.Edgar turn as the legendary FBI chief Hoover.

Gosling a double-nominee

Popular Canadian actor Gosling is also a finalist for best actor in a comedy or musical for his role as a ladies man in the romantic comedy Crazy, Stupid, Love. Along with The Artist's Dujardin, he faces competition from Joseph Gordon-Levitt, star of the cancer comedy 50/50, Owen Wilson's indecisive writer in the fantastical romance Midnight in Paris and Brendan Gleeson's foul-mouthed cop in the comedy-thriller The Guard.

Other film nominees include:

  • Supporting actor: Kenneth Branagh, My Week with Marilyn; Albert Brooks, Drive; Jonah Hill, Moneyball; Viggo Mortensen, A Dangerous Method; Christopher Plummer, Beginners.
  • Supporting actress: Bérénice Bejo, The Artist; Jessica Chastain, The Help; Janet McTeer, Albert Nobbs; Octavia Spencer, The Help; Shailene Woodley, The Descendants.
  • Foreign language: The Flowers of War, In the Land of Blood and Honey, The Kid with a Bike, A Separation, The Skin I Live In.
  • Animated film: The Adventures of Tintin, Arthur Christmas, Cars 2, Puss in Boots, Rango.
  • ScreenplayMidnight in Paris, The Ides of March, The Artist, The Descendants, Moneyball.
  • Original score: The Artist; W.E.; The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo; Howard Shore, Hugo; John Williams, War Horse.
  • Original song: Hello Hello (Gnomeo & Juliet); The Keeper (Machine Gun Preacher); Lay Your Head Down (Albert Nobbs); The Living Proof (The Help); Masterpiece (W.E.) 

Many of the same films are up for the Golden Globe for best comedy or musical: The Artist, 50/50, Midnight in Paris, the Judd Apatow comedy Bridesmaids and the Marilyn Monroe story My Week with Marilyn.

For the title of best actress in a musical or comedy film, Bridesmaids star and Saturday Night Live regular Kristen Wiig faces a strong slate of female performers traditionally known for their dramatic roles: Charlize Theron, nominated for Young Adult, Carnage co-stars Jodie Foster and Kate Winslet, and noted young actress Michelle Williams, who portrays the famed screen siren in My Week with Marilyn.

Female-led civil rights-era tale The Help, about black maids who tell their life stories to a young Caucasian writer, was among the top nominees Thursday morning. Along with competing for best film drama, it earned nominations for actresses Viola Davis (actress, film drama), Olivia Spencer and Jessica Chastain (both for supporting actress).

Davis faces a familiar set of names for the best dramatic film actress trophy: Glenn Close, who plays a woman living life disguised as a man in Albert Nobbs; Meryl Streep's portrayal of former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady and Tilda Swinton as the mother of a school-aged killer in We Need to Talk About Kevin. The fresh face on the list, however, is The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo star Rooney Mara.

Other Canadians who earned nominations include Christopher Plummer, a best supporting actor contender for Beginners, in which he plays an ailing senior who decides to reveal his homosexuality late in life, and composer Howard Shore, for his original score for Martin Scorsese's Hugo.

TV newcomers make a splash

Television newcomers made an impression on Golden Globe organizers, with a host of fresh titles like Homeland, New Girl and Game of Thrones making the cut.

Prohibition-set series Boardwalk Empire, which just completed its sophomore season, is up against four brand new shows for the best TV drama title: the post-9/11 terrorism series Homeland, the expansive fantasy epic Game of Thrones, horror serial American Horror Story and the mayoral drama Boss.

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Zooey Deschanel, shown in a scene from the comedy series New Girl, is among fresh TV faces nominated for Golden Globe Awards. (Isabella Vosmikova/FOX/Associated Press)

Homeland actors Clare Danes and Damian Lewis also picked up nominations for best TV drama actress and actor, respectively.

Lewis will go up against Boardwalk Empire star Steve Buscemi and Boss lead Kelsey Grammer, as well as Jeremy Irons, nominated for the Canadian co-production The Borgias, and perennially celebrated actor Bryan Cranston, star of the drug crime series Breaking Bad. For the dramatic actress category, Danes is matched with The Killing's Mireille Enos, Julianna Margulies of The Good Wife, Madeleine Stowe from Revenge and Callie Thorne of Necessary Roughness.

The Zooey Deschanel comedy New Girl, one of the fall's best-received freshman comedy series, will attempt the capture the best TV musical or comedy title. Other finalists include school musical comedy Glee, British-American sitcom Episodes, the drama-comedy Enlightened and ensemble mockumentary Modern Family.

Other television nominees include:

  • Actress, miniseries or TV movie: Romola Garai, The Hour; Diane Lane, Cinema Verite; Elizabeth McGovern, Downton Abbey, Emily Watson, Appropriate Adult; Kate Winslet, Mildred Pierce.
  • Actor, miniseries or TV movie: Hugh Bonneville, Downton Abbey; Idris Elba, Luther; William Hurt, Too Big to Fail; Bill Nighy, Page Eight; Dominic West, The Hour.
  • Supporting actress, series, miniseries or TV movie: Jessica Lange, American Horror Story; Kelly Macdonald, "oardwalk Empire; Maggie Smith, Downton Abbey; Sofia Vergara, Modern Family; Evan Rachel Wood, Mildred Pierce.
  • Supporting actor, series, miniseries or TV movie: Peter Dinklage, Game of Thrones; Paul Giamatti, Too Big to Fail; Guy Pierce, Mildred Pierce; Tim Robbins, Cinema Verite; Eric Stonestreet, Modern Family.

Deschanel and Enlightened star Laura Dern scored best TV musical or comedy actress nominations, with Tina Fey (30 Rock), Laura Linney (The Big C) and Amy Poehler (Parks and Recreation) rounding out the category.

Former Friends cast member and Episodes star Matt LeBlanc is a Golden Globe finalist for best TV musical or comedy actor. His rivals, all from established series, are 30 Rock's Alec Baldwin, Californication's David Duchovny, Johnny Galecki of The Big Bang Theory and Thomas Jane from Hung.

The miniseries revival Mildred Pearce earned four nominations, including for Winslet's turn as the titular character, supporting nods for Guy Pierce and Evan Rachel Wood and for best miniseries or TV movie. Other miniseries seeking Golden Globe glory include Cinema Verite, Downton Abbey, The Hour and Too Big to Fail.

Administered by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the Golden Globe Awards will be presented during a gala at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on Jan. 15. The ceremony will include the presentation of the Cecil B. DeMille Award for lifetime achievement to noted actor Morgan Freeman.

Despite the controversy raised by Ricky Gervais's biting jokes about celebrities and the HFPA at past Globe galas, the boost the British comedian gave to the televised awards show meant he was invited back to host for a third consecutive year.

With files from The Associated Press