BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. - Ah, Paris. City of Light. Land of romance. Gobbler of all the best Golden Globe nominations.
Presented by overseas reporters based in Hollywood, the Globes may be a worldwide affair, but this time, they have a real French flair. The silent film "The Artist," from French filmmaker Michel Havanavicius, led with six nominations Thursday, while the field includes Woody Allen's French romance "Midnight in Paris" and Martin Scorsese's Paris adventure "Hugo."
Steven Spielberg has two nominees with French connections: the World War I epic "War Horse," set partly in France's countryside, and the animated tale "The Adventures of Tintin," based on comic-book stories created in France's neighbor, Belgium.
"Of course, the foreign press is going to like France," joked Seth Rogen, producer and co-star of the cancer tale "50/50," which has two nominations and no obvious French links.
"War Horse" and "Hugo" are up for best drama, along with two George Clooney films, the Hawaiian family story "The Descendants" and the political thriller "The Ides of March"; the 1960s racial saga "The Help"; and Brad Pitt's baseball tale "Moneyball."
"The Artist," "50/50" and "Midnight in Paris" are competing for the Globes' other best-picture prize - for a musical or comedy. Also nominated are Kristen Wiig's wedding romp, "Bridesmaids," and Michelle Williams' Marilyn Monroe tale, "My Week with Marilyn."
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 first year of the Oscars, for 1927-28, when the silent flicks "Wings" and "Sunset" took top honors.
"It's really strange and rare to not hear anything in the theater," said "The Artist" star Jean Dujardin, a dramatic actor nominee for his role as a silent-era superstar whose career capsizes after talking pictures take over in the late 1920s. "It's a new visual and emotional experience for people."
Frenchman Dujardin won the best-actor prize at May's Cannes Film Festival in southern France, where "The Artist" premiered.
Though it has virtually no spoken dialogue, "The Artist" is anything but quiet. The film features clever sound effects and a gorgeous musical score that earned a Globe nomination for French composer Ludovic Bource.
Hazanavicius received directing and screenplay nominations for "The Artist," which also picked up a supporting-actress honor for his wife, Berenice Bejo, who plays a rising star of the sound era.
While the key talent on "The Artist" is French, the film was shot in Hollywood and offers a classy re-creation of the world's film capital in the 1920s and `30s. The supporting cast includes John Goodman, James Cromwell, Penelope Ann Miller and Missi Pyle.
The French connection this year comes heavily from U.S. filmmakers telling stories set in France. Scorsese earned a directing nomination for "Hugo," about an orphan boy living in a Paris train station, where he becomes caught up in a mystery surrounding French film trailblazer Georges Melies. Allen also made the directing cut for "Midnight in Paris," his first film shot entirely in France, the romantic fantasy following an American writer (Owen Wilson) whose nostalgia for the 1920s Paris of Hemingway and Fitzgerald leads him on time-bending adventures.
With a cast that includes French actresses Marion Cotillard and Lea Seydoux and France's first lady, Carla Bruni, "Midnight in Paris" became Allen's biggest hit in decades.
Scorsese also turned nostalgic, crafting a dazzling 3-D Paris of the 1930s and recreating memorable moments from Melies' fantastical silent-film shorts, including "A Trip to the Moon."
"It gave me a chance to work in 3-D, which I've wanted to do since I was young; it allowed me to make a child's adventure, the type of picture that I loved when I was young; and it provided an occasion to pay tribute to one of the cinema's greatest pioneers, Georges Melies," Scorsese said.
Spielberg's "War Horse" follows a resilient steed changing hands among the British, Germans and French during World War I, and his "Adventures of Tintin" chronicles the treasure-seeking exploits of Belgian artist and writer Herge's comic-book hero.
To stretch the Franco angle further, Hollywood exile Roman Polanski, who lives in France after fleeing the United States amid charges he had sex with a 13-year-old girl in 1977, shot his Globe-nominated drama "Carnage" outside of Paris. The film, based on a stage work by French playwright Yasmina Reza, earned musical or comedy actress nominations for Jodie Foster and Kate Winslet as mothers squabbling over their sons' schoolyard fight.
"The Help" and "The Descendants," which tied for second-place behind "The Artist" with five Globe nominations each, are pure American stories.
Adapted from Kathryn Stockett's best-seller, "The Help" earned a dramatic actress honor for Viola Davis and a supporting-actress nomination for Octavia Spencer as Mississippi maids going public with stories about their white employers as the civil-rights movement heats up in the 1960s.
"I'm thrilled for Viola," Spencer said. "I consider myself a rank-and-file actor who's been kicking the can around for 15 years. Viola is a trained Julliard actress who has been doing stage, and now the world is getting to see what she can do."
Co-star Jessica Chastain also had a supporting-actress nomination as Spencer's good-hearted, lonely boss.
"The Descendants" earned a dramatic actor nomination for Clooney as a father struggling to tend his daughters after a boating accident puts his wife in a coma. Shailene Woodley earned a supporting-actress honor as Clooney's troublesome older daughter, while filmmaker Alexander Payne had directing and screenplay nominations.
Multi-tasker Clooney has three nominations. He's also 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 also is a dual contender, for 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.
"What an astounding embarrassment of riches," Close said.
Joining Close and Davis in the dramatic actress lineup are: Rooney Mara as a traumatized victim-turned-avenger in "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo"; Meryl Streep as British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in "The Iron Lady"; and Tilda Swinton as a grieving woman coping with her son's terrible deeds in "We Need to Talk About Kevin."
Clooney has another pal in the dramatic actor race, his "Ocean's Eleven" franchise co-star Pitt, who's nominated for his "Moneyball" role as Oakland A's general manager Billy Beane.
Gosling, Clooney and Pitt are up against Leonardo DiCaprio as FBI boss J. Edgar Hoover in "J. Edgar" and Michael Fassbender as a sex addict in "Shame."
Pitt's romantic partner, Angelina Jolie, picked up a nomination for foreign-language film for her directing debut, the Bosnian war drama "In the Land of Blood and Honey."
With drinks and dinner, the Globes are a laid-back affair for Hollywood's elite compared to the Oscars. The show turned a bit prickly last year as host Ricky Gervais repeatedly made sharp wisecracks about stars and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, a group of about 85 overseas reporters 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.
"The Artist" star Dujardin joked that Gervais must follow the silent-film code if he plans on mocking him, saying "he has to do it silent, without any words."
AP Entertainment Writers Sandy Cohen, Derrik J. Lang and Anthony McCartney contributed to this report.