Silent film The Artist leads Golden Globe pack

The BBC's Will Gompertz on why the silent movie The Artist has been a hit

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Silent film homage The Artist leads the field at the 2012 Golden Globes, scoring six nominations in all.

The film, out in the UK on 30 December, is up for best musical and comedy and gets additional nods for its stars Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo.

Kenneth Branagh, Tilda Swinton and Kate Winslet are among the British actors up for honours.

The annual gala, which takes place on 15 January, is the first major event of the Hollywood awards season.

Ricky Gervais is returning to host this year's event, having acted as master of ceremonies in 2010 and 2011.

The Office and Extras star caused controversy earlier this year with his sharp-tongued presenting style.

Hot on the heels of The Artist comes 1960s drama The Help and George Clooney film The Descendants, up for five prizes apiece.

Both are up for best film drama, alongside Martin Scorsese's Hugo, Moneyball, Steven Spielberg's War Horse and Clooney's other 2011 release, The Ides of March.

In the best comedy or musical category, The Artist faces competition from 50/50, Bridesmaids, Midnight in Paris and My Week with Marilyn.

It is for the latter that Branagh gets a best supporting actor nod, for playing Laurence Olivier opposite Michelle Williams' Marilyn Monroe.

Jessica Chastain and Octavia Spencer in The Help Three of The Help's female actresses are nominated for awards

Williams is up for best comedy actress, as is Winslet for the Roman Polanski film Carnage - an honour she shares with her co-star Jodie Foster.

Swinton - cited for her role in We Need to Talk About Kevin - features in the best dramatic actress category, as does Oscar favourite Meryl Streep for The Iron Lady. Glenn Close, Viola Davis and Rooney Mara - for the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - complete the shortlist.

Clooney is up for best dramatic actor for The Descendants, where his competition includes Shame's Michael Fassbender, Brad Pitt for Moneyball and Leonardo DiCaprio for J Edgar.

Ryan Gosling, also included here for The Ides of March, gets a second best actor nod for the romantic comedy Crazy, Stupid, Love.

Other nominees for the best actor in a comedy or musical prize include Dujardin and Ireland's Brendan Gleeson, cited for his role in The Guard.

In the best animated film category, meanwhile, Bristol-based studio Aardman is shortlisted for their festive hit Arthur Christmas. Rivals to the prize include Cars 2 and The Adventures of Tintin.

Glitzy and irreverent

Both films and TV shows are recognised by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the organisers of the glitzy and often irreverent Los Angeles ceremony.

In both camps, awards are divided between dramas and comedies, with additional prizes thrown in for mini-series or motion pictures made for television.

In the television side of the nominations, ITV's Downton Abbey and HBO's Mildred Pierce lead the way with four nods each.

Winslet gets a second citation for her eponymous role in the latter, while Hugh Bonneville is recognised in the best actor in a mini-series category for Downtown Abbey.

British talent features prominently in Bonneville's field, which also sees nominations for Bill Nighy, Dominic West and Idris Elba.

Jeremy Irons, Damian Lewis, Romola Garai and Emily Watson are among the other British stars to be cited for their small-screen work.

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