- Associated Press - Thursday, December 13, 2012

BEVERLY HILLS, CALIF. (AP) - A fairly predictable Golden Globes lineup has one thing that’s become rarer in awards season: a solid presence of big studio favorites to balance the independent films that have come to dominate the competition in recent years.

Steven Spielberg’s Civil War saga “Lincoln,” with no fewer than three major studios behind it, led the Globe field Thursday with seven nominations, including best drama, a category fleshed out by four other big-talent, Hollywood-backed films: Ben Affleck’s Iran hostage-crisis thriller “Argo”; Quentin Tarantino’s slave-turned-bounty-hunter tale “Django Unchained”; Ang Lee’s shipwreck adventure “Life of Pi”; and Kathryn Bigelow’s Osama bin Laden manhunt story “Zero Dark Thirty.”

Quite a departure from much of the past decade, when smaller films such as “The Artist,” “Crash,” “Slumdog Millionaire,” “The King’s Speech,” “No Country for Old Men” and Bigelow’s “The Hurt Locker” have walked off with top film honors.

“There’s been a sense that the studios weren’t interested in making more complicated dramas and a variety of movies,” said “Lincoln” producer Kathleen Kennedy. “To see the studios step up and start to support stories like this is definitely fantastic.”

“I think it speaks to risks that studios are more willing to take now and interest on the part of filmmakers and studios to do something different, surprise the audience,” Affleck said. “I’m really encouraged by that. The idea that the next time I want to make a movie about Iran that takes place in the `70s, and it’s sort of an adult drama, that I won’t be met with rolled eyes. Or at least people will roll their eyes behind my back.”

Studio films also account for a good share of the acting nominees, among them “Lincoln” stars Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field and Tommy Lee Jones, “Zero Dark Thirty” lead player Jessica Chastain, “Django Unchained” co-stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Christoph Waltz, “Argo” co-star Alan Arkin, and Denzel Washington for the airline drama “Flight.”

The Globes are Hollywood’s second-highest honors after the Academy Awards, whose nominations come out Jan. 10, three days before the Globe ceremony. There’s always plenty of nominations overlap between the two, so the Oscar lineup likely will feature a similar studio revival.

A few years ago, the Oscar nominations essentially were a “real celebration of the independent scene,” said “King’s Speech” filmmaker Tom Hooper, whose intimate period drama won him the directing Oscar and also claimed best picture two years ago.

Hooper’s back with his Victor Hugo musical “Les Miserables,” an epic studio adaptation of the stage show that earned four Globe nominations, including best musical or comedy.

Studio films such as “Ben-Hur,” “Lawrence of Arabia,” “Gandhi” and “Gone with the Wind” once had a stranglehold on awards season. Then studios began focusing on where the money is _ blockbuster action movies _ and actors and filmmakers turned to independent financers to make the sort of quality films that awards voters favor.

It may be shifting back now.

“What I’m hoping is that the studios actually kind of took note of this and realized that drama is not dead and you have to take risks and you can get amazing rewards even commercially from taking risks on these smaller movies,” Hooper said.

Joining “Les Miserables” in the best musical or comedy category are the British retiree romp “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”; the first-love tale “Moonrise Kingdom”; the fishing romance “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen”; and the lost-soul romance “Silver Linings Playbook.”

Besides Day-Lewis in the title role of “Lincoln” and Washington in “Flight,” nominees for dramatic actor are Richard Gere for “Arbitrage,” John Hawkes for “The Sessions” and Joaquin Phoenix for “The Master.”

“Zero Dark Thirty” star Chastain is joined in the dramatic-actress field by Marion Cotillard for “Rust and Bone,” Helen Mirren for “Hitchcock,” Naomi Watts for “The Impossible” and Rachel Weisz for “The Deep Blue Sea.”

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