'12 Years a Slave'
'12 Years a Slave'

While the major critics groups did little to boost the awards profile of "12 Years a Slave," Steve McQueen's historic drama is back in the front of the pack after this week's Screen Actors Guild and Hollywood Foreign Press nominations, along with David O. Russell's "American Hustle." Both earned seven nominations from the Hollywood Foreign Press, a small group of foreign entertainment correspondents and critics who are wined and dined all year long for their precious--often idiosyncratic-- votes for the Golden Globes, which are split into comedy/musical and dramatic categories. The winners are revealed on The Golden Globes Awards show which will air live on NBC on January 12th-- thankfully Tina Fey and Amy Poehler return as hosts.

While SAG is a larger, more populist group than the dominant Academy actors branch, their nominations do reflect where sentiment among actors is at this stage. Timing is everything and these groups are voting early. Later Writers and Directors and Producers Guild votes as well as all the other craft guilds will give a much stronger indication of where the Academy is heading as voters start to fill out their ballots at month's end. Mainly the Globes serve the function of building momentum and throwing new names into the mix. 

"12 Years" dominated the dramatic side, nommed for best motion picture (drama), director, screenplay, original score and actors Chiwetel Ejiofor, Lupita Nyong'o and Michael Fassbender. Last year Russell's "Silver Linings Playbook" played well with the Academy actors, earning nominations in all four acting categories. "American Hustle" also swept all four Globes acting nominations on the comedy side: Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Jennifer Lawrence and move star Bradley Cooper (rather than deserving actor's actor Jeremy Renner), along with best director and screenplay.

The Globes directors list could well be the final five for the Oscars: Alfonso Cuaron ("Gravity"), Paul Greengrass ("Captain Phillips"), Steve McQueen ("12 Years A Slave"), Alexander Payne ("Nebraska"), and David O Russell ("American Hustle"). All five films are frontrunners for the Best Picture Oscar. "Hustle" and "Nebraska" are the only Globe comedy nominees on the director's list. 

With only five nominees for screenplay (while the Academy splits into original and adapted), the strongest Globe contenders were Spike Jonze tech romance "Her," Bob Nelson's family road trip "Nebraska," Jeff Pope & Steve Coogan's heart-tugger "Philomena," John Ridley's true history "12 Years A Slave" and Eric Warren Singer & David O Russell 's raucous comedy "American Hustle." All will likely score Oscar noms as well.

Rounding out the Globes Best Picture noms are dramas "Captain Phillips," "Gravity," "Philomena" and "Rush" (which all boast global appeal), as well as more American comedy/musicals "Her," "Inside Llewyn Davis," "Nebraska" and "The Wolf of Wall Street." 

Films that failed to get a boost from the Globes are very American dramas from Disney ("Saving Mr. Banks"), Weinstein Co. (SAG ensemble nominees "August: Osage County" and "Lee Daniels' The Butler"), and Focus Features (low-budget SAG ensemble nominee "Dallas Buyers Club," which did score two expected acting noms for Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto). If the Globes voters had to pick between "12 Years a Slave" and popular American history drama "The Butler," they chose the former; neither SAG nominees Forest Whitaker nor Oprah Winfrey landed a nod. 

The Academy could very well do the same. While both SAG and the HFPA favored Hanks' title role in "Captain Phillips" over his supporting role in "Saving Mr. Banks," that behind-the-scenes Hollywood movie has many Academy-friendly elements and should survive--SAG and Globe nominee Emma Thompson is a strong candidate for Best Actress. Globe regular Kate Winslet is a surprise inclusion in the drama category for "Labor Day," which has not been gaining much awards traction so far. And Idris Elba finally has earned a nod for playing Nelson Mandela. While SAG ignored New York Film Critics circle winner Robert Redford, the Globes included him on their Best Actor list. 

With ten nominees instead of five, some contenders are included who have been shut out thus far, many in the musical/comedy categories, from Best Actor Leonardo DiCaprio ("The Wolf of Wall Street") and Oscar Isaac ("Inside Llewyn Davis") to Joaquin Phoenix ("Her"). But they may not have the right stuff to make it all the way to the Oscars.

Left out of the supporting actor list were James Gandolfini ("Enough Said"), Octavia Spencer for "Fruitvale Station," and Jonah Hill ("The Wolf of Wall Street"), who Paramount has been pushing hard. 

Clearly the foreign and animated categories are starting to coalesce; while "Blue is the Warmest Color" is not eligible for the Oscar, the other Oscar frontrunners are clearly the Golden Globe nominees "The Great Beauty," "The Hunt," and "The Past." The Globes also included Japanese animated feature "The Wind Rises," which has been scoring with critics groups, while listing only three in its animated nominations: DreamWorks Animation's caveman family comedy "The Croods," Universal/Illumination's minions-dominated sequel "Despicable Me 2" and Disney's latest princess musical, "Frozen." The Oscars will likely expand to five--but it looks like Pixar could sit this one out this year. 

In television, Steven Soderbergh's Emmy-winner "Behind The Candelabra" --contributing to HBO's nine total--and David Fincher's Netflix drama series "House of Cards" nabbed four nominations each. Netflix also earned noms for "Orange is the New Black." Film and TV nominations are listed below.