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."
The acting categories have a nice mix of studio fare and indie films made on a shoestring, among them "The Sessions," an unusual story of a man (Hawkes) in an iron lung who aims to lose his virginity with help from a sex surrogate (supporting-actress nominee Helen Hunt). It's the first feature film since the mid-1990s from writer-director Ben Lewin.
"It is a Cinderella story when it is a tiny movie made by a director who hasn't had a movie in a long time, produced by his wife, paid for by friends and family," Hunt said. "For that kind of movie to be talked about next to all these big fancy movies, that's a real testament to what the director did."
There will be some friendly rivalry among the hosts at the Globe ceremony, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. Both were nominated for best actress in a TV comedy, Fey for "30 Rock" and Poehler for "Parks and Recreation."
The Sarah Palin drama "Game Change" leads TV contenders with five nominations: best movie or miniseries and acting honors for Julianne Moore, Woody Harrelson, Ed Harris and Sarah Paulson. "Homeland" was next with four: best drama series and acting nominations for Claire Danes, Damian Lewis and Mandy Patinkin.
Presented by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, a group of about 90 reporters covering entertainment for overseas outlets, the Globes have a reputation as a loose gathering where stars share drinks and dinner — and sometimes cut loose a bit more than they might at the stately Oscars.
"Everybody always says, and it's absolutely true, it's the most fun of the ceremonies," said Field, a two-time Oscar winner who's nominated for supporting actress as Mary Todd Lincoln in "Lincoln." ''It becomes slightly irreverent in its way. The fact that it's a dinner, and they make sure they ply you with as much alcohol as they can. Luckily, my category is one of the earliest ones up, so whatever happens, I'll be all right."
AP Entertainment Writers Sandy Cohen, Derrik Lang, Christy Lemire and Anthony McCartney contributed to this report.