‘The Help’ tops nods in Hollywood

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“The Help,” a film about the lives of black servants in the pre-civil rights US south, topped Hollywood’s first main prize shortlist Wednesday as Tinsel Town gears up for its annual awards season.

The movie garnered four nominations from the Screen Actors Guild (SAG), the union representing some 200,000 film and television performers. Unlike the more famous Oscars, SAG awards are handed out to both film and TV shows.

The SAG announcement comes one day ahead of nominations for the Golden Globes, also seen as a key indicator of hopes for the Oscars, the climax of Hollywood’s annual gong-fest.

“The Artist,” a tribute to the silent movie era, was in second place with three SAG award nods, including for outstanding cast performance — which has in the past pointed towards the ultimate prize, the best picture Academy Award.

On the small screen, Emmy-winning sitcom “Modern Family” won five nominations including best ensemble cast in a TV comedy, while there were nods also for British actresses Kate Winslet and Maggie Smith.
Actors George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio and Glenn Close are also among stars tipped for prizes from the Guild.

For outstanding cast performance, Disney’s “The Help” is up against “The Descendants,” “The Artist,” girls’ night favorite “Bridesmaids” and Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris,” hailed by many as a long overdue return to form.

For best actor, Clooney — playing a single father in “The Descendants” — faces competition from DiCaprio, for his portrayal of legendary FBI director J. Edgar Hoover in “J. Edgar” and Pitt in baseball movie “Moneyball.”

Also in the running for the male prize are Demian Bichir for his role as an immigrant in a “A Better Life” and Jean Dujardin, who made a big splash with the homage to silent movies, “The Artist.”

For best actress Streep, playing Margaret Thatcher in “The Iron Lady,” is up against Close in “Albert Nobbs,” Davis in “The Help,” Tilda Swinton in “We Need To Talk About Kevin” and Michelle Williams as Monroe in “My Week With Marilyn.”

The SAGs shortlists were notable for some absentees, including Martin Scorsese’s “Hugo” and Steven Spielberg’s “War Horse,” which many have tipped for possible awards over the next few months.

The Globes awards ceremony will be the first of the season, hosted on January 15 by provocative British comic Ricky Gervais — invited back for a third straight time despite allegedly ruffling feathers at last year’s show.

They will be followed by the SAG awards on January 29, while Hollywood has to wait until February 26 for the Academy Awards, to be hosted by Oscars veteran Billy Crystal, after Eddie Murphy pulled out amid a row.

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