A still from 'Vice.' (Annapurna Pictures/File)
"Vice," a biopic about Dick Cheney starring Christian Bale as the former US vice president, on Thursday earned the most Golden Globe nominations with six including best comedy film, as the race to the Oscars ramps up.
The nominations, announced in the pre-dawn hours in California, are the first major bellwether of momentum going into the Academy Awards, which take place in February.
"Vice" -- which only opens in US theaters on Christmas Day -- bucked some predictions, earning one more nod than popular music romance reboot "A Star Is Born," but both are now well placed for Tinseltown awards glory.
"I did not know which way 'Vice' would land... But I think it just got a major push for the Oscar race," wrote Sasha Stone, the founder of specialized industry website Awards Daily.
Tied with "Star" -- a hit both with critics and at the box office, starring Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper -- at five nominations were bawdy royal tale "The Favourite" and offbeat civil rights dramedy "Green Book."
Right behind them were Spike Lee's "BlacKkKlansman," the true story of a black police officer who infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan with the help of a white partner, and hotly-anticipated Disney sequel "Mary Poppins Returns."
Beyond its best comedy film nod, "Vice" -- a searing look at George W. Bush's powerful vice president -- picked up a trio of acting nominations for a nearly unrecognizable Bale, co-star Amy Adams as Cheney's wife Lynne and Sam Rockwell as Bush.
Filmmaker Adam McKay picked up a pair of nominations for best director and screenplay.
Also winning double nominations were Cooper -- for acting and directing in "Star" -- and Lady Gaga, for acting and best original song ("Shallow").
But co-star Sam Elliott, who plays the brother of Cooper's aging rocker, was notably snubbed.
Vying with "Star" for best drama film are "BlacKkKlansman," Marvel blockbuster "Black Panther," "Bohemian Rhapsody" about Queen frontman Freddie Mercury and black love story "If Beale Street Could Talk."
The "Black Panther" nomination marked the first best picture nod for Marvel, and the first ever in the drama category for a superhero flick.
"I love comic book movies -- I always have, I'm a big fan. So I'm thrilled that it made it in and I hope that more are coming," said Meher Tatna, the president of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which chooses the winners.
Competing in the best musical/comedy film are "Vice," "The Favourite," "Mary Poppins Returns," "Green Book" and summer rom-com success "Crazy Rich Asians."
A wealth of options
The Golden Globes feature separate awards for dramas and musicals/comedies -- meaning more nominations, and a chance for Oscar voters to consider a wider range of performances before they get their ballots.
"A Star Is Born" is competing in the drama categories, while "Vice" is -- strangely -- in the comedy race.
"Looking to the Golden Globes to guide you towards Oscar's Best Picture, follow Best Director. That is the best category to predict which way that will go," wrote Stone, celebrating in particular Lee's nomination.
By that score, "Vice," "A Star Is Born," "Green Book," "BlacKkKlansman" and Alfonso Cuaron's love letter to his childhood, "Roma," are in pole position for the Oscars.
"Roma" earned three nominations -- best foreign film, best director and best screenplay.
The three stars of "The Favourite" -- the offbeat tale of royal deception and lust -- each earned nods: Olivia Colman as Queen Anne, and Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone as the women vying for her attentions.
"Green Book," the story of a black classical pianist in 1960s America who hires an Italian-American bouncer as his driver for a tour of the racially divided South, earned nods for stars Mahershala Ali and Viggo Mortensen.
New faces in TV race
The Globes also honor the best in television -- it can feel a bit redundant after the Emmys in September, with many of the nominees mimicking the Television Academy field.
To wit, Emmy winner "The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story" topped the nominations with four.
But the Globes also look ahead at programs that aired too late for Emmys contention.
Dark HBO mini-series "Sharp Objects," Amazon drama "Homecoming" starring Julia Roberts, and Netflix comedy "The Kominsky Method" all earned nominations.
The 76th Golden Globes take place on January 6 in Beverly Hills. The Oscar nominations come after the Globes this year, on January 22.
Hosting the Globes gala will be actress Sandra Oh, who scored a nomination herself for acclaimed TV drama "Killing Eve," and comedian Andy Samberg.