BEVERLY HILLS, Calif., Jan. 17 (UPI) -- Handicappers may get their first solid clue about this year's Oscars this weekend with the announcement of the winners of the 60th Annual Golden Globes.
"Chicago," a musical about two murderous women, leads the field with eight nominations. "The Hours," the story of three women living a lie in three different generations, has seven nominations. "Adaptation," a self-referential account of the personal trials of a Hollywood screenwriter, has six.
All three are widely regarded as top contenders for the best picture Oscar.
Two other Oscar prospects -- "About Schmidt" and "Gangs of New York" -- have five Golden Globe nominations apiece, while yet another -- "The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers" -- is up for two Golden Globes: best drama movie and best director.
Winning a Hollywood foreign Press Association Golden Globe for best drama movie or musical or comedy movie usually represents a big step toward a possible best picture Oscar -- with the edge typically going to the drama winner.
With few exceptions over the past 20 years, a Golden Globe winner for best movie drama or best movie musical or comedy has gone on to win the top Oscar. Last year, for example, "A Beautiful Mind" won the Golden Globe for best drama and went on to take the top Oscar.
However, the Globes have been a less-than-reliable predictor of acting Oscar winners.
It's always tough to handicap the Academy Awards for acting based on the Golden Globes, since the HFPA draws a distinction between "motion picture, drama" and "motion picture, comedy or musical." In any case, all four of last year's HFPA winners for best actor and actress -- Russell Crowe ("A Beautiful Mind"), Sissy Spacek ("In the Bedroom"), Gene Hackman ("The Royal Tenenbaums") and Nicole Kidman ("Moulin Rouge") -- went home empty-handed on Oscar night.
This year, the HFPA nominated "Chicago" for best movie musical or comedy, and rewarded the movie with five acting nominations. Renée Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Richard Gere are up for top acting awards in a musical or comedy, and Queen Latifah and John C. Reilly are up for supporting actor honors.
Newcomer Rob Marshall was nominated for best director and Bill Condon was nominated for best screenplay.
Stephen Daldry was nominated for best director, David Hare's adaptation of Michael Cunningham's best-selling novel is up for best screenplay, and Philip Glass' score was also nominated.
"Adaptation" was nominated for best musical or comedy movie. Its star, Nicolas Cage, was nominated for best actor in a musical or comedy movie, and co-star Streep received a supporting actress nomination. In addition, Spike Jonze and Charlie Kaufman -- who previously teamed up on "Being John Malkovich" -- are up for best director and screenplay.
Kaufman shared the screenplay nomination with Donald Kaufman. That's actually an inside Hollywood joke that you have to see the movie to get.
"About Schmidt's" Jack Nicholson is up for best actor in a drama for his performance as an aging insurance man with doubts about the worth of the life he has lived. Co-star Kathy Bates is up for supporting actress, Alexander Payne is up for best director and Payne and Jim Taylor are up for best screenplay.
Martin Scorsese is nominated for best director for his period epic "Gangs of New York." The picture is also nominated for best actor in a drama (Daniel Day-Lewis), supporting actress (Cameron Diaz) original song ("The Hands that Built America," U2).
Director Roman Polanski's "The Pianist" is up for best drama movie and best actor in a drama movie, Adrien Brody.
The other nominees for best drama actor are Michael Caine ("The Quiet American") and Leonardo DiCaprio ("Catch Me if You Can"). The other nominees for best actress in a drama movie are Salma Hayek ("Frida"), Diane Lane ("Unfaithful") and Julianne Moore ("Far from Heaven").
Along with "Chicago" and "Adaptation," the nominees for best musical or comedy movie are "About a Boy," "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" and "Nicholas Nickleby."
Maggie Gyllenhaal ("Secretary"), Goldie Hawn ("The Banger Sisters") and Nia Vardalos ("My Big Fat Greek Wedding") joined Zellweger and Zeta-Jones on the list of nominees for best actress in a musical or comedy movie. Kieran Culkin ("Igby Goes Down"), Hugh Grant ("About a Boy") and Adam Sandler ("Punch-Drunk Love") joined Cage and Gere on the list of nominees for best actor in a musical or comedy movie.
The HFPA nominated "24," "The Shield," "Six Feet Under," "The Sopranos" and "The West Wing" for best TV drama. The nominees for best TV musical or comedy series are "Curb Your Enthusiasm," "Friends," "Sex and the City," "The Simpsons" and "Will & Grace."
The HPFA will present actor Gene Hackman with its highest honor, the Cecil B. de Mille Award for lifetime achievement.
The 60th Annual Golden Globe Awards will be presented Sunday in Beverly Hills, in ceremonies to be televised live on NBC.