Helen Mirren leads the way for Brits at the Golden Globes

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The Independent US

Helen Mirren and Sacha Baron Cohen led the British charge into Hollywood's awards season yesterday, as both received top billing in the list of nominees for the Golden Globes, precursors to the Oscars.

Mirren pulled off the extraordinary trick of being nominated for playing both Queen Elizabeth I, in a television miniseries, and Elizabeth II, in the Stephen Frears-directed film The Queen. The latter made her a frontrunner for best actress in a drama alongside fellow Brits Judi Dench (for the forthcoming Notes On A Scandal) and Kate Winslet (for Little Children).

Mirren also found herself nominated for a third role, in Prime Suspect, and thus will be competing against herself in the television miniseries category.

Baron Cohen, meanwhile, narrowly escaped being nominated in the foreign-language category for his priceless turn as Kazakhstan's second most famous television journalist, Borat Sagdiyev. Instead, he is up for best comic actor against the likes of Johnny Depp and Will Ferrell.

Baron Cohen's film, Borat: Cultural Learnings of America For Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, was also nominated for best film musical or comedy, in a strong category also including The Devil Wears Prada, Little Miss Sunshine, Thank You For Smoking and the heavily touted Motown musical Dreamgirls.

The Golden Globes are handed out by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, a self-selecting group of mostly freelance entertainment journalists who wield improbable power in the industry, largely thanks to the television broadcasting rights the ceremony earns and their felicitous timing at the very start of awards season.

Almost invariably, the Hollywood buzz machine jumps on their selections and shapes the field for the Academy Awards. This year may be a different, because of the Globes' strict rules on films shot in a foreign language. Both Clint Eastwood's Japanese-language Letters from Iwo Jima, which has already won a clutch of critics' awards as the best film of the year, and Mel Gibson's Apocalypto, shot in the ancient Mayan language Yucatec, find themselves in the foreign film category only.

In a year of multiple double nominations, Eastwood finds himself in contention for both of his companion films about the World War Two battle of Iwo Jima, each telling the story from a different side. The English-language film, Flags of Our Fathers, was not nominated for a Golden Globe, but Eastwood was nominated twice as best director.

Also competing against himself will be Leonardo DiCaprio, who delivered two stunning performances this year - the first as an undercover police agent in Martin Scorsese's The Departed, and the second as a Zimbabwean smuggler and soldier of fortune in Blood Diamond.

Intriguingly, the film with most Golden Globe nominations was Babel, the loosely constructed international portmanteau film directed by Alejandro Inarritu of Mexico and starring Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett. Babel earned seven nominations, including best dramatic film and best screenplay.

Second most nominated, with six mentions, was The Departed. Also nominated for best dramatic film are Bobby, Emilio Estevez's loving homage to Bobby Kennedy, and Little Children, a satire of suburban parental living directed by Todd Field.

The Golden Globes ceremony will take place in Beverly Hills on January 15. Oscar nominations will be announced eight days later.