Two movies dealing with the earliest days of the film industry, Martin Scorcese’s Hugo from GK Films/Paramount and the black-and-white silent The Artist from The Weinstein Company, both scored a near-record 11 nominations each today in the Broadcast Film Critics Association’s 17th Annual Critics Choice Movie Awards. Both earned Best Picture, directing and writing nods, along with a boatload of technical nominations. The French sensation The Artist also scored two major acting mentions for lead actor Jean Dujardin and supporting actress Berenice Bejo. As for Scorsese, in addition to his producing and directing nods for Hugo, his George Harrison: Living In The Material World for HBO is up for feature documentary. And he also will receive the 2nd annual Critics’ Choice Music+Film Award.

The Critics Choice Movie Awards are January 12, airing live from the Hollywood Palladium on VH1. The diverse list of nominations released today falls in line with other critics groups in spreading the wealth, indicating no slam-dunk frontrunner in what remains a wide open race and unpredictable lineup of films. The early September release Drive had a surprisingly strong showing with 8 nominations including picture and director (Nicolas Winding Refn) and acting nods for star Ryan Gosling and supporting actor Albert Brooks. The FilmDistrict noirish thriller has been a critical favorite but was only a modest box office performer. DreamWorks’ smash August entry The Help also received 8 nominations. In addition to a Best Picture nod, half of the honors were in the acting categories including lead Viola Davis, supporting contenders Octavia Spencer and Jessica Chastain, and Acting Ensemble.

It was a big day for the DreamWorks team and its new distribution deal with Disney as they also nabbed 7 nominations for their Christmas opener War Horse — including two for Steven Spielberg. The director also received a third nod for his first animated film, The Adventures Of Tintin, which Paramount has for domestic and Sony for foreign. Fox Searchlight’s The Descendants, a Best Pic nominee, also received 7 nods, including three for co-writer, producer and director Alexander Payne and two for star George Clooney. His 20-year-old co-star Shailene Woodley collected three, including supporting actress, young actor/actress, and acting ensemble member. Clooney had a good morning as an actor but not so much as the writer, producer and director of his other 2011 film, The Ides Of March, which received just a single nomination for its acting ensemble.

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Rounding out the 10-film Best Picture category are The Tree Of Life (5 noms), Midnight In Paris (3 noms), Moneyball (3 noms including one for best actor Brad Pitt) and the very late entry Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. It was likely the last film many of the critics saw but still managed four nods including director, screenplay and young actor/actress for Thomas Horn. Its producer Scott Rudin was also nominated in the picture category for Moneyball but found little love for another of his late December releases, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, which received nods only for editing and score.

Two time CCMA winner Meryl Streep is back in the running for best actress with her portrayal of Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady. She’s joined by former CCMA winners Michelle Williams in My Week With Marilyn and Charlize Theron in Young Adult. The Help’s Davis, Tilda Swinton in We Need To Talk About Kevin and newcomer Elizabeth Olsen in Martha Marcy May Marlene also made the cut. But not Glenn Close, an expected nominee for Albert Nobbs. In addition to Clooney, Pitt, Dujardin, and Gosling, the competitive best actor race found a spot for Shame’s Michael Fassbender and J. Edgar’s Leonardo DiCaprio, whose makeup job represented the only other nod for the Clint Eastwood biopic.

Of note is the supporting actor category, which is top-heavy with veterans Christopher Plummer, Nick Nolte, Brooks, and Kenneth Branagh along with Young Adult’s Patton Oswalt. But there’s also the first-ever recognition of a motion capture performance: Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes lead ape Andy Serkis, supported by an expensive trade ad campaign from 20th Century Fox.

In the supporting actress category, Bejo, Chastain, Spencer, and Woodley are joined by Shame’s Carey Mulligan and Mike & Molly’s recent Emmy winner Melissa McCarthy, further cementing the Bridesmaids star’s very big year.

Also having a good day was the triumphant screen return of Disney’s The Muppets, which nailed three of the 5 song slots and a bid for Best Comedy.

The Broadcast Film Critics Association, which consists of 250 critics (I am a member) from around the country, is the largest film critics org in the U.S. and considered a fairly reliable predictor of the Academy Awards. In fact, all four acting winners last year first won at the CCMAs. But Best Picture and Best Director winner The Social Network lost the Oscar to The King’s Speech, which won only for Colin Firth at CCMAs. In 2009, the BFCA was the first group to reward eventual dark-horse Oscar winner Sandra Bullock for The Blind Side. Here is the complete list of nominees:

BEST PICTURE
The Artist
The Descendants
Drive
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
The Help
Hugo
Midnight in Paris
Moneyball
The Tree Of Life
War Horse

BEST ACTOR
George Clooney – The Descendants
Leonardo DiCaprio – J. Edgar
Jean Dujardin – The Artist
Michael Fassbender – Shame
Ryan Gosling – Drive
Brad Pitt – Moneyball

BEST ACTRESS
Viola Davis – The Help
Elizabeth Olsen – Martha Marcy May Marlene
Meryl Streep – The Iron Lady
Tilda Swinton – We Need to Talk About Kevin
Charlize Theron – Young Adult
Michelle Williams – My Week With Marilyn

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Kenneth Branagh – My Week With Marilyn
Albert Brooks – Drive
Nick Nolte – Warrior
Patton Oswalt – Young Adult
Christopher Plummer – Beginners
Andrew Serkis – Rise of the Planet of the Apes

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Berenice Bejo – The Artist
Jessica Chastain – The Help
Melissa McCarthy – Bridesmaids
Carey Mulligan – Shame
Octavia Spencer – The Help
Shailene Woodley – The Descendants

BEST YOUNG ACTOR/ACTRESS
Asa Butterfield – Hugo
Elle Fanning – Super 8
Thomas Horn – Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
Ezra Miller – We Need to Talk About Kevin
Saoirse Ronan – Hanna
Shailene Woodley – The Descendants

BEST ACTING ENSEMBLE
The Artist
Bridesmaids
The Descendants
The Help
The Ides of March

BEST DIRECTOR
Stephen Daldry – Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
Michel Hazanavicius – The Artist
Alexander Payne – The Descendants
Nicolas Winding Refn – Drive
Martin Scorsese – Hugo
Steven Spielberg – War Horse

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
The Artist – Michel Hazanavicius
50/50 – Will Reiser
Midnight In Paris – Woody Allen
Win Win – Screenplay by Tom McCarthy, Story by Tom McCarthy & Joe Tiboni
Young Adult – Diablo Cody

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
The Descendants – Alexander Payne and Nat Faxon & Jim Rash
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close – Eric Roth
The Help – Tate Taylor
Hugo – John Logan
Moneyball – Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin, Story by Stan Chervin

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
The Artist – Guillaume Schiffman
Drive – Newton Thomas Sigel
Hugo – Robert Richardson
The Tree of Life – Emmanuel Lubezki
War Horse – Janusz Kaminski

BEST ART DIRECTION
The Artist – Production Designer: Laurence Bennett, Art Director: Gregory S. Hooper
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 – Production Designer: Stuart Craig, Set Decorator: Stephenie McMillan
Hugo – Production Designer: Dante Ferretti, Set Decorator: Francesca Lo Schiavo
The Tree of Life – Production Designer: Jack Fisk, Art Director: David Crank
War Horse – Production Designer: Rick Carter, Set Decorator: Lee Sandales

BEST EDITING
The Artist – Michel Hazanavicius and Anne-Sophie Bion
Drive – Matthew Newman
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo – Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall
Hugo – Thelma Schoonmaker
War Horse – Michael Kahn

BEST COSTUME DESIGN
The Artist – Mark Bridges
The Help – Sharen Davis
Hugo – Sandy Powell
Jane Eyre – Michael O’Connor
My Week With Marilyn – Jill Taylor

BEST MAKEUP
Albert Nobbs
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
The Iron Lady
J. Edgar
My Week With Marilyn

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
Hugo
Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Super 8
The Tree of Life

BEST SOUND
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
Hugo
Super 8
The Tree of Life
War Horse

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
The Adventures of Tintin
Arthur Christmas
Kung Fu Panda 2
Puss in Boots
Rango

BEST ACTION MOVIE
Drive
Fast Five
Hanna
Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Super 8

BEST COMEDY
Bridesmaids
Crazy, Stupid, Love
Horrible Bosses
Midnight in Paris
The Muppets

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
In Darkness
Le Havre
A Separation
The Skin I Live In
Where Do We Go Now

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
Buck
Cave of Forgotten Dreams
George Harrison: Living in the Material World
Page One: Inside the New York Times
Project Nim
Undefeated

BEST SONG
“Hello Hello” – performed by Elton John and Lady Gaga/written by Elton John and Bernie Taupin – Gnomeo & Juliet
“Life’s a Happy Song” – performed by Jason Segel, Amy Adams and Walter/written by Bret McKenzie – The Muppets
“The Living Proof” – performed by Mary J. Blige/written by Mary J. Blige, Thomas Newman and Harvey Mason, Jr. – The Help
“Man or Muppet” – performed by Jason Segel and Walter/written by Bret McKenzie – The Muppets
“Pictures in My Head” – performed by Kermit and the Muppets/written by Jeannie Lurie, Aris Archontis and Chen Neeman – The Muppets

BEST SCORE
The Artist – Ludovic Bource
Drive – Cliff Martinez
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo – Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
Hugo – Howard Shore
War Horse – John Williams