Christmas came early for Hollywood this year, as it usually does, with the announcement this morning of the Golden Globe nominations. Ever quirky but dependable in its ability to spread the wealth by way of splitting major contenders into Drama or Comedy/Musical, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association has further clarified the race. The group gave multiple key nominations to Oscar frontrunners like Argo, Life Of Pi, Lincoln, Zero Dark Thirty, Les Miserables and Silver Linings Playbook as well as major impetus to the late-breaking hopes of Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained, which grabbed five key nominations including Picture-Drama, Director and Screenplay for Tarantino and two supporting actor nods for Leonardo DiCaprio and Christoph Waltz, shaking up the supporting actor race in the process. So other than The Weinstein Company with a leading 15 nominations (Harvey really knows how to work the HFPA), who really came out on top here?

Related: Golden Globe Award Noms: Scorecard

As has been the case since Monday’s announcement of the AFI top 10 films of the year, Tuesday’s Critics Choice Movie Awards, where it led with 13 nominations, yesterday’s SAG noms, where it grabbed everything it could, and now today’s leading 7 nominations, Lincoln is now certified at the top of the pack going into Oscar balloting, which begins Monday. Steven Spielberg’s historical drama nabbed a nomination in every single Globes category it was eligible (with 7 nods, the most ever for a Spielberg film at the Globes) and made perhaps the most impressive showing of all the nominees. To put the cherry on top for Disney/Dreamworks, the film will hit $100 million domestically today. But in a race that remains as tight as ever, Argo also almost ran the board, missing out as expected for producerdirector Ben Affleck’s lead performance but named in 5 other categories. Zero Dark Thirty also did what it had to do, grabbing the four key nominations (Picture-Drama, Director for Kathryn Bigelow, Screenplay for Mark Boal, Actress-Drama for Jessica Chastain) it was targeting. Add the aforementioned impressive showing of Django and you have the BIG winners of the morning as the HFPA handed out lots of gifts to each. Correlation to actual Oscar nominations and wins is sometimes spotty with the Globes, but because this has become such a high-profile awards show on NBC, one of the year’s biggest, the town pays attention and, if nothing else, the HFPA has confirmed the closeness of this race.

For two other Oscar-buzzed films, Silver Linings Playbook and Les Miserables, both the immediate front-runners for Best Picture — Musical or Comedy, the news was more of a mixed bag. Les Mis also got nods in the Musical or Comedy category for its star Hugh Jackman in addition to Anne Hathaway’s Supporting nom and Song, while Silver Linings also got expected nods in the Musical-Comedy categories of Lead Actor (Bradley Cooper) and Lead Actress (Jennifer Lawrence) along with a bid for David O. Russell’s screenplay. But both films missed out in the crucial Best Director category. The HFPA does not make a distinction between Drama and Comedy-Musical in Director, Screenplay or Supporting Acting categories, so those are usually the areas where you can separate the men from the boys in terms of real strength, at least in this organization. And the absence of two directors, Les Miz’s Tom Hooper and Silver Linings’ Russell (though he did get a writing nod), is notable. It also follows a pattern as the Globes favor directors of dramas 90% of the time — though last year The Artist‘s Michel Hazanavicius and Woody Allen for Midnight In Paris were nominatedit is mostly true Globe directing nods go for the more serious entries. Interesting to note though that even as The Weinstein Company got its wish in qualifying Django as a Drama, many members of the HFPA were grumbling after seeing it so late in the game and known to believe it was really a comedy. The distinction is sometimes hard to discern, but nevertheless they were clearly taken with Tarantino’s ultra-violent homage to spaghetti Westerns no matter how it is classified. Maybe it was the Italian-ness of it all. After all, this is the foreign press voting. Their vote, along with mentions from AFI and the Broadcast Critics this week, really lifts its Oscar chances as it was done without benefit of DVD screeners and the movie didn’t even have its first unveiling until a week and a half ago and has been on a rushed schedule of screenings ever since.

The directing race is really turning into a barnburner and now the ball is moving down the court to both the DGA announcement January 8th and of course, the Oscars on January 10th. There are now seven solid contenders in the Best Picture race — Argo, Django, Life Of Pi, Lincoln, Zero Dark Thirty, Silver Linings and Les Mis, with Michael Haneke’s Foreign Language Film-nominated Amour a wild card in the Picture and Directing categories at the Oscars — but there are only five director slots, and gaining one of those is where the game is really heading. Ang Li’s directing nod for Life Of Pi in addition to its recognition as Best Picture – Drama also keeps that technical triumph firmly in the race.

For Flight, its showing at the Globes and in other contests this week really dampens whatever hopes Paramount may have had for its big contender, other than Denzel Washington’s lead performance. Same for whatever prayer Focus had for Anna Karenina and its star Kiera Knightley, who has been blanked all week and now at the Globes, where she had her best shot. The Master also appears now to be mainly in play in acting categories with the Globes (in addition to the supporting nod for Philip Seymour Hoffman) resuscitating chances for Joaquin Phoenix and Amy Adams after they were ignored by SAG yesterday.

The omission of Silver Linings Playbook’s Robert De Niro was among the most surprising snubs to me, but clearly those two Django co-stars DiCaprio and Waltz rode in and stole his thunder (he also was too busy working to do the all-important– in terms of nominations — HFPA press conference). Same goes for Magic Mike’s Matthew McConaughey whose emerging bright Oscar hopes may have dimmed without mentions at SAG and now the Globes. Too bad: He deserved the attention. Two other SAG no-shows, Amour’s Emmanuelle Riva and Beasts Of The Southern Wild’s Quvenzhane Wallis (she was ineligible at SAG), also blanked here as the Globes reached back to early in the year and helped resuscitate the memory of Rachel Weisz in the little-seen drama The Deep Blue Sea.

In the Comedy/Musical category, snubs for Globe favorite Barbra Streisand, who is terrific in The Guilt Trip, and Leslie Mann in Judd Apatow’s well-recieved This Is 40 surprised me. (It also surprised Paramount.) So did no mention whatsoever of Ted. Yet there were three nominations for CBS Films’ early 2012 release Salmon Fishing In The Yemen including two for stars Emily Blunt and Ewan McGregor (who actually has been campaigning for his work in The Impossible, not Yemen). Go figure. Originally, CBS Films had planned to open Salmon Fishing for an awards run in 2011 thinking they could get Globes attention, but it decided to hold it. Obviously the wait didn’t hurt.

Related: Golden Globes TV: ‘Homeland’ Tops; ‘Mad Men’ Snubbed

Projecting actual winners from this morning’s list could be fool’s folly as this looks to be a very close race — the most wide-open in years — but those winners will have zero impact on Oscar voters: For the first time, the Academy Award nominations will be January 10th, three days before the Golden Globes are handed out on NBC. Talk about stealing your thunder, HFPA!  This thing is just getting started.