01/13/2012 05:18 EST | Updated 03/14/2012 05:12 EDT

The Artist, The Help battle for Golden Globes

The black-and-white silent film The Artist is headed into the Golden Globes as the frontrunner, battling it out with the likes of the book adaptation The Help and George Clooney’s The Descendants.

The French ode to silent film, directed by Michel Havanavicius and starring Berenice Bejo and Jean Dujardin, is up for six prizes including best musical or comedy, directing, writing and acting.

In an era where multiplexes are pushing glossy 3D features, The Artist has quietly been gaining steam — collecting prizes from several critics organizations, most recently the Critic’s Choice prize for best film.

“It's very relaxing for people to actually go to this movie," said Dujardin, who portrays a silent-era star whose career dims when talkies take over. "It's a new visual and emotional experience for people. ... It's really strange and rare to not hear anything in the theatre."

Hot on the heels of The Artist, with five nominations each, are George Clooney's family tale The Descendants andThe Help, both competing for best drama.

The Globes — which will also be handing out a raft of trophies for television work — will be hosted for a third-straight year by British comedian Ricky Gervais, whose sharp quips about celebrities became the news of last year’s gala.

Despite some criticism, the performance paid off with a huge bump in the show's ratings, so the Globes invited Gervais back.

“The job of a comedian is to make you laugh and to make you think as well,” Gervais told The Los Angeles Times on Friday. “I think smart people know what we're trying to do."

Bridesmaids, Midnight in Paris compete in comedy

In addition to The Help and The Descendants, the best drama category includes Martin Scorsese's adventure Hugo; Brad Pitt's sports tale Moneyball; Clooney's political thriller The Ides of March and Steven Spielberg's War Horse.

Meanwhile, in the comedy division, The Artist is up against: Joseph Gordon-Levitt's cancer story 50/50; Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris; Kirsten Wiig's wedding farce Bridesmaids andMichelle Williams' Marilyn Monroe tale My Week with Marilyn.

Some view the Globes to be a decent predictor of Oscar winners although in the past seven years, only one Globe best-picture winner — 2008's Slumdog Millionaire — has gone on to claim the top movie honour at the Oscars.

Prior to that, the Globes had been on an eight-year streak in which one of its two best-picture recipients went on to become the Oscar champ. Last year’s Globe top movie, The Social Network lost out to The King's Speech at the Academy Awards

In the dramatic acting realm, Clooney (Descendants) and Pitt (Moneyball) are up against Michael Fassbender (Shame), Canadian Ryan Gosling (The Ides of March) and Leonardo DiCaprio (J.Edgar).

The Help gets 3 acting nods

The best actress film nominees in drama include:

- Glenn Close for Albert Nobbs.

- Viola Davis for The Help.

- Rooney Mara for The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.

- Meryl Streep for Iron Lady.

- Tilda Swinton for We Need to Talk About Kevin.

In addition to Davis, The Help has two other acting nominations: Octavia Spencer and Jessica Chastain for supporting actress. Adapted from Kathryn Stockett's bestseller about black maids, the movie has garnered raves for all the actors participating.

"It's a testament to pulling yourself up by your bootstraps and not taking no for an answer," said Spencer, a longtime friend of director Tate Taylor who was a virtual no-name in the business.

"Kathryn was an underdog, and Tate [had done only small films] they're in the big leagues.”

The Globes, carried live on NBC Sunday night, are presented by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which represents 85 entertainment reporters for overseas media.