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The pre-Oscar passion is with Sideways, The Aviator and Jamie Foxx--not The Passion of the Christ.

Sideways, the coming of middle-age tale set in California's wine country, uncorked seven nominations, including Best Motion Picture, Comedy or Musical, to lead the way as the field for the 62nd Annual Golden Globe Awards was announced Monday in Beverly Hills.

The Aviator, director Martin Scorsese's epic biopic of mogul Howard Hughes, soared with six nominations, including Best Motion Picture, Drama.

On the occasion of his 37th birthday, Foxx scored three nominations all by himself: Best Actor, Musical or Comedy for channeling Ray Charles in Ray; Best Supporting Actor, Motion Picture for taxiing difficult passenger Tom Cruise in Collateral; and, Best Actor, Miniseries or Movie for going gangster in the FX telepic Redemption.

"What a great way to start the day with three birthday gifts from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association," Foxx said in a statement. "I am honored."

Meanwhile, The Passion, Mel Gibson's religious blockbuster, fell flat.

Even before the nominations were out, the movie was up against it, declared ineligible in the Best Drama category because of its Aramaic- and Latin-spoken dialogue. The depiction of Jesus' final hours still could have netted a nomination as Best Foreign Language Film. But it didn't.

Its actors, who were eligible in the drama categories, also were denied, as was writer-director Gibson, a Globe winner for Braveheart.

A long-ago Pia Zadora lapse aside, the Globes are considered the most accurate predictor of Oscar success.

While The Passion's already-iffy Oscar stock took a hit, Clint Eastwood's boxing drama Million Dollar Baby, the Peter Pan man biopic Finding Neverland and the anti-date drama Closer helped their causes, with five nominations each.

* Get the complete list of contenders

* Kristin gets Globes gab from the noms themselves!

That trio will go up against The Aviator in the Best Drama category. The other nominees there: Hotel Rwanda and Kinsey.

Sideways' competition in the Best Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy race stacks up so: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Incredibles, The Phantom of the Opera and Ray.

Sideways tuned up for the Globes this past weekend by being named best film by both the Los Angeles and San Francisco film critics. By Monday, the New York Film Critics Circle and Boston Society of Film Critics put the movie at the top of their lists.

In the acting races, Leonardo DiCaprio picked up his fourth career Globe nomination for capturing the elusive Hughes in The Aviator. He'll face off in the Best Actor, Drama category against: Javier Bardem (The Sea Inside); Don Cheadle (Hotel Rwanda); Johnny Depp (Finding Neverland); and Liam Neeson (Kinsey).

The Best Actress, Drama race looks to be wide open with nominations for: Nicole Kidman, a big star in a little-loved movie, Birth; Uma Thurman, in the blood-stained Kill Bill: Volume 2; Scarlett Johansson, in the not-yet released A Love Song for Bobby Long; Imelda Staunton, no-name star in the art-house drama Vera Drake; and Hilary Swank, looking to regain her Oscar-winning form as a boxer in Million Dollar Baby.

Annette Bening made good on her Oscar buzz by scoring a Best Actress, Musical or Comedy nomination for Being Julia. Her fellow nominees: Ashley Judd (De-Lovely); The Day After Tomorrow survivor Emmy Rossum (The Phantom of the Opera); Kate Winslet (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind); and reigning Globe champ Ren�e Zellweger (Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason). (Zellweger's win was for Cold Mountain.)

In the Best Actor, Musical or Comedy category, frontrunner Foxx goes up against: Jim Carrey (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind); Paul Giamatti (Sideways); Kevin Kline (De-Lovely); and, Kevin Spacey (Beyond the Sea).

Spacey's nomination was the lone one for his pet project about singer Bobby Darin. The two-time Oscar-winner produced, wrote, directed and starred in the movie, which has opened to middling reviews.

In the supporting actor race, Foxx will face David Carradine (Kill Bill: Volume 2), ex-Wings man Thomas Haden Church (Sideways), Morgan Freeman (Million Dollar Baby) and Clive Owen (Closer).

On account of his being a man, Foxx was ineligible for the actress categories. That made room for Natalie Portman to make a splash in the supporting actress category with her second Globe nomination for Closer. The other nominees there: Cate Blanchett (The Aviator); Laura Linney (Kinsey); Virginia Madsen (Sideways); and Meryl Streep (the otherwise-ignored The Manchurian Candidate).

Madsen told E! she was awakened with news of her "dream come true" by a phone call from her manager. (The Globes are announced at about 5:30 a.m. West Coast time.)

"I was jumping up and down and screaming--and then I woke up," Madsen said.

Among the Best Director hopefuls, Scorsese will try to build Oscar momentum (Taxi Driver or no, he has never won an Academy Award) with a win for The Aviator. Looking to ground him will be 74-years-young Clint Eastwood (Million Dollar Baby), Marc Forster (Finding Neverland), Mike Nichols (Closer) and Alexander Payne (Sideways).

Eastwood doubled his pleasure with a Best Original Score nomination for Million Dollar Baby. The other Globe two-timers: Payne, also nominated as a writer on Sideways, and Swank, also up in the TV division for her starring role in the HBO TV movie Iron Jawed Angels.

Keeping Mel Gibson company on the outside looking in, meanwhile, are Terry George and Bill Condon. Both failed to net directing nominations despite the Best Drama nods for their respective films, Hotel Rwanda and Kinsey.

George and Condon also saw their scripts shut out of the screenplay competition. Eternal Sunshine, The Aviator, Finding Neverland, Closer and Sideways snapped up the spots in that category.

More famous snubbees included: Jude Law, who garnered zero nominations for appearing in five movies this year, including Globes favorite Closer, and narrating a sixth (Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events); Spanglish, the upcoming comedy-drama from writer-director James L. Brooks, which scored just one nomination (for Best Original Score); and The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, the seafaring Wes Anderson comedy, which netted nothing.

Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11, unofficially up for most controversial movie of the year along with The Passion, previously was snubbed by Globes voters when the Hollywood Foreign Press Association ruled it doesn't have a way to honor documentaries.

The Globes also don't have a category for animated features, which left 2004's box-office champ, Shrek 2, making do with a Best Original Song nomination--and turning green (well, more green) with envy over The Incredibles' inclusion in the Best Comedy race.

TOP CONTENDERS
Motion Picture
Noms
Sideways
7
The Aviator
6
Closer
5
Finding Neverland
5
Million Dollar Baby
5
TV Program
Noms
Desperate Housewives
5
The Life and Death of Peter Sellers
4
The Sopranos
4

The Best Original Song category, meanwhile, featured few unusual award-show names--at least for movie awards. Mick Jagger is a hopeful for penning the Alfie tune "Old Habits Die Hard," with David A. Stewart. Counting Crows frontman Adam Duritz is nominated as cowriter of the Shrek 2 ditty "Accidentally in Love." Wyclef Jean is in the race for his work on the Hotel Rwanda song "Million Voices."

In the Globes' television categories, ABC's Desperate Housewives cleaned up with five nominations, tops among tube fare.

The suburban sendup dominated the Best Actress, Musical or Comedy Series category, with stars Marcia Cross, Teri Hatcher and Felicity Huffman hogging three of the five nominations. Towel-dropper Nicollette Sheridan struck it out alone in the supporting TV actress category. The show itself scored a nomination for Best Television Series, Musical or Comedy.

About the only Desperate Housewife not hailed by the Globes was Eva Longoria, who plays gardener-enthusiast Gabrielle Solis on the hit series.

Going up against Housewives in the comedy series category are: Fox's Arrested Development; HBO's Entourage, a surprise nomination for the little-watched show; HBO's Sex and the City, a last nomination for the retired show; and NBC's Will & Grace.

Overall, it was a bad Globes for Sex, which failed to score its usual batch of acting nods. Sarah Jessica Parker was its lone nominated star, up for Best Actress, Musical or Comedy Series.

Other TV-land snubbees: The Sopranos' James Gandolfini; 24's Kiefer Sutherland; The West Wing; Everybody Loves Raymond and dearly departed NBC comedies Friends and Frasier. Friends spinoff, Joey, represented with one nomination for Matt LeBlanc.

Fox's 24, HBO's Deadwood, ABC's Lost, FX's Nip/Tuck and HBO's The Sopranos will compete for Best Television Series, Drama.

The 62nd Annual Golden Globes are scheduled to be presented Jan. 16 at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills. NBC will carry the telecast.