LOS ANGELES — Hollywood held its breath Sunday ahead of the Golden Globes, as silent film "The Artist" bids to add to its pre-Oscars bonanza, while up against veterans like Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg.

The relatively low-budget French-directed movie, set in Tinsel Town in the 1920s, faces stiff competition from a slew of films starring A-listers including Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie and Meryl Streep.

George Clooney has nominations for both best picture -- for political thriller "The Ides of March," which he directs -- and best actor in Hawaii-based "The Descendants."

The family drama is also in the running for the top prize, along with Scorsese's big-budget 3D adventure "Hugo," Pitt's baseball-themed "Moneyball," Spielberg's equine epic "War Horse," and black civil rights drama "The Help."

"The Artist" is not up for the top dramatic prize at the Globes -- which set the stage for the all-important Oscars next month -- but leads with six nods, including for best musical/comedy and best director for Michel Hazanavicius.

The black-and-white film, billed as a tribute to the silent movie era, tells the story of silent star George Valentin (played by Jean Dujardin) whose career is torpedoed by the arrival of the "talkies."

It won best film and best director at the New York Film Critics Circle awards in November, and has garnered a string of nods since -- including this week from the Directors Guild of America (DGA), seen as a key Oscars indicator.

The film, with a budget of just $12 million -- compared for example to some $170 million for Scorsese's "Hugo" -- won yet another prize just three days before the Globes, taking the Critics' Choice best film award Thursday.

But it also drew unusually harsh criticism this week, when veteran star Kim Novak, in a full-page ad in industry daily Variety, accused Hazanavicius of "rape" for using music from the Alfred Hitchcock classic "Vertigo."

And for all the tributes, the French film faces tough contenders at the Beverly Hilton hotel on Sunday.

After its six nods, tied for second with five nominations each were "The Help," about black servants in the pre-civil rights era US south, and "The Descendants."

There were four each for "The Ides of March," Pitt's "Moneyball" and Woody Allen's "Midnight in Paris" -- including a nod for best director for the veteran New York filmmaker.

Pitt is up for best actor, along with Clooney, ("The Descendants"), Michael Fassbender in sex-addiction study "Shame," Leonardo DiCaprio for Clint Eastwood's "J. Edgar" and Ryan Gosling for "The Ides of March."

For best actress the shortlist includes Streep as Margaret Thatcher in "The Iron Lady," Viola Davis in "The Help," cross-dressing Glenn Close for "Albert Nobbs," Tilda Swinton for "We Need to Talk about Kevin" and Rooney Mara in the screen version of best-seller "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo."

British comic Ricky Gervais is meanwhile promising a no-holds-barred performance in his third time as Globes host, invited back despite ruffling some Hollywood feathers with near-the-bone jokes at last year's show.

The creator of the hit TV comedy "The Office" said he is looking forward to Sunday -- whoever wins -- and says he's not worried if anyone takes offense.

"I'm not trying to hurt anyone's feelings....or undermine the moral fabric of America," he told the Hollywood Reporter Friday, adding: "I?d rather they laugh than gasp, but I cherish the gasps along with the laughs."

The three-hour Globes show starts Sunday at 5:00 pm (0100 GMT Monday).