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BEVERLY HILLS, California (Reuters) - Two movies set against different wars, "Atonement" and "Charlie Wilson's War," dominated Golden Globe nominations on Thursday with "Atonement" earning seven nods, including one for best drama, to lead all film contenders.
The World War Two saga also earned best dramatic actor and actress nominations for Scottish performer James McAvoy and his English-born leading lady, Keira Knightley, for their roles as lovers torn apart by a family lie and the conflict in Europe.
"Atonement" filmmaker Joe Wright was nominated for best director, and 13-year-old Saoirse Ronan earned a supporting actress nod as the sister who betrays Knightley's character. Other nominations came for best screenplay and musical score.
"It's extraordinary. I really didn't expect that, really," Wright said.
McAvoy, who is well-known in Britain but less so in the United States, also said he was surprised. "It's nice. Things like today give you a little bit of validation," he said.
The Golden Globes are often a key indicator of which films will compete for Oscars, but in a first for the Golden Globes -- given out by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association -- the best film drama group saw seven nominees instead of the usual five making the Oscar race still murky, experts said.
Three of the best film drama nominees were crime movies: -- "American Gangster," "Eastern Promises" and Joel Coen and Ethan Coen's "No Country for Old Men."
The final three were George Clooney legal thriller "Michael Clayton" and two period pieces -- "There Will Be Blood," about the rise of a California oil baron, and "The Great Debaters," a Depression-era story of race relations and hope.
"Charlie Wilson's War," a wry tale of political intrigue starring Tom Hanks, was the second-most nominated film with five nods, including best comedy or musical.
Hanks was nominated as best comic actor for his role as a U.S. congressman raising funds to fight the 1980s-era Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, while co-stars Julia Roberts and Philip Seymour Hoffman earned bids for their supporting parts. Aaron Sorkin was nominated for his screenplay.
"It's a serious story told funny," Sorkin said. "(But) you're not going to sit there wondering, 'is this a drama or a comedy?' You're going to laugh at the funny parts."
Three films earned four nominations each: "No Country for Old Men," "Michael Clayton" and musical "Sweeney Todd."
For best dramatic actor, McAvoy of "Atonement" is joined by George Clooney in "Michael Clayton," Daniel Day-Lewis in "There Will Be Blood," Denzel Washington in "American Gangster" and Viggo Mortensen in "Eastern Promises."
Competing with Knightley for best dramatic actress were Cate Blanchett in "Elizabeth: The Golden Age," Julie Christie for "Away From Her," Angelina Jolie in "A Mighty Heart" and Jodie Foster for "The Brave One."
Relative newcomer Amy Adams of "Enchanted" will vie for best actress in a musical or comedy against Nikki Blonsky of "Hairspray," Helena Bonham Carter from "Sweeney Todd," Marion Cotillard in "La Vie En Rose" and Ellen Page for "Juno."
Joining Hanks and Hoffman in the race for best actor in a movie musical or comedy are Johnny Depp in "Sweeney Todd," Ryan Gosling for "Lars and the Real Girl" and John C. Reilly in "Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story."
Best foreign-language film nominees were: Romanian entry "4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days;" the U.S.-made drama set in Afghanistan, "The Kite Runner;" French animated film "Persepolis;" Taiwan's "Lust, Caution" and "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly," a U.S.-French production.
The 2008 Golden Globe Awards will be held on January 13 in Beverly Hills in a show airing on U.S. television network NBC, but the program could be threatened by the writers strike.
HFPA President Jorge Camara said the group had requested a waiver from the Writers Guild of America to produce the show, and he was "hoping everything will work out."
Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Jackie Frank