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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Hollywood's Golden Globe nominations did little to define leaders in the Oscar race as experts on Friday said the sweepstakes for the world's top film honors remained confined to a narrow list of contenders.
Still, there were clear winners such as drama "Atonement," comedy "Charlie Wilson's War" and musical "Sweeney Todd," and one chief loser, "Into the Wild," from the nominations unveiled on Thursday by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.
David Poland of Web site Movie City News was pointed when asked what the Golden Globe nods did to narrow the list of serious Oscar candidates.
"Nothing," he told Reuters. "Of the 15 or so contenders, they got 14. The only one left out was 'Into the Wild,' but given the recent history of the Golden Globes with 'Crash' or 'Munich,' that doesn't mean anything."
The Oscars are voted upon by roughly 6,000 members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and until very recently, members of the HFPA, who number about 90, enjoyed a reputation for picking winners that also competed for Oscars.
But in 2006, Golden Globe voters did not even nominate race relations movie "Crash" or Steven Spielberg's "Munich" for best drama, but both were nominated for Academy Awards. "Crash" eventually won the Oscar for best film.
Film critic Pete Hammond said the Golden Globe nominations did help solidify the list of movies Academy voters will likely watch before Oscar nod ballots are due on January 12.
"They didn't clear up the race so much as offer a blueprint for movies Academy voters should pop into their DVD players," Hammond said.
Romance "Atonement," which topped the list of Golden Globe nominees with seven nods, cemented its place as a key Oscar candidate, as did crime drama "No Country for Old Men," legal thriller "Michael Clayton" and "Sweeney Todd."
Another crime drama, "American Gangster," drug dealer movie "Eastern Promises" and "Charlie Wilson's War" had lost momentum but rebounded with strong showings as Golden Globe nominees. Comedy "Juno," also defined itself as a movie to watch.
Drama "Into the Wild," directed by Sean Penn, lost momentum from earlier critical honors by failing to make the Golden Globe list of best film candidates. Likewise, "The Kite Runner" lost ground when its maker, Marc Forster, failed to be nominated for best director.
The experts said Golden Globe acting nominees also looked like the usual suspects: George Clooney for "Michael Clayton," Daniel Day-Lewis in "There Will Be Blood," Viggo Mortensen for "Eastern Promises" and Johnny Depp in "Sweeney Todd."
James McAvoy in "Atonement," Tom Hanks in "Charlie Wilson's War" and Philip Seymour Hoffman for "The Savages" also figure in the Oscar hunt.
"Historically, your acceptance speech at the Globes has been a dress rehearsal for an Oscar speech," said Tom O'Neil of awards Web site TheEnvelope.com. "If Clooney gets up and wows the audience as he always does, he could sail to the Oscars."
Finally, Golden Globe actress categories also featured early favorites such as Julie Christie in "Away From Her" and Marion Cotillard in "La Vie En Rose," but was notable for exceptions such as Laura Linney in "The Savages," said Entertainment Weekly magazine's Dave Karger.
Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Xavier Briand