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The searing historical epic “12 Years a Slave” and the con-artist caper “American Hustle” lead the 71st annual Golden Globes with seven nominations each. The nominations announced Thursday morning by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association suggested “American Hustle” and “12 Years a Slave” may be this year’s Oscar favorites. Hailed by critics as the movies’ most unblinking portrait of slavery, “12 Years a Slave” verified its front-runner status with nominations including best film drama, Chiwetel Ejiofor for best actor in a drama and Steve McQueen for best director.

“American Hustle” dominated on the Globes’ other category side: comedy or musical. The fictionalized story of the FBI’s Abscam investigation in the late 1970s earned nominations for best movie comedy, Christian Bale for best actor in a comedy, Jennifer Lawrence for best supporting actress in a comedy and David O. Russell for best director. Also in the mix are Alexander Payne’s father-son road trip “Nebraska,” with five nominations, including best actor for Bruce Dern. The space odyssey “Gravity” earned four nominations, as did the Somali pirate thriller “Captain Phillips.”

This year’s comedy competition could be the strongest field ever for the Globes. Aside from “American Hustle,” the group includes Martin Scorsese’s “The Wolf of Wall Street,” Alexander Payne’s “Nebraska,” Spike Jonze’s “Her” and the Coen brothers’ “Inside Llewyn Davis.”

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