LOS ANGELES: Hollywood’s elite hits the red carpet on Sunday for the Golden Globes, launching a fiercely-contested awards season that looks set to reward escapist fantasy and gritty drama in equal measure.
The Globes has a reputation for delighting in its eccentric picks so its record in predicting Oscars glory has been patchy over the years, but it is a huge draw for the stars and remains for many a solid bellwether for Academy Awards success.
“The Globes is known as one of the most fun parties of the year. There are only about 1,200 seats, and they’re hard to get. So that ‘insider’ status is tantalizing,” Tim Gray, awards editor for trade magazine Variety, told AFP.
“And Hollywood knows that the Globes reach a big audience, so it’s important to get their films out there, to increase public awareness.”
Leading the pack of films vying for top honors is Damien Chazelle’s “La La Land,” a tribute to the Golden Age of Hollywood musicals set in modern-day Los Angeles.
It picked up seven nominations, and pundits see it as the overwhelming favorite for best comedy/musical film, ahead of “20th Century Women,” “Deadpool,” “Florence Foster Jenkins” and “Sing Street.”
“La La Land” is also in a strong position to pick up awards for its stars Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, best director for Chazelle and best score and song, according to a poll of experts by awards website Gold Derby.
‘Very tight race’
“‘La La Land’ could win all of its categories. It’s either the frontrunner or in second place, I believe, in all seven. The safest for them are comedy/musical best picture, Emma Stone and for score,” Gold Derby managing director Chris Beachum told AFP.
“They could win for Gosling, director and song but the Globes voters tend to want to spread things out more than that. You don’t generally see a movie winning more than three or four.”
Barry Jenkins’s coming-of-age tale “Moonlight,” with six nominations including for the director and cast members Naomie Harris and Mahershala Ali, has been monopolizing attention on the drama side of the contest.
Another frontrunner is Kenneth Lonergan’s unflinching “Manchester by the Sea,” which earned the filmmaker nods for best directing and screenplay while Casey Affleck is a favorite for best actor and Michelle Williams vies for best supporting actress.
Gold Derby’s experts have it just ahead of “Moonlight” as favorite for best dramatic motion picture, with Mel Gibson’s war movie “Hacksaw Ridge,” heist thriller “Hell or High Water” and family drama “Lion” rounding out the category.
“On our website it’s razor thin. Our experts go with ‘Manchester’ but if you combine all people voting and predicting, it’s slightly in favor of ‘Moonlight,'” said Beachum.
“It’s a very tight race. I think both will win a couple of awards.”
‘A chintzier affair’
For best actress in a drama, Natalie Portman is expected to pick up the award for her intense, critically-acclaimed turn as Jackie Kennedy in “Jackie,” which chronicles the days immediately following John F. Kennedy’s 1963 assassination.
Maren Ade’s “Toni Erdmann,” a German comedy about a troubled father-daughter relationship, is leading the betting in the foreign language category after sweeping the board at the European film awards in December.
It will vie for the prize with three French films — “Divines,” “Elle” and “The Salesman,” a joint French-Iranian production — as well as Chile’s “Neruda.”
On the television side, FX true crime anthology “The People vs O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story” is expected to enjoy a winning night with five nominations.
AMC crime drama “The Night Manager” will be close behind, with four nominations, while “Black-ish,” “The Crown,” “The Night Of,” “This is Us” and “Westworld” have three each.
HBO comfortably leads the television nominations with 14.
Hollywood A-listers Drew Barrymore, Sylvester Stallone, Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon will add glitz to the annual party as awards presenters while host Jimmy Fallon is seen as a safe pair of hands compared with another Globes regular, caustic British comedian Ricky Gervais.
“The Globes are always a slightly chintzier affair when compared to the Oscars or the Emmys,” wrote Jack Mirkinson, an editor at US pop culture website Fusion, of the upcoming ceremony.
“But they’re often way more fun to watch, especially because all the stars involved get progressively drunker as the night goes on.”