Golden Globes Rev Up Award Season with Netflix in Pole Position
Hollywood's biggest stars gather Sunday for the glitzy Golden Globes, the first major awards show of a packed season that looks set to mark Netflix's coming-of-age in Tinseltown.
The celebrity-filled gala in Beverly Hills is billed as the most raucous event in the showbiz calendar, where success helps create buzz ahead of next month's Oscars.
Netflix garnered an overwhelming 34 Globe nominations across film and television categories, and is the hot favorite to win several major gongs at the champagne-soaked ceremony.
The streaming giant has two frontrunners for the night's top film prize, best drama -- Martin Scorsese's gangster epic "The Irishman" and heart-wrenching divorce saga "Marriage Story."
"They are having a really good year," Variety awards editor Tim Gray told AFP, noting Netflix has "five or six" heavyweight films this season, up from just "Roma" last time around. "I think they'll do well."
Netflix only began producing original movies in 2015, but has spent billions to lure the industry's top filmmaking talent and fund lavish awards season campaigns.
The firm's Vatican drama "The Two Popes" has four nods, while Eddie Murphy is the favorite to win best comedy actor for the streaming giant's blaxploitation biopic "Dolomite Is My Name."
Murphy, making a comeback to the awards circuit, is among a plethora of A-listers enthusiastically campaigning throughout the busy season.
The Hollywood Foreign Press Association's 90-odd members, who vote for the Globe winners, are a priority stop for every serious contender. Last year, they correctly picked the Oscar winner in every film category except for best musical score.
"They don't generally miss more than one, maybe two" Academy Award winners, said Chris Beachum, of awards prediction website GoldDerby.
Oscar nominations voting ends Tuesday, two days after the Globes.
- Ricky Gervais back again -
British comedian Ricky Gervais returns for a record fifth time to host the ceremony, where his provocative barbs have both riled and delighted Hollywood stars in previous years.
Gervais has promised it will be "the very last time" he hosts.
While several film categories are too close to call, Quentin Tarantino's "Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood" is tipped to take home the prize for best comedy, according to GoldDerby.
Brad Pitt is also a clear frontrunner for his supporting turn in the 1960s Hollywood pastiche, set against the backdrop of the Manson cult murders.
Joaquin Phoenix is leading a crowded drama field for his radical turn in dark comic book tale "Joker," while Renee Zellweger is angling hard for the best actress gong with Judy Garland biopic "Judy."
Newcomer Apple will be hoping to make waves in the television categories, where its #MeToo drama "The Morning Show" has multiple nominations.
But it must fend off Netflix's flagship "The Crown," boasting a new cast led by Oscar winner Olivia Colman.
And early signs suggest a breakthrough year for Asian filmmaking.
Asian-American actress Awkwafina is seen as a shoo-in for best actress in family tragicomedy "The Farewell," while South Korean black comedy "Parasite" is expected to bag the award for best foreign language film.
Bong Joon-ho, the filmmaker behind "Parasite," goes head-to-head with Hollywood heavyweights Tarantino and Scorsese in the best director category.
- 'Good year' for films -
But the HFPA drew stinging criticism for its failure to nominate any female directors. The surprise omission of Greta Gerwig ("Little Women") was particularly notable.
"Of course, I'm disappointed. I love the film that we made," Gerwig told AFP last month.
"There are so many beautiful films made by women this year," she said, but added that the overall low number of female-helmed movies was "dreadful" for the industry.
HFPA president Lorenzo Soria defended the all-male list, telling Variety that members of his organization "don't vote by gender" but "by film and accomplishment."
Gray agreed the director nominations list remains "pretty good," with Sam Mendes ("1917") and Todd Phillips ("Joker") rounding off the slots.
"All the directors who were nominated deserve it," he said. "It's not a simple case of prejudice against women directors."
He added: "It's just a good year -- every category is overcrowded."