Golden Globes Launches Hollywood Awards Season

Low-key British historical drama "The King's Speech" could win a major boost towards Oscars' glory Sunday, as Hollywood's annual awards season launches with the Golden Globes show.

Starring heartthrob Colin Firth as the stuttering King George VI, the movie is nominated in seven categories at the Globes, seen as a key pointer to who will win prizes at the Academy Awards next month.

Facebook blockbuster "The Social Network" is also up for top honors at the show, which gathers the multi-billion dollar industry's celebrity 'A' listers and behind-the-camera for their first major gathering of the year in Beverly Hills.

A Globe or an Oscar can give a global profile to a movie, so as well as being a star-studded event, the awards give a huge marketing boost for the winners, whose acceptance speeches are screened live around the world.

Boxing movie "The Fighter," ballet-themed thriller "Black Swan" and "Inception" starring Leonardo DiCaprio are also on the short-list for Best Picture at Sunday's show.

Ricky Gervais is hosting the awards, organized by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in the plush neighborhood bordering Hollywood itself.

The British comic fronted the awards for the first time last year, aiming amusing barbs at everyone from the show's allegedly corrupt organizers to Hollywood stars in general and the drinking habits of troubled star Mel Gibson.

This year the actor, creator of "The Office," seems set to maintain his reputation for acerbic wit at the expense of Tinsel Town big cheeses.

"The last thing I want to do is genuinely offend anyone," he said, while adding: "I like the jeopardy that it’s live and there’s a quarter of a billion people watching and a room full of the most powerful people in the world.

"That's what gives me the adrenaline rush, thinking it could be the end of my career," he told reporters ahead of the show.

The Globes are the first major show in a season which includes the Directors Guild awards on January 29 and the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) gongs the following night, setting the stage for the Oscars in late February.

"The King's Speech," starring Firth and Helena Bonham Carter, is nominated Sunday for best picture, director, actor, screenplay, score and supporting actor and actress.

The film was the surprise top nominee when the Globes short-lists were announced month, having only just opened in the United States and taken a tiny fraction of the box office earnings of "The Social Network."

Some suggest this was a wily move by the Weinstein Company, behind the film, letting it slowly impress critics and audiences with a limited opening rather than others' blockbuster, head-on approach to seeking Oscar glory and fortune.

The "Social Network" is tipped for best picture, director and actor for Jesse Eisenberg's arresting performance as Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, as well as best supporting actor and screenplay.

Best actor nominees for the drama category also included James Franco for Danny Boyle's latest movie "127 hours," Ryan Gosling for "Blue Valentine" and Wahlberg for "The Fighter."

In other categories, best director nominations went to Darren Aronofsky ("Black Swan"), David Fincher ("The Social Network"), Tom Hooper ("The King's Speech"), Christopher Nolan ("Inception") and David Russell ("The Fighter.")

One film's inclusion in the shortlist triggered smirks around Hollywood.

"The Tourist," starring Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie, was critically panned but was nominated surprisingly in the comedy or musical category, in what gossips suggested was a blatant bid to gets its A list stars to attend Sunday.

But whoever comes away bathed in Globes glory, the real winners will be those who gain all-important momentum for the Oscars, by far the industry's biggest awards, on February 27.

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