LOS ANGELES (AFP) - The field is wide open this year as to who will walk away with a Golden Globe, awarded by members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association at a gala dinner in Beverly Hills on Jan 10.
"Some years there are movies like Titanic that just seem to have a momentum and everybody seems to like them," said Timothy Gray, awards editor for trade magazine Variety. "But this year there is genuine suspense."
Leading the pack of films vying for top honors is Spotlight, which tells the story of Boston Globe journalists who uncovered sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.
Pundits see the movie as front-runner for best drama but it faces strong competition from Carol, a lesbian romance starring Cate Blanchett as a housewife who falls for a store clerk played by Rooney Mara.
Other top contending dramas are the epic survival thriller The Revenant starring Leonardo DiCaprio, the harrowing kidnap tale Room and Mad Max: Fury Road.
Many see the Globes as a strong indicator of films and actors destined for an Academy Award on Feb 28.
The front-runner for best comedy is The Big Short, based on a book about the financial crisis of 2007-2008.
Also running in that category are the dramedy Joy, space blockbuster The Martian, zany caper Spy and Amy Shumer's breakout film Trainwreck.
In the race for best actor in a drama, DiCaprio appears well ahead for his strong performance as legendary fur trapper Hugh Glass in The Revenant. Critics are widely predicting the 41-year-old actor will take home his first Oscar for the role.
"There is a feeling that it's his year," said Tom O'Neil, founder of awards tracker GoldDerby.com. "All 17 GoldDerby experts have him unanimously out front to win."
Also nominated for best actor in a drama are Bryan Cranston who plays a blacklisted 1940s screenwriter in Trumbo, Eddie Redmayne for the transgender tale The Danish Girl and Will Smith for the hard-hitting sports drama Concussion. For best actress in a drama the nominees are Blanchett and Mara for Carol, Brie Larson for Room, and Alicia Vikander who plays alongside Redmayne in The Danish Girl.
On the television front, two series nominated for a Golden Globe are creating a buzz - Mr Robot, about a computer programmer and vigilante hacker, and Narcos, Netflix's take on the infamous Medellin drug cartel.
Movies aside, all eyes will be on the host, British comedian Ricky Gervais, who has used previous appearances on the show to dish out politically-incorrect and stinging jokes. He hosted the show for three years starting in 2010 and this year takes over from co-hosts Tina Fey and Amy Poehler.
Gervais comes with a reputation of poking fun at everyone from Mel Gibson to Angelina Jolie, as well as the Hollywood Foreign Press, and this year he is not expected to hold back. He has made his apologies in advance for what he will say.
"Because I can see the future, I'd like to apologize now for the things I said at next week's Golden Globes," he tweeted on Jan 1.