LOS ANGELES - Hollywood's elite head for the red carpet Sunday for the Golden Globes, the champagne-drenched launch of the entertainment industry's awards season, with whimsical musical "La La Land" leading the race for statuettes.
Billed as the most raucous event in the showbiz calendar, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association's annual prizegiving is a draw for filmmakers and actors looking to create some buzz ahead of February's Academy Awards.
"The Globes are not as weighty as the Oscars. It's a big party and their job, in my mind, is to try to predict the Oscars and also try to reward all the studios, spread the wealth," said Chris Beachum, managing director of awards prediction website Gold Derby.
"It's also to make sure that all the people that take care of them during the year are well taken care of when it comes to the awards." Leading the pack this year is Damien Chazelle's "La La Land," a nostalgic tribute to the Golden Age of Hollywood musicals that picked up seven nominations, including best comedy/musical and best actor and actress for its stars Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone.
"The reason people love the movie, I think, is that it feels fresh and immediate. It isn't your typical pain-soaked emotionally exhausting Oscar contender," said Sasha Stone, editor at awardsdaily.com.
"I think the two leads are charming and the music is magnificent." 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 honors.
"Lots of people love 'Manchester by the Sea' because it feels like real life. The pain of this character who can't get over the guilt and grief of a tragedy he's responsible for is probably something a lot of people can relate to," said Stone.
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 German-Austrian dramedy "Toni Erdmann" is favorite in the foreign language category ahead of three French films - "Divines," "Elle" and "The Salesman," a joint French-Iranian production - as well as Chile's "Neruda." "It was a project that was complicated to fund, and to be here today on American soil, it's a great reward for the whole team that had faith, a belief in this project, that is a girl's dream about making it to the top," said "Divines" director Houda Benyamina.
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" is close behind with four nominations, while "Black-ish," "The Crown," "The Night Of," "This is Us" and "Westworld" have three each.
Late night talk show funnyman Jimmy Fallon will show off his comedy chops as host of the glitzy ceremony, beamed live by NBC from the plush Beverly Hilton hotel from 5:00 pm (0100 GMT Monday).
He will be assisted by "Jimmy's Angels" - Stallone sisters Sistine, Scarlet and Sophia - who are jointly this year's "Miss Golden Globe," an honor granted to the child or children of a respected member of the entertainment industry.
For the first time, the arrival of Hollywood's A-listers on the red carpet - a top moment for fashion lovers - will be live-streamed on Twitter, from 3:00 pm.
Organizers had feared that fierce rain storms pummeling Northern California could soak the event and the stars, but the skies remained blue and the temperatures mild in Los Angeles ahead of the ceremony.