Sunday's Golden Globes will formally kick off the race to the Academy Awards in February. Oscar nominations come Thursday, so the Globes are the last chance to see many of the likely nominees before their crowning as the definitive best of the best by film's highest honor.
But why rush? The Golden Globes are always a drunken blast, and this year's nominees are an unsurprisingly great lot. Let's break down who's looking like a winner, a should-be-winner and more.
Motion picture — drama
One look at this list shows you what an interesting year for film it was. You've got a quiet lesbian melodrama set in the '50s, an out-of-its mind blockbuster, a miserable Western about man versus wild (and bear), a contemporary drama about a woman trying to find freedom for herself and her child and a quick, smart All the President's Men for the 21st century. Of those five, Carol is the most deserving, but it's the compelling Catholic church abuse scandal drama Spotlight that will win out here.
Should win: Carol
Motion picture — comedy/musical
The Big Short
If either Spy or Trainwreck was the only nominee, they'd stand a chance at beating the more prestigious films here. Unfortunately, their "true comedy" cred will cancel each other out, leaving Joy (too miserable for such a light story), The Martian (too fun for such a dark story) and The Big Short (as Goldilocks would say, just right).
Should win: The Big Short
Actress in a motion picture — drama
Cate Blanchett, Carol
Blanchett is the true champ here, so striking as a lesbian housewife going through a divorce in 1952, but she'll vote-split with her co-star Mara. Vikander could win, but she's a more likely victor in another category. That leaves it to Larson and Ronan, and the latter stars in a story about an immigrant to the United States learning how to cope and live a new life. A reminder: The Golden Globes are voted on by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, a group of people from across the sea who have come to the U.S. This should be Ronan's easily.
Should win: Cate Blanchett, Carol
Actor in a motion picture — drama
Bryan Cranston, Trumbo
Anyway, he's winning.
Should win: Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs
Actress in a motion picture — comedy/musical
Jennifer Lawrence, Joy
Schumer will likely cap her stellar year here, while her pal Lawrence's nomination looks more like name recognition than anything else, considering her disappointing work in Joy. McCarthy would be a great choice for a win, but this award should belong to Tomlin. She's fantastic in Grandma, so brazen and hilarious. This is, however, Schumer's victory lap.
Should win: Lily Tomlin, Grandma
Actor in a motion picture — comedy/musical
Christian Bale, The Big Short
Apparently, Danny Collins was a well-liked film featuring such big stars as Pacino, Jennifer Garner and Christopher Plummer. Who knew! Anyway, since the Big Short boys are probably going to split votes, this is an easy win for Damon.
Should win: Steve Carell, The Big Short
Supporting actress in a motion picture
Jane Fonda, Youth
This feels like where the HFPA will feel the Vikander love, though interestingly enough, thanks to how the film's studio is campaigning, she could easily be nominated for The Danish Girl in supporting at the Oscars and win instead. That's quirky and unusual, but not impossible. Meanwhile, in a category that's missing some of its most exciting names (Cynthia Nixon, Mya Taylor), Winslet stands out as superior in a decent, if flawed, film.
Should win: Alicia Vikander, Ex Machina
Supporting actor in a motion picture
Paul Dano, Love and Mercy
Rylance has won and been nominated for several precursor awards this season. His Globe win will continue to pave his path toward an Oscar, with only Stallone standing a chance of getting in his way with Rocky-reminiscent Academy voters. Shannon is tops in the category, but his turn as a corrupt real estate mogul is a bit too subtle to earn major awards.
Should win: Michael Shannon, 99 Homes
Director of a motion picture
Todd Haynes, Carol
Interestingly, while Scott is the likely Oscar-winner, he may lose the Globe to Haynes or Miller. Carol led the nomination count, indicating HFPA love, while Miller executed a daring, surprising vision that rivals (and perhaps even beats) Scott's. Gut guess: It goes to Miller.
Should win: Todd Haynes, Carol
Screenplay of a motion picture
The Big Short
Even if The Big Short proves to be the bigger Oscar player, Spotlight will win the original screenplay category there — as it will win the combined screenplay category here.
Should win: Spotlight
Animated motion picture
Let's pretend for a moment that anything besides Inside Out could possibly win.
People also really like Anomalisa!
Okay, that was a fun moment. Inside Out is winning this in a cakewalk.
Should win: Inside Out
Original score in a motion picture
Unless the HFPA loved The Danish Girl or wants to reward Hateful Eight composer Ennio Morricone, this seems like a safe bet for Carol.
Should win: Carol
Original song in a motion picture
"Love Me Like You Do" from Fifty Shades of Grey
Aside from the nomination for Sam Smith's weak James Bond theme, this is a strong category. This is probably Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth's best shot at a movie award this season — the Oscar feels a bit out of reach for "See You Again," as voters will see its massive success this summer as enough of a reward. "Simple Song #3," sung by Sumi Jo, is easily the best in the category, and will likely triumph at the Oscars, but this is Furious 7's time to shine.
Should win: "Simple Song #3" from Youth
TV series — drama
This is almost entirely different from the Emmy list, which speaks to how delightfully off-consensus the Golden Globes went this year. Funny enough, though, it's the only repeat nominee (Game of Thrones) that will probably come out on top. Potential spoiler: Mr. Robot, the buzziest series of the summer.
Should win: Mr. Robot
TV series — comedy/musical
Kudos to the HFPA for putting together a smart, forward-thinking set of nominees here. The likely winner is the most deserving — Transparent — but keep an eye on Mozart in the Jungle. The category is "comedy/musical" for a reason, and the Amazon series all about the New York symphony may tickle voters' eardrums as well as their hearts.
Should win: Transparent
Actress in a TV series — drama
Caitriona Balfe, Outlander
Davis could repeat her win from the Emmys, or her friend Henson could take home her first bit of gold for playing Cookie Lyon. Give the slight edge to the latter as a reward for one of the most impressive achievements on television in 2015.
Should win: Taraji P. Henson, Empire
Actor in a TV series — drama
Jon Hamm, Mad Men
Eight years ago, Hamm won a Golden Globe for the first season of Mad Men. Unfortunately, he won during the year of the Writers Guild of America strike, when the Globes ceremony was canceled. He didn't win after that, so this is his only chance to give a well-deserved Globes speech. That said, Moura's show is clearly beloved by voters. This could easily be the space they choose to honor it in.
Should win: Jon Hamm, Mad Men
Actress in a TV series — comedy/musical
Rachel Bloom, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
What a creative batch of nominees, from cable to network to streaming and comedy to musical to horror. Bloom is the easy critical pick for the overachieving Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, but her network-mate Rodriguez is more likely to repeat her win from last year. The real threat here is Tomlin, a double-Globe nominee this year who's almost sure to lose the best actress in a motion picture — comedy/musical race. The HFPA likes her enough to give her two separate nominations; this is their shot to follow through.
Should win: Rachel Bloom, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
Actor in a TV series — comedy/musical
Aziz Ansari, Master of None
Brief shout-outs to the deserving Bernal, who brings such vibrancy to Amazon's musical series, and Stewart, who is a true-to-form delight in Starz's comedy. But this award is probably going to keep going to Tambor as long as Transparent keeps making new episodes — and he'll deserve every trophy he gets.
Should win: Jeffrey Tambor, Transparent
Limited series or motion picture made for TV
Outside of a possible win for the very British Wolf Hall, this would seem to be a cakewalk for the critically adored Fargo.
Should win: Fargo
Actress in a limited series or motion picture made for TV
Kirsten Dunst, Fargo
Dunst earned raves for her work in Fargo's second season, but a limited series win may be enough of a reward. Instead, consider the novelty value of giving Lady Gaga a Golden Globe not for singing, but for acting. It's unusual, but some odd things can happen in the limited series/TV movie categories. This feels like the Globes' particular brand of oddity.
Should win: Kirsten Dunst, Fargo
Actor in a limited series or motion picture made for TV
Idris Elba, Luther
Rylance could pull off a double-win here, but Isaac's charm offensive in the Star Wars: The Force Awakens was timed perfectly to the HFPA's voting period. Overall enthusiasm for him will likely bolster his little-seen but spectacular work in the HBO miniseries Show Me a Hero.
Should win: Oscar Isaac, Show Me a Hero
Supporting actress in a TV series or motion picture made for TV
Uzo Aduba, Orange Is the New Black
Could King repeat her Emmy win here? It's possible, but the international HFPA may be kinder to the English Frogatt. Light feels frustratingly impossible even though her role was expanded in season two. Interestingly, Tierney is representing as the only nominee from last year's best drama series winner, The Affair. If voters have any love left over for the Showtime series, she could take home gold.
Should win: Judith Light, Transparent
Supporting actor in a TV series or motion picture made for TV
Alan Cumming, The Good Wife
Cumming's appearance is impressive considering The Good Wife was otherwise blanked, while Slater is a worthy co-nominee to Malek. He'll probably be that show's big win, though Mendehlson truly deserves it for doing ace work in a slog of a show like Bloodline.
Should win: Ben Mendehlson, Bloodline