LOS ANGELES – Golden Globe organisers unveil nominations for their annual movie awards show on Thursday, as Hollywood's honors season gets into full swing with a bumper cast of hotly-tipped contenders.
Historical drama "12 Years a Slave" got an early boost on the eve of the Globes nominations, topping the Screen Actors Guild (SAGs) nods on Wednesday with four.
But this year's race risks being particularly crowded, with a string of films winning critical acclaim, ranging from 3D sci-fi spectacle "Gravity" to historical epics like "Lee Daniels' The Butler" and crime drama "American Hustle."
On the acting front, early frontrunners include big names like Meryl Streep, Forest Whitaker, Tom Hanks, Robert Redford and Cate Blanchett, but also lesser known Chiwetel Ejiofor ("12 Years a Slave") and June Squibb ("Nebraska").
"This is easily the best year I've seen," said Variety's awards editor Tim Gray, who has worked at the industry journal since 1981.
"Usually there are three or four films that are certain to be nominated for best picture, and then you guess what films will fill the other slots. This year, there are at least 15 films that deserve a best picture nomination."
Those films also include Woody Allen's "Blue Jasmine," Walt Disney Mary Poppins tale "Saving Mr Banks," and at least three movies based on real events: "Captain Phillips," "Dallas Buyers Club" and Stephen Frears' new movie "Philomena."
Blanchett is tipped as a frontrunner for Allen's film about a troubled New York socialite, while Sandra Bullock impressed both critics and filmgoers as an astronaut stranded in space with George Clooney in "Gravity."
Emma Thompson captivated as Mary Poppins writer P.L. Travers against Hanks' Walt Disney, and fellow British veteran Judi Dench could be nominated for the title role in "Philomena," about a woman seeking her adult son lost after she was forced into a convent as a child.
For drama, Ejiofor is widely tipped for "12 Years a Slave," about a man sold into slavery in 19th century America, while Matthew McConaughey has won plaudits for "Dallas Buyers Club", for which he lost 30 pounds to play a rodeo hustler diagnosed with the HIV virus in the 1980s.
Hollywood veteran Redford could also get a shot at awards gold for his solo performance in "All is Lost," about a sailor facing his own mortality after his boat is shipwrecked in a collision with a container vessel.
On the small screen, best drama series nominees are likely to include cult series "Breaking Bad" and Netflix's political drama "House of Cards," while "Girls" and "Modern Family" are expected to be shortlisted in the best comedy category.
Best acting nominees may include Bryan Cranston ("Breaking Bad"), Kevin Spacey ("House of Cards"), Claire Danes ("Homeland"), Kerry Washington ("Scandal"), Jim Parsons ("The Big Bang Theory"), Michael J Fox ("The Michael J Fox Show"), Julia Louis-Dreyfus ("Veep") and Lena Dunham ("Girls").
The Golden Globe nominations will be announced shortly after 5:30am (1330 GMT) on Thursday. The 71st annual Golden Globes will be held on January 12 in Beverly Hills. AFP