Golden Globes: 6 things to watch for

Story highlights

  • Ricky Gervais hosts the 73rd annual Golden Globes on Sunday at 8 p.m. ET on NBC
  • Denzel Washington is this year's recipient of the Cecil B. DeMille Award

(CNN)Gowns! Gaffes! Gervais!

Awards season kicks off in earnest Sunday with the 73rd annual Golden Globes, four hours of red-carpet voyeurism and boozy speeches celebrating the best in movies and TV.
Some see the Globes, voted on by the 90 or so members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, as predictors of the more prestigious Oscars, to follow February 28. Others just enjoy them for the eye-candy spectacle of celebrities in formal wear who, thanks to bottles of Champagne on every table and hard liquor at the open bar, might actually say something interesting.
Here's a brief guide on what to look for.

The red carpet

The show doesn't start until 8 p.m. ET, but NBC will begin airing red-carpet interviews at 7 as stars arrive outside the Beverly Hilton. Matt Lauer, Savannah Guthrie, Willie Geist and Tamron Hall will host the preshow, which will feature small-talk "interviews" with nominees and plenty of fashion-police snark.
Expect the bigger stars to arrive last, closer to 8. Attracting the most scrutiny will be the usual parade of sequined starlets (Jennifer Lawrence, Cate Blanchett, Taraji P. Henson, Rooney Mara, Alicia Vikander) plus Lady Gaga, whose wardrobe choices always cause a stir.
As for the men, well -- sorry, fellas; nobody cares what you're wearing.

The host

Sadly for many, the Amy & Tina Show is on hiatus this year. After three mostly hilarious years of co-hosts Amy Poehler and Tina Fey, the Globes are returning to ringleader Ricky Gervais, the acerbic British comedian who hosted the show from 2010-12 -- and whose barbed jokes about religion or bombs like Johnny Depp's "The Tourist" have sometimes rankled his targets.
"I hope I haven't offended anyone. It's not my fault. I like a drink as much as the next man," Gervais told the Globes audience in 2010. "Unless the next man is Mel Gibson."
Don't expect Gervais to tone down his act this time around.
"I don't want this nauseating, backslapping 'aren't we all great' (atmosphere)," he told NBC's Lauer recently. "Yeah, we know we're all great. It's entertainment; it's fairyland; it's TV. This isn't real. We're ... not saving lives."

The presenters

Among those handing out Globes on Sunday will be Bryce Dallas Howard, Helen Mirren, Jim Carrey, Amy Adams, Jamie Foxx, Amber Heard, Kate Hudson, Julianne Moore, Eddie Redmayne, Kurt Russell and Channing Tatum.
Also: Mel Gibson, who has kept a low profile in recent years after making offensive comments during a 2006 drunk-driving arrest.
Denzel Washington will be there, too. He's this year's recipient of the Cecil B. DeMille Award, honoring people who have had a significant impact on the world of entertainment.

The predictions (movies)

As bellwethers of the Oscars, the Golden Globes -- which split best picture into two subcategories, drama and musical/comedy -- have a spotty record. Globe voters awarded best drama to "Argo" and "12 Years a Slave," both eventual Oscar winners in 2013 and 2014, but they departed last year in choosing "Boyhood" over future Oscar winner "Birdman."
Still, the Globes could provide some clarity this year in what appears to be a wide-open Oscars race. "Spotlight," Todd McCarthy's look at Boston Globe journalists who uncovered the sex-abuse scandal among Catholic priests, and Todd Haynes' "Carol," about a lesbian affair in the 1950s, are considered front-runners in the drama category.
But don't count out George Miller's full-throttled "Mad Max: Fury Road" or Alejandro González Iñárritu's visceral frontier epic "The Revenant," whose grueling wintertime shoot has impressed some critics.
Among the comedies, all eyes will be on the showdown between two probable Oscar nominees, neither of which are really comedies: Ridley Scott's space survival saga "The Martian" and "The Big Short," Adam McKay's cautionary tale about the 2007-08 financial crisis.

The predictions (series)

Last year, Globe voters startled almost everyone when they awarded best drama series to Showtime's he-said, she-said mystery, "The Affair." They surprised Hollywood again with the current slate of best-drama nominees, which ignored established hits like "Mad Men" and "Homeland" in favor of such lower-profile shows as Netflix's "Narcos," Starz' "Outlander" and USA Network's "Mr. Robot."
On Sunday, the award will probably go HBO's burgeoning behemoth "Game of Thrones" -- an Emmy winner at last in its fifth season -- although Fox's hip-hop hit "Empire" or the critically praised "Mr. Robot" could pull an upset.
Over on the comedy side, it's a three-way race between Amazon's transgender dramedy, "Transparent"; Netflix's ensemble prison saga, "Orange is the New Black"; and HBO's political satire, "Veep." Look for "Transparent" to take the prize for the second year in a row.

Live, unscripted moments

Unlike the Oscars, which can feel stuffy and self-important, the Globes are a rowdier, more bleeptastic affair. Gervais is almost sure to annoy someone in the room, and the booze helps presenters and award winners alike to speak more, um, freely.
Take Jodie Foster, who sort of came out of the closet in a rambling 2013 acceptance speech. Or Diane Keaton, who sang an awkward song while accepting an award in 2014 on behalf of her pal and ex-lover Woody Allen. Or Robert De Niro, who drew groans in 2011 for some tone-deaf jokes about deporting the event's waiters, along with Spanish actor Javier Bardem.
Coincidentally, all three of those stars were at the Globes to accept the Cecil B. DeMille Award. So maybe we should brace ourselves Sunday when Washington takes the stage.