Updated: January 12, 2014 at 10:43 am
The surest bet at Sunday night's Golden Globes? Hosts Tina Fey and Amy Poehler.
For the second year in a row, the duo will lead the Hollywood Foreign Press Association's annual glitzy Beverly Hills banquet, where stars gather for a boozy dress rehearsal to the Academy Awards. Poehler and Fey last year brought the Globes telecast to a six-year ratings high of 19.7 million, winning universal praise along the way for their irreverent cracks that playfully punctured Hollywood's veneer.
With Fey and Poehler signed up for next year, too, the 71st Globes show finds itself on the upswing. While the more prestigious and meaningful Academy Awards ceremony wrestles awkwardly with updating its brand, the Globes telecast has thrived as a more comic, unpredictable affair, free of Oscar's self-regard and musical dance numbers.
Though the HFPA, a group of mostly freelance foreign journalists known to be swayed by celebrity, has often been a punch line to Hollywood's awards season, this year's nominees are altogether respectable.
The favorites are David O. Russell's con-artist caper "American Hustle" and Steve McQueen's unflinching epic "12 Years a Slave." The films and their much-nominated ensemble casts lead with seven nominations each, but they will be kept mostly separated by the Globes' split between comedy-musical and drama categories.
Still, the broadcast holds plenty of intrigue beyond the question of just how much Fey and Poehler will steal the show. Several other films are prominently in the mix.
Alfonso Cuaron's space odyssey "Gravity," a worldwide hit starring Sandra Bullock, is just as much a front-runner, only with a more limited cast. When Oscar nominations are announced Thursday morning, "Gravity" (nominated for four Globes) will likely clean up in the technical achievement categories that the Globes don't honor.
Support is also strong for the Coen brothers'1960s Greenwich Village folk tale "Inside Llewyn Davis" (three nominations), Alexander Payne's father-son road trip "Nebraska" (five nominations), Spike Jonze's futuristic romance "Her" (three nominations) and Paul Greengrass' pirate thriller "Captain Phillips" (four nominations). All have found various honors in an awards season that has seen critics groups and guild organizations often make divergent choices.
Those films and others will bring a room full of famous faces to the Globes show, airing live on NBC from 8-11 p.m. EST, including nominees Tom Hanks, Robert Redford, Meryl Streep, Cate Blanchett, Julia Roberts, Matthew McConaughey, Cate Blanchett, Bruce Dern and many others.
One celebrity not likely to attend is Woody Allen, the recipient of the Cecil B. DeMille lifetime achievement award. The director famously disdains award shows and his "Anne Hall" star Diane Keaton is expected to accept on his behalf.
The television side could shape up as a battle between HBO and new challenger, Netflix. Tied for a leading four nominations are HBO's Liberace drama "Behind the Candelabra" and Netflix's first major foray into original programming, the political thriller "House of Cards."
Follow AP Film Writer Jake Coyle on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/jake_coyle