BY: DAVID GERMAIN
BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. – Stars of film and TV began descending on the red carpet Sunday for the 68th annual Golden Globe Awards, where the regal 1930s saga “The King’s Speech” and the contemporary Web tale “The Social Network” contend for top honors.
The two films are considered the favorites for best drama — “The King’s Speech” leading the Globes with seven nominations and “The Social Network” dominating awards from top critics groups.
Among the early stars going into the Beverly Hilton Hotel were Gabourey Sidibe, Edie Falco, Julia Stiles, Hope Davis and Olivia Wilde, who arrived under clear skies and warm temperatures. The show will be broadcast live on NBC.
“It’s a great party. I like a free meal,” joked composer Alan Menken, who along with Glenn Slater, wrote “I See the Light,” which is nominated for best original film song.
The buzz around town on Globes weekend was as much about likely winners as it was about a lawsuit filed late Thursday by a former longtime publicist for the Globes claiming the organization that runs the show, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, engages in payola schemes for nominations and awards. The allegations have been denied by the HFPA, a group of about 85 reporters covering show business for overseas outlets.
The lineup of presenters during the three-hour show includes Kevin Bacon, Sandra Bullock, Matt Damon, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Jennifer Lopez, LL Cool J, Helen Mirren, Robert Pattinson, Kevin Spacey and Bruce Willis.
In addition to “The Social Network” and “The King’s Speech,” also competing for best drama at the Globes are the ballet thriller “Black Swan,” the boxing story “The Fighter” and the science-fiction smash “Inception.”
Colin Firth is considered the likely winner for best dramatic actor for “The King’s Speech,” in which he plays Queen Elizabeth II’s father, George VI, amid his struggle to overcome a debilitating stammer.
Firth’s competition includes “The Social Network” star Jesse Eisenberg, who plays Internet innovator Mark Zuckerberg as he founds Facebook then falls into legal tussles with former associates over the Web site’s riches.
While Firth also is the front-runner for best actor at the Academy Awards on Feb. 27, the best-actress race could be a tossup between two Globe favorites. Natalie Portman has the edge for Globe dramatic actress as a ballerina coming unhinged in “Black Swan,” while Annette Bening is the probable winner for best actress in a musical or comedy for her role as a stern but loving lesbian mom in “The Kids Are All Right.”
The Globes ceremony also features such heavyweight nominees as Mark Wahlberg, Halle Berry and Nicole Kidman in the dramatic acting categories and Johnny Depp, Angelina Jolie and Anne Hathaway in the musical or comedy ranks.
Robert De Niro will receive the Cecil B. DeMille Award for career achievement.
Ricky Gervais returns as Globes host for the second-straight year. He has joked that he did not go far enough on last year’s show but that he would push the limits this time.
He has plenty of comedic fodder among the nominees, which include Depp and Jolie’s “The Tourist” and Christina Aguilera’s “Burlesque.” Both films were drubbed by critics but received Globe nominations.
“I’m going to go out there, guns blazing, like it’s the end of the world,” Gervais said.
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The ceremony traditionally had a strong track record as a forecast for what film would win best picture at the Oscars. But the two shows have split in recent times, with only one top Globe recipient — 2008′s “Slumdog Millionaire” — also winning the main prize at the Oscars over the past six years.
A year ago, the sci-fi sensation “Avatar” won best drama at the Globes, but the Iraq War saga “The Hurt Locker” took best picture at the Oscars.
Nominations voting for the Feb. 27 Oscars closed Friday, and nominees will be announced Jan. 25.
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