Morgan Freeman playing Nelson Mandela in "Invictus" and Penelope Cruz in "Nine" look likely to take home Golden Globes nominations Tuesday along with films "Julie & Julia," "Inglourious Basterds," "The Hurt Locker" and "Up in the Air."
Organized and chosen by members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA), the Golden Globes will be held in Beverly Hills on January 17; they are traditionally seen as a key indicator in the battle for honors at the Oscars.
The excitement starts at 1300 GMT as singer-actor Justin Timberlake joins actor John Krasinski to unveil nominees in 25 categories in film and television.
Though 67.4 percent of films that won best picture at the Academy Awards also won a Golden Globe, in recent years the awards have proved an unreliable barometer of Oscar winners.
The rags-to-riches drama "Slumdog Millionaire" is the only film in the past five years to have followed up a best picture statuette at the Golden Globes with victory at the Oscars.
So far this year, no one film has emerged as a clear awards season powerhouse.
But comedy "Up In the Air," starring George Clooney as a lonely corporate down-sizer who begins to question his life, got a big boost earlier this month after being named best film by the National Board of Review.
The film also grabbed a share of the best actor prize for Clooney, with veteran Freeman also winning for his portrayal of former South Africa President Nelson Mandela in Clint Eastwood's "Invictus."
"Invictus" - based on journalist John Carlin's book "Playing the Enemy" - tells the story of how Mandela used the 1995 Rugby World Cup staged in South Africa to help unify the country in the early post-apartheid years.
Unlike the Oscars, the Golden Globes have two categories for best picture - one for musicals and comedies, the other for dramas.
Other leading contenders for best drama include the Iraq War movie "The Hurt Locker," director Kathryn Bigelow's gripping drama about a maverick army bomb disposal expert, and Quentin Tarantino's World War II revenge fantasy "Inglourious Basterds."
"Up In the Air" is expected to feature in the musical and comedy contenders, where it is likely to face stiff competition from "Julie & Julia," starring Meryl Streep as trail-blazing television chef Julia Child.
The big favorite could well turn out to be "Nine," director Rob Marshall's star-studded musical about an Italian film director played by Daniel Day-Lewis.
His character struggles to balance the demands of his wife (Marion Cotillard) and mistress (Penelope Cruz). The film's cast also includes Nicole Kidman, Judi Dench and Kate Hudson.
Another box office hit expected to pick up nominations on Tuesday is Pixar's latest animated offering "Up."
Critics of the Golden Globes have also questioned the relevance of the 85-strong HFPA, saying that the organization's small size makes it more susceptible to influence by studios and publicists.
But HFPA president Philip Berk dismissed the criticisms. "They are motivated by pure envy. We've been around 67 years and I don't think we need to justify ourselves."