LOS ANGELES -- "Belfast" and "West Side Story" are among the frontrunners for a drastically scaled-down 79th Golden Globes on Sunday, where winners will be unveiled via Twitter from an untelevised ceremony that is being boycotted by Hollywood.
The Globes -- in the past billed as Tinseltown's biggest party and the key first stop on the film awards circuit -- have this year been stripped of their usual A-list glamour, as a row swirls over organizers' ethical practices.
NBC has scrapped its TV broadcast, and instead the Hollywood Foreign Press Association -- whose members vote on the Globes -- will announce the winners on social media from 6 p.m. Pacific time (10 a.m. in Manila).
"The Golden Globes this year are going to be like no other Golden Globes we've ever seen before," said Marc Malkin, Variety's senior culture and events editor.
"And really, we're not going to see much."
"Belfast," Kenneth Branagh's poignant black-and-white account of the outbreak of sectarian violence in the city of his birth during the late 1960s, topped the film nominations with seven, alongside Jane Campion's "The Power of the Dog."
Campion's dark Western starring Benedict Cumberbatch, which tackles toxic masculinity in 1920s Montana, would be the second film directed by a woman to win the top best drama prize if it fends off "Belfast," after last year's "Nomadland."
In the comedy or musical categories, Steven Spielberg's "West Side Story" remake flopped at the box office but was adored by critics, and is expected to score strongly with Globes voters.
It competes with "Don't Look Up," a star-studded climate change satire in which scientists played by Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence try to warn a distracted world -- and the U.S. president (Meryl Streep) -- about their impending doom.
On the television side, "Succession," HBO's drama about a media tycoon's warring family, leads with five nods.
But the award races, which are usually closely followed for the immediate boost to box office tallies and Oscar hopes that a Globes win can provide, have been hugely overshadowed by the long-brewing row over ethical lapses at the HFPA.
The group of 100-odd entertainment writers with links to foreign publications has been accused of a litany of failings from corruption to racism.
A Los Angeles Times expose found the HFPA had no Black members, opening the floodgates for criticism from across Hollywood including from A-list stars. Tom Cruise last year returned his statuettes in protest.
Organizers have officially cited the resurgent pandemic as the reason for Sunday's behind-closed-doors event, but Variety's Malkin said the HFPA had tried and failed to convince celebrities to attend.
Since the scandal broke, the HFPA has rushed through reforms, admitting its biggest ever annual intake, including several Black and other minority members.
It has banned members from accepting lavish gifts and hotel stays from studios courting their votes.
Whether those reforms will be enough to entice Hollywood stars and broadcasters back in the coming years remains to be seen.
But this year, almost no actors or studios have publicly acknowledged their Globes nominations -- and it is widely expected that many winners on Sunday will respond with a similar stony silence.
"If they are named a winner, no one is going to release a statement saying how happy they are to be recognized by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association," said Malkin.
"If you're a studio that hopes to get Golden Globe recognition, but then you get the Golden Globe and you actually don't celebrate it, does it matter?"