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'The Artist' leads Golden Globe favorites

The little films will fight for the big awards at Sunday's Golden Globes, while major Hollywood productions may be relegated to the sidelines.

As for returning host Ricky Gervais, well, he may end up fighting everyone.

The 69th annual Golden Globe Awards ceremony, airing Sunday night at 8 on NBC, looks like another unpredictable dust-up, partly because this year's front-runners are mostly critical darlings with few popular favorites in the mix. Of the 10 highest-grossing movies of 2011 -- including "The Hangover Part II," the well-reviewed "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" and the universally adored "Harry Potter" finale -- only one earned a nomination: "Cars 2," the Pixar sequel, which is up for animated feature.

Is the cold shoulder to big-budget Hollywood yet another sign -- along with last year's sharp decline in ticket sales -- that movies have been generally kind of bad? It's definitely unusual for the 90 members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which bestows the Globes and has a reputation for kissing up to celebrities. (Last year saw a whopping three nods for the Angelina Jolie-Johnny Depp throwaway "The Tourist.")

This year, the movie with the most nominations -- six in all -- is "The Artist," a silent French film with a largely unknown cast. Other favorites include small-scale films like "The Descendants," "Moneyball" and "My Week With Marilyn."

My overall predictions: Aside from "The Artist," keep an eye on the racially themed drama "The Help," one of the few films here with both a critical and popular following. The raunchy comedy "Bridesmaids" also will do well. And Gervais gets knocked out in the third round.

BEST MOTION PICTURE -- DRAMA

"The Descendants"

"The Help"

"Hugo"

"The Ides of March"

"Moneyball"

"War Horse"

SHOULD WIN "The Help." Mainstream moviemaking at its best: serious but funny, smart but accessible, with fantastic performances all around.

WILL WIN "The Descendants." Its themes of marriage and parenthood seemed to resonate in a year that offered few movies for grown-ups.

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A MOTION PICTURE -- DRAMA

Glenn Close, "Albert Nobbs"

Viola Davis, "The Help"

Rooney Mara, "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo"

Meryl Streep, "Iron Lady"

Tilda Swinton, "We Need to Talk About Kevin"

SHOULD WIN Streep. Despite a subpar film, her portrayal of Margaret Thatcher is shrewdly funny and supernaturally accurate.

WILL WIN Davis, whose role as a maid confronting Southern racism is the kind of thing awards were made for.

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A MOTION PICTURE -- DRAMA

George Clooney, "The Descendants"

Leonardo DiCaprio, "J. Edgar"

Michael Fassbender, "Shame"

Ryan Gosling,

"The Ides Of March"

Brad Pitt, "Moneyball"

SHOULD WIN Clooney, for his funny-sad portrayal of a grieving husband.

WILL WIN Clooney.

BEST MOTION PICTURE -- COMEDY OR MUSICAL

"50/50"

"The Artist"

"Bridesmaids"

"Midnight in Paris"

"My Week With Marilyn"

SHOULD WIN "The Artist." It's romantic, funny, clever and just generally irresistible.

WILL WIN "The Artist." Do you think 90 foreigners are going to snub a French movie?

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A MOTION PICTURE -- COMEDY OR MUSICAL

Jodie Foster, "Carnage"

Charlize Theron, "Young Adult"

Kristen Wiig, "Bridesmaids"

Michelle Williams, "My Week With Marilyn"

Kate Winslet, "Carnage"

SHOULD WIN Theron. Just one problem: "Young Adult" isn't really a comedy, and Theron's fevered performance may be too dark for this category.

WILL WIN Wiig, who equally deserves it for bringing charm and heart to a gross-out comedy.

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A MOTION PICTURE -- COMEDY OR MUSICAL

Jean Dujardin, "The Artist"

Brendan Gleeson, "The Guard"

Joseph Gordon-Levitt, "50/50"

Ryan Gosling, "Crazy, Stupid, Love."

Owen Wilson, "Midnight in Paris"

SHOULD WIN Dujardin, a paragon of grace and charm as a dashing silent film star.

WILL WIN Dujardin.

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

Bérénice Bejo, "The Artist"

Jessica Chastain, "The Help"

Janet McTeer, "Albert Nobbs"

Octavia Spencer, "The Help"

Shailene Woodley, "The Descendants"

SHOULD WIN Bejo, for her utterly beguiling performance as a chatty starlet.

WILL WIN Woodley. People seem to be craving a new ingenue, and this talented 20-year-old fits the bill.

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

Kenneth Branagh, "My Week With Marilyn"

Albert Brooks, "Drive"

Jonah Hill, "Moneyball"

Viggo Mortensen, "A Dangerous Method"

Christopher Plummer, "Beginners"

SHOULD WIN Strong contenders all, but my dark-horse pick is Branagh, playing a flustered, floundering and very funny Laurence Olivier.

WILL WIN Plummer, bravely playing against type as a gay dad. (Also, when an overlooked actor hits 82, people start giving him awards.)

BEST DIRECTOR

Woody Allen, "Midnight in Paris"

George Clooney, "The Ides of March"

Michel Hazanavicius, "The Artist"

Alexander Payne, "The Descendants"

Martin Scorsese, "Hugo"

SHOULD WIN Hazanavicius, for his witty, inventive, heartfelt tribute to a forgotten art form.

WILL WIN Hazanavicius.

BEST FOREIGN-LANGUAGE FILM

"The Flowers of War" (China)

"In the Land of Blood and Honey" (United States)

"The Kid With a Bike" (Belgium)

"A Separation" (Iran)

"The Skin I Live In" (Spain)

SHOULD WIN Oddly enough, I'd pick the U.S. entry, a Bosnian war drama that is also the impressive writing-directing debut of Angelina Jolie.

WILL WIN "A Separation," an Iranian drama that has topicality on its side, plus an armful of festival and critics' awards already.

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE FILM

"The Adventures of Tintin"

"Arthur Christmas"

"Cars 2"

"Puss in Boots"

"Rango"

SHOULD WIN "Rango." How this violent, hallucinatory "cartoon" sneaked into theaters remains a mystery, but I sure was glad to see it.

WILL WIN Steven Spielberg's "Tintin," for two reasons: One is the character's enormous European following. The other is named Steven Spielberg.

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