Not since the 2002 awards season was bouncily dominated by "Chicago" -- the last comedy, or indeed musical, to take the Best Picture Oscar -- has drama looked like more of an afterthought at the Golden Globe Awards. As Rob Marshall's frisky tuner swept the comedy/musical categories at the Hollywood Foreign Press Association's perennially boozy shindig, the top prize in the corresponding drama category was handed to "The Hours," a modest, downbeat female ensemble piece that everyone knew hadn't a shot in hell at the Oscar. The award that usually represents the climax of the Globes ceremony had been downgraded to consolation-prize status.  

Nine years later, as if to restore some lustre to a category that last year named "The Tourist" one of the year's best films, we're looking at a similar situation. "The Artist," the silent French wonder that currently leads the Oscar race by a comfortable distance, is a foreordained winner of the musical/comedy Best Picture Globe tonight (as well as a Best Actor prize for star Jean Dujardin), while over in the drama race, a number of less favored titles are jostling for the title of Official Opposition.

If it feels like a more secondary category than usual, however, it's also a more exciting one. Conventional wisdom favors "The Descendants" making its presence felt with a win here: critically acclaimed, easy to digest and headlined by the HFPA's unofficial boyfriend George Clooney, it's also one of only two films in the running that has directing, writing and acting nominations to beef up its status. (The other one? Why, "The Ides of March," of course -- though in this case, I sense their Clooney crush isn't for life, just for Christmas.) It's a safe option from a director who already has three Globes on his mantel.   

So I'm not sure exactly why I'm choosing not to follow conventional wisdom, and am instead sticking my neck out for "The Help" -- except that it seems intangibly to be picking up more steam in the Oscar race than "The Descendants," and Globe voters may be feeling it too. It'd be an unusual choice for this often somewhat Eurocentric group, and the first drama victor without a Best Director nod since they sold their souls for "Scent of a Woman" in 1992, but I'm feeling playful -- even if rumors of great affection for "Hugo" within the HFPA might make it a likelier spoiler. (On another note, it's interesting that "The Descendants" and "The Help" weren't all that far from competing in the Comedy/Musical race -- win or lose, both films should be glad to have dodged that steamroller.) 

The other category to watch, of course, is Best Director, which should indicate just how unstoppable "The Artist"'s momentum is -- the Globes are more partial than the Academy to Picture/Director splits (though they haven't been the last three years), but I'm guessing Michel Hazanavicius, fresh from his Critics' Choice win, will have done enough to charm and impress the journalists of the organization. Meanwhile, should Bérénice Bejo upset the ladies of "The Help" in the Best Supporting Actress category -- which could very easily happen -- we'll know just how much Velcro is on those coattails. 

Other questions abound. Can Brad Pitt break up the HFPA's passionate embrace with Clooney? Will voters take pity once more on poor Meryl Streep, who only has seven Globes to her name? Are they shameless enough to reward Angelina Jolie over "A Separation?" Will some savvy administrator seat Kim Novak at "The Artist"'s table? And how many times did you pause to restitch your sides during the laugh riot that was "My Week With Marilyn?" All, or at least some, will be answered tonight.

My predictions, together with my preferences, are listed below. A full list of nominations is here. Do share your thoughts in the comments.

Best Picture - Drama

Will win: "The Help"
Should win: "Moneyball"
Should be here: "Margaret"

Best Picture - Musical/Comedy

Will and should win: "The Artist"
Should be here: "The Guard"

Best Director

Will and should win: Michel Hazanavicius, "The Artist"
Should be here: Lynne Ramsay, "We Need to Talk About Kevin" 

Best Actor - Drama

Will win: George Clooney, "The Descendants"
Should win: Michael Fassbender, "Shame"
Should be here: Tom Cullen, "Weekend"

Best Actress - Drama

Will win: Viola Davis, "The Help"
Should win: Tilda Swinton, "We Need to Talk About Kevin"
Should be here: Juliette Binoche, "Certified Copy"

Best Actor - Musical/Comedy

Will and should win: Jean Dujardin, "The Artist"
Should be here: Christoph Waltz, "Carnage"

Best Actress - Musical/Comedy

Will win: Michelle Williams, "My Week With Marilyn"
Should win: Kristen Wiig, "Bridesmaids"
Should be here: Jennifer Aniston, "Horrible Bosses"

Best Supporting Actor

Will win: Christopher Plummer, "Beginners"
Should win: Viggo Mortensen, "A Dangerous Method"
Should be here: Chris O'Dowd, "Bridesmaids"

Best Supporting Actress

Will win: Octavia Spencer, "The Help"
Should win: Jessica Chastain, "The Help"
Should be here: Vanessa Redgrave, "Coriolanus"

Best Screenplay

Will win: Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, "The Descendants"
Should win: Michel Hazanavicius, "The Artist"
Should be here: Sean Durkin, "Martha Marcy May Marlene"

Best Foreign Language Film

Will and should win: "A Separation"
Should be here: "Tomboy"

Best Animated Feature

Will and should win: "Rango"
Should be here: "Chico and Rita"

Best Original Score

Will win: Ludovic Bource, "The Artist"
Should win: Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo"
Should be here: Cliff Martinez, "Drive" 

Best Original Song

Will win: "Hello Hello," "Gnomeo and Juliet"
Should win: "The Keeper," "Machine Gun Preacher"
Should be here: One good song  

For more views on movies, awards season and other pursuits, follow @GuyLodge on Twitter.

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