Michael Keaton accepts the Career Achievement Award onstage during the 18th Annual Hollywood Film Awards at The Palladium on November 14, 2014 in Hollywood, California
Los Angeles (AFP) - Hollywood's finest headed for the red carpet Sunday for the Golden Globes, the first major fixture in Hollywood's annual awards season, with dark comedy "Birdman" leading the race for awards glory.
While an eve-of-show computer glitch appeared to suggest two other films could take the top prizes, "Birdman" is still in strong position ahead of next month's all-important Oscars.
Unusually gloomy weather threatened to dampen the arrival of A-listers in Beverly Hills for the Globes, second only to the Oscars in terms of Tinseltown awards buzz.
Last minute preparations were underway, with a rain cover installed over the red carpet to protect the assembled celebrities strutting their stuff for the cameras.
"Birdman," which stars former "Batman" Michael Keaton as a washed-up film actor trying to revive his career on stage, has earned the most nominations with seven, on top of a string of accolades and other nominations leading up to the Globes.
Coming-of-age drama "Boyhood" and Nazi code-breaking thriller "The Imitation Game" starring Britain's Benedict Cumberbatch are also hotly tipped to take home trophies with five nods apiece.
British actors feature strongly at the Globes: Cumberbatch and his co-star Keira Knightley are among a batch of British nominees in both the film and television categories.
Comic actresses Tina Fey and Amy Poehler will be hosting the show for the third straight year at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, where the festivities will begin at 5:00 pm (0100 GMT Monday).
Some industry experts have highlighted the lack of a clear frontrunner, in contrast to previous years like in 2012, when "The Artist" had a virtual lock on Best Picture prizes straight through to the Oscars.
"It seems like a real toss-up," Tom Nunan of the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television told AFP, adding that actors in this year's race had all turned in "career-best performances."
- Did glitch reveal winners? -
This year's crop of nominated movies is heavy on true stories: four of the five Globes best drama contenders are based on real-life events.
Among the historical figures featured are British geniuses Stephen Hawking and Alan Turing, and Martin Luther King Jr.
In the best musical or comedy category, the widely acclaimed "Birdman" still seems to be the film to beat.
The movie also earned nods for best actor for Keaton, best supporting actor (Edward Norton), best supporting actress (Emma Stone) and best director (Mexico's Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu).
Its rivals include Wes Anderson's "The Grand Budapest Hotel," Disney's dark musical fairytale romp "Into the Woods," "Pride" and "St Vincent"
On the drama side, the best film contenders are: "Boyhood," "Foxcatcher," "The Imitation Game," "Selma" and "The Theory of Everything."
Barely 48 hours before the curtain goes up for the 72nd Globes ceremony, a website glitch appeared to suggest that "Selma" and "Into the Woods" could be set for best film honors.
The films were briefly posted on the Globes website as winning the best drama and best musical/comedy film awards, before the captions were taken down, according to industry journal Variety.
A spokesman said the films were chosen "randomly" from nominees' lists as Web technicians fine-tuned the website ahead of the show, and that the captions should not have been live.
- Open TV field -
On the small screen, "Fargo" took the most nominations with five.
In the television categories, critics see a free-for-all now that the widely acclaimed "Breaking Bad" is no longer on the air or in the running.
Victories for either "House of Cards" for best drama series and "Orange is the New Black" for best comedy would be sweet for online streaming giant Netflix as it battles the traditional broadcast and cable networks.
Unlike the Oscars, which are voted on by some 6,000 industry members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the Globes are selected by fewer than 100 journalists from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA).
But a Globes win can still provide a huge boost for an Oscars campaign.
Oscar nominations will be announced on Thursday. The Academy Awards will then be held on February 22.