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BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. (Reuters) - The beautiful, the powerful and the merely talented of Hollywood gather on Sunday for the Golden Globe Awards, the high-wattage launch to the film industry awards season that culminates in Oscars.
While a Golden Globe lacks the prestige of an Academy Award - the industry's highest honor - the party put on by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association can be a rowdy affair, especially in the hands of third-time hosts Amy Poehler and Tina Fey.
Hanging over the room will be the hacking at Sony Pictures , which had the town atwitter after leaked emails revealed embarrassing tidbits about some of Hollywood's biggest names - likely fodder for the comedic pair to poke fun.
"When an entertainment story becomes a national and an international news story, you can't ignore it and they won't," said Dave Karger, chief correspondent and awards expert at Fandango.
Sony Pictures Chief Executive Michael Lynton, who will be absent, said in an interview that he is a "a bit of a homebody and my sticking my head above the parapet is not normal for me."
A film that satirizes show business, "Birdman," leads all nominees with seven nods and is the favorite to win best comedy/musical film. Star Michael Keaton, embodying the comeback in film and real life, could win best comedy/musical actor.
Sunday will be a major test for a small film that has endeared critics, "Boyhood," the favorite to win the more coveted best drama Globe. A bold endeavor made over 12 years with the same actors tells the simple tale of a boy growing up.
Two biopics are also vying for attention: "The Imitation Game," about a heroic World War Two codebreaker persecuted for being homosexual, and the portrait of Martin Luther King Jr. in "Selma," a 1960s drama that resonates in the current debate over race.
Eddie Redmayne has an edge on best drama actor as physicist Stephen Hawking in "The Theory of Everything."
The outcome of the 72nd Globes will not influence the Academy Awards slate, since voting for next week's nominees announcement is closed. But it can give crucial momentum for the Feb. 22 Oscars.
The 90-member HFPA also hands out television awards and could anoint new programs delivered on streaming sites Netflix Inc and Amazon Inc.
Actor and director George Clooney will receive the Cecil B. DeMille Award for lifetime achievement.
Reporting by Mary Milliken and Piya Sinha-Roy; Editing by Richard Chang