Meryl Streep attends the premiere of "Into The Woods" at the Ziegfeld Theatre on Dec. 8, 2014, in New York.
Evan Agostini—AP
January 9, 2015 10:42 AM EST

This year’s awards race has been among the most unsettled in recent memory—but on Jan. 11, we may have a little clarity.

The Golden Globes, this year’s first major televised awards ceremony, will provide Oscar hopefuls their first chance to give a speech in front of a mass audience. The Globes are not, in and of themselves, terribly prestigious (they’re awarded by a small group of foreign celebrity correspondents that has historically been eager to honor big stars in order to get them to the ceremony), but they can provide a sense of inevitability to movies and performers.

The movie with the most to gain this year is Boyhood, the Richard Linklater film that’s paradoxically sweeping (having been filmed over 12 years) and tiny (it’s ultimately an intimate story, one that was released by the micro-mini IFC Films). Boyhood has so far swept awards given by critics’ groups across the nation, but a win in the Best Picture—Drama field from an awards body as given to honoring grander-scale projects as the Hollywood Foreign Press would ratify Boyhood as a movie for everyone.

This is, after all, the same group that honored The Aviator over Million Dollar Baby, Atonement over No Country for Old Men, Avatar over The Hurt Locker, and The Social Network over The King’s Speech; the tendency would seem to lean away from a movie without big, splashy moments or performances. Boyhood‘s competition isn’t extravagantly strong, but all four of the other nominees feature leading men in transformative performances; Boyhood just has the passage of time to recommend it, which may be enough for a win without much precedent.

Similarly, Boyhood actress Patricia Arquette has been considered the frontrunner in the Best Supporting Actress category all season, but goes up against eight-time Golden Globe winner Meryl Streep, in a far more extravagant turn in Into the Woods. Streep’s history at the Globes, and the wildness of her Woods role, might make her a favorite; this will be a test of just how deeply Arquette’s subtler work has penetrated. And while no one would call Best Picture—Musical or Comedy nominee Birdman subtle or quiet, its charms are far more cerebral than fellow nominee Into the Woods, which has fewer nominations but is (like past winners Les Misérables, Dreamgirls and Sweeney Todd) a big musical loved more by audiences than critics.

The best actor field has been chaotic all season; on the drama side, it feels as though any of the five nominees could credibly win, but whoever does will gain a huge advantage at the Oscars if they give a charming speech. Either way, it all may be moot, after all, because putative Oscar frontrunner Michael Keaton, in Birdman, has been placed on the comedy side. Julianne Moore is nominated in both the drama (Still Alice) and comedy (Maps to the Stars) actress categories, and is very likely, given weak competition and general esteem for her work, to end the night with at least one trophy—the biggest question may be whether she, like Kate Winslet in 2009, will be able to score both, unless it’s when either of her movies will be shown to audiences.

But to focus on all of these hot races leaves entirely aside the other half of the Globes’ ticket—their TV awards. With last year’s Best Drama winner Breaking Bad ineligible, the field is fairly open; the cultural omnipresence of Game of Thrones in the past year would seem to make it a fair bet. As for comedies, the Globes have a longstanding love of new shows that haven’t broken big yet (the past two prizes went to the first seasons of Girls and Brooklyn Nine-Nine). Consider the CW’s Jane the Virgin and its lead actress Gina Rodriguez the frontrunners—a welcome counterpoint, in their novelty, to faces we’ll all be seeing a lot of between now and the Oscars.

Hosted for a third time by Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, the Golden Globes telecast on NBC begins at 6 p.m. EST with red carpet coverage, followed by the awards ceremony at 8 p.m. E! begins its arrivals coverage at 4 p.m.

Contact us at letters@time.com.

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