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The Golden Globe Awards are a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma known as the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. Made up of 88 journalist-types of varying profile and output, the HFPA has leveraged timing, luck and a whole lot of luncheon schmoozing into becoming the second-most important awards body in the entertainment industry.

Whether you respect its membership or not, there’s little denying that the HFPA’s annual awards ceremony acts as a solid harbinger of the movie world’s true end game, February’s Academy Awards.

Ahead of the 76th Golden Globe Awards ceremony this Sunday night, The Globe and Mail's Barry Hertz plays along with the HFPA's game, and offers best guesses for who will win, and who should win.

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Best Picture (Drama)

Bradley Cooper, left, and Lady Gaga in a scene from A Star is Born.

Will win: A Star Is Born

Although it escaped the clutches of the less-respected “Musical or Comedy” category – where it would’ve easily bested the lighter-weight contenders – Bradley Cooper’s directorial debut will still likely come out on top of this more competitive category. As I noted when nominations were announced, A Star Is Born was grown in a lab to appeal to the HFPA. With its high-wattage leads, big emotional moments, soaring musical numbers (sorry, “dramatic” numbers) and a hook that appeals directly to the HFPA’s fame-is-everything fetish, A Star Is Born is as Golden Globe-y a film as they get.

Should win: If Beale Street Could Talk

It will never happen, but it’d be a stand-on-your-feet moment were Barry Jenkins' If Beale Street Could Talk to take home the top prize. Trickier and more layered than its marketing suggests, Jenkins' follow-up to Moonlight grows in the imagination after every viewing. It will surely live on in the cultural conversation long after we’ve exhausted all of A Star Is Born’s “I just wanted to take another look at you” memes.

Best Picture (Musical or Comedy)

Christian Bale, left, as Dick Cheney and Sam Rockwell as President George W. Bush in a scene from Vice.

Matt Kennedy/Matt Kennedy / Annapurna Pictures

Will win: Vice

Adam McKay’s political satire about the life of Dick Cheney is horrendous, but its condescension is also designed to play well for ignorant audiences. And often the HFPA is … well, I don’t want to get into cheap name-calling. I’m just certain the Globes will want to make some sort of progressive mark this year, and Vice will be the easiest – and worst – way to do it.

Olivia Colman in a scene from the film The Favourite.

Atsushi Nishijima

Should win: The Favourite

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Speaking of satires about the toxicity of power, Yorgos Lanthimos’s The Favourite is superb in every way that Vice falters. Stars Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone will likely cancel each other out in the best supporting actress category, and Olivia Colman may squeak by in the best actress category (more on that below), but it would be heartening to see Lanthimos’s anything-but-heartening film walk home with at least one piece of Globes hardware.

Best Actress (Drama)

Bradley Cooper, left, and Lady Gaga in a scene from A Star Is Born.

Will win: Lady Gaga, A Star Is Born

The HFPA doesn’t have the best track record anointing stars (its choice for best new star of 1982: Pia Zadora), but the seamless transition of Gaga from concert arenas to the big screen is too irresistible an opportunity for the Globes to pass up. Plus, she’s actually damn good in A Star Is Born. One caveat: The HFPA could find favour with the oldest awards trick in the book: the glamorous performer who “goes ugly,” as is the case with Destroyer’s Nicole Kidman.

Should win: Melissa McCarthy, Can You Ever Forgive Me?

I would be happy if either McCarthy, Glenn Close or Rosamund Pike walked home with a statuette on Sunday, so regrettably lost did their performances get in the year-end melee. But McCarthy seems especially worthy of recognition, given how she took her regular shtick (foul-mouthed wrecking ball) and brilliantly repackaged it into something fresh and new with the excellent and underrated Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Best Actress (Musical or Comedy)

Will win: Olivia Colman, The Favourite

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In a canny bit of awards campaigning, Fox Searchlight has been pushing Colman as the lead of The Favourite, even though she shares about the same screen time (if not less) than “supporting” players Stone and Weisz. Whatever the torquing, Colman’s name will and should be shouted from the heavens for her deeply committed, intensely scathing performance as Queen Anne.

Should win: Olivia Colman, The Favourite

This is the rare category where my wish-fulfillment might very well come true, but for fun, I’d say that Elsie Fisher also deserves a tremendous round of recognition for her zits-and-all portrayal of teenage hell in Eighth Grade.

Best Actor (Drama)

Will win: Bradley Cooper, A Star Is Born

Just as Cooper’s Jackson Maine stole his brother’s gravelly voice, so, too, will Cooper steal this Golden Globe from all comers. And he deserves it, too, if only for the fact that I’m still struggling to get his character’s lead song, Maybe It’s Time, out of my head months later.

Should win: Lucas Hedges, Boy Erased

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Cooper is a perfectly fine choice, but there’s a parallel universe out there where Hedges receives some sort of Career of 2018 Award. Not only for his somewhat muted performance in Boy Erased, but for his more riveting work in Ben Is Back and Mid90s, the kind of marvellous hat-trick that only arrives once every decade.

Best Actor (Musical or Comedy)

Amy Adams as Lynne Cheney and Christian Bale as Dick Cheney in a scene from Vice.

Matt Kennedy/Annapurna Pictures

Will win: Christian Bale, Vice

Christian Bale’s performance as former U.S. vice-president Cheney checks all those beloved awards-bait boxes: It’s a real person! He had to gain a whole lotta weight! He makes us feel good to be liberals! Bale does all this, plus he also disappears completely into the role, an altogether astounding feat that makes Vice barely tolerable. Despite my intensely negative feelings for the film, Bale is easily the best thing about it, and the actor deserves credit where it’s due. The HFPA won’t even have these compunctions and will let Bale dominate the category without a second thought.

Should win: John C. Reilly, Stan & Ollie

That said, I’d be happy to see John C. Reilly in the spotlight. Not necessarily for his work in Stan & Ollie, an extremely traditional biopic that I’ve mostly forgotten about, but for his Lucas Hedges-esque 2018 profile. Not only did he serve as the foil to Steve Coogan in Stan & Ollie, but Reilly elevated every scene of the underseen The Sisters Brothers, and (hopefully?) revisits the excellent chemistry he and Will Ferrell historically share in the yet-to-be-seen Holmes & Watson. I realize this is all wishful thinking for a handful of movies that, taken together, aren’t that worthy. But Reilly elevates everything he’s in, and he deserves to be lauded for the mere act of existing.

Best Director *

Will win: Bradley Cooper, A Star Is Born

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For all the reasons stated above, Cooper’s A Star Is Born is tailor-made for the HFPA. The fact he directed himself and dedicated so much of his time to learning the various crafts necessary to helming a feature, ensure he’s a lock here.

Should win: Alfonso Cuaron, Roma

Alfonso Cuaron’s Roma wasn’t nominated in the traditional Best Picture slots owing to the HFPA’s antiquated insistence on shoving all foreign-language titles into the Best Picture (Foreign Language) category. This despite the fact that “foreign” is literally in the HFPA’s name. Oh well. Cuaron’s work on Roma is transcendent and as close to perfect as a moviegoer could ask for. Here’s hoping he’ll carry whatever leverage the Globes offers all the way to the Oscars podium.

*For completely arbitrary reasons, this category encompasses both drama and musical/comedy categories. The Hollywood Foreign Press Association, ladies and gentlemen!

The 76th annual Golden Globe Awards air live Jan. 6 at 8 p.m. ET on CTV

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