Will 'Avatar' Win Big at Golden Globes?

A three-way race is brewing with "Avatar" considered the front-runner.

Jan. 15, 2010— -- Don't underestimate James Cameron.

That seems to be the feeling going into the Golden Globe Awards, which airs live Sunday night on NBC.

Cameron's blockbuster epic "Avatar" will be on a lot of people's minds, but so will the devastation in Haiti caused by Tuesday's massive earthquake.

Hollywood is doing its part with today's event, "Golden Globes Making Our Globe Golden," at the House of Blues in Los Angeles. For every celebrity that shows up, Platinum Publicity will make a donation toward relief efforts. The group is also auctioning off $6,000 gift bags and T-shirts signed by celebrities on eBay, with proceeds going to help Haiti.

On Thursday, actresses CCH Pounder, one of the stars of "Avatar," and Lorraine Toussaint of TV's "Any Day Now," signed T-shirts. Toussaint, who is from the Caribbean, told ABC News she was able to locate some of her relatives in Haiti.

The Globes may be more subdued in the wake of Haiti's devastating earthquake, but it's still expected to be a big night for "Avatar." The film wasn't even on critics' lists a month ago when "Up in the Air" was considered the early awards favorite.

All that's changed, since "Avatar" began shattering box office records, earning $1.3 billion worldwide so far.

"It's become clear that 'Avatar' is the front-runner," Matthew Belloni, the Hollywood Reporter's managing editor for features, told ABCNews.com. "All of the critics have started loving 'Avatar,' the reviews have been so positive and it's started getting all these nominations for guild awards."

Last week, the Directors Guild of America nominated Cameron, and, more surprisingly, he received a best screenplay nod from the Writers Guild this week.

"I think most people would agree the writing in that movie is not its strongest suit," said Belloni.

Regardless, "Avatar" has the momentum going into the Globes and that could mean big wins at the Academy Awards in March. The Academy announces its nominations Feb. 2, leaving a week of voting after the influential Globes.

While the technical branches make up a large portion of the Academy and are more likely to support Cameron's film, the Globe voters, made up of 90 journalists in the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, are not so technically inclined.

Belloni said it's possible "Up in the Air" or "The Hurt Locker," another critical favorite, could win the Globe award for best picture, drama, for that reason.

"It's a great race, unlike last year when 'Slumdog Millionaire' won; there's not a foregone winner," Belloni said. "This year, there really is no one film that everyone is rallying around."

Whatever happens, the Globes are likely to have a greater influence on Academy voters in the new extended best picture category. With 10 nominees, double the number last year, Belloni said the winner of the Globes best picture, comedy or musical category will most definitely be a front-runner for the best picture race.

Below are Belloni's picks for the winners of the 67th Annual Golden Globes Awards:

Best Picture, Comedy or Musical

"'Nine' is losing momentum," Belloni said. "Don't count out 'Julie and Julia.' People really like that. I could see 'The Hangover' winning. It's very funny, did amazing business. I think as a straight comedy, 'Hangover' is probably the favorite."

Best Performance by an Actress in a Drama

"It's the veteran stalwart versus the upstart ingénue," Belloni said. "There's a lot of momentum behind Carey Mulligan ("An Education"). She burst onto the scene with this movie. She's in other movies now based on her performance. There's temptation with voters to reward that."

At the same time, Helen Mirren in the Tolstoy biopic "The Last Station" is gaining momentum.

"Sandra Bullock's the wild card," Belloni added. In "The Blind Side," Bullock is in the "feel good movie of the year. If there's an upset, it will be her. People would like to see her win. It would be a nice moment."

Best Performance by an Actor in a Drama

"This is Jeff Bridges' to lose," Belloni said.

Belloni said Bridges, as a washed-up country singer in the film "Crazy Heart," is at his prime and is easily considered the frontrunner.

"The knock on George Clooney is it's just Clooney doing Clooney" in "Up in the Air," he added.

But Belloni said that notion couldn't be more wrong. "It's a character," he said. "And he is so good. There's not any other actor who could pull off his performance."

Best Performance by an Actress in a Comedy or Musical

"Even though she's competing against herself, I think Meryl Streep still wins," Belloni said. "And it's a pretty clear choice which one of those movies you vote for. Her performance in 'Julie and Julia' was the most talked about, and the one she'll get an Oscar nomination for. It's a much showier, nuanced, much tougher performance," Belloni said, compared to her role in "It's Complicated," for which she's also nominated.

"This is someone known throughout her career as a serious dramatic actress and she got two comedy nods this year," Belloni added. "She's the hottest actress in Hollywood right now."

Best Performance by an Actor in a Comedy or Musical

"It's too close to call," Belloni said. "Matt Damon's performance was really good, but 'The Informant' has dropped off the radar."

Belloni said the Coen brothers' film "A Serious Man" is good, but some are questioning whether it's more drama than comedy.

Best Supporting Actress

"It's a no brainer," Belloni said of the predicted winner of this category.

"It's Mo'nique's to lose," Belloni said. "She's a real standout. She's getting lot of critics' attention. Mo'nique is such a driving force in 'Precious.'"

And that force could take her all the way to the Oscars, where she's also expected to win in the same category.

Best Supporting Actor

It's Christoph Waltz from Quentin Tarantino's "Inglourious Basterds" "by a landslide," Belloni said. "He's such a standout in this film, especially with the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. It's his to win."

Best Animated Feature

Belloni said this is likely to be one of the most interesting races with the greatest potential for an upset.

"Up" is considered the front-runner, like other previous Pixar films. But Wes Anderson's "Fantastic Mr. Fox" is a critics' favorite.

"'Up' is almost the safe choice, whereas 'Mr. Fox' is something different," Belloni said. "You could see a real shock."

Best Director

The directors' race is likely to mirror the best picture race.

Belloni said it's a three-way race between Cameron, Kathryn Bigelow, the director of "The Hurt Locker" and Jason Reitman, the "Up in the Air" director.

But Tarantino could pull off an upset win. "He's such a beloved figure, especially in international cinema," Belloni said. "I could see him winning best director."


In the drama category, Belloni thinks the "Mad Men" winning streak will continue, with star Jon Hamm likely to win for best actor. "True Blood," the HBO vampire series, could pull off an upset, however.

Belloni wouldn't be surprised if "True Blood" star Anna Paquin won for best actress over Glenn Close from "Damages" and January Jones of "Mad Men."

Expect a "shocker" in the best comedy category. Belloni predicts "Glee" or "Modern Family" over perennial favorite "30 Rock."

The stars of "30 Rock," Alec Baldwin and Tina Fey, are likely a lock for best actor and actress in a comedy series.