If the actual awards presented during this year's Golden Globes ceremony feel like something of an afterthought, don't blame the movies and TV shows in contention — it was just that kind of year.
The biggest sources of anticipation and anxiety leading up to Sunday night's ceremony have little to do with who will take the top prizes and everything to do with what the attendees will say (and wear) on the red carpet. Black dresses. Statements of solidarity. Thoughts on how to reckon with the festering rot exposed by the sexual misconduct scandals in Hollywood and beyond.
All that plus the curiosity over how first-time host Seth Meyers will handle cracking wise in the midst of such troubled times — how soon before he acknowledges the Weinstein-sized missing elephant in the room? — and how many jabs he'll take at a certain former NBC star now occupying the White House.
But leaving all of that aside for a moment, and getting back to what's supposed to be the reason for the evening, there's still plenty of drama in this year's awards races. Even in the Globes' unique comedy categories.
With that in mind we've broken down five key things to look for in 2018's winners circle.
Will women rule the evening?
No matter what happens on the red carpet, the stage is set for female-driven stories to triumph during the ceremony, especially on the TV side. HBO's "Big Little Lies" is expected to nab four awards (for limited series, lead actress Nicole Kidman and supporting players Laura Dern and Alexander Skarsgard), Hulu's "The Handmaid's Tale" is favored for drama series and lead actress Elisabeth Moss, and Amazon's fresh-faced "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" looks to bag prizes for comedy series and lead actress Rachel Brosnahan.
While those awards would largely be following the Emmys' lead, the Globes have a chance to foreshadow Oscar glory if writer-director Greta Gerwig's widely admired "Lady Bird" runs the table with its four nominations in best picture (comedy or musical), lead actress (Saoirse Ronan), supporting actress (Laurie Metcalf) and screenplay. That would also go some way in making up the fact that Gerwig was overlooked in the directing category, leading to an all-male group of nominees.
Could the drama actress race solve the best picture puzzle?
With "Lady Bird" a heavy favorite in the comedy category (barring an upset by "Get Out," which seems unlikely considering the Hollywood Foreign Press snubbed Jordan Peele in their directing and screenplay categories), the most unpredictable movie races to watch will be on the drama side, including picture, lead actress and director.
A trio of films have a strong chance of sweeping all three of those categories: Steven Spielberg's "The Post," Guillermo del Toro's "The Shape of Water" and Martin McDonagh's "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri." Their respective leading ladies — Meryl Streep, Sally Hawkins and Frances McDormand — are all strong contenders for a win. And if any of the three titles manages a hat trick, expect that film to be declared the instant frontrunner of an uncommonly wide open season.
"The Post" is timely (and resolutely anti-Trump). "Three Billboards" is an audience favorite (with a key prize from the Toronto Film Festival to prove it). But if any film has an edge going into an evening, the seven nominations Globe voters bestowed upon "Shape of Water" suggest it's primed to make the biggest splash.
Can Christopher Plummer make history?
He has simply by scoring a nomination. Already a Golden Globe winner thanks to "Beginners" in 2012, Plummer's critically acclaimed supporting turn in "All the Money in the World" went from non-existent to surprise nominee over the course of a single month. When the 88-year-old actor signed on to reshoot a role already completed by the scandal-ridden Kevin Spacey in Ridley Scott's thriller on Nov. 8 of last year, some pundits immediately predicted the unusual gambit could result in an awards play like no other.
The Hollywood Foreign Press saw Plummer's work before anyone else (and before the film was entirely finished), and included him in their nominations announced on Dec. 11. Now they could anoint Plummer the most unlikely awards season spoiler in years. Perhaps nothing represents 2017 better than that. (Just don't expect him to thank Spacey in his speech.)
How political will Oprah dare to get?
Or maybe nothing represents 2017 better than when, at last year's Globes ceremony, Meryl Streep took the stage as the evening's Cecil B. DeMille lifetime achievement award honoree and delivered a withering critique of president-elect Donald Trump 12 days before he was inaugurated. (Among the most stinging excerpts: "Disrespect invites disrespect, violence incites violence. And when the powerful use their position to bully others, we all lose." In reply, Trump used Twitter to declare Streep "one of the most over-rated actresses in Hollywood.")
This year's Cecil B. DeMille recipient is Oprah Winfrey, who endorsed the presidential runs of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama but largely tries to avoid political statements. Can she dodge the hurricane of current events on a high profile platform like the Globes?
Winfrey, who starred in The Weinstein Co.'s 2013 awards contender "The Butler," described Harvey Weinstein's alleged behavior as "hideous" in an October Facebook post, and a few days later told CBS News she viewed the scandal as a "watershed moment" for women all over the country.
Does “Will & Grace” break its Golden Globe curse?
It might seem trivial compared to political statements or even Oscar handicapping, but the landmark NBC comedy earned 27 Globe nominations over the course of its original eight-season run — and didn't win a single trophy. The current ninth season revival provides two more opportunities to either break or extend that unusual streak as the show competes for best comedy series (where it's a longshot) and lead actor (where star Eric McCormack has emerged as a sentimental front-runner).