By Piya Sinha-Roy
BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. (Reuters) - Hollywood's awards season kicks off on Sunday in the form of a star-studded and often raucous party, as film and television's biggest names and nervous newcomers converge at the Golden Globe awards.
A win by Leonardo DiCaprio for his rugged turn in pioneer tale "The Revenant" could foreshadow a long-sought best actor Oscar. The night could also mint emerging talent like actresses Brie Larson and twice-nominated Alicia Vikander and test their red-carpet readiness.
But many will tune in for the irreverent host, British comedian Ricky Gervais, who makes his return after a three-year absence. After the 2012 gig, at which he called the Globes "just like the Oscars, but without all that esteem," he said he did not want to be persuaded to do it again.
The soiree, held at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, is often described as the rowdier counterpart to February's Oscars ceremony, the pinnacle of Hollywood's awards season and an event steeped in tradition and elegance.
Organized and voted for by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the Globes serve up free-flowing champagne and a smattering of after-parties at the same hotel, allowing stars to let their hair down and relax.
"The Golden Globes has always been a place where it's not about conforming," Stefano Tonchi, editor of W Magazine, told Reuters. "There's a certain kind of appreciation for difference and for taking risks."
Gervais alone amps up the risk factor with his customary barbs at his peers and the industry. And then there are nominees like Amy Schumer, Hollywood's latest "it-girl" who has forged a reputation with her sharp, sassy and no-holds-barred comedy.
Lesbian romance "Carol" leads the drama film category with five nominations, while Wall Street fraud tale "The Big Short" leads comedy film with four nods.
In television, streaming shows such as Netflix drug drama "Narcos" and Amazon's transgender comedy "Transparent" have dominated key categories, giving established broadcasters serious competition.
The nominees reflect a varied field this year with no clear frontrunners, from action blockbusters such as "Mad Max: Fury Road" and "The Martian" to intimate indies such as "Room" and "Spotlight."
For rising actors like Larson, best drama actress nominee for "Room," the Globes platform could be their first official awards "audition" that can determine how they fare in the race to the Oscars.
"It's all over-exciting and overwhelming and I've never experienced it before so I'm just trying to take it one step at a time," Larson told Reuters last week.
"I haven't had a moment for it to all sink in yet."
(Additional reporting by Rollo Ross for Reuters TV; Editing by Mary Milliken)