“Good Night, and Good Luck” How he got here: The Globes have always favored popular actors in this category, honoring Robert Redford, Clint Eastwood, Kevin Costner and Warren Beatty. Some think that Clooney will join the list this year for his lauded “Good Night, and Good Luck.” A previous Globe winner for actor in a comedy or musical (“O Brother, Where Art Thou?”) in 2001 and three-time TV nominee for “ER,” Clooney has received two additional noms this year as co-writer of “Good Night” and supporting actor in “Syriana.” “George has taken a lot of chances, and it would be great if this were finally his year,” says one HFPA source. Peter Jackson
“King Kong” How he got here: A three-time nominee for the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, and winner for “The Return of the King” in 2004, Jackson’s direction of this pet project brings him into this category for the fourth time. Although the HFPA overlooked “Kong” in the money category of dramatic feature, this personal nom is seen as acknowledgement that Jackson’s helming is indeed award-worthy even though some members were heard grumbling that the film would have been better if he had manged to lop an hour off the running time. Ang Lee
“Brokeback Mountain” How he got here: A winner in this category in 2001 for his martial arts blockbuster “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” and nommed for 1995′s “Sense and Sensibility,” Lee is back in contention for “Brokeback Mountain,” a movie that couldn’t be more different from the other two. Coming off the critical and box office disappointment of “The Hulk,” Lee took a $13.5 million budget and some controversial material and turned it into a critically acclaimed love story that has already earned him director honors from Boston, L.A. and New York film critics groups and the National Board of Review, as well as the Golden Lion at last year’s Venice Film Festival. Fernando Meirelles
“The Constant Gardener” How he got here: Nommed in the foreign-language category in 2003 for “City of God,” Meirelles returns with his first English-language film, which not only is named in the drama category but also puts him in the race for best director for the first time. Based on a John le Carre novel, Meirelles’ adaptation grabbed voters from the first moment they saw it in August. Of course, with these Hollywood-based international journos, it doesn’t hurt that Meirelles is a foreigner himself working in English. Steven Spielberg
“Munich” How he got here: Nominated for Golden Globes in this category 10 times, his first nod coming 30 years ago for “Jaws,” Spielberg is clearly a Globe legend. He has won twice before, for “Schindler’s List” in 1994 and “Saving Private Ryan” in 1999. Now with “Munich,” Spielberg is once again in the running, although he must be considered a bit of a long shot to win since his film was not mentioned in the drama race, and it’s rare to have a director win without at least a picture nom (although Clint Eastwood pulled it off for “Bird” ).