It was a night in which the host was muted, The Help was neutered and a silent but deadly French comedy stole most of the thunder. The Artist, Michel Hazanavicius’s acclaimed tale of 1920s Hollywood, proved the main winner at the 69th annual Golden Globes, picking up three awards including best film (musical or comedy) and best actor (musical or comedy) for its star, Jean Dujardin. It is now favourite to scoop the crowning best picture prize at next month’s Academy Awards.
But The Artist could face a stiff challenge from The Descendants. Alexander Payne‘s tart family saga triumphed in the rival best film (drama) category, while George Clooney was named best dramatic actor for his performance as a Hawaiian lawyer attempting to reconnect with his daughters. As expected, Meryl Streep won the best dramatic actress statue for her role as Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady. In her acceptance speech, Streep offered thanks to “everyone in England who let me come over there and trample all over their history”.
The Golden Globes ceremony played out at the Beverly Hilton hotel in Los Angeles, with the winners decided by around 90 members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. “The Globes are just like the Oscars, but without all that esteem,” quipped Ricky Gervais, who was hosting the event for the third year running. “The Golden Globes are to the Oscars what Kim Kardashian is to Kate Middleton. Bit louder, bit trashier, bit drunker, and more easily bought.”
The British comic had sparked controversy with last year’s visit to the podium, when he claimed that Globes voters took bribes and that “famous Scientologists” are gay. On this occasion his monologue was regarded as altogether more convivial, despite a few barbed jokes at the expense of Eddie Murphy, Helen Mirren and “Jodie Foster’s Beaver”. His subsequent gag about Salma Hayek and Antonio Banderas’s accents was promptly censored: a victim of the telecast’s five-second transmission delay.
Significantly, it was left to the winners to provide some of the night’s more risque moments. Streep swore at the microphone upon realising that she had come without her reading glasses, while Clooney paid joking tribute to the physical credentials of rival actor Michael Fassbender, who played a sex addict in Shame. “I’d like to thank Michael Fassbender for taking over the full-frontal nude responsibility I had,” he said. “Michael, honestly, you can play golf with your hands tied behind your back.”
Elsewhere, Michelle Williams was named best actress (comedy or musical) for My Week with Marilyn, The Adventures of Tintin triumphed in the best animated feature category, and the harrowing Iranian drama A Separation scooped the award for best foreign language film. In what was a golden night for the veterans, Martin Scorsese won best director for his 3D fantasy Hugo and Woody Allen took the screenplay prize for Midnight in Paris. There was also warm applause for 82-year-old Christopher Plummer, who was named best supporting actor for his role as a liberated gay father in Mike Mills’s Beginners.
The Help, by contrast, was arguably the big casualty of this year’s Globes. Tate Taylor’s Deep South pot-boiler went into the night with an impressive five nominations, second only to The Artist’s tally of six. It emerged with just one award, for Octavia Spencer’s supporting turn as a vengeful housemaid in 1960s Mississippi. “I’m just trembling here,” spluttered the startled Spencer. “Oh my God, I’m going to fall off these high-heeled shoes.”
British talent was largely confined to the TV section of the Globes ceremony. Downton Abbey took the prize for best mini-series or movie, while the night also saw acting awards for both Kate Winslet (the star of Mildred Pierce) and Idris Elba (the star of Luther). Other winners in the TV categories included Kelsey Grammer (for Boss), Jessica Lange (for American Horror Story) and Matt LeBlanc (for Episodes). Gideon Raff’s acclaimed CIA thriller, Homeland, was named best drama series, while Modern Family picked up the rival award for best musical or comedy series.
As the night wrapped up, Hollywood’s attention was already turning to the Academy Awards, which take place on 26 February, with nominations due on 24 January. Bookies are now giving The Artist odds of 6/5 to become the first silent-screen Oscar winner since the fighter-pilot drama Wings, back in 1929.
For all that, industry experts have already sounded a note of caution – pointing out that, in the past 45 years, only three winners of the best musical or comedy Globe have gone on to claim the best film Oscar. This, potentially, spells good news for The Descendants. If the form-guide holds true, the runner-up at this year’s Globes may yet ascend to the Oscar throne.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010