A little seen black-and-white silent film, a television drama that's never drawn more than 3 million viewers and George Clooney's "The Descendants" were the big winners Sunday at the Golden Globes. And on a night when bad boy host Ricky Gervais ended up playing it safe, Clooney complimented a fellow nominee's—ahem—manhood.
Unlike some years where a single show or a hit movie swept the Hollywood Foreign Press Association's annual accolades, this year's ceremony bestowed honors on a wide range of movies and shows, and perhaps told Americans that some of the best stuff out there is what they are not watching.
Clooney's "The Descendants," the story of a widowed father who must come to terms with his wife's unpleasant past, was named Best Picture, making it one of only two films to win multiple awards. (And the one of the two to do fairly well at the box office.)
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That other film was "The Artist," a silent film about the demise of a silent film star. Just a few days after dominating the Critics Choice Awards, "The Artist" came into the night with six nominations, and took Best Comedy or Musical, Best Actor in a Comedy or Musical (Jean Dujardin) and Best Score (Ludovic Bouce).
On the TV side of things, it had looked like it was going to be a battle of the time period mini-series, with PBS's "Downton Abbey" and HBO's "Mildred Pierce," each boasting four nominations. But, each only managed one win apiece, for Best Miniseries and Best Actress (Kate Winslet), respectively.
Instead, it was only Showtime's "Homeland," about a CIA operative with a personality disorder, that won multiple awards, taking home Best Drama and Best Actress for Claire Danes.
But what really had people buzzing about the Golden Globes this year was wondering if Ricky Gervais, who generally takes no prisoners when he is hosting, would go even further this year in skewering the Hollywood establishment.
To general disappointment, he did not, instead playing it safe with jokes that were aimed at faceless organizations and those not in the room. In fact, as the evening progressed, it became clear that producers had decided to give more airtime to acceptance speeches, and less to their mercurial host.
There were a few touching moments among the speeches, including Michelle Williams (Best Actress - Comedy or Musical for "My Week With Marilyn") thanking her daughter for putting up with six months of bedtime stories read in Marilyn Monroe's voice, as the actress prepared for her role. Peter Dinklage (Best Actor in TV Miniseries, "Game of Throne") thanked his mom for assuring him that he would lose to Guy Pearce, and gave a shout-out to a man named Martin Henderson, who says he was partially paralyzed after being the victim of a "dwarf tossing."
But maybe the most powerful speech came from Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy or Musical winner Octavia Spencer, who, on the eve of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, quoted King in her acceptance speech, saying, "With regard to domestics in this country, now and then, I think Dr. King said it best: 'All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance.' And I thank you for recognizing that with our film." She was referring, of course, to "The Help."
On the opposite end of the spectrum, one of the bluest lines of the night wasn't from Gervais, but from Clooney, who in accepting his award couldn’t resist the opportunity to compliment "Shame" star Michael Fassbender, suggesting the actor, who spent much of his film in the buff, could play golf "with (his) hands tied behind (his) back."
(Oddly, there were more than a few jokes about male genitalia throughout the night.)
In the long-haul category, Meryl Streep won her eighth Golden Globe, this time for her portrayal of Margaret Thatcher in "Iron Lady," which earned her Best Actress - Drama.
Morgan Freeman was given the Cecil B. DeMille Award, for "outstanding contributions to the world of entertainment" in a career that has spanned nearly half a century, and included five previous Golden Globe nominations, including a Best Actor win for 1990's "Driving Miss Daisy."
After watching a montage of his career that included clips from his stint on "The Electric Company," Freeman said he was struck by two things:
"I got to play with people I really, really admire, and how much fun I've been having... It's been said that if you do what you love, you'll never work a day in your life. Well, if that's the case, then for the past 45 years or so I've never had to work. Because my passion in life has always been acting."
One could argue that the biggest winner of the night was Harvey Weinstein, the prolific producer and distributor who was behind "The Artist," "My Week With Marilyn," "W.E.," and "The Iron Lady," which combined for six awards.
Complete list of winners:
Cecil B. DeMille Award
Best Motion Picture - Drama
Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture - Drama
Meryl Streep – Iron Lady
Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Drama
George Clooney – The Descendants
Best Motion Picture - Comedy Or Musical
Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture - Comedy Or Musical
Michelle Williams – My Week With Marilyn
Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Comedy Or Musical
Jean Dujardin – The Artist
Best Animated Feature Film
The Adventures Of Tintin
Best Foreign Language Film
A Separation (Iran)
Best Performance by an Actress In A Supporting Role in a Motion Picture
Octavia Spencer – The Help
Best Performance by an Actor In A Supporting Role in a Motion Picture
Christopher Plummer – Beginners
Best Director - Motion Picture
Martin Scorsese – Hugo
Best Screenplay - Motion Picture
Woody Allen - Midnight In Paris
Best Original Score - Motion Picture
Ludovic Bource - The Artist
Best Original Song - Motion Picture
Masterpiece – W.E.
Best Television Series - Drama
Best Performance by an Actress In A Television Series - Drama
Claire Danes – Homeland (SHOWTIME)
Best Performance by an Actor In A Television Series - Drama
Kelsey Grammer – Boss (STARZ)
Best Television Series - Comedy Or Musical
Modern Family (ABC)
Best Performance by an Actress In A Television Series - Comedy Or Musical
Laura Dern – Enlightened (HBO)
Best Performance by an Actor In A Television Series - Comedy Or Musical
Matt LeBlanc – Episodes (SHOWTIME)
Best Mini-Series Or Motion Picture Made for Television
Downton Abbey (Masterpiece) (PBS)
Best Performance by an Actress In A Mini-series or Motion Picture Made for Television
Kate Winslet – Mildred Pierce (HBO)
Best Performance by an Actor in a Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television
Idris Elba – Luther
Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Series, Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television
Jessica Lange – American Horror Story (FX)
Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Series, Mini-Series or Motion
Picture Made for Television
Peter Dinklage – Game Of Thrones (HBO)