Can a silent movie from France make noise in Hollywood? It can, but it needs a little Help.
That was the message from the 69th Golden Globe awards Sunday, which spread its honour among The Artist, a black and white movie about the early days of talking pictures in Hollywood; The Help, a civil rights-era drama about a group of white Southern American women and their fraught relationship with their black maids; and several other films.
(See more: Golden Globes fashion; Golden Globes best/worst moments)
In a broadcast that buried its occasional moments of irreverence under hours of tuxedo-clad self-congratulation, the Globes divided their honours among several pictures, leaving no clear front-runner for the upcoming Academy Awards, for which the Globes are seen as a glamorous dress rehearsal.
The Artist was named best motion picture, comedy or musical, cementing its position as one of the front-runners. It's the first silent movie to win a Globe and it would be the first silent film to win an Academy Award since 1927, when Wings won the first Oscar. The presentation of the Globe was upstaged by Uggie, the Jack Russell terrier that stole many of the scenes in The Artist and much of the attention on stage Sunday.
Alexander Payne's The Descendants - a combination of tragedy and comedy, set in Hawaii -was named best drama for its story of an unhappy lawyer (George Clooney) who is devastated when he learns his comatose wife had been having an affair. Clooney was named best actor. In his acceptance speech, Clooney praised the humanitarian work of co-nominee Brad Pitt (Moneyball) and thanked Michael Fassbender, who is naked in some scenes in Shame, "for taking over the frontal nudity responsibility that I had."
Meryl Streep won the award for best actress in a drama for her portrayal of Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady, a film biography that has won praise for her portrayal and criticism for what has been called its lack of historical perspective. Streep has long been considered a favourite, but lately the performance of Viola Davis as one of the maids in The Help has been seen as gaining traction.
Michelle Williams was named best actress in a comedy or musical - although her film is neither - for her evocation of Hollywood sex icon Marilyn Monroe in My Week With Marilyn. The film is based on the true story of how Monroe made the 1957 movie The Prince and the Showgirl. Williams is also considered a strong bet for an Oscar nomination.
"I consider myself a mother first and an actress second, so the person I most want to thank is my daughter . . . for suffering through six months of bedtime stories read in a Marilyn Monroe voice," Williams said.
French actor Jean Dujardin won the Globe for best performance by an actor in a comedy or musical for his turn as a silent star in The Artist. Dujardin also won the best actor award at the Cannes Film Festival for his (almost) wordless performance that evoked classic stars of the era. "As Douglas Fairbanks would say . . ." Dujardin said, before miming a silent speech.
Martin Scorsese, who's best known for his gangster films, was named best director for the 3-D family movie Hugo, his love letter to cinematic history. Based on a book by Brian Selznick, it tells the story of an orphan who lives in a Paris train station and meets the owner of a toystore who has a close connection to the invention of movies. Scorsese, a noted advocate for film restoration and preservation, thanked his wife who urged him to make a movie "that our daughter can see for once."
Among the other nominees was The Artist's Michel Hazanavicius. His movie led the Globes with six nominations, while The Help and the tragicomedy The Descendants had five each.
Canadian actor Christopher Plummer was named best supporting actor for his role as in Beginners as an older man who comes out as a homosexual after his wife dies. Plummer is also a front-runner for an Oscar, an award he has never won in his 60-year career. Plummer thanked Beginners co-star Ewan McGregor, whom he called "that scene-stealing swine."
Octavia Spencer, who played Minny, the outspoken maid in the civil rights-era drama The Help, was named best supporting actress. She beat a field that included Jessica Chastain, who played the well-meaning outsider in the same film, and the Globe was another indication that the movie is gaining traction as the Oscars approach.
Woody Allen, who didn't attend the event, won the award for best screenplay for Midnight In Paris, a fantasy about a man magically travels back to the days when Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald lived in France.
The Iranian film A Separation - another Oscar front-runner - was named best foreign film, and director Asghar Farhadi praised the "truly loving people" of his country. The other nominees included the Serbo-Croatian film In The Land of Blood and Honey, a story about the war in the Balkans in the 1990s written and directed by Angelina Jolie.
The Adventures of Tintin, a motion-capture film based on the series of Belgian books, won the Golden Globe for best animated feature film. The award represented a rare loss for Pixar, whose Cars 2 was among the nominated movies.
The Artist won the award for Ludovic Bource's score, which had caused controversy because it borrowed some of the music that Bernard Herrmann wrote for Alfred Hitchcock's 1958 thriller Vertigo. Kim Novak, who starred in Vertigo, took out an ad in Variety magazine last week to say she felt "as if my body - or, at least my body of work - has been violated by the movie The Artist." Hazanavicius later defended using Herrmann's music.
Madonna won the award for best original song for Masterpiece, from W.E., a film she co-wrote and directed about the affair between King Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson.
The show began with a monologue by Globes host Ricky Gervais that skewered the entire production - the Golden Globes, he said, are "just like the Oscars but without all that esteem" - as well as taking shots at celebrities (To Johnny Depp: "Have you seen The Tourist yet?" About Justin Bieber: "The only way he could impregnate a girl is if he borrowed one of Martha Stewart's old turkey basters") that seemed more pro forma than outrageous. Gervais was the most anticipated element of the show, thanks to his controversial insults in previous years, but the prize for outrage went to presenter Seth Rogen, who stood beside Kate Beckinsale and said, "I'm currently trying to conceal an huge erection."
Runner-up in the naughtiness sweepstakes was Madonna, who reacted to a Gervais joke about her song Just Like A Virgin by taunting him, "Why don't you come over here and do something about it, Ricky?"
In the Gervais era of insult comedy, the Globes have become a combination of made-for-TV event, complete with who-are-you-wearing? preshow - no one ever asks what-were-you-thinking? - with just a hint of the Wild West days when the awards were more of an irreverent party. There's alcohol on the tables and the movie stars sometimes come to the podium filled with wine, grievance or just themselves.
The Globes are decided by the 89-member Hollywood Foreign Press Association - which recently elected an 82-year-old journalist for a teen magazine as its new president - and once got their cachet from the fact that they sometimes predicted the Oscars. However, that's become less true: only once in the past seven years (Slumdog Millionaire in 2008) has a Globe best movie winner gone on to get the Oscar. Last year, for instance, The Social Network was named best drama and The Kids are All Right was best comedy at the Globes. The King's Speech went on to win the Academy Award.
The Oscar nominations - which can include up to 10 candidates for Best Picture - will be announced Jan. 24 and the Oscars will be presented Feb. 26.
In other Golden Globe honours, Morgan Freeman received the Cecil B. DeMille award for lifetime achievement.
-Best Motion Picture, Drama: The Descendants
-Best Actor in a Motion Picture, Drama: George Clooney, The Descendants
-Best Motion Picture, Comedy or Musical: The Artist
-Best Actress in a Motion Picture, Drama: Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady
-Best Actor in a Motion Picture, Comedy or Musical: Jean Dujardin, The Artist
-Best TV Series, Comedy or Musical: Modern Family
-Best Director, Motion Picture: Martin Scorsese, Hugo
-Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture: Octavia Spencer, The Help
-Best Actor in a TV Series, Comedy or Musical: Matt Leblanc, Episodes
-Best Actress in a TV Series, Drama: Claire Danes, Homeland
-Best Foreign Language Film: A Separation
-Best Supporting Actress in a TV Series, Miniseries or TV Movie: Jessica Lange, American Horror Story
-Best Motion Picture Screenplay: Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris
-Best Animated Feature Film: The Adventures of Tintin
-Best Supporting Actor in a TV Series, Miniseries or TV Movie: Peter Dinklage, Game of Thrones
-Best Actress in a Motion Picture, Comedy or Musical: Michelle Williams, My Week with Marily
-Best Actor in a Miniseries or TV Movie: Idris Elba, Luther
-Best Original Song: "Masterpiece," Madonna (W.E.)
-Best Original Score: The Artist
-Best TV Series, Drama: Homeland
-Best Actor in a TV Series, Drama: Kelsey Grammer, Boss
-Best Actress in a Miniseries or TV Movie: Kate Winslet, Mildred Pierce
-Best Miniseries or TV Movie: Downton Abbey
-Best Actress in a TV Series, Comedy or Musical: Laura Dern, Enlightened
-Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture: Christopher Plummer, Beginners