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The Golden Globes: Hollywood's Biggest Party

Tuesday, January 16----Even from a distance of 5000 miles, sitting comfortably in front of my flat screen television, and watching with amusement the telecast of the Golden Globe Awards, it was clear that this is one of Hollywood's biggest and most irreverent parties. It has long been noted that because the Awards Ceremony takes place in a hotel ballroom, where food is being served, and liquor is constantly being brought out, that this awards show is a far cry from the dignified demeanor of the Academy Awards, held next month in the sanctified surroundings of the Kodak Theater.

But if Hollywood, and international film in general, is indeed a "community", as many of last night's awardees intoned, then its communal roots are there for all to see in this fascinating example of Hollywood honoring (and sometimes devouring) its own. As striking as any of the awards themselves were the candid shots of mega-stars embracing one another, walking from table to table, shouting above the orchestra's music (and the presenters' speeches), with many looking positively goo-goo eyed spying such legends as Jack Nicholson, Warren Beatty, Dustin Hoffman, Steven Spielberg and others in close proximity. For most of the night's winners, who were on the dais for the first time or the first time in their careers, it was a night of celebrity spotting, convivial merriment and that most audacious of Hollywood rituals, the promotion tour. The awards, given out by the 80 member Hollywood Foreign Press Association, are indeed a bonanza, particularly for films that are still in general release.

But for the winners....not many surprises. Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's BABEL, the debut release from Paramount Vantage, the newly minted specialty arm of studio Paramount Pictures, won the evening's top honor as Best Picture: Drama. While some critics griped about its loose structure and its overly ambitious narrative, it is clearly a film of the moment (about global interdependency, cultural outreach and human frailty in a time of escalating violence). While many were secretly rooting for Martin Scorsese's return to form, THE DEPARTED, a win for BABEL gives this serious film a much needed boost to reach a larger audience (its box office returns, so far, have been quite modest).

DREAMGIRLS, the big screen version of the 1981 Broadway hit, won the Best Picture: Comedy/Musical category, besting the indie hit LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE (which came away empty-handed, despite multiple nominations). The film also won awards for its two Supporting Actors: Jennifer Hudson for her roof-raising performance as a slighted singer and veteran Eddie Murphy as the washed-up soul singer barely hanging on. There seems little doubt that DREAMGIRLS will make the five-film cut for the Oscar race.

Martin Scorsese won his second Golden Globe in the past few years (he won in 2001 for his epic GANGS OF NEW YORK) for his widely praised work on THE DEPARTED. The veteran director, who has been nominated for five Oscars over his 30 year career, but has yet to win one, seems to be the strongest contender to finally win Oscar gold this year.

Helen Mirren was the night's biggest winner, going home with two Golden Globes (and three nominations) for her roles as Queen Elizabeth II in THE QUEEN, and Queen Elizabeth I in the HBO Films' television-film ELIZABETH I. Mirren was also nominated for a television award for her role as the boozy police lieutenant in the hit British series PRIME SUSPECT.

An audience and critical favorite, Meryl Streep, won for her comedic performance as the boss-from-hell in the screen adaption of the popular novel THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA. Streep, a serious actress known for her wicked sense of humor, was in rare form as she accepted her award. She also made the evening's most trenchant comment by encouraging film professionals and film buffs alike to put pressure on theater owners to exhibit smaller films that deserve the broader attention of the public.

Forest Whitaker won the Best Actor: Drama category (much as he has in all the film critics awards so far) for his towering portrait of Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in the micro-budget THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND. Equally honored in the Best Actor: Comedy/Musical category, and delivering the evening's most hilarious acceptance speech, was Sacha Baron Cohen, the prime mover behind the international sensation BORAT. This win could ensure his place among the five actors nominated for the Oscar (nominations are announced in two weeks).

Another comic highlight was the wonderfully funny speech delivered by Tom Hanks to honor Warren Beatty, the evening's recipient of the Cecil B. DeMille Award. Hanks made pointed and repeated reference to the fact that in 1962, Warren Beatty received his first Golden Globe as "most promising newcomer". Now, 45 years later, Beatty was being honored for his body of work, and his influence as an actor, producer and director. One of Hollywood's true elder statesmen, Beatty, who is also very active in Democratic Party politics, gave a typically rambling but endearing speech and promised that he would return to the silver screen before he dies (but advised the audience not to hold its breath).

The 64th Annual Golden Globes Winners:

Best Picture/Drama: BABEL

Best Picture/Musical or Comedy: DREAMGIRLS (Bill Condon)

Best Director: Martin Scorsese, THE DEPARTED

Best Actress (Drama): Helen Mirren, THE QUEEN

Best Actor (Drama): Forest Whitaker, THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND

Best Actress (Musical or Comedy): Meryl Streep, THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA

Best Actor Musical or Comedy): Sasha Baron Cohen, BORAT

Best Supporting Actress: Jennifer Hudson, DREAMGIRLS

Best Supporting Actor: Eddie Murphy, DREAMGIRLS

Best Foreign Language Film: LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA (Clint Eastwood)

Best Screenplay: Peter Morgan, THE QUEEN

Best Animated Film: CARS (John Lasseter, Joe Ranft)

Best Original Score: Alexandre Desplat, THE PAINTED VEIL

Best Original Song: THE SONG OF THE HEART (written by Prince for HAPPY FEET)

Sandy Mandelberger
Awards Watch Editor


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