“American Hustle,” a tale of con artists and corrupt politicians, earned best comedy honors at Sunday’s Golden Globe Awards, while “12 Years a Slave,” a searing look at pre-Civil War plantation life, scored best drama honors.
It was a topsy-turvy night, one that saw the Hollywood Foreign Press, the tight-knit group of foreign journalists that hands out the prizes, living up to its reputation for off-kilter choices by handing out best comedy series to Fox’s buddy cop show “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” over critical darlings, “Modern Family” and “Girls.”
Also read: Golden Globes Winners: The Complete List
However, the group followed the Emmy Awards lead by sending off “Breaking Bad” on a winning note, handing the final season of the thriller its statues for best drama series and best actor for Bryan Cranston’s portrayal of a meth-dealing chemistry teacher.
While collecting the prize, the stars of the AMC drama turned to Aaron Paul, who referenced his drug-addled character’s tagline as he victoriously declared, “Yeah bitch.” It’s lines like Paul’s that characterize the fun of the Globes, which differs from the Oscars and the Emmys in several key respects — one, by honoring both television and film and second, and more importantly, by pushing an open bar concept that leads to a looser, more envelope-pushing show.
See photos: Golden Globes Red Carpet Arrivals
To that end, returning hosts Tina Fey and Amy Poehler continually slaughtered and then backed up and ran over the movie business’ sacred cows. Among their racier and more controversial bits were crediting “12 Years a Slave” with changing their attitudes on slavery, graphically describing Leonardo DiCaprio‘s fondness for models and jabbing studios’ failure to provide strong roles for women by noting that Meryl Streep‘s work in “August: Osage County” proved “…there’s still great parts in Hollywood for Meryl Streeps over 60.”
They weren’t above biting the hand that fed, as they jabbed the Hollywood Foreign Press Association for their erratic journalistic credentials and iffy ethical standards.
“Thank you for your integrity,” Poehler said to loud laughter, after she and Fey listed off a number of unintelligible and foreign-sounding publications and names, claiming they belonged to Hollywood Foreign Press members.
Despite earning a statue for best drama, “12 Years a Slave” was shut out of most of the evening’s major honors. Instead, the awards program showed substantial support for “American Hustle,” also handing out best actress in a comedy to Amy Adams for her work as an elegant grifter and best supporting actress to Jennifer Lawrence for playing a bored New Jersey housewife in David O. Russell’s crime caper.
But Russell could not pull off a win of his own. “Gravity’s” Alfonso Cuaron edged out Russell to snag a best director prize for blasting Sandra Bullock and George Clooney into space.
The Mexican director said he wanted to thank his female star for not quitting after she misheard his accented instructions that he would give her an earpiece. Instead, he joked that she thought he said he would give her herpes.
Even when Russell wasn’t victorious, he factored into acceptance speeches. Spike Jonze earned a best screenplay award for his telephonic romance, “Her,” and took his time on stage to thank Russell for giving him notes on his off-kilter comedy.
“Dallas Buyers Club” was another of the evening’s big winners, earning awards for best actor and best supporting actor for Matthew McConaughy and Jared Leto. It capped off what has been an extraordinary run for McCounaughey, who swept away his years headlining mediocre romantic comedies with his work as an unlikely AIDS activist. The actor lost 50 pounds to play a rodeo-riding homophobe who provides unapproved pharmaceutical drugs to the diseases’ sufferers after he is diagnosed with the virus.
“Alright, alright, alright,” McConaughey said, in a typical laid-back fashion, before closing on a rousing note.
“This film was never about dying, it was always about living,” he said.
Cate Blanchett’s work playing a modern day Blanche DuBois in “Blue Jasmine” was singled out as the year’s best actress in a drama, saying that the past ten years have been an extraordinary ones for female actresses. Her director Woody Allen was also singled out, not for his work on that dark drama, but for his decades of directing. He earned, but, as is his wont, did not show up in person to collect, the Cecil B. DeMille award for career achievement.
Leonardo DiCaprio overcame a backlash about the moral message of “Wolf of Wall Street” to score best actor in a comedy for his role as drug-abusing stock fraud.
“I never would have guessed I would have won for best actor in a comedy,” DiCaprio noted.
DiCaprio’s performance was one that defied genre. The Globes prefers to split its films into dramas and musical/comedies, allowing the show to honor more films and performances. Adams’ work was also one that did not seem terribly comedic, although she gave a gentle-humored speech.
See photos: Golden Globes Red Carpet Arrivals
“I always cry when I’m not supposed to,” Adams said, noting that she had trouble summoning tears on cue.
“David, you write such amazing roles for women,” she added, thanking director David O. Russell.
In an emotional acceptance speech, Lawrence also lavished praise on Russell, a director whose work she said had first captivated her after she caught his box office failure “I Heart Huckabees” on television as a teenager. “The Hunger Games” star credited Russell, who previously directed her to a Globe award last year for “Silver Linings Playbook,” with her career.
Leto, who has dominated many of the early awards contests, added another trophy to his mantelpiece, picking up best supporting actor for his work as an AIDS-infected transvestite in “Dallas Buyers Club.”
Leto noted that he had spent six years away from the camera before accepting his latest role.
“It’s more than an honor to come back and have this love and support,” he said.
The Hollywood Foreign Press also gave co-host Poehler a special thank you for emceeing, naming her best actress in a comedy series for her role as a perky bureaucrat in “Parks & Recreation.” She took the stage after pretending to make out with Bono.
Netflix’s “House of Cards” may have lost out to “Breaking Bad” for the night’s top prize, but the groundbreaking series didn’t go home empty-handed. Robin Wright earned best actress in a drama series for her work as a calculating political wife on the show.
“Thank you Hollywood Foreign Press, you guys are a gaggle of characters,” she said in one of many references to the off-beat group of fewer than 90 journalists who decide the winners.
He may have been honored for a drama series, but “Breaking Bad’s” Cranston injected some levity into his acceptance speech.
“This is such a wonderful honor and such a wonderful way to say goodbye to the show that meant so much to me,” Cranston said, adding that because of the honor everyone around the world would be able to share in the pitch-black show’s ‘mirth and merriment.'”
Elisabeth Moss may be best known for playing a pioneering ad executive on “Mad Men,” but a change-of-pace performance as a driven detective in Jane Campion’s “Top of the Lake” scored her a statue for best actress in a TV movie or mini-series.
Jon Voight picked up his fourth Golden Globe award, but his first for a television project, earning best supporting actor in a drama series for his role as a villainous ex-con on “Ray Donovan.”
“I’m as nervous as everybody else,” the veteran actor said, as he stumbled while remembering people to thank.
The Hollywood Foreign Press also showed a nostalgic streak, awarding “Behind the Candelabra” as the year’s best TV movie or mini-series and Michael Douglas for best actor in a TV movie or mini-series for his flamboyant performance as Liberace. The film looked at a love affair between the Vegas entertainer and his younger lover Scott Thorson.
See photos: Golden Globes 2014: The Winners
Also finding herself in the winners circle was Jacqueline Bisset, who earned best supporting actress in a mini-series for “Dancing on the Edge.” She gave a somewhat dazed speech, before she appeared to utter a profanity that censor beeped out.
The Globes steer clear of most technical categories, but do recognize music. To that end, Alex Ebert won for best original score for his haunting musical backdrop to the survival story “All is Lost,” while U2 earned a best original song statue for “Ordinary Love” from “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom.” It was a project that the band said had great resonance for them, as they were deeply opposed to apartheid in South Africa and admired the movement’s leader.
“This man turned our life upside down, right side up,” Bono said. “A man who refused to hate.”
“Frozen,” Disney’s update of Hans Christian Andersen’ fairy tale “The Snow Queen,” scored best animated feature, while Italy’s “The Great Beauty,” Paolo Sorrentino’s story of an aging socialite, earned a Globe for best foreign film.
The Globes are something of a guilty pleasure in a season that overflows with awards shows. Unlike the Directors Guild Awards or the Screen Actors Guild Awards, their membership does not overlap with that of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, so Sunday’s victors could be substantially different from the actors, actresses and creators who win big on Oscar night.
Yet viewers don’t seem to mind if the Globes lack the pedigree of the Oscars. Last year’s telecast attracted a six-year ratings high of 19.7 million.