The film 12 Years a Slave took the coveted Golden Globe for best drama, and American Hustle won best musical or comedy on Sunday in a kickoff to the Hollywood awards season that foreshadows a wide scattering of honors for a year crowded with high-quality movies.
Only two films garnered more than one award at the 71st Annual Golden Globe Awards, an important but not entirely accurate barometer for the industry's highest honors, the Academy Awards to be held on March 2.
American Hustle, a romp through corruption in the 1970s directed by David O. Russell, was the top winner with three Globes for its seven nominations, while the modest AIDS film Dallas Buyers Club starring Matthew McConaughey, took two acting awards - for him and co-star Jared Leto.
British director Steve McQueen's brutal depiction of pre-Civil War American slavery in 12 Years a Slave, based on a true story of a free black man, Solomon Northup, who was sold into slavery, only won one award out of its seven nominations. It was entirely shut out from the acting honors, for which it was the presumed favorite.
But best drama is the top award of the Golden Globes and McQueen thanked actor and producer Brad Pitt, who played a small part in the film but a big role in getting it made. "Without you this movie would never had gotten made, so thank you, wherever you may be," McQueen said.
Among the films passed by were two darlings of the critics: the Coen brothers' paean to the 1960s folk scene Inside Llewyn Davis and Alexander Payne's homage to the heartland, Nebraska.
The first big night of the Hollywood awards season is the journalistic domain of 90 some members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, who wield outsized clout in the awards race as buzz around the early honors influences members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in their voting for the Oscars.
Oscar nominations are to be announced on Thursday, and 12 Years a Slave and American Hustle are likely to be in the list of 10 nominees for best picture, going head-to-head unlike in the Globes, where they competed in two separate categories.
The Globes have a mixed record when it comes to predicting the Oscar best picture, though last year's best drama winner, Argo, did go on to win the Academy Award for best movie.
Array of recognition
In a setting more intimate and whimsical than the tightly scripted Oscars, A-listers and returning co-hosts Tina Fey and Amy Poehler poked fun at the most powerful in the glamorous audience.
It was a night in which there seemed to be a prize for most every film, a reflection of a banner year for quality cinema in which critically acclaimed films piled up in the last half of the year.
The top drama acting awards went to Cate Blanchett for her turn as a riches-to-rags socialite in Woody Allen's tragicomedy Blue Jasmine and McConaughey for his portrayal of unlikely AIDS activist Ron Woodroof, a role for which he lost 22.7 kilograms.
"Ron Woodroof's story was an underdog, for years it was an underdog, we couldn't get it made. ... I'm so glad it got passed on so many times or it wouldn't have come to me," said McConaughey, widely lauded for a string of strong performances this year.
Russell, who reunited cast members from his previous films, reaped the rewards of loyal actors.
Amy Adams won best actress in a musical or comedy for her role as the conniving partner of a con-man played by Christian Bale in American Hustle, while Jennifer Lawrence took best supporting actress for her turn as his loopy wife.
"David, you write such amazing roles for women," Adams told the star-studded room as she accepted the award. She starred in Russell's 2010 The Fighter, while Lawrence won the best actress Oscar last year for his previous film, Silver Linings Playbook.
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