Golden Globes 2014: A night of glitz and glitch

A brown red carpet, swearing winners and loopy acceptance speeches... Tim Walker marvels at the boozing and the botch-ups at this year's Golden Globes while Rebecca Gonsalves says that at least they looked nice

The Golden Globes are an anomaly among major film awards: decided not by an industry body, such as the Academy, but by the Hollywood Foreign Press, a group of some 90 non-American journalists routinely accused of corruption and of pandering to the industry's most prominent stars.

The ceremony itself can be a ramshackle affair by Hollywood standards, not least because its attendees can drink, and do – a lot. Sunday evening saw teleprompter glitches, presenters forgetting their glasses (nice recovery, Matt Damon), and winners taking what seemed like forever to find their way to the stage, because the seating planners had bafflingly placed them at the back of the room.

The first sign that this was not quite like Oscar night came before the stellar attendees had even begun to arrive for the ceremony at the Beverly Hilton in Los Angeles, when black, stinking water began to pour onto the red carpet, and onto several appalled showbiz journalists. The spray was later identified as a sprinkler set off by an overheated lighting rig.

Once the guests and their gowns had navigated the now-brown carpet, they were treated to a 10-minute opening duologue from second-time hosts Amy Poehler and Tina Fey, who revealed that "The original title of [American Hustle] was Explosion at the Wig Factory", that "For his role in Dallas Buyers Club, [Matthew McConaughey] lost 45 pounds, or what actresses call 'being in a movie'", and that Gravity is "the story of how George Clooney would rather float away into space and die than spend one more minute with a woman his own age".

The Golden Globes are unique in presenting awards to film and television in the same evening, which can lead to a few "who?" moments. Yet not so much "who?" as "WTF?" was the lengthy, loopy acceptance speech from Brit Jacqueline Bisset, accepting one of the first gongs of the evening, for Best Supporting Actress in a Series, Miniseries or TV Film, for the BBC drama, Dancing on the Edge. Her speech was also notable for the censors' failure to bleep a profanity. "I want to thank the people who've given me joy, and there have been many!" Bisset said. "The people who've given me shit, I say, like my mother… used to say, 'Go to hell and don't come back'."

As the booze flowed and the evening wore on, the weird moments came thick and fast. P Diddy, presenting two musical awards, tried to muscle in on their acceptance speeches: U2 rushed the stage to take their prize for Best Original Song, "Ordinary Love", from Mandela, and Diddy tried and failed to embrace an unreceptive Bono. Then, as singer-songwriter Alex Ebert accepted the award for Best Original Soundtrack, Diddy decided to mention that Ebert had once come aboard his yacht in St Barth's. Ebert's soundtrack was for All Is Lost, about a sailor alone and adrift in the open ocean. Would that the same fate might befall Diddy.

Though Emma Thompson didn't triumph in the Best Actress category, she surely took home the honours for Best Presenter: Louboutin heels in one hand, Martini glass in the other, she was either drunk or – equally likely – acting drunk. A searing performance.

Rivalling Thompson for potential inebriation, and Bisset for plain weirdness, was Diane Keaton, who accepted the Cecil B DeMille lifetime achievement award on behalf of her friend Woody Allen, concluding her speech with an a cappella rendition of the Girl Scouts song, "Make New Friends". Over on Twitter, Mia Farrow announced that she was going to "grab some ice cream & switch over to #Girls" rather than watch the tribute to Allen, her former husband.

One recurring criticism of the Golden Globes is its division of film categories into "Drama" and "Musical or Comedy" – a false distinction, particularly apparent in this year's crop of nominees. Accepting the award for Best Actor (Musical or Comedy) for his performance in Martin Scorsese's Wolf of Wall Street, Leonardo DiCaprio wryly praised his "fellow comedians": Christian Bale, Bruce Dern, Oscar Isaac and Joaquin Phoenix.

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