The sound of silence: 'The Artist' triumphs at The Golden Globes

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Los Angeles

The old adage about silence being golden was certainly true in Hollywood last night, after The Artist, a silent, black-and-white movie by a little-known French director emerged with three trophies at the 69th annual Golden Globe awards.

Nine months after it debuted at Cannes, the unlikely hit about a star from the early days of the modern film industry struggling to cope with the arrival of “talkies” picked up awards for Best Comedy or Musical, Best Score, and Best Actor in a Comedy or Musical for its male lead, Jean Dujardin.

Its success continues a rags-to-riches story for the team behind the movie, which was made for a relatively paltry $15m. With more wins than any other title, they hope to maintain important momentum as the awards “season” bandwagon continues its lucrative annual journey towards next month’s Oscars.

Yet The Artist did not have things entirely its own way during the ceremony at the Beverly Hilton in Los Angeles. Also stealing headlines, to the surprise of pundits, was the George Clooney film The Descendants, which won Best Drama and Best Actor in a Drama, two of the night’s most sought-after prizes.

Unlike in most recent years, when voters have tended to congregate around one or two fancied titles, a relatively-wide selection of big name contenders scored in the other major categories. Martin Scorsese won Best Director for Hugo and Woody Allen took home the Best Screenplay prize for Midnight in Paris. Another Hollywood legend, Steven Spielberg, won Best Animation for his new Tintin adaptation.

Remaining acting gongs were distributed among an array of yet more movies. Meryl Streep was honoured for her portrayal of Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady, while Michelle Williams won in the “comedy category” for her Marilyn Monroe in for My Week With Marilyn. Christopher Plummer (Beginners), and Octavia Spencer (The Help) achieved success in the supporting actor categories.

The sheer number of different titles which took home awards leaves industry soothsayers with a confusing picture in the weeks ahead. Golden Globes aren’t usually a cast iron guide to Oscar success (only one Globe winner in the past seven years had gone on to win Best Picture at the Academy Awards) but the event does at least usually help crystallise the race around two or three contenders.

This year, by contrast, the field remains relatively open. Indeed, the only consistent winner from the night’s proceedings was Harvey Weinstein, the producer behind the campaigns of not only The Artist but also The Iron Lady and My Week With Marilyn, all of which are now expected to experience a significant boost to their box office returns.

The night's other talking point is likely to be the performance of the host, the British comedian Ricky Gervais. Though not nearly as abrasive as last year, when his facetious attacks on the celebrity audience bruised some of the entertainment industry’s biggest egos, he nonetheless succeeded in ruffling a selection of high-profile feathers in the relatively-short period when he appeared on stage.

In his opening monologue, Gervais attacked the integrity of the Golden Globes – a sore point in that its judges have in the past been accused of exchanging cash or favours for their votes – and described NBC, the troubled TV network airing the show, as a “non-profit” organisation. He also directed what some saw as a homophobic gag at Jodie Foster, the lesbian actress, who co-starred with Mel Gibson in the film The Beaver. “Jodie Foste’s Beaver,” he remarked, “I haven't seen it myself. I've spoken to a lot of guys here, they haven't seen it either.“

Later, he became involved in a minor dispute with Madonna, who won Best Original Song, after suggesting that the title of her famous song “Like A Virgin” is at odds with her colourful romantic life. The singer responded: “Ricky, if I am just like a virgin why don’t you come over here and do something about it?”

His final gift to broadcasters, who air the programme in primetime on America’s notoriously-sensitive public airwaves, was to swear while discussing the Spanish-speaking Salma Hayek and Antonio Banderas. His comment (“I don't know because I can't understand a fucking word they're saying“) was bleeped out.

Meryl Streep's microphone was also briefly cut when she swore during her acceptance speech. Afterwards she blamed the slip on the fact that she had forgot to bring her glasses onstage and so couldn’t read a pre-prepared speech. “I can’t believe I said ‘shit’ on TV. I had such a good speech and here it is,“ she said, pointing to her piece of paper. ”I just can’t see it at all.”

British talent and titles were shut out from every film category. But it was a slightly better evening for the nation's TV industry. Kate Winslet won for the third successful year for her performance in the mini-series Mildred Pierce, while Idris Elba was rewarded for his starring role in the BBC’s Luther.

Meanwhile Downtown Abbey, which began its second series in the US last week to critical acclaim and massive audiences, was named Best Miniseries. Its creator Julian Fellowes, who took the stage with most of his cast, declared: ““How fabulous this is,” said series creator Julian Fellowes. “The whole Downton Abbey adventure has been an extraordinary one, like spotting a promising child and waking up to find they won the Olympics.”

Partial list of winners for the Golden Globes

Winners of the 69th annual Golden Globe Awards, announced Sunday in Beverly Hills, California:

Motion Pictures:

Picture, Musical or Comedy: “The Artist.”

Actress, Drama: Meryl Streep, “The Iron Lady.”

Director: Martin Scorsese, “Hugo.”

Actor, Musical or Comedy: Jean Dujardin, “The Artist.”

Actress, Musical or Comedy: Michelle Williams, “My Week With Marilyn.”

Supporting Actor: Christopher Plummer, “Beginners.”

Supporting Actress: Octavia Spencer, “The Help.”

Foreign Language: “A Separation.”

Animated Film: “The Adventures of Tintin.”

Screenplay: Woody Allen, “Midnight in Paris.”

Original Score: Ludovic Bource, “The Artist.”

Original Song: “Masterpiece” (music and lyrics by Madonna, Julie Frost, Jimmy Harry), “W.E.”

Television:

Series, Drama: “Homeland,” Showtime.

Series, Musical or Comedy: “Modern Family,” ABC.

Actor, Drama: Kelsey Grammer, “Boss.”

Actress, Drama: Claire Danes, “Homeland.”

Actress, Musical or Comedy: Laura Dern, “Enlightened.”

Actor, Musical or Comedy: Matt LeBlanc, “Episodes.”

Miniseries or Movie: “Downton Abbey (Masterpiece),” PBS.

Actress, Miniseries or Movie: Kate Winslet, “Mildred Pierce.”

Actor, Miniseries or Movie: Idris Elba, “Luther.”

Supporting Actress, Series, Miniseries or Movie: Jessica Lange, “American Horror Story.”

Supporting Actor, Series, Miniseries or Movie: Peter Dinklage, “Game of Thrones.”

Previously announced:

Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award: Morgan Freeman.

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