Weinstein rules the Globes as Brits play a supporting role

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Gilded trophy in hand, and with applause ringing in her ears, Meryl Streep neatly crystalised the big story at Sunday's Golden Globes. "I'd like to thank my agent," she declared, after picking up a new Best Actress gong to add to her collection. "And also God: Harvey Weinstein."

There was no better way to sum things up, as the Hollywood awards season's annual curtain-raiser was dominated neither by a single film, nor even film star, but by Mr Weinstein, the producer behind a swathe of winning movies.

It was Weinstein's The Artist, a silent, black-and-white drama set in the early days of the film industry, which walked off with the biggest haul: three trophies including Best Musical or Comedy, and Best Actor for its previously unknown French star, Jean Dujardin.

It was also Weinstein's The Iron Lady and My Week With Marilyn which won the main categories for actresses. Streep was honoured for her portrayal of Margaret Thatcher, while Michelle Williams won for playing Marilyn Monroe.

Even his supposed turkeys seemed to come good. Madonna sung Weinstein's praises after receiving the Best Original Song for a track from W.E., her film about Wallis Simpson.

Most of the honoured films can expect a jump in their audience figures as the race for next month's Oscars heats up, cementing an extraordinary turnaround for the independent producer. Three years ago, Weinstein flirted with bankruptcy. Now things couldn't seem rosier. The Artist, made for $15m (£9.8m), has already made $27m.

The evening's other big winner was George Clooney, whose critically acclaimed drama The Descendants won both Best Drama and Best Actor for his leading-man performance.

Golden Globes aren't necessarily a cast-iron precursor to Oscar success but the event does usually narrow the race down to two or three contenders. This year, the waters seem muddy.

For Britain, it was an underwhelming night. Ricky Gervais, the event's host, was a shadow of the combative figure who presided over last year's event, while home-grown actors, directors and titles were shut out from every film category.

It was left to our TV industry to salvage some pride. Kate Winslet won for her performance in the mini-series Mildred Pierce, while Idris Elba was rewarded for the BBC's Luther and Downton Abbey was named Best Mini-Series.

The big winners

Best Motion Picture, Drama: The Descendants

Best Motion Picture, Comedy: The Artist

Best Actress, Drama: Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady

Best Actor, Drama: George Clooney, The Descendants

Best Actress, Comedy or Musical: Michelle Williams, My Week with Marilyn

Best Actor, Comedy or Musical: Jean Dujardin, The Artist

Best Director, Motion Picture: Matin Scorsese, Hugo

Gags, gowns and gaffes: The other side of the Globes

Susannah Frankel and Adam Sherwin

Best one-liner

Ricky Gervais to Johnny Depp: "I want to ask you a question, and be honest – are you on recreational drugs? I'm joking, that's not the question. We know the answer. Have you seen The Tourist yet?"

Bad night

Red carpet specialists E! Entertainment infuriated UK viewers by repeatedly cutting from Gervais's opening monologue and the awards to adverts for The Kardashians.

Good night

Heritage Britain equals classy for the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, who loved Downton Abbey. But US stars won for UK-set dramas My Week With Marilyn and The Iron Lady.

Best-dressed woman

The designer fashion industry should present Tilda Swinton with an award all her own for daring to wear clothes that might actually appear on a runway instead of opting for the safest made-for-the-red-carpet bet. The actress should be applauded, too, for managing to make powder blue – among the more challenging shades of the new season – appear credible. The preternaturally long and lean silhouette comes courtesy of her friend, the designer Haider Ackermann, and Swinton's hair makes her appear taller still. Only a fool would want to mess with this heavenly creature.

Biggest loser

No late dash for the Oscar altar from box office hit Bridesmaids, which missed out on Best Motion Picture Comedy and Best Actress for Kristen Wiig, right. Observers said the failure of co-star Melissa McCarthy, above, to show up at a Hollywood Foreign Press Association event ruined her chances.

Best-dressed couple

Let those who Hollywood hath joined together, let no awards ceremony commentary put asunder... Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie look like the most enviably beautiful wedding cake figurines. It's no mean feat to design a red carpet gown that appears this uncluttered and contemporary – La Jolie has Donatella Versace to thank for that. As for the perfect match of lipstick, bag and trim... she's a 21st-century Grace Kelly in the making. Regarding recent quibbling over Pitt's flowing tresses and salt and pepper beard, meanwhile... One question: which man on the planet wouldn't want to be him?

Best speech

Christopher Plummer accepted the Best Supporting Actor prize for Beginners with dignity and sly humour. The Canadian, 82, thanked co-star Ewan McGregor, "that wily Scot. That scene-stealing swine." Plummer is tipped to repeat his performance at the Oscars.

Worst speech

Madonna's stumbling performance ran her close but Kate Winslet still grasped her prize like a hyperventilating schoolgirl. The orchestra interrupted, prompting Gervais to remind winners that only God and their agents should be credited for their good fortune.

Best actor's support

Who wouldn't want to attend a night of LA debauchery with Ned Rocknroll on their arm? Kate Winslet gave her new boyfriend, Sir Richard Branson's nephew, his first public airing. Mr Rocknroll changed his surname from Smith.

Most laboured gag

Gervais's attempted joke that Madonna can no longer act "Like a Virgin" was made worse by the 53-year-old star's scripted reply: "If I'm still a virgin, Ricky, then why don't you come over here and do something about it?" Critics agreed that Gervais failed to scale the scabrous heights of last year's performance.

Worst-dressed man

Shame on Michael Fassbender who may be among the most handsome actors but that doesn't excuse this suit. It's suspiciously shiny, which tends to mean cheap unless, of course, it applies to vintage Helmut Lang. It's even more tight-fitting: a woman bursting out of a closely cut cardigan might be cute but a man whose jacket tugs at his waist in such a manner is plain uncouth. It looks like he got dressed in the dark, having just got out of bed ... Nasty and, come to think of it, apposite in a life mimicking art kind of way, and maybe therefore not such a bad look after all.

Worst-dressed woman

The choice of Reem Acra on the part of Madonna is bizarre. One can only assume that it represents some sort of stab at New York socialite conformity but it backfires. Over-embellished, novelty loo-roll holder of a dress aside, all is just as it should be with the oversized jewelled crucifix and fingerless black leather gloves (Chanel, presumably). You can take the girl out of red hot fox territory but you can't take the red hot fox out of the girl.

Best grimace

At least Madonna didn't mime when accepting the Best Song prize for "Masterpiece" from W.E. But Sir Elton John looked aggrieved at the snub for his song "Hello Hello", from animated film Gnomeo and Juliet.

Best comeback

Six wins for the film mogul nicknamed "God", including The Artist, The Iron Lady and My Week With Marilyn, confirmed that Harvey Weinstein is on the Oscar trail again. Looked delighted when Madonna, whose W.E. is another Weinstein production, described the power-broker as "the Punisher".

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