In any other year, it would have been a glittering night for British talent at Hollywood's Golden Globes: acting prizes for Julie Christie and Daniel Day-Lewis, Ricky Gervais's Extras named the best comedy on television, and the biggest recognition of all, the award for best dramatic picture, going to Atonement, Joe Wright's adaptation of an Ian McEwan novel.
Because of the Hollywood writers' strike, though, the glitter was glaringly absent. No red carpet, no dinner, no teary eyed speeches, no stars in designer dresses or, indeed, any stars at all. The three-hour affair was reduced to a paltry list of announcements, jammed into 30 minutes flat and read out by an assortment of American entertainment show hosts doing their best to pretend they were still having a great time – in a Beverly Hills hotel ballroom holding more PR flacks and security men than invited guests.
The first award – a sign that someone, somewhere still had a sense of humour – went to Cate Blanchett for her supporting role in the unconventional Bob Dylan biopic I'm Not There. Sure enough, she wasn't there.
Neither was Javier Bardem, winner for his turn as a psychotic hitman of uncertain ethnic origin in the Coen brothers' bleakly brilliant No Country For Old Men, or Marion Cotillard, whose Edith Piaf has been the talk of the festival circuit for months, or any of the other winners.
Where the red carpet should have been, a small army of parking valets swooped hungrily on every arriving vehicle – four-door sedans belonging to entertainment journalists, mostly, with not a limo in sight. Inside, a metal detector optimistically hinted that someone there was worth attacking or killing. Fat chance.
A series of negotiation breakdowns ensured that the normal ceremony would be cancelled, then that the NBC television network would lose its exclusive right to broadcast the replacement news conference, then that the writers would not even bother to grace the event with a picket.
For the victorious Brits, it was a lost opportunity to promote films that now risk being lost in the shuffle – the beautiful independent Canadian film Away From Her, in which Julie Christie plays a woman whose long marriage comes in for a startling reassessment when she lapses into senile dementia, and the tough period piece There Will Be Blood, in which Daniel Day-Lewis plays an unscrupulous Californian oil baron under Paul Thomas Anderson's bravura direction.
Atonement is a little different, since it has garnered plenty of attention in other quarters. But it, too, is likely to suffer at the box office. Tim Bevan, the Working Title chief who produced the film, was clearly itching to deliver a thank you speech yesterday, but was reduced to sending one out by email. "We want to thank the Hollywood Foreign Press for this award," he said.
The Hollywood Foreign Press Association – the oddball collection of mostly freelance journalists whose little awards show became a major cash cow thanks to the television licensing rights – was meanwhile licking its wounds from the loss of millions of dollars in advertising revenue.
But one writer, Sharon Waxman, said in the Los Angeles Times that this year was also an opportunity to reassess the lopsided importance of the association. She argued the awards should be determined by a bona fide group of full-time journalists and critics, not just a few dozen part-timers.
And the winners are...
* Best motion picture (drama): Atonement
* Best performance by an actress in a motion picture (drama): Julie Christie – Away From Her, below
* Best performance by an actor in a motion picture (drama): Daniel Day-Lewis – There Will Be Blood
* Best director: Julian Schnabel – The Diving Bell And The Butterfly
* Best motion picture (musical or comedy): Sweeney Todd
* Best performance by an actress in a motion picture (musical or comedy): Marion Cotillard – La Vie En Rose
* Best performance by an actor in a motion picture (musical or comedy): Johnny Depp – Sweeney Todd
* Best performance by a supporting actress in a motion picture: Cate Blanchett – I'm Not There
* Best performance by a supporting actor in a motion picture: Javier Bardem – No Country For Old Men
* Best screenplay: Ethan Coen and Joel Coen – No Country For Old Men
* Best animated feature film: Ratatouille
* Best foreign language film: The Diving Bell And The Butterfly (France, US)
* Best original score: Dario Marianelli – Atonement
* Best original song: Guaranteed – Into The Wild
* Best drama series: Mad Men
* Best actress (drama): Glenn Close – Damages
* Best actor (drama): Jon Hamm – Mad Men
* Best musical or comedy series: Extras
* Best musical or comedy actress: Tina Fey – 30 Rock
* Best musical or comedy actor: David Duchovny – Californication
* Best mini-series or movie: Longford
* Best actress in a mini-series or movie: Queen Latifah – Life Support
* Best actor in a mini-series or movie: Jim Broadbent – Longford
* Best supporting actress in a series, mini-series or movie: Samantha Morton – Longford
* Best Supporting Actor in a series, mini-series or movie: Jeremy Piven – Entourage