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Analysis: Predictable Golden Globes Honor "Avatar"

Photo of Peter Knegt By Peter Knegt | Indiewire January 18, 2010 at 4:07AM

James Cameron's "Avatar" prevailed over a generally conservative and populist batch of winners at the 67th Golden Globe Awards - winning awards for both best picture drama and best director. Smaller films like "The Hurt Locker" and even "Up In The Air" (which did manage a screenplay honor) were mostly shut out, making room for a star-studded parade of Globe winners, from Sandra Bullock to Meryl Streep to Robert Downey Jr.
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James Cameron's "Avatar" prevailed over a generally conservative and populist batch of winners at the 67th Golden Globe Awards - winning awards for both best picture drama and best director. Smaller films like "The Hurt Locker" and even "Up In The Air" (which did manage a screenplay honor) were mostly shut out, making room for a star-studded parade of Globe winners, from Sandra Bullock to Meryl Streep to Robert Downey Jr.

While "Avatar"'s big win definitely further suggests it may be the frontrunner for Oscar's top prize, the Globes don't have an impeccable track record in predicting it. "Slumdog Millionaire" did top both ceremonies last year, but that was the first time since 2003 (when "The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King" won both). "The Hurt Locker" and "Up In The Air," despite their losses here, both genuinely remain in the Oscar race.

indieWIRE has a complete list of winners. "Avatar," Pixar produced "Up," and Scott Cooper's "Crazy Heart" were the only multiple winners.

The night's biggest surprises came with two somewhat laughable winners - "The Hangover" as best picture (musical or comedy), and "Sherlock Holmes"' Robert Downey Jr. for best actor in a musical or comedy. While both races were highly contested by prognosticators, neither winner was seen as the frontrunner. "Hangover"'s win made for the first time in history that both Globe best picture winners had grossed over $200 million. In fact, the combined North American gross of "Avatar" and "The Hangover" is well over $750 million.

Ricky Gervais - the ceremony's first MC in 15 years - spent a good chunk of his monologue boldly taking digs both at NBC (who is airing the ceremony) and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (who put on the awards).

"I will be making the most of this," Gervais said. "I'm not used to these viewing figures -- let's face it, nor is NBC."

Later, Gervais joked: "One thing that can't be bought is a Golden Globe. Well, not officially... Ha, I'm not going to do this again anyway. So if you were to buy one, the man to see is [Hollywood Foreign Press Association president] Phillip Berk."

The first winner of the night came as Nicole Kidman - after making the first of the night's many mentions to the tragedy in Haiti - announced that "Precious"'s Mo'Nique had expectedly won in the best supporting actress category.

"I'm shaking," Mo'Nique said, before tearfully thanking her husband, her co-stars and "Precious"'s director Lee Daniels in a passionate speech that should go a long way with Oscar voters (television winner Drew Barrymore later thanked Mo'Nique in her own speech for "setting the bar so high"). "I'm in the midst of my dream. First let me say, thank you God for this amazing ride that you're allowing me to go on. Lee Daniels - the world gets a chance to see how brilliant you are... Thank you for trusting me to be Mary Jones in this movie. To Gabby, sister I am in awe of you. Thank you for letting me play with you."

Thompson on Hollywood's Anne Thompson caught some words from Mo'Nique backstage at the awards.

“So often times we live a lifetime with those demons not really dealing with it,” Thompson quoted her as saying with regard to people dealing with the wounds of abuse. “So we continue to have a damaged life, and it is time to stop that. It is time for us to heal and be survivors and no longer be victims… I don’t know to say me winning has a great importance on what the message is. I think the message is far more important than anything…if that one life was changed, we won. So that message is more important than anything.”

Additional expected winners came with Meryl Streep winning best actress in a comedy or musical for "Julie & Julia," and "Inglourious Basterds" villain Christoph Waltz winning the best supporting actor category.

"Quentin made a big bang of a movie," Waltz said. "I wouldn't have dared to dream that my little world - my globe - would be part of that consellation. And now you made it golden. Thank you very, very much."

Streep won her seventh Golden Globe at the ceremony for her work in "Julie & Julia," giving yet another classic speech that blended humor and emotion seamlessly.

"I want to change my name to T-Bone," she joked upon taking the stage. "T-Bone Streep. I think it sounds good."

Streep then eloquently dedicated her award to her mother and her impatience "for doom and gloom," subtly referencing the Haitian tragedy as she held back tears (watch the speech here).

Anne Thompson also caught Streep backstage, where she said the role of women in Hollywood is improving. “Sandra Bullock is 45,” Thompson quoted her as saying. “The perception is better for her than it was for me at her age."

Streep is seen as the frontrunner for an Oscar this year for her work on "Julia," though it is Bullock who seems all of a sudden to be her toughest competition. "The Blind Side"'s star also won tonight - in the drama category - while the two of them tied at Friday night's Critics Choice Awards.

One of the night's relative upsets (though it was certainly not shocking) came when - as previously noted - James Cameron beat his ex-wife Kathryn Bigelow in the best director category. Cameron himself seemed even surprised.

"Frankly, I'm not prepared because I thought Kathryn was going to win," he said, before giving a geeky speech that included him speaking the made-up alien language featured in "Avatar." "And she richly deserves it."

Bigelow is still generally seen as the frontrunner for the best directing Oscar. She actually wouldn't have been the first woman to win this category at the Globes had she won. Barbara Streisand won back in 1983 for "Yentl."

Michael Haneke's "The White Ribbon" won the Globe for best foreign language film over fellow Sony Pictures Classics releases Jacques Audiard's "A Prophet" and Pedro Almodovar's "Broken Embraces."

"I don't know with my little English and my jetlag to express how impressed I am," Haneke said. "But trust me I am."

Haneke then thanked Sony Classics heads Michael Barker and Tom Bernard before premarturely being rushed off the stage by the house music.

"Ribbon" will again face off against "A Prophet" as two of the most anticipated nominees in the Academy's foreign language race (though nothing is certain in that regard).

Other major Globe winners included "Crazy Heart"'s Jeff Bridges, who beat out George Clooney and Colin Firth in the best actor - drama category, and Pixar's "Up" for both best animated feature and best original score. Sir Paul McCartney (who lost the award for best original song to "Crazy Heart"'s T-Bone Burnett and Ryan Bingham) presented the former, joking: “Animation is not just for children. It’s also for adults who take drugs."

Get the complete list of winners here.

This article is related to: Golden Globes





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