'Avatar,' 'Dexter,' 'Up,' James Cameron, Mo'Nique, Meryl Streep win Golden Globes

A look at the winners during the 2010 Golden Globe Awards ceremony.
By Hank Stuever
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, January 18, 2010

"Avatar," James Cameron's dreamy story of a turf war on a planet of blue humanoids, won best picture (drama) at the Golden Globes, and thankfully, the director did not proclaim himself king of this world or Pandora. "This is the best job in the world," he said, and then launched into a bit of an environmental sermon.

And where, you'd be right in asking, was the looniness? The unhingey-ness? What happened to the ribald Golden Globes we've come to count on?

That trademark feeling of bubbliness and disorganized bumbliness of Hollywood's lovably unpolished annual kickoff to awards season? Well, it was present here 'n' there.

But whatever hopes viewers held that host Ricky Gervais would have the stars rolling in the aisle at Sunday night's ceremony went largely unfulfilled from the minute he started taking crusty I-did-"The Office"-first jabs at Steve Carell. (And Gervais kept stumbling, thinking shameless self-promotion is hilarious shtick. Even in the final seconds, saying good night, he was promoting his upcoming HBO series.)

Robert Downey Jr. saved the Globes broadcast late in the game, accepting the award for best actor in a musical or comedy film for the lead in "Sherlock Holmes" and turning the idea of an acceptance speech on its head:

"I don't have anybody to thank, I'm sorry it's all so gratuitous," Downey said. "They needed me. 'Avatar' was going to take us to the cleaners." He then went on to comically "not thank" the studio, producers and managers (who have "only restarted my career 12 times since I began") and his wife ("because I could be busing tables at the Daily Grill right now.")

If not packed with zingers, the evening did come through with a few nice moments in the acceptance speeches.

There was a humbled and grizzled Jeff Bridges on a comeback high with a best actor award (in dramatic film) for "Crazy Heart." ("You're really screwing up my underappreciated status," Bridges told the audience during a long, sweet ovation, and then thanked his wife of 33 years, Susan.) There was a heartfelt Meryl Streep holding her seventh Golden Globe (for "Julie & Julia") and reconciling her "happy movie self" with a world in trouble. And there was the inspiring gratitude of Mo'Nique.

Early on, Mo'Nique practically stole the evening with a teary speech after winning a best supporting actress award for her role as an abusive mother named Mary Jones in the movie "Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire." She spoke out for abuse victims: "I celebrate this with all the Preciouses, all the Marys -- every person who's ever been touched, it's now time to tell, and it's okay," she said.

In the television categories, awards went to Fox's newcomer "Glee" for best musical or comedy series (which creator Ryan Murphy dedicated to "anybody who ever got a wedgie in high school") and to perennial trophy-collector "Mad Men" for best drama series.

Alec Baldwin got best musical/comedy TV actor for "30 Rock" and Julianna Margulies won for "The Good Wife" in the actress category for TV drama -- and thanked CBS executives for "believing in the 10 o'clock drama" -- one of the evening's many digs at NBC's Leno/Conan debacle.

With a roomful of stars wearing red-and-gold ribbons, passing mention was made of last week's earthquake in Haiti, which has killed tens of thousands.

In her acceptance speech, Streep recalled the positive attitude of her mother, who, she said, would have scolded her in Julia Child-like manner for feeling "gloom and doom" at an awards ceremony while elsewhere, the world suffers. "Put on a smile," Streep said her mother might tell her, "and be grateful that you have the dollars to help and the next day, and the next day, and the next day."

Add Gervais to a long list of rogues who are chosen to break barriers as awards-show hosts and fall a tad flat. He made jokes about NBC, of course: "I'm not used to these sort of viewing figures," he said. "Let's face it, neither is NBC." He also made jokes about plastic surgery ("I've had a penis reduction," he said, "just got the one now") and masturbation ("I wish I was doing that now instead of this").

Tom Hanks had one of the best jabs of the night, as he presented "Julie & Julia" as the movie in which Streep "does not sleep with Alec Baldwin, but -- with Stanley Tucci. By any measure, a substantial move up."

Gervais, perking up (and drinking up), lifted a glass of nicety to the audience as the third hour of the show began. "I like to drink as much as the next man," he said. "Unless the next man is Mel Gibson."

People always say the Globes are more fun to watch than the Oscars because the Globes serve booze, but that's only part of it. (People get tipsy at the Oscars, too -- in the greenrooms, if they like.) What the Globes do best is to inappropriately mingle two mediums (film and television) and mash up the A, B and C lists of current celebrityhood.

Because it tries to do too much, doling out too many awards in too small of a space that is jampacked with famous people and breaking in far too often for commercials, the Golden Globes show is always rife with flubs and skips and oopsies -- such as Felicity Huffman trying and failing to explain, from a prepared script that seemed to have been loaded backwards into her teleprompter, what the heck the Hollywood Foreign Press Association even is.

No one ever quite knows. ("One thing that can't be bought is a Golden Globe -- officially," Gervais joked, to the audience's mock gasps. "Oh, I'm not going to do this again anyway," he added.)

Here's as good a place as any to do my skeptical duty and remind the viewers that the Golden Globe Awards are something of a permanent Tinseltown sham, overseen by a very small, insular group of people known as the Hollywood Foreign Press Association -- which exists mainly to put on this awards show. You got a problem with that?

The last remaining purists of entertainment journalism (all two of them) do, and I guess I did, too, until I had to just let go of it. The Globes exist as a party, a television show. They've gone from awards-season appetizer to being their own sort of entree, simply because they're a guilty pleasure.

If it's idiocy you wanted, it was outside before the show started, in a rainy red-carpet, hairdo-ruining arrival scene at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. The stars made serious-sad grimaces of celebrity concern as they displayed their Haiti remembrance ribbons, and then name-checked the designers of their cost-free formalwear and loaner jewels, while NBC urged us all at home to sign up for Chase Bank's new "Sapphire" credit card (no relation to "Push," the novel of "Precious," by Sapphire).

"You play a serial killer in 'The Lovely Bones,' " NBC's red-carpet show co-host Natalie Morales said to Stanley Tucci. "I should stand way back from you."

"It's fine, it was all pretend," Tucci deadpanned, looking at her like some kind of fruit bat.

"I know," Morales said.

Yes, alas, it's red carpet time in America again.

"What happens if a bunch of water hits that hair?" Billy Bush, NBC's other tux monkey of the evening, asked Sandra Bullock.

"Chia pet," she replied.

"NBC, you guys are in the toilet, right now," Julia Roberts told Bush.

"We're standing in the rain like a couple of -- two idiots," George Clooney said to Bush.

Idiocy is always among the best reasons to watch this show. You just wish more of it had taken place inside.

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