From left; Missi Pyle, Uggie the dog, Jean Dujardin, director Michel Hazanavicius… (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times )
Hollywood celebrated a foreign invasion at Sunday's Golden Globes, as films and television shows with a distinctly international pedigree collected many of the evening's prizes.
"The Artist," French filmmaker Michel Hazanavicius's ode to silent movies, was the night's top honoree, winning three awards. In the comedy or musical category, the black-and-white movie was named best picture, while Jean Dujardin was named actor for his performance as a silent film star made obsolete by the arrival of talkies. Ludovic Bource won for score.
"Je suis très, très heureux," — "I'm very, very happy" — Dujardin said backstage in his native French, which is more than he got to say in the nearly silent film.
A definitively American drama, Alexander Payne's "The Descendants," took home two awards in the drama category, best picture and actor for George Clooney, who played a befuddled father trying to connect with his daughters after his wife's boating accident.
"It's a coming of age film for a 50-year-old," said Clooney, who was also nominated for his work as a director on "Ides of March," but lost out to Martin Scorsese. "I think a lot of us have dealt with people like that."
The Golden Globes, which are voted on by the roughly 80 members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn., are somewhat unreliable Academy Awards forecasters — last year the Facebook drama "The Social Network" won the most Globes, but it was the British historical tale "The King's Speech" that cleaned up on Oscar night.
But Sunday night's ceremony at the Beverly Hilton Hotel did build momentum for some actors on the Oscar trail. Meryl Streep took home an actress statuette for her performance as former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher in "The Iron Lady"; Christopher Plummer won the trophy for supporting actor for "Beginners," in which he plays a septuagenarian gay widower who comes out; and Octavia Spencer was named supporting actress for her performance as a housekeeper in civil rights-era Mississippi in "The Help."
"The Artist," an old-fashioned melodrama which entered the night with six nominations, was joined in the winners circle by several other international productions: Scorsese won director for "Hugo," about an orphan in 1930s Paris, and Woody Allen collected a screenplay win for "Midnight in Paris." Three productions with strong British pedigrees were also honored — "My Week With Marilyn" (actress in a comedy or musical for Michelle Williams), "W.E." (original song) and "Downton Abbey" (TV miniseries). And in the animated feature category, Steven Spielberg's Belgian comic book adaptation "The Adventures of Tintin" won — becoming the first non-Pixar movie to do so.
The night's one expressly international category, foreign language film, was won by Iran's "A Separation." The international flair even extended to the podium chatter, as presenters Antonio Banderas and "Modern Family" star Sofia Vergara spoke Spanish to the crowd.
The Weinstein Co. — which is behind "The Artist," "The Iron Lady," "W.E." and "My Week With Marilyn" — had a strong night, collecting six awards. Several winners name-checked studio co-chairman Harvey Weinstein, with "The Artist" producer Thomas Langmann calling him "the boss," Madonna referring to him as "the punisher" and Meryl Streep even invoking the word "God."
On the TV side, the Globes tended toward critically acclaimed but little-watched shows with big stars, including Showtime's "Episodes" with Matt LeBlanc, Starz' "Boss" with Kelsey Grammer and — perhaps most surprisingly — HBO's "Enlightened" with Laura Dern. The latter has averaged barely 200,000 viewers, a paltry amount even by cable standards.
The lone exception to the go-small trend was ABC's smash sitcom "Modern Family," which finally won a Globe after losing out in the past to Fox's high-school singing show "Glee."
Another notable element of the show was the strong presence of minority honorees and presenters. Morgan Freeman received the honorary Cecil B. DeMille Award (which was presented by 84-year-old Sidney Poitier); Idris Elba was named actor in a TV series, miniseries or motion picture made for television for "Luther"; and Spencer was honored for "The Help."
In her acceptance speech, Spencer praised domestic workers past and present and quoted Martin Luther King Jr., saying: "All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance."
Backstage, she addressed some of the controversy surrounding the racial politics of "The Help," in which a young white woman inspires several black maids.