On Monday night, it was a little of both.
One heavy Academy Award favorite, the musical "Dreamgirls," captured three trophies in the 64th annual award show, including best musical or comedy. For a movie that has started to struggle at the box office, the win couldn't have come at a better time.
"I'm sure we'll be advertising it in about 10 seconds," "Dreamgirls' " producer, Laurence Mark, said in collecting his best picture prize.
"Babel," an interlocking tale of four different crises, was named best dramatic motion picture, and although the win was mildly surprising, neither that nor the triumphs of "Dreamgirls" made for terribly entertaining television. But that void was filled by "Borat" star Sacha Baron Cohen.
After winning the Globe for best comedic actor, Cohen cleverly riffed on his film's most memorable scene, a naked wrestling match between his character, a Kazakh journalist, and his "300-pound" costar. His description of the film's hallmark sequence skirted the threshold of good taste, but his dry delivery brought the house down.
"This movie was a life-changing experience," he said, soberly. "I saw some amazing, invigorating parts of America. I saw some dark parts of America and some ugly parts of America. Some parts of America that have rarely seen the light of day. I refer, of course, to the anus and testicles of my costar, Kenneth Davitian. Ken, when I was in that scene ... I thought to myself, 'I better win a bloody award for this.' "
Even before he was named best comedic actor, Cohen was among the most popular performers in the Beverly Hilton Hotel — no small feat when Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio and George Clooney are in the room. "ER's" John Stamos cornered the British comedian with an unprintable sex story.
Get breaking news alerts delivered to your mobile phone. Text BREAKING to 52669. You will receive up to 30 msgs/mo. Msg&data rates may apply. Text HELP for help. Text STOP to cancel.
"Dreamgirls" won the first award of the evening — best supporting actress going to Jennifer Hudson, who played the film's estranged singer Effie White. The film's chances of completely running the Golden Globes tables were ruined with the very next trophy, when original song went to Prince's "The Song of the Heart" from "Happy Feet." Being an eccentric rock star, Prince arrived at the award show too late to claim his Golden Globe statuette onstage.
Eddie Murphy didn't miss his call — the comedian was named best supporting actor for his "Dreamgirls" turn as the James Brown-esque performer James "Thunder" Early.
As "Dreamgirls" began rolling up awards, its table became a hub of celebration. News Corp. chieftain Rupert Murdoch cruised by to give the film's backer, David Geffen, a clap on the shoulder. Jay-Z and Beyoncé Knowles exchanged nods with Jack Nicholson. Hudson clutched her trophy and shook hands with well-wishers until her wrists hurt. Helen Mirren had a hand in four Golden Globe victories. The British actress was named best dramatic actress for "The Queen" and received the best actress in a miniseries or TV movie for "Elizabeth I," which also was named best miniseries. Peter Morgan, the screenwriter of "The Queen," captured that trophy.
Forest Whitaker was named best dramatic actor for "The Last King of Scotland," while Meryl Streep was picked as best comedic actress for "The Devil Wears Prada."
For the first time, the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. presented an animated feature award, which "Cars" won.
Clint Eastwood's Japanese-language "Letters From Iwo Jima," which is quickly eclipsing his "Flags of Our Fathers" in awards momentum, was named best foreign-language film. "The Painted Veil's" Alexandre Desplat took the original score honors.A number of top Globes went to more mainstream movies. And while the awards are far from reliable predictors of the Oscars, they did help cement the Academy Award chances for several films.
Martin Scorsese, who has never won an Academy Award (but did win a Golden Globe for "Gangs of New York"), won the directing trophy for "The Departed."
With just 88 voters who write for publications most people have never heard of (foreign press association journalists hail from Estonia, Bulgaria and the United Arab Emirates, among other countries), the Golden Globes are hardly as prestigious as Academy Awards. But Hollywood, broadcast television and the news media have turned the annual award show into an inevitable — and ever-expanding — monsoon.
Because of its small voting membership, a Golden Globe can be won with just 19 votes, and since its film awards are presented in two categories — dramas, and musicals/comedies — the odds of winning a trophy are not particularly long. And typical of its reputation for self-indulgence, the show paused so that the Golden Globes could salute its own members.
The reputation of the foreign press voters was even the butt of a joke from one of the award presenters. When Tom Hanks came out to give Warren Beatty the Cecil B. DeMille honorary award, he said of the Golden Globe voters: "They're nuts. They're cuckoo. They're scary. They're very scary."
It was a backhanded way of thanking the Globe voters for singling out Beatty in 1962 as the most promising newcomer (the HFPA infamously gave a similar award to Pia Zadora 20 years later).
Monday night, the biggest beneficiary of the Globes' largess was "Dreamgirls," which had recently started to falter at the multiplex. The musical more than doubled its theatrical release last weekend — moving from 852 to 1,907 screens — but its ticket sales actually decreased.
"Borat" has done much better at theaters, with domestic ticket sales of $126.7 million to date. The movie has thus far successfully dodged a number of lawsuits filed by people who claim they were duped into appearing in the film. "Thank you to every American," Cohen said as he left the stage, "who has not sued me so far."