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The small, often eccentric electorate at the Golden Globes sprung a few surprises last night, but Richard Linklater's Boyhood still seems confident in its march towards a best picture award at the Oscars. That extraordinary drama, following its hero over 12 years of adolescence, won three major awards during the ceremony at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Los Angeles.
Boyhood took best dramatic picture, Linklater won best director and Patricia Arquette, who plays the protagonist's mother, grabbed the Globe for best supporting actor. "I want to dedicate this to parents that are evolving everywhere and families that are just passing through this world and doing their best," Linklater said at the podium.
Wes Anderson's Grand Budapest Hotel was the surprise winner of best musical or comedy. Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's Birdman had been the runway favourite in that category, but, in the event, that innovative backstage drama had to be content with best screenplay and, for Michael Keaton, the best actor in a comedy or musical. "I couldn't remember a time when my father wasn't working two jobs," Keaton said before blubbing convincingly.
Awards watchers made note of that fact that — maybe disrupting Hollywood's tedious practice of holding back all "awards contenders" until the last months of the year – both the two winning films were released over six months ago. Boyhood came out in July. It is nearly a year since Grand Budapest Hotel first played to paying audiences.
Eddie Redmayne, an admired young British performer, took best actor in a drama for his turn as Stephen Hawking, the physicist diagnosed with motor neurone disease, in The Theory of Everything. To the surprise of nobody, Julianne Moore won best dramatic actress for playing an Alzheimer's patient in the independent drama Still Alice.
If you’re searching for an award it has always been a smart move to play somebody with a debilitating condition. Ms Moore has won virtually every gong in the season so far and looks certain to take best actress at the Oscars next month. There was, however, something of a shock in the best actress for a musical or comedy category.
Emily Blunt was the bookies' choice for Into the Woods, but Amy Adams, who plays kitsch painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes, found herself at the podium. Redheads throughout the world cheered Adams's and Moore's achievement. Best supporting actor went the way of J K Simmons for his turn as a tyrannical music teacher in the jazz drama Whiplash.
The Globes also honour television and, this year, acknowledged the continuing advance of streaming services by awarding best comedy to Transparent, starring Jeffrey Tambor as a transgender man, a series that screens on Amazon (currently unavailable in this country).
“If I may, I would like to dedicate to my performance and this award to the transgender community,” Tambor said upon receiving the award for best actor in a comedy series.
Other programmes figuring strongly were FX's take on the Coen brothers' film Fargo and the adaptation of Larry Kramer's 1985 play The Normal Heart.
The Golden Globes, presented by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, have a considerably more informal feel than the Oscars. Amy Poehler and Tina Fey, presenting for the third and last time, found plenty of targets among the celebrity audience.
"Joaquin Phoenix is nominated for Inherent Vice, but obviously he isn't here tonight because he has said publicly that — quote — award shows are total and utter bull- Oh! Hey Joaquin!," they quipped before cutting to a shot of that actor being a good sport.
There were many supportive nods to the murdered cartoonists from Charlie Hebdo, a few too many cracks concerning the Sony computer hack and at least one uncomfortable reference to the rape accusations currently being levelled at Bill Cosby.
"In Into the Woods, Cinderella runs from her prince, Rapunzel is thrown from a tower for her prince, and Sleeping Beauty just thought she was getting coffee with Bill Cosby," Fey said to uncomfortable laughter.
The least successful quip of the evening was almost certainly delivered by the charismatically challenged actor Jeremy Renner. "You've got the Globes, too," the actor joked while studying co-presenter Jennifer Lopez' bosoms.
The awards charabanc now moves on to the Oscar nominations on Thursday afternoon. Selected by fewer than 100 largely obscure entertainment journalists, the Globes have an erratic history of predicting the gongs that really matter.
It does, however, seem likely that Boyhood, Birdman and Grand Budapest Hotel will all figure in the Academy's shortlist. The grim, yawning season eventually grinds to a halt with the Oscar ceremony on February 22nd.