American Hustle, 12 Years a Slave win big at Golden Globes

U2’s ‘Ordinary Love’ recorded for Nelson Mandela biopic wins best original song award

The Golden Globes’ reputation as bellwether for the Oscars has long ago been debunked, but last night’s ceremony - as ever, spreading the love - went some way to confirming that three films are set to dominate the remainder of awards season.

David O Russell’s American Hustle, a light-hearted con romp, topped the film charts with three statuettes, including the prize for best comedy or musical. Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave, a powerful, eccentric historical epic, walked away with best drama. But neither film grabbed the best director prize. Alfonso Cuáron’s space adventure Gravity secured that award and thus ensured that it remains in the big race.

It will be astonishing if the best picture Oscar goes to anything outside that Big Three. This noted, the awarding of best foreign language film to Paolo Sorrentino’s The Great Beauty and (a big shock) best screenplay to Spike Jonze’s Her will delight fans of those less prominent, critically acclaimed pictures.

Many were surprised to see U2's Ordinary Love, from Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, beat Let it Go - the triumphant show-stopper in Disney's Frozen - to the prize for best original song. But the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA), the cosy body that awards the Globes, always likes to see celebrities at the podium. Bono and the gang obliged with a few rousing shouts to the watching crowds.


Bono said working on the film completed a decades-long journey with Mandela, having played an anti-apartheid concert some 35 years ago. “This man turned our life upside down, right-side up,” he said of the former South African leader who died last month. “A man who refused to hate not because he didn’t have rage or anger or those things, but that he thought love would do a better job.”

Larry Mullen said: “Not only South Africa, but thanks to Mandela, the course of history in our country, holy Catholic Ireland, was changed forever. Amen.”

Kerryman Michael Fassbender, nominated for 12 Years a Slave, demonstrated his great talent by adopting a convincing not-annoyed face when Jared Leto, who plays an HIV-positive transsexual woman in Dallas Buyers Club, took the Golden Globe for best supporting Oscar. The resurgent Matthew McConaughey won best actor in a drama for his turn in the same film.

Jennifer Lawrence, dressed in a peculiar gown with illogical horizontal straps, reasserted her status as star of the moment by taking best supporting actress for American Hustle. Amy Adams won best actress in a comedy or musical for that movie. Leonardo DiCaprio powered past the likes of Bruce Dern and Christian Bale to win best actor in the musical/comedy division for Martin Scorsese’s already notoriously profane Wolf of Wall Street.

If there was one certain winner it was Cate Blanchett. The Australian actor has been an unbackable favourite for major awards since Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine emerged in the US six month ago. Sure enough, she was handed the paperweight for her role as a precious, drunken variation on Tennessee Williams’s Blanche DuBois.

In recent years, it has become accepted that - while often eccentric in their decisions - the Globes put on an agreeably chaotic party that offers a pleasing complement to the more staid Oscars. The veteran actor Jacqueline Bisset, a winner in the TV section for Dancing on the Edge, inadvertently stole the show by appearing dangerously stunned and by stubbornly rambling as the surging music futilely urged her off the stage.

Jonah Hill and Margot Robbie, co-stars of Wolf of Wall Street, arrived at the podium to discover the next set of presenters’ lines on the teleprompt machine. Nobody much minded. Audiences watch the Globes to experience such flubs. The much-missed Breaking Bad, comedy series Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Steven Soderbergh’s Behind the Candelabra (not theatrically released in the US) each took two awards in the television awards.

The other big winners of the evening were presenters Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, who just about avoided offense as they playfully ridiculed nominees and members of the HFPA. “The story of how George Clooney would rather float away and die than spend one more minute with a woman his own age,” Fey said of Gravity.

One minor obsession may, however, have deeply puzzled the vast majority of television viewers. There were at least two oblique references to controversial critic Armond White’s alleged heckling at the New York Film Critics Circle Awards. Oh well. Hollywood is an industry town and this is the workers’ big night out.

Donald Clarke

Donald Clarke

Donald Clarke, a contributor to The Irish Times, is Chief Film Correspondent and a regular columnist