LOS ANGELES (Reuters, AFP) - The coming-of-age tale Boyhood won the coveted Golden Globe for best drama on Sunday, while quirky period caper The Grand Budapest Hotel was the surprise winner for best comedy or musical, in a big upset to awards season front-runner Birdman.
The first major awards for the Hollywood film industry this year were scattered widely among many films, potentially setting up a complex race towards the Oscars on Feb 22.
Boyhood took three Globes, including the night's top honour, a reward for the unprecedented cinematic venture of making a film over 12 years with the same actors. The man behind the low-budget experiment, Richard Linklater, won best director and Patricia Arquette won best supporting actress.
"This was a very personal film for me...and it means so much to us that people have seen it and responded to it in that personal way," Linklater said.
Birdman, a satire of show business that led all nominees with seven nods, picked up best screenplay and best actor in a comedy or musical for Michael Keaton, embodying a comeback in film and real life. "Alejandro, there is not a person in this room who won't show up for your next gig," said Keaton of Birdman director Alejandro Inarritu.
But The Grand Budapest Hotel from director Wes Anderson was the big surprise of the night as best comedy or musical, although it only took home that one award. Civil rights drama Selma won one award, for best song, while The Imitation Game walked away empty-handed.
The outcome of the 72nd Globes will not influence the Academy Awards slate, since voting for next week's announcement of nominees is closed. But it can give crucial momentum to the Oscar race.
Other top actor awards went to performers who portrayed the pain of illness. Julianne Moore won best actress in a drama as an early-onset Alzheimer's patient in Still Alice, while Eddie Redmayne took best actor in a drama for his portrayal of physicist Stephen Hawking in The Theory Of Everything.
It was a more somber night than usual for the Golden Globes, usually one of the more rambunctious events in the awards season, organised by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. Politics played heavily into acceptance speeches, from support for the Hispanic and transgender communities to calls to protect freedom of expression and solidarity after the deadly attack on French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo.
George Clooney, receiving a lifetime achievement award and sporting a lapel pin declaring "Je suis Charlie", noted the "extraordinary day" in Paris and around the world as millions of people and world leaders marched to pay tribute to victims of Islamist militant attacks. "They marched in support of the idea that we will not walk in fear," he said. "Je suis Charlie."
Clooney, 53, demonstrated self-deprecation in his acceptance speech, poking fun at himself for having lost more Globes than won. "If you're in this room, you've caught the brass ring, you get to do what you've always dreamed to do and be celebrated, and that ain't losing," he said.
He paid tribute to the late stars Lauren Bacall and Robin Williams, saying: "I have no idea what hardware Robin Williams took home but I sure remember 'Carpe diem.'"
He also quipped about the backbiting emails that leaked when Sony Pictures was hacked, encouraging everyone to make amends, and the unfavorable reviews for his 2014 film, Monuments Men, joking: "I'll get you back."
All eyes were on the actor and his new wife Amal as they made their red carpet debut as a married couple on Sunday. "It's a humbling thing when you find someone to love, and even better when you've been waiting your whole life," a choked-up Clooney said on stage to his wife. "Amal, whatever alchemy it is that brought us together, I couldn't be more proud to be your husband."
Comic duo Tina Fey and Amy Poehler opened the three-hour show with a sharp monologue poking fun at the Sony Pictures hack and the firestorm over The Interview, a farce about killing North Korea's leader.
The hosts joked that the evening was to celebrate "all the movies that North Korea was okay with".
Poehler also joked about comedian Bill Cosby, who has been accused of sex abuse. "Sleeping Beauty just thought that she was grabbing coffee with Bill Cosby," she said.