BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — The science-fiction blockbuster “Avatar” won best drama at the Golden Globes and picked up the directing honor for James Cameron on Sunday, raising the “Titanic” filmmaker’s prospects for another Academy Awards triumph.
It was a repeat of Cameron’s Globes night 12 years ago, when “Titanic” won best drama and the directing prize on its way to dominating the Oscars.
This time, though, instead of being “king of the world,” as Cameron declared at the Oscars, he has become king of an alien landscape, elevating space fantasy to enormous critical acclaim.
“‘Avatar’ asks us to see that everything is connected, all human beings to each other, and us to the Earth. And if you have to go 4½ light-years to another, made-up planet to appreciate this miracle of the world that we have right here, well, you know what, that’s the wonder of cinema right there, that’s the magic,” Cameron said.
Winning the dramatic-acting honors were Sandra Bullock for the football tale “The Blind Side” and Jeff Bridges for the country-music story “Crazy Heart.” The crowd gave a standing ovation to Bridges, a beloved veteran generally overlooked for key Hollywood honors.
The acting prizes for musical and comedy went to Meryl Streep for the Julia Child story “Julie & Julia” and Robert Downey Jr. for the crime romp “Sherlock Holmes.” The supporting-performance Globes were won by Mo’Nique as an abusive welfare mother in “Precious” and Christoph Waltz as a gleefully bloodthirsty Nazi in “Inglourious Basterds.”
The Vegas bachelor bash “The Hangover” won for best musical or comedy, bringing uncharacteristic awards attention for broad comedy, a genre that often gets overlooked at Hollywood honors.
“I just want to thank my mom, who supported my decision to become a director when she realized I wasn’t as smart as my two sisters,” said “Hangover” director Todd Phillips.
As he accepted the directing Globe, Cameron had kind words for ex-wife Kathryn Bigelow, nominated as best director for “The Hurt Locker.”
“Frankly, I thought Kathryn was going to get this. She richly deserves it,” said Cameron, whose “Titanic” earned the directing and best-drama Globes 12 years ago on its way to Academy Awards triumph.
The blockbuster “Up” came away with the award for animated film.
While Streep is a perennial at awards shows, the prize marked a dramatic turning point for Mo’Nique, who was mainly known for lowbrow comedy but startled audiences with her ferocious performance in “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ By Sapphire.”
“First let me say, thank you, God, for this amazing ride that you’re allowing me to go on,” the tearful Mo’Nique told the crowd.
She went on with gushing praise for “Precious” director Lee Daniels and newcomer Gabourey Sidibe, a best dramatic actress nominee at the Globes with her first film role, playing Mo’Nique’s abused, illiterate daughter.
“Lee Daniels, the world gets a chance to see how brilliant you are. You are a brilliant, fearless, amazing director who would not waver, and thank you for trusting me,” Mo’Nique said. “To Gabby, sister, I am in awe of you. Thank you for letting me play with you.”
Streep’s competition for best actress in a musical or comedy included herself. She also was nominated for the romance “It’s Complicated.”
“I just want to say that in my long career, I’ve played so many extraordinary woman that I’m getting mistaken for one,” Streep said. “I’m very clear that I’m the vessel for other people’s stories and other people’s lives.”
Waltz, a veteran Austrian actor who is a relative newcomer in Hollywood, won the supporting-actor Globe as a gleefully bloodthirsty Nazi in Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglourious Basterds.”
“A year and a half ago I was exposed to the gravitational forces of Quentin Tarantino,” Waltz said. “He took my modest little world, my globe, and with the power of his talent and his words and his vision, he flung it into its orbit, a dizzying experience.”
Though one of Hollywood’s biggest parties, the Globes bore somber reminders of tragedy in the real world, many stars wearing ribbons in support of earthquake victims in Haiti.
Films from Pixar Animation, the Disney outfit that made “Up,” have won all four prizes for animated movies since the Globes introduced the category in 2006. Past Pixar winners are “WALL-E,” “Ratatouille” and “Cars.”
“Up” features the voice of Ed Asner in a tale of a lonely, bitter widower who renews his zest for adventure by flying his house off under helium balloons to South America, where he encounters his childhood hero and a hilarious gang of talking canines.
“When it came to finding the heart of the film, we didn’t have to look very hard,” said “Up” director Pete Docter, whose film also won for musical score. “Our inspiration was all around us. Our grandparents, our parents, our wives, our kids. Our talking dogs.”
Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner won the screenplay honor for “Up in the Air,” which Reitman also directed. The foreign-language honor went to “The White Ribbon,” a stark drama of guilt and suspicion set in a German town on the eve of World War I.
“Mad Men” won for best TV drama, while Michael C. Hall won for best actor in a TV drama for “Dexter,” in which he plays a serial killer with a code of ethics, killing only other murderers. Hall’s publicists revealed this past week that Hall is being treated for Hodgkin’s lymphoma and that the cancer is in remission.
“It’s really a hell of a thing to go to work in a place where everybody gives a damn. That’s really the case with ‘Dexter,”’ Hall said. “It’s a dream job. I’m so grateful.”
“Dexter” also won the supporting-actor TV honor for John Lithgow. Other TV winners included Juliana Margulies as best actress in a drama for “The Good Wife” and Toni Collette as best comedy actress for “The United States of Tara.”
The rain-drenched red carpet was a rare sight for an awards show in sunny Southern California, stars in their finery getting damp under umbrellas as storms swept the region.
The Globes got a makeover, featuring Ricky Gervais as master of ceremonies, the first time in 15 years the show had a host.
One of his most biting quips came as he sipped a beer onstage.
“I like a drink as much as the next man, unless the next man is Mel Gibson,” Gervais wisecracked as he introduced Globe presenter Mel Gibson, who made an anti-Semitic rant a few years back during a drunken-driving arrest.
Gervais opened by mocking Steve Carell, star of the U.S. version of “The Office,” based on Gervais’ British comedy series. While a stone-faced Carell watched, Gervais yammered on about how fans love Carell and wonder where he gets his ideas from.
Carell then mouthed and pantomimed, “I will break you,” to Gervais, an executive producer on the U.S. version of the show.
Gervais joked about the international causes near and dear to Hollywood stars.
“You can be a little Asian child with no possessions and see a picture of Angelina Jolie and you think, ‘Mommy,”’ he said.
With stars sharing dinner and drinks, the Globes traditionally are a loose and relaxed affair compared to the courtly Oscars. Celebrities sometimes are caught more in reality-show mode — Jack Nicholson once mooned the crowd for a laugh, and Christine Lahti had to rush from the restroom to collect her Globe for the TV drama “Chicago Hope.”
Sunday’s winners could get a last-minute boost for the Oscars, whose nominations balloting closes Saturday. Last year’s big Globe winner, “Slumdog Millionaire,” went on to dominate the Oscars.
The Globes are presented by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, a group of about 90 reporters covering show business for overseas outlets. The show airs live on NBC.