BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. - It seems only fitting that, at a Golden Globes ceremony where the host humorously insulted nearly every A-lister in the room, the big winner was a movie about a guy who riles up everyone on campus with his new and invasive website.
And that's exactly what Ricky Gervais, and "The Social Network," did Sunday night.
Sure, all the winners you expected won all the awards you figured they would. Besides best drama, "The Social Network," about the founding of Facebook, won for David Fincher's direction, Aaron Sorkin's script and the score from Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. After receiving top honours from critics groups coast to coast, this resounding victory positions the film as the front-runner at the Academy Awards.
Oscar nominations will be announced Jan. 25, with the ceremony itself set for Feb. 27.
Until then, we have the Globes to feast on. It's a loose, boozy dinner during ordinary years, but Gervais, returning for the second-straight year, infused it with an even more subversive vibe than usual. He took jabs at Charlie Sheen, Robert Downey Jr., Mel Gibson, Scientologists, several of the nominated films and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association itself, which hands out the Globes. Last week, the HFPA was hit with a $2 million lawsuit from its former publicist, who alleged that the 90-member group engages in payola schemes for nominations and awards.
That was only the beginning of the fodder for Gervais, who made fun of some of the flimsier nominees — like the critically savaged Angelina Jolie-Johnny Depp romp "The Tourist" — at the same time.
"It must be good, 'cause it's nominated, so shut up," Gervais cracked in the show's opening monologue.
"I'd like to quash this ridiculous rumour going around that the only reason 'The Tourist' was nominated was so the Hollywood Foreign Press could hang out with Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie," he continued. "That is rubbish. That is not the only reason. They also accepted bribes." (The movie itself, by the way, was shut out despite receiving three nominations in musical or comedy categories.)
Even Robert De Niro, recipient of the Cecil B. DeMille Award for lifetime achievement — and a notoriously reticent public speaker — got in on the act. He joked during his acceptance speech about the HFPA's reputation for shmoozing up celebrities.
"The important thing is we are all in this together," De Niro said. "The filmmakers who make the movies and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association members who in turn pose for pictures with the movie stars. ...
"I'm sorry more members of the foreign press aren't with us tonight, but many of them were deported right before the show," he added. "Along with most of the waiters. And Javier Bardem."
But Sunday's show was full of predictable moments, too. The expected winners in the dramatic acting categories all walked away with statues: Colin Firth as the stammering King George VI in "The King's Speech," Natalie Portman as a ballerina teetering on the brink of madness in "Black Swan," and Christian Bale and Melissa Leo for their supporting roles in the boxing drama "The Fighter." ''The King's Speech" went into the night with the most nominations, seven, but only won that one award.
On the musical or comedy side, the top film was "The Kids Are All Right," about a lesbian couple trying to keep their family together, which was also the front-runner in its category. Its star, Annette Bening, won best actress. Best actor in a musical or comedy went to Paul Giamatti as a curmudgeon in "Barney's Version."
Portman thanked the film's choreographer, her fiance Benjamin Millepied, with whom she's expecting a child. He also appears in the movie, and his character doesn't want to sleep with hers.
"He's the best actor! It's not true, he totally wants to sleep with me," said Portman, giggling and showing a baby bump despite wearing a billowing pink gown.
"Barney's Version" follows the many loves in Giamatti's life: his three wives, played by Rachelle Lefevre, Minnie Driver and Rosamund Pike, whom Giamatti described as "a trifecta of hotties."
"I got to smoke and drink and get laid in this movie and I got paid for it. An amazing, amazing thing," he said.
"Toy Story 3," the top-grossing film released last year and the second sequel to 1995's digital animation pioneer "Toy Story," won the Globe for animated films, making Disney's Pixar Animation unit five-for-five in the category since it was added in 2006. Past Pixar winners are "Up," ''WALL-E," ''Ratatouille" and "Cars."
"Wow, were you two even born when the first 'Toy Story' came out?" ''Toy Story 3" director Lee Unkrich said to his award's presenters, 16-year-old pop star Justin Bieber and 14-year-old Hailee Steinfeld, co-star of the hit Western "True Grit."
Among TV winners, "Glee" won three prizes, best comedy and supporting-acting prizes for Jane Lynch and Chris Colfer. "Boardwalk Empire" won two prizes, for best drama and dramatic actor for Steve Buscemi.
The Globe ceremony traditionally had a strong track record as a forecast for what film would win best picture at the Oscars. But the two shows have split in recent times, with only one top Globe recipient — 2008's "Slumdog Millionaire" — also winning the main prize at the Oscars over the past six years.
A year ago, the sci-fi sensation "Avatar" won best drama at the Globes, but the Iraq War saga "The Hurt Locker" took best picture at the Oscars.
David Germain and Beth Harris contributed to this report.