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A Golden moment for ‘Avatar’

Bridges, Bullock, ‘Glee’ also shine

Celebrating the “Avatar’’ win (above, from left): actor Sam Worthington, director James Cameron, actress Zoe Saldana, producer Jon Landau, and actress Sigourney Weaver. Below, from left: Mo’Nique, Sandra Bullock, and Jeff Bridges. Celebrating the “Avatar’’ win (above, from left): actor Sam Worthington, director James Cameron, actress Zoe Saldana, producer Jon Landau, and actress Sigourney Weaver. Below, from left: Mo’Nique, Sandra Bullock, and Jeff Bridges. (Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
By Matthew Gilbert
Globe Staff / January 18, 2010

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Looks like James Cameron’s “Avatar’’ is following in the footsteps of the director’s “Titanic,’’ as both a box office monster and a major-awards darling. Last night at the Golden Globes, the sci-fi blockbuster solidified its Oscar momentum with two major statues, for best director and best dramatic film.

But “Avatar’’ - or “A-va-dah,’’ as Arnold Schwarzenegger called it last night - was the closest thing to a trend in the movie categories. The other top awards were divided up among a range of films, including Jeff Bridges for “Crazy Heart,’’ Sandra Bullock for the drama “The Blind Side,’’ Robert Downey Jr. for “Sherlock Holmes,’’ and “The Hangover’’ for best comedy.

On the TV side, cable continued to dominate. While Julianna Margulies won for CBS’s “The Good Wife,’’ Alec Baldwin won for NBC’s “30 Rock,’’ and Fox’s “Glee’’ took home best comedy series, all the other awards went to non-network shows and movies including “Mad Men,’’ “Dexter,’’ and “Grey Gardens.’’

But the Globes is ultimately about the party, not the prizes, and last night’s party was easy to take. Without an excess of ceremonial pomp, and with a fast flow of awards presentations, the Globes continues to be the least self-important of Hollywood’s back-patting marathons. When James Cameron told the crowd to “give it up for yourselves,’’ his words were out of character with the tenor of the evening.

Ricky Gervais, the Globes’ first host in 15 years, was a comfortable, irreverent presence. Was his comedy brilliant? Far from it. His material was consistently lazy about not being nominated, about stars who’ve had plastic surgery, about Angelina Jolie’s passion for adoption, about penis size. But his informality was infectious, as he so clearly loved being tacky for a dolled-up Hollywood crowd, plugging his own DVDs, and TV shows with an in-your-face lack of subtlety.

The only Gervais bit that caused Hollywood’s collective jaw to drop was when he introduced Mel Gibson by saying, “I like a drink as much as the next man, unless the next man is Mel Gibson.’’

But the heart of an awards show isn’t the host so much as the passion and authenticity of its acceptance speeches. And last night at the Globes, there was a good amount of heart, beginning with Mo’Nique, who won best supporting actress for “Precious.’’

If the Globe-winning actors are auditioning for Oscar voters with their acceptance speeches, Mo’Nique got the part and we’ll surely be seeing her next month. Her win wasn’t a huge surprise, but that didn’t detract from the honest thrill of her moment. I love it when an actor at the podium is clearly moved, but grounded enough to deliver genuine appreciation with none of the hyperventilating and false modesty that Drew Barrymore succumbed to when accepting for her role in “Grey Gardens.’’

“I am in the midst of my dream,’’ Mo’Nique said, and you had to believe her.

Wonderfully, Meryl Streep also had an honest moment on stage accepting for “Julie & Julia.’’ Just when you think Streep might become jaded or flip about her cache of awards, she began musing anxiously and emotionally about her mother’s philosophical lack of “patience for gloom and doom,’’ noting, “I’m not like that.’’ She was gracious and personal, and she managed to slip in a plug for Haiti relief without sounding sanctimonious.

Other strong acceptances included Jeff Bridges, who remembered his father’s passion for the movie industry, and Robert Downey Jr., who, with irony, non-thanked a number of people including Joel Silver, for restarting his career a dozen or so times. About the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, Downey said, “They are a strange bunch, and now I’m one of them.’’

The most overdue moment? Michael C. Hall finally, finally, finally won an award for his amazing work on Showtime’s “Dexter.’’ The justice of his win was made more poignant by the black cap on his head during his gracious acceptance speech, a reminder that he’s fighting Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Hall’s win, alongside wins by John Lithgow for “Dexter’’ and Toni Collette’s for “United States of Tara,’’ made the night a Showtime show of strength.

NBC references peppered the night, although there were fewer than expected. In his monologue, Gervais said, “Let’s get on with it before NBC replaces me with Jay Leno.’’ And Julianna Margulies thanked CBS executives “for believing in the 10 o’clock drama,’’ a knock at her former “ER’’ network for the Leno-at-10 experiment.

And what of the preshow?

Somehow, those Hollywood troupers just put one foot in front of the other and kept moving forward. Life presents us with challenges, friends, and we just muster our inner strength to get through them. Sure, the rain was falling, hair was frizzing, foreheads were shining, fabrics were drooping. But some of the stars held their own umbrellas and crossed their own puddles. They trod the red carpet with heads held high - George Clooney, Jon Hamm, and William Hurt with new beards, Elisabeth Moss with sweet bangs, January Jones with a black headband, and Jennifer Morrison from “House’’ with a Flintstonian bun at her neck.

“We’re not M&M’s,’’ Sofia Vergara said about the rain. ’’We’re not gonna die.’’ So strong!

As always, the red carpet was like a parade of bridesmaids and groomsmen, but there were a few exceptions to the monotony. A giddy Julia Roberts, crowded under umbrellas with Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson, said to NBC’s Billy Bush, “You guys are in the toilet right now!’’ Later, Tina Fey of NBC’s “30 Rock’’ told Bush about the rain, “It’s just God crying for NBC.’’ And extolling her passion for champagne, Mariah Carey let it all hang out all of it.

Matthew Gilbert can be reached at gilbert@globe.com.