Jennifer Lawrence has won a lead-actress Golden Globe for the oddball romance Silver Linings Playbook, while supporting-acting prizes went to Christoph Waltz for the slave-revenge tale Django Unchained and Anne Hathaway for the musical Les Miserables.
The wins Sunday firm up their prospects for Hollywood's top honors at the February 24 Academy Awards.
Former President Bill Clinton upstaged Hollywood's elite with a surprise appearance to introduce Steven Spielberg's Civil War epic Lincoln, which was up for best drama. The film chronicles Abraham Lincoln's final months as he tries to end the war and find common ground in a divided Congress to pass the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery.
Lincoln's effort was "forged in a cauldron of both principle and compromise," Clinton said. "This brilliant film shows us how he did it and gives us hope that we can do it again."
Amy Poehler, co-host of the Globes with Tina Fey, gushed afterward, "Wow, what an exciting special guest! That was Hillary Clinton's husband!"
Lawrence won as best actress in a musical or comedy for her role as a troubled widow in a shaky new relationship. The Globe winners in musical or comedy categories often aren't factors at the Oscars, which tend to favor heavier dramatic roles.
But Silver Linings Playbook is a crowd-pleasing comic drama with deeper themes than the usual comedy. And Lawrence — a 2010 Oscar nominee for her breakout film Winter's Bone who shot to superstardom with The Hunger Games — delivers a nice mix of humor and melancholy in the film.
"What does this say? I beat Meryl," Lawrence joked as she looked at her award, referring to fellow nominee and multiple Globe winner Meryl Streep. Lawrence went on to thank her mother for believing in her and her father for making her maintain a sense of humor.
Hathaway's win came for her role as a doomed single mother in the big-screen adaptation of the stage musical based on Victor Hugo's classic novel.
"Thank you for this lovely blunt object that I will forever more use as a weapon against self-doubt," Hathaway said, cradling her trophy.
Waltz won supporting actor for his role as a genteel bounty hunter who takes on an ex-slave as apprentice.
The win was Waltz's second supporting-actor prize at the Globes, both of them coming in Quentin Tarantino films. Waltz's violent but paternal and polite Django character is a sharp contrast to the wickedly bloodthirsty Nazi he played in his Globe and Oscar-winning role in Tarantino's 2009 tale Inglourious Basterds.
"Let me gasp," said Waltz, whose competition included Django co-star Leonardo DiCaprio. "Quentin, you know that my indebtedness to you and my gratitude knows no words."
Pop star Adele and co-writer Paul Epworth won for best song for their theme tune to the James Bond adventure Skyfall.
"Oh, my God!" Adele gushed repeatedly, before offering gratitude to the group that presents the Globes. "I'd like to thank the Hollywood Foreign Press. I never thought I'd say that."
The prize for musical score went to Mychael Danna for the lost-at-sea tale Life of Pi.
Show hosts Fey and Poehler, who co-starred in the 2008 big-screen comedy Baby Mama" had a friendly rivalry at the Globes. Both were nominated for best actress in a TV comedy series, Fey for 30 Rock and Poehler for Parks and Recreation.
"Tina, I just want to say that I very much hope that I win," Poehler told Fey at the start of the show.
"Thank you. You're my nemesis. Thank you," Fey replied.
Among TV winners, Julianne Moore won a best-actress Globe for her role as Sarah Palin in Game Change, which also was picked as best TV miniseries or movie and earned Ed Harris a supporting-actor prize. Best actor in a miniseries or movie went to Kevin Costner for Hatfields & McCoys. Homeland was named best TV drama series, and its star Damian Lewis received the TV drama actor Globe. Maggie Smith as supporting actress for Downton Abbey.
The Globes are in a rare place this season, coming after the Academy Award nominations, which were announced earlier than usual and threw out some shockers that have left the Globes show a little less relevant.
Key Globe contenders lined up largely as expected, with Spielberg's Civil War saga Lincoln leading with seven nominations and two CIA thrillers — Kathryn Bigelow's Zero Dark Thirty and Ben Affleck's Argo — also doing well.
All three films earned Globe nominations for best drama and director. Yet while Lincoln, Argo and Zero Dark Thirty grabbed best-picture slots at Thursday's Oscar nominations, Bigelow and Affleck were snubbed for directing honors after a season that had seen them in the running for almost every other major award.
The Globe and Oscar directing fields typically match up closely. This time, though, only Spielberg and Life of Pi director Lee have nominations for both. Along with Spielberg, Lee, Bigelow and Affleck, Quentin Tarantino is nominated for directing at the Globes. At the Oscars, it's Spielberg, Lee, Silver Linings Playbook director David O. Russell and two surprise picks: veteran Austrian filmmaker Michael Haneke for Amour and first-time director Benh Zeitlin for Beasts of the Southern Wild.
That forced some top-name filmmakers to put on brave faces for the Globes. And while a Globe might be a nice consolation prize, it could be a little awkward if Affleck, Bigelow or Tarantino won Sunday and had to make a cheery acceptance speech knowing they don't have seats at the grown-ups table for the February 24 Oscars.
That could happen. While Lincoln has the most nominations, it's a purely American story that may not have as much appeal to Globe voters — about 90 reporters belonging to the Hollywood Foreign Press Association who cover entertainment for overseas outlets.
The Bigelow and Affleck films center on Americans, too, but they are international tales — Zero Dark Thirty chronicling the manhunt for Osama bin Laden and Argo recounting the rescue of six U.S. embassy workers trapped in Iran amid the 1979 hostage crisis.
Globe voters might want to make right on a snub to Bigelow three years ago, when they gave their best-drama and directing prize to ex-husband James Cameron's sci-fi blockbuster Avatar over her Iraq war tale The Hurt Locker.
Bigelow made history a month later, becoming the first woman to win the directing Oscar for The Hurt Locker, which also won best picture.
Globe voters like to be trend-setters, but they missed the boat on that one. Might they feel enough chagrin to hand Bigelow the directing trophy this time?
Their votes were locked in before the Oscar nominations came out. Globe balloting closed Wednesday, the day before the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced its awards lineup.
The Globe hosts had a wisecrack at Cameron's expense. Poehler noted that she had not been following the controversy over Zero Dark Thirty, which has drawn criticism for indicating torture was pivotal in producing the tip that led to Bin Laden.
But "when it comes to torture, I trust the lady who was married for three years to James Cameron," Poehler said.