(CNN) — Concerns beyond Hollywood took center stage at the 77th annual Golden Globe Awards, with presenters and winners citing the bushfires in Australia and the need to address the climate crisis, possible war with Iran and abortion rights during Sunday’s event in Beverly Hills.
As to the business at hand, the World War I epic “1917” and “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood” took best drama and musical or comedy. The latter added to its haul with wins for writer-director Quentin Tarantino and Brad Pitt for screenplay and supporting actor, respectively, its three awards more than any other film.
In one of the most closely watched contests, “1917” director Sam Mendes won as well, which should give the film a boost both in the Oscar race and as it heads into wide theatrical release on Jan. 10.
The Globes have a reputation for favoring big movie stars and international talent, and that generally held to form, in a night where the selections were eclectic as usual. Netflix, notably, also had a limited impact on the film categories, despite its strong nomination performance with “The Irishman,” “Marriage Story” and “The Two Popes.”
Joaquin Phoenix delivered a scattered speech — peppered with a few bleeped expletives, and a call for action about climate change — in claiming the drama acting prize for “Joker,” one of the few blockbusters among the roster of movie winners. (The movie was released by Warner Bros., like CNN, a unit of WarnerMedia.)
Taron Egerton and Renee Zellweger were both honored for playing and performing as musical legends — Elton John in “Rocketman” (John was as well for his original song), and Judy Garland in “Judy” — while Awkwafina became the first lead actress winner of Asian descent for the comedy “The Farewell.”
“Parasite,” the twisty South Korean thriller from director Bong Joon-ho, was chosen as best foreign-language film. Admiration for the movie is running high enough in Hollywood and critical circles that it’s also considered a contender to make noise beyond that category throughout awards season.
The Globes are always watched closely as a bellwether for the Oscars, though the results can obscure as well as clarify. In a bit of an upset, for example, the small movie “Missing Link” topped an assortment of box-office blockbusters in the animation category. Laura Dern also edged a field that included Jennifer Lopez — whom many consider the Oscar favorite — for her supporting role in “Marriage Story.”
The Golden Globes tilt heavily toward movies given their proximity to the Oscars, so many of the TV prizes were dispatched near the outset.
HBO’s “Succession” — which focuses on a media dynasty that bears a more-than-passing resemblance to the Murdochs — was anointed best drama, with an additional honor for Brian Cox as the family’s ruthless patriarch. The pay channel — like CNN, part of WarnerMedia — claimed two more for the miniseries “Chernobyl,” making it the night’s big TV winner.
Amazon’s “Fleabag,” meanwhile, mirrored its success at the Emmys, snagging comedy series gold and an individual award for star-producer-creator Phoebe Waller-Bridge, who thanked President Obama for putting the show on his list of favorites.
The TV awards were spread among multiple outlets, including the streaming services Netflix, Hulu and Amazon, and cable networks HBO, Showtime and FX. Netflix, this year’s most-nominated service, settled for a single trophy for Olivia Colman, who assumed the role of Queen Elizabeth II in the historical drama “The Crown.”
The night’s emotional career-achievement tributes saw Tom Hanks tear up in collecting the Cecil B. DeMille Award, and included Kate McKinnon’s deeply personal introduction of Ellen DeGeneres, who received the TV award named after Carol Burnett. DeGeneres’ speech included singling out what Burnett meant to her.
During his coolly received opening monologue, host Ricky Gervais urged winners not to discuss politics.
Nevertheless, one of the first honorees, Russell Crowe, was unable to attend because the presenters said he was in Australia, fighting the devastating fires there. Crowe — recognized for playing the late Fox News chief Roger Ailes in the Showtime limited series “The Loudest Voice” — sent along a message about the importance of addressing climate change.
Later, Patricia Arquette — a winner for Hulu’s “The Act” — used her acceptance speech to decry the march toward war with Iran, and urge people to vote in 2020 to provide a better world for their children. Michelle Williams (FX’s “Fosse/Verdon”) spoke about her support of choice regarding reproductive rights. And Sacha Baron Cohen jabbed at Facebook again, having previously called the company and other social-media giants “the greatest propaganda machine in history.”
Ramy Youssef, a Muslim-American comic, was honored for the little-seen Hulu series “Ramy,” and joked about the audience being unfamiliar with the series. “Look, I know you guys haven’t seen my show,” he said.
Gervais — who is hosting the show for the fifth time, and the first since 2016 — kicked the night off by promising that this would be his last stint, then proceeded to urge the crowd to join him and “have a laugh at your expense.”
Much of the material, however, appeared to fall flat in the room, including a bit in which he urged the recipients not to discuss politics, referenced actress Felicity Huffman’s role in the college admissions scandal, and was bleeped twice by NBC’s censors, including an off-color joke about Dame Judi Dench in “Cats.” He closed with a joke about Harvey Weinstein, the mogul facing sexual assault allegations.
The Golden Globes are presented by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, a group consisting of roughly 90 international journalists. The awards gained additional prominence after moving to NBC in the 1990s, but are viewed most closely as a beacon for where the Oscars might land.
Last year, the group anointed “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “Green Book” with its top prizes (as drama and musical or comedy, respectively), before the latter was named best picture at the Academy Awards. The four eventual acting winners also walked away with Globe trophies (the lead categories are also split between comedy and drama), as did the Oscar recipients for directing, writing, foreign language and animated film.
That said, the Globes’ track record has been spotty as a predictor for the Oscars and Emmys — the other major peer-presented honor that overlaps with it — over the past decade.
Oscar voting continues through Tuesday, with the nominations to be unveiled on Jan. 13.