An epic project about growing up and an eccentric comedy about murder in a Central European guesthouse were the big victors at the Golden Globes on Sunday, as Richard Linklater's "Boyhood" and Wes Anderson's "The Grand Budapest Hotel" won motion picture drama and comedy/musical categories, respectively.
The triumphs marked the first time a film from either of the two Texas auteurs had taken the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn.'s top honor. It was also "Grand Budapest's" only win of the night.
While "Boyhood" was tipped as a favorite in its category — the 12-year-in-the-making indie hit on Sunday also landed supporting actress wins for Patricia Arquette and best director for Linklater — "Grand Budapest" was a surprise. The film upset "Birdman," Alejandro G. Iñárritu's dark comedy about a washed-up performer; that film was a category favorite that scored the actor in a comedy/musical prize for Michael Keaton and a screenplay win but fell short of the top honor.
The "Grand Budapest" triumph throws something of a curveball into the Oscar race. While balloting for Oscar nominations closed Thursday — and while there is no overlap between the roughly 85 members of the HFPA and the 6,000 voters who decide the Oscars — a key Globes prize can boost momentum for a film heading into the final voting session.
"I'm going to focus on the membership of the Hollywood Foreign Press: Yorum and Dagmar and Yukiko and Mounawar, Lorenzo, Armando, Houssan, Jean Paul, Hans, Helmut," Anderson said in his acceptance speech, offering some of the offbeat irony for which his films are known. "These are the people I want to thank tonight, and many others with names nothing like theirs, but equally captivating: Heerpi, Ehrpi, Anka, and so on. I thank you for this Golden Globe."
A meticulous, madcap murder comedy that came out in March, "Grand Budapest" has been gaining awards steam in recent months. If it and Anderson do manage to land on the Oscar shortlist for picture and director categories, the Globes profile could help keep them front of mind with voters. Long a fan favorite with modest Oscar traction, awards groups have been warming to the quirky Anderson of late. The HFPA handed him his first director nomination two years ago for his previous movie, "Moonrise Kingdom."
Held at the Beverly Hilton, the Globes are Hollywood's favorite bacchanal, with winners loosening their ties as they fete one another. Yet amid the glitz and quips, more serious news pervaded. References to the protests in Ferguson, Mo., the terror attacks in Paris and the recent Sony hacking by North Korea all worked their way into show moments.
Hosts Tina Fey and Amy Poehler wasted no time in going topical, making mention of the Sony hacking and the pulling of "The Interview" from big theater chains at the top of the telecast, as Fey noted that the purpose of the evening was to honor "all of the movies that North Korea was OK with." The pair also included a running gag that had Margaret Cho offering a variation of her role as a deluded North Korean from Fey's "30 Rock," this time appearing as an ersatz HFPA member.
Shortly after, the issue of race relations came to the fore when the well-regarded civil rights drama "Selma" took its only prize of the night.
"I am the hopeful black woman who was denied her right to vote," said the actor-musician Common, accepting the prize for "Glory," the original song he and John Legend penned for Ava DuVernay's movie. "I am the caring white supporter killed on the front lines of freedom. I am the unarmed black kid who maybe needed a hand but, instead, was given a bullet. I am the two fallen police officers murdered in the line of duty."
Meanwhile, George Clooney, receiving the night's Cecil B. DeMille lifetime achievement prize, gave a more brisk speech than past winners such as Jodie Foster but still made sure to include some potent political content
"Today was an extraordinary day. There were millions of people that marched not just in Paris but around the world," he said. "And they were Christians and Jews and Muslims. They were leaders of countries all over the world, and they didn't march in protest. They marched in support of the idea that we will not walk in fear. We won't do it."
He closed his speech with "Je suis Charlie," offering artistic solidarity with the victimized cartoonists of Charlie Hebdo, as Jared Leto had sone shortly before.
While acknowledging a tragedy like the Paris attacks would seem like a no-brainer for those with the huge TV platform of the Globes, such a nod can be tricky--seeming narcissistic or worse--which is why many often stay away. Michael Moore famously was derided for his Oscar speech against the Iraq war after winning its documentary prize for "Bowling for Columbine," an unrelated film, in 2003.
Still, those behind the nominees that grapple with injustice will often segue to the news headlines. On Sunday, Alexandre Rodnianski, producer of foreign film winner "Leviathan," offered in his speech the same subtle politics as his Russian allegory about power and democracy
"The more we think about the fortunate fate of our movie, the more we believe that it doesn't matter whether you are Korean, American, Russian, or French," he said, alluding to troubled hot spots. "A tragic story of an ordinary man who comes face to face with an indifferent system is absolutely universal."
The film's prize gave it a foothold in the competitive foreign language category heading into the Oscars, one of several such edges for contenders. "How to Train Your Dragon 2," in a similar vein, scored the animated film prize, potentially slowing down the momentum of frontrunner "The Lego Movie."
Meanwhile, "Boyhood," which tracks a boy, a girl and their parents as they all grow up, has long been the favorite to take prizes for best picture and director at the Oscars, and Sunday's wins only helped those chances. After taking the stage to accept the director Globe, Linklater said he wanted to "dedicate this to parents that are evolving everywhere and families that are just passing through this world and doing their best."
He wasn't the only one citing family Sunday night. Arquette, his star in "Boyhood," shouted out "to my kids, Enzo and Harlow, who I love and respect with all my heart. My favorite role in this whole life has been being your mom."
"Transparent" creator Jill Soloway thanked her transgendered father, who inspired her show, after she won for comedy, and Keaton choked up as he cited a special relative.
"My best friend is kind, intelligent, funny, talented, considerate, thoughtful. Did I say kind? He also happens to be my son Sean," he said of his only child, the songwriter Sean Douglas.
Keaton's win solidifies his position as a frontrunner in Oscar's lead actor category, though he will need to vanquish Eddie Redmayne, who won the Globe for actor in a drama for his portrayal as Stephen Hawking in "The Theory of Everything."
Also among Oscar favorites, "Still Alice" star Julianne Moore won for actress in a drama, while "Whiplash's" J.K. Simmons did the same on supporting actor, both continuing on what are deemed to be clear paths to the Dolby Theatre podium.
But with all the jostling for hardware at the ceremony, some nominees offered a larger perspective, saying that they were happy as happy for a breath of current-events air as they were for particular nominations and winners.
"I was glad they mentioned 'Je suis Charlie,'" said "Foxcatcher" star Mark Ruffalo of some of the more politically conscious winners. "It's good we know that there's stuff going on outside of this room."
Amy Kaufman contributed to this report.