'The Artist,' 'The Descendants' win big at the 69th annual Golden Globe awards

"The Artist,"

the charming film about Hollywood's transition from silent movies to talkies, and the family

"The Descendants"

were catapulted to front-runner Oscar status Sunday night with an armful of

Golden Globes

to their names as the awards season reaches fever pitch.

There's no guarantee that a Golden Globe will lead to Oscar gold. But it can't hurt with Academy Award nominations just around the corner. (They'll be announced Jan. 24.)

"The Artist" picked up three Golden Globes, for best film, musical or


, lead actor in a comedy or musical, and score. The film's four-legged co-star, Uggie, nearly upstaged the acceptance speech for best film: The Jack Russell terrier pulled off several tricks on stage, including playing dead.

"The Descendants," set in Hawaii, took two major awards from the

Hollywood Foreign Press Assn.

, including best drama and lead actor in a drama for

George Clooney

, who stars in the film as a father coming to grips with his wife's impending death.

One of the biggest surprises of the night?

Meryl Streep

got bleeped.

Streep let loose with a few expletives as she accepted the honor for lead actress in a drama for

"The Iron Lady."

It appeared she was flustered because she left behind her reading glasses for her walk onstage, and she fretted that she was going to forget to point out the other actresses who put in outstanding performances over the last year. She earned laughs when she thanked "God" -- as in

Harvey Weinstein

, the film's producer.

There were standing ovations for

Martin Scorsese


Morgan Freeman

-- two giants of cinema who were honored during the three-hour ceremony.

Scorsese won best director for his valentine to film,


while Freeman won the Cecil B. De Mille Award for his work in film. Legendary actor

Sidney Poitier

presented the honor to Freeman, which Freeman said was honor enough in and of itself.

"Modern Family"

won for TV comedy series, but the honor was a bit like a celebration of Latinos in entertainment:

Antonio Banderas

and Salma Hayak presented the award, and "Modern Family" star

Sofia Vergara

gave the acceptance speech in Spanish.


Octavia Spencer

stole the show for her sassy Southern turn as a maid who exacts just revenge in

"The Help."

A trembling Spencer, who won supporting actress, said she especially appreciated that the role offered insight into the life of domestics then and now. Quoting Dr.

Martin Luther King Jr.

, she said "all labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance."

Earlier in the evening, Matt Le Blanc won his first Golden Globe, for lead actor in a TV series comedy or musical for




a tart sendup of Hollywood. In it, he plays a fictionalized version of himself who is "way more interesting and fun than the real thing," said Le Blanc. "I wish I was him."

That win was one of many for Showtime, which is more accustomed to taking a backseat to rival cable channel


. But on Sunday, Showtime earned several trophies.

Claire Danes

picked up lead actress in a TV series drama for playing a driven and possibly unstable


agent in


And that freshman series picked up the TV series drama award.

HBO, meanwhile, saw

Kate Winslet

win for lead actress in a miniseries or movie for the melodrama

"Mildred Pierce"


Peter Dinklage

take supporting actor in a miniseries or TV movie for

"Game of Thrones."

Winslet and Dinklage won Emmys in September.

Laura Dern

also won for lead actress in a TV comedy or musical series for HBO's


It's hard to find a "first" with filmmaker

Steven Spielberg

. But he picked up his first statuette for an animated feature:

"The Adventures of Tintin."
Woody Allen

, 76, won for screenplay for

"Midnight in Paris."
Michelle Williams

won lead actress in a motion picture comedy or musical for channeling the spirit and beauty of

Marilyn Monroe


"My Week with Marilyn."
Idris Elba

won lead actor in a TV miniseries or movie for the

BBC America

crime drama


Madonna, meanwhile, put those those toned arms to good use -- holding up a Golden Globe for best song for "Masterpiece," from her film


which she wrote and directed. She shared the award with co-writers Julie Frost and Jimmy Harry.

Kelsey Grammer

proved he can play both sides of the game. He picked up his first Golden Globe for a dramatic turn -- in Starz's series


(He won two Golden Globes for his comedic work on "Frasier.") It was also repeat of last year's Emmys with



"Downton Abbey"

winning best miniseries or TV movie at the Golden Globes and

Christopher Plummer

, 82, won for supporting actor in a movie for playing a widower who comes out of the closet in


Foreign film honors went to

"A Separation."

Many viewers no doubt tuned in to the telecast on


not so much to see what won best picture but just to see how outrageous host

Ricky Gervais

would get.

He did not disappoint, although he did seem a bit more restrained.

"So. Where was I?" said Gervais, walking on stage at the start of his third consecutive outing as host.

From there, he trashed seemingly everyone over the course of the night, taking aim at NBC -- the network airing the show -- the awards show itself, and everyone from Hollywood royalty to the Kardashians. and