Steven Spielberg's "Saving Private Ryan, a World War II drama depicting the brutality of battle, and "Shakespeare in Love," a romantic romp set in Elizabethan times, won the top honors Sunday night at the 56th annual Golden Globes held at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.
The Golden Globes, which often foreshadow the Academy Awards, could propel both films into a neck-and-neck race for the Oscars, which will be held March 21.
Besides those two films, "The Truman Show" also had a strong presence Sunday, winning three Golden Globes, including best actor in a drama for Jim Carrey, best supporting actor for Ed Harris and best original score.
Carrey, the rubber-faced comedian who shot to stardom in such slapstick fare as "Ace Ventura: Pet Detective" and "Dumb and Dumber," demonstrated that he now must be taken seriously as an actor after beating out such stalwarts as Tom Hanks, Ian McKellen and Nick Nolte.
"I want to be able to do everything like a Jack Lemmon or a Jimmy Stewart," Carrey said after the ceremony. "That's my dream."
Australian Cate Blanchett won best dramatic actress for her fiery yet vulnerable portrayal of the Virgin Queen in "Elizabeth."
Her victory could set up an epic costume-drama battle against Gwyneth Paltrow, who won best actress in a comedy or musical for her portrayal as the Bard's lover and muse in "Shakespeare in Love."
Meanwhile, Oscar-winning veteran Michael Caine, who all but disappeared from the Hollywood scene in the 1990s after one of the industry's busier careers, came roaring back Sunday night with his surprise win for best actor in a comedy or musical in a small British movie called "Little Voice."
Caine caused the star-studded crowd to erupt in laughter when he stepped on stage to accept his Golden Globe. "My career must be slipping," he quipped. "This is the first time I've ever been available to pick up an award."
Spielberg, who five years ago won for his World War II Holocaust film "Schindler's List," received the Golden Globe for best director for "Saving Private Ryan."
"I made this film for my dad and all his combat friends," Spielberg told reporters backstage. "I hope this movie is a way of looking back to our fathers and grandfathers and saying, 'Thank you.' "
The Golden Globe for best screenplay went to Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard for "Shakespeare in Love."
"Shakespeare was a guy we'd all recognize [today]," Norman said backstage. "If Shakespeare was alive today, he'd be driving a Porsche, living in Bel-Air and he'd have a deal at Paramount."
Best foreign language film went to Brazil's "Central Station," which starred Fernanda Montenegro as a retired schoolteacher whose life changes after meeting an orphan boy.
The Globes, staged annually by the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn., was a glittering, freewheeling party attended by some of the biggest celebrities and most powerful movers and shakers in Hollywood.
They saw Jack Nicholson receive the association's Cecil B. DeMille award for his "outstanding contribution to the entertainment field" to the strains of "Born to Be Wild."
"What I like about this particular award is that it doesn't come from our peer group," Nicholson said, flashing his killer smile as pal Warren Beatty stood by looking amused. "The Hollywood Foreign Press is a very loose group of guys and gals . . . You almost feel you could go out and have fun with them because they don't have as much to lose as we do. I like fun, what can I say?"
They saw Gregory Peck win his first Golden Globe in more than three decades, and Lynn Redgrave take home her first in 32 years.
They saw Miramax Films' chief Harvey Weinstein glowing at the sight of Paltrow and Caine walking off with awards in films his company had released, and as the producer accepted an award for "Shakespeare in Love."
"I like this producing stuff," Weinstein quipped. Then, addressing Paltrow, with whom he has made seven films, he added: "If there was ever a muse at Miramax, she's our lady."
And the crowd also saw television dynamo David E. Kelley, creator of "Ally McBeal" and "The Practice," walk off with top awards in drama and comedy for those shows.
In all, "Shakespeare in Love" and "The Truman Show" won three awards and "Saving Private Ryan" won two.
It was also a great night for HBO and ABC, which captured most of the TV honors.
Best supporting actor in a film went to Ed Harris for "The Truman Show," in which he portrays the beret-wearing mastermind Christof, who orchestrates the TV universe in which Truman Burbank (Jim Carrey) lives. Moments later, Lynn Redgrave unexpectedly won best supporting actress as a loyal, concerned housekeeper who looks disparagingly upon the lifestyle of her gay employer, director James Whale, in the film "Gods and Monsters."
Redgrave, who last won the Golden Globe three decades ago in "Georgy Girl," reflected: "I am a little overwhelmed because it has been 32 years since I stood one of these on the mantle, and it's been calling for a friend ever since."
Angelina Jolie, daughter of actor Jon Voight, won best actress in a television miniseries or movie for her role as a drug-addicted fashion model in HBO's "Gia."
"From the Earth to the Moon," a 12-hour HBO series about America's space race produced by Oscar-winning actor Tom Hanks, won best TV miniseries or motion picture.
As he entered the interview room backstage after winning, Hanks pretended to trip over the top step to the platform, then quipped, "That's one small step for man."
For HBO, it was a clean sweep in three major movie or miniseries categories. Stanley Tucci picked up an award for his role as the late gossip columnist Walter Winchell in HBO's movie "Winchell."
Jenna Elfman, who plays the free-spirited wife of a straight-laced attorney on "Dharma and Greg," won for best actress in a television musical or comedy series, while Michael J. Fox won his second Golden Globe in a row for the sitcom "Spin City," in which he plays an assistant mayor in New York City.
Fox, who recently made it known that he has been suffering from Parkinson's disease for seven years, took a moment to thank his doctors, including one who "opened my brain," as well as his family.
Both veterans and newcomers won awards Sunday. Gregory Peck, who played a cameo as a fire-and-brimstone preacher in USA's "Moby Dick," tied with Don Cheadle, who played Sammy Davis Jr. in HBO's "The Rat Pack," for best supporting TV actor.
"I think I won one of these in 1947 and it was very encouraging and it's very encouraging now," said Peck, who is 82.
And one of the evening's youngest stars, Keri Russell, also walked off with a Golden Globe for her role as a college freshman in WB's "Felicity."
Times staff writers Kevin Baxter and Lorenza Munoz contributed to this story.