'Brokeback' is high in the saddle

Times Staff Writers

The Hollywood Foreign Press Assn., all 84 voting members strong, joined the critical consensus Monday night, awarding "Brokeback Mountain" a leading four trophies.

The tragic account of a doomed romance between two cowboys, which has dominated critics awards and is considered the top contender for the Academy Awards, won Golden Globes for best dramatic picture, best director for Ang Lee, best screenplay and best song.

The Johnny Cash biography "Walk the Line" took three top trophies, including best musical or comedy as well as the acting awards in that category. For playing the Man in Black, Joaquin Phoenix was named best actor. Reese Witherspoon was chosen best actress for playing Cash's ultimate wife, country music legend June Carter.

But the three-hour NBC telecast often played like a dull parody of its former self -- a bawdy, often irreverent party that became popular inside Hollywood in the '90s. In their rush to get ready for the evening's show, you had to wonder if the winners left their senses of humor at home. Movie winner after movie winner thanked an endless barrage of agents, producers, studio executives, publicists and children.

In what was typical of the night, the producers of two big Golden Globe-winning films -- "Walk the Line's" Cathy Konrad and "Brokeback Mountain's" James Schamus -- didn't say anything about what their movies stood for but seemed to mention by name nearly every person who had a hand in their films' contract negotiations, marketing and distribution.

As "Prison Break's" Wentworth Miller, who plays the prison doctor on the Fox show, put it from his Golden Globes table: "It's good to see all of these people, but I'd rather be home with some popcorn."

At least James Keach, who was a producer on "Walk the Line," managed to sneak in a few heartfelt words about the subjects of the film. "I'm so sad that John and June didn't get to see this movie," Keach said.

"Brokeback Mountain" has dominated other awards shows even though its provocative subject matter has generated scorn from conservative critics. But it was not the only Golden Globe winner whose story hinges on sexual politics.

Felicity Huffman received the best dramatic actress honor for playing a man in the midst of changing his gender in "Transamerica." In her acceptance speech, Huffman paid poignant tribute to all transgender people, saying that she hopes her movie "heals and brings understanding."

Philip Seymour Hoffman, who played the gay writer Truman Capote in "Capote," picked up the dramatic actor trophy.

The television winners, including "The Office's" Steve Carell and "Commander in Chief's" Geena Davis, at least offered some comic relief to the Beverly Hills Hilton ceremony.

Hugh Laurie, who won best actor in a drama series for the medical show "House," drew scraps of paper from his pants pocket, first thanking the show's script supervisor and then a hairdresser -- before inevitably thanking his agent as well.

The 63rd annual Golden Globes were selected by the members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn., a group of often obscure journalists covering film and television for a variety of international publications (the Oscars, by comparison, are decided by about 5,800 voters). Unlike other major film awards programs, the association presents six trophies in two movie categories: dramas, and musicals or comedies.

Phoenix even joked about his "Walk the Line" best actor win in the musical or comedy group. "Who ever would have thought," Phoenix said, "I'd win in the comedy or musical category?"

A Golden Globe win isn't a sure predictor of an Academy Award. Last year, "The Aviator" won the Globe for best dramatic film and "Sideways" took the prize for best comedy or musical. The best picture Oscar, however, was awarded to "Million Dollar Baby." The Globes and the Academy Awards did agree on winners for best director (Clint Eastwood), best actor (Jamie Foxx) and best actress (Hilary Swank).

"Brokeback Mountain's" Lee won the Golden Globe five years ago for directing "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" but lost the Oscar that year to Steven Soderbergh's drug thriller "Traffic."

But the timing of this year's Golden Globes, coming five days before ballots for Oscar nominations close, could help influence members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Last year's Golden Globes were announced a day after Oscar ballots were due.NBC's ratings for last year's Golden Globes were down 37% from 2004, as the show was clobbered by ABC's "Desperate Housewives," which coincidentally that year won the Golden Globe for best comedy series.

This year's ceremony was moved to Monday night in part to escape the "Desperate Housewives" rating competition.

Just as the evening concluded with "Brokeback Mountain's" best dramatic picture win, the night started out by recognizing two overtly political films.

George Clooney was selected best supporting actor for his role as a veteran CIA operative in "Syriana." Clooney, about the only movie actor or filmmaker who brought some perspective to the evening -- thanking indicted Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff "just because." Clooney then went on to make a ribald joke about the dealmaker's name.

Rachel Weisz took the best supporting actress award for her performance as the doomed pharmaceutical watchdog in "The Constant Gardener."

While "Brokeback Mountain" was passed over in the first category in which it was nominated (best supporting actress), the film started picking up momentum halfway through the broadcast when novelist Larry McMurtry and partner Diana Ossana won for best screenplay.

Soon after, the film's composer, Gustavo Santaolalla, and lyricist, Bernie Taupin, picked up a Globe for "A Love That Will Never Grow Old," which was named best song.

The Palestinian film "Paradise Now" was named best foreign-language film. John Williams won for best original score for "Memoirs of a Geisha," which has been blanked in other awards.

Times staff writer Maria Elena Fernandez contributed to this report.

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