Despite the tanking economy and the various wars all over the world, nothing seemed to dent the calculated frivolity that is the Golden Globes -- nothing except "The Dark Knight" director Christopher Nolan's somber face as he accepted the supporting actor in a motion picture award for the late Heath Ledger.
"All of us who worked with Heath on 'The Dark Knight' accept this with an awful mixture of sadness but incredible pride," Nolan said. "After Heath passed on, you saw a hole ripped in the future of cinema, but with the extraordinary response to his work that we've seen all over the world, I for one will start to be able to look less at the gap in the future and at the incredible place Heath made for himself with his talent and his dedication."
The crowd gave Ledger, who died almost a year ago, a standing ovation, agreeing wholeheartedly with Nolan's assessment that "Heath will be eternally missed but he will never be forgotten."
Actors too had praise for the Australian. "It was wonderful that he won," said Paul Giamatti, who took home the award for actor in a TV miniseries for his work in "John Adams." "It was a fantastic performance but it was just one, he had a lot ahead of him and he had done great work before."
Thus begins what many expect to be a long, bittersweet trek through the numerous award shows as stand-ins are called in to accept the accolades for Ledger's performance as the anarchic Joker. Many believe he is the overwhelming favorite to win the Oscar.
The 28-year-old actor died last January from an overdose of prescription drugs. Only two other actors have won posthumous Golden Globes: Peter Finch and a special achievement award for James Dean.
While Warner Bros. has been waging a vigorous Oscar campaign on behalf of the entire film, Ledger's transcendent performance has caught the public's imagination, leading the film's various members to answer questions about the young actor. In a red carpet interview with Ryan Seacrest, Maggie Gyllenhaal expressed her admiration for her costar and her unease with her de facto role as his ambassador.
At such a festive occasion, "It's hard to talk about a friend who died," Gyllenhaal said in a polite remonstration of Seacrest.
Ledger was nominated for a Golden Globe and an Oscar for his role as a repressed and quietly unhappy gay cowboy in "Brokeback Mountain."
Other memorable performances include a suicidal prison guard in "Monster's Ball" and Bob Dylan in "I'm Not There."