Ricky Gervais still gets the laughs at this year's Golden Globes

Black and white silent film The Artist got three awards at this year's Golden Globes ceremony and Ricky Gervais was a bit kinder to his celebrity audience this year. See a video of his opening monologue here.

The organising network NBC’s bark about him being “the host they can’t control” was considerably worse than Gervais’s actual bite on the night.
Powered by automated translation

In the end, it was Kim Kardashian and Eddie Murphy who came in ahead of the favourites Russell Brand and Katie Perry for those betting on who would be picked on at Sunday night’s Golden Globes ceremony in Los Angeles. No, they may not have won any awards, but they were the first celebrities in the firing line of the “controversial” host Ricky Gervais’s “hotly-anticipated” opening monologue.

Despite the absurd fallout from the ribbing last year of Hollywood glitterati – in particular of Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie for their box office failure The Tourist – which saw the British comic treated as if he’d just taken a machinegun to the entire Beverly Hilton Hotel ballroom, he was invited back again in a remarkable act of masochism (read: shameless PR ploy to attract attention to awards considered largely meaningless in film industry).“The Golden Globes are to the Oscars like Kim Kardashian is to Kate Middleton. A bit louder. A bit trashier. A bit drunker. And more easily bought,” was Gervais’s first celebrity swipe, before questioning the importance of the Academy Awards after Eddie Murphy had turned down the hosting job. “When the man who says ‘yes’ to Norbit says ‘no’ to you …”

But this time it seemed as if the disobedient dog had been muzzled, and the organising network NBC’s bark about him being “the host they can’t control” was considerably worse than Gervais’s actual bite on the night. Kardashian and Murphy were easy (and absent) targets, but he appeared too timid actually to go after the A-listers in the room. He barely bothered Madonna, who was in the audience (and won a Best Original Song gong for her appearance). He steered clear of Jolie, whose hair was tied back so tight her nose looked in danger of being pulled up to her forehead. He was positively cooing over George Clooney. Instead, the “meanest” host delivered a somewhat lacklustre performance, littered with the self-congratulatory smugness that has become standard in his more recent television output. “Tonight you get Britain’s biggest comedian, hosting the world’s second biggest awards show on America’s third biggest network. Actually fourth,” was an opening gag that had clearly been OK’d with NBC first.

But hosting disappointments aside, the evening proved a success for one Harvey Weinstein and the black-and-white romance The Artist. The Weinstein Company led the pack of studios with six wins, with Harvey undoubtedly the most thanked person on stage. “The Punisher”, “the Boss” and, even, “God” were the numerous titles bestowed on the veteran executive by award winners eager to please their master.

The Artist, already a favourite for Academy Award success next month, took home three Globes, including Best Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical, Best Actor – Comedy or Musical (Jean Dujardin) and Best Original Score. The Golden Globes have matched the Oscars’ Best Picture only twice in the past decade – for Lord of the Rings: Return of the King and Slumdog Millionaire – but the victory on Sunday will surely improve The Artist’s odds.

Alexander Payne’s Hawaii-based family drama The Descendants, another hot Oscar’s contender, took Best Motion Picture – Drama and Best Actor – Drama for George Clooney, who used his time on stage to praise Brad Pitt “for the wonderful work he does in the rest of the world, for the rest of the people”, giving NBC an opportunity to focus on Jolie. Many are already suggesting that the win puts Payne in position to win the Best Director Oscar.

“I want to thank everybody in England for letting me trample all over their history,” exclaimed Meryl Streep on winning Best Actress – Drama for The Iron Lady, no doubt referring to the numerous more controversial elements of Margaret Thatcher’s stewardship of Britain that somehow took a back seat in the biopic.Michelle Williams’s portrayal of Marilyn Monroe in My Week With Marilyn won her the gong for Best Actress – Comedy or Musical, a bizarre category inclusion highlighted by Seth Rogen when he introduced her onstage “for the hysterical comedy”. Williams ultimately got the evening’s “aaaww” vote when she thanked her daughter Matilda for coping with “six months of bedtime stories where all of the voices were read aloud in a Marilyn Monroe voice”.

In the Foreign Language category, the unstoppable juggernaut that is A Separation added to last week’s Critics’ Choice Award and now surely looks set to bring Iran its first Oscar. But for the director Asghar Farhadi, as for all Iranian filmmakers, success is a double-edged sword. “Automatically, this success and good reception make the authorities more sensitive on me, so they are going to focus more on my next movie or next project,” he told The National at the Abu Dhabi Film Festival in October. Other victors in Beverly Hills included a Best Supporting gong for Octavia Spencer (The Help), Best Screenplay for Woody Allen (Midnight in Paris), Best Director for Martin Scorsese (Hugo) and Best Animated Film for Tintin (collected by Steven Spielberg).

As the winners and losers polished off their hideously expensive desserts (apparently decorated with real gold flakes) and sloped off to the numerous after-parties, there must have been a few faces looking relieved that they had escaped the comic assault that caused so much grief last year. Gervais did not live up to the “take no prisoners” or “pull no punches” pre-show build-up. The fire that had been promised – and no doubt assured a far bigger international audience – turned out to be hot air.  “The Hollywood Foreign Press have warned me that if I insult any of you, or any of them, or offend any viewers or cause any controversy whatsoever, they’ll definitely invite me back next year,” he remarked at the start. Never mind, Ricky, three goes isn’t bad.