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.)
PHOTOS: Golden Globes red carpet
"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.
PHOTOS: Golden Globes 2012 winners
There were standing ovations for Martin Scorsese and Morgan Freeman -- two giants of cinema who were honored during the three-hour ceremony.
Scorsese won best director for his valentine to film, "Hugo," 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.
ABC's "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.
Meanwhile, 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 Showtime's "Episodes," 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 HBO. 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 CIA agent in "Homeland." 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" and 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 "Enlightened."
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 in "My Week with Marilyn." Idris Elba won lead actor in a TV miniseries or movie for the BBC America crime drama "Luther."
Madonna, meanwhile, put those those toned arms to good use -- holding up a Golden Globe for best song for "Masterpiece," from her film "W.E.," 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 "Boss." (He won two Golden Globes for his comedic work on "Frasier.") It was also repeat of last year's Emmys with PBS' "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 "Beginners." Foreign film honors went to Iran's "A Separation." Many viewers no doubt tuned in to the telecast on NBC 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.
PHOTOS: Golden Globes red carpet
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