The Golden Globe awards got down to the business of giving awards on Sunday with veteran actor Christopher Plummer winning the first honor of best supporting actor in a movie "The Beginners" and thriller "Homeland" being named best TV drama.
Plummer, 82, won the Golden Globe trophy for his portrayal of an elderly man who comes out as gay to his family in "Beginners," bringing both poignancy and a touch of humor to their lives.
Onstage holding his trophy, he thanked writer/director Mike Mills, saying that his "talent and wisdom made 'Beginners' such an enchantingly human story."
Also among early winners was Laura Dern, who was named best actress in a TV musical or comedy in her show, "Enlightened." Kate Winslet was named best actress in a TV movie or mini-series for "Mildred Pierce" and "Downton Abbey" was best TV movie or miniseries.
The Golden Globe Awards are given out by the roughly 90 members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association at what annually is among the key events during Hollywood's awards season because of the media exposure it brings.
While film and TV honors take the spotlight at the ceremony, this year, all eyes and ears were on host Ricky Gervais who returned to the event this year after ruffling the feathers of HFPA members and more than a few Hollywood stars with his caustic wit.
Earlier on the red carpet, he promised "more of the same" and did not disappoint, tweaking the ribs of Johnny Depp and his 2010 box office flop "The Tourist" and chiding Jodie Foster and her 2011 movie, "The Beaver."
He also took some more jabs at the HFPA, which Gervais panned last year, by comparing the Golden Globes unfavorably to the Oscars, which are the film industry's top awards.
It's "just like the Oscars, but without all that esteem," Gervais said.
"The Golden Globes are to the Oscars what Kim Kardashian is to Kate Middleton, honestly," he said, comparing the U.S. reality TV star and the Duchess of Cambridge.
A-LIST RED CARPET
Given their status as one of the most widely-watched award shows, this year's ceremony attracted Hollywood A-listers such as George Clooney, Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio and numerous others who walked the fashion-filled red carpet ahead of dinner and the program.
"Modern Family" TV star Sofia Vergara showed off a form-fitting, teal-colored Vera Wang gown and Harry Winston jewels.
Many actresses wore strapless dresses or had plunging necklines and hand-tied bowties were a must among men. Even Uggie the dog from most-nominated film "The Artist" put his four paws on the carpet -- black tie around his neck, of course.
Later in the evening come the top awards for best film drama and comedy, as well as performances in those movies.
Silent-era film "The Artist," a romantic tale shot in the style of old Hollywood, heads into Sunday night's ceremony with six nominations, including best comedy or musical. Late last week, it was named 2011's best movie at the Critics' Choice Awards and appears a good bet to take the Golden Globe for best musical or comedy.
HFPA voters also pick a winner of best film drama, and "The Descendants," starring Clooney as a father trying to keep his family together during a crisis, has the strongest shot at walking off a victor, O'Neil said. Although civil rights drama "The Help" also has been well-received in Hollywood this year.
Among actors and actresses, Meryl Streep looks to be a good pick to claim the trophy for best actress in a drama playing former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in "The Iron Lady." She faces a challenge from Viola Davis in "The Help," after Davis also picked up the Critics' Choice trophy.
Michelle Williams competes for best actress in a movie musical or comedy in "My Week with Marilyn" against the likes of "Saturday Night Live" comedian Kristen Wiig for "Bridesmaids."
Clooney with "Descendants" takes on Leonardo DiCaprio for "J. Edgar" and Brad Pitt in "Moneyball" in the best drama actor category, and "Artist" star, Frenchman Jean Dujardin, is the odds-on bet for best actor in a film musical or comedy.
Among TV shows, thriller "Homeland" is one of the new shows competing for best drama, taking on others such as "American Horror Story" and "Game of Thrones." Best comedy nominees feature past favorites such as "Glee" and "Modern Family."
The three-hour Golden Globe Awards show airs live on NBC.