War epic “1917” shocked the Golden Globes on Sunday by claiming the top prize for best drama film, while Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood” won comedy honors, boosting their prospects for next month’s Oscars.
“Once Upon a Time…” – an homage to 1960s Tinseltown – won the most awards on the night with three prizes, while Martin Scorsese’s much-vaunted Netflix crime saga “The Irishman” went home empty-handed.
The Globes are the first major awards gala of the year, in a packed season that ends with the Academy Awards in just over a month’s time, so Sunday’s winners will hope to capitalize on some much-needed momentum.
“1917” follows two British soldiers through the trenches in World War I, and is filmed to look like one continuous, two-hour-long shot.
“Goodness me, that is a big surprise,” said stunned filmmaker Sam Mendes, who bested Scorsese and Tarantino in the crowded best director category.
“Can I just say there’s not one director in this room, not one director in the world that is not in the shadow of Martin Scorsese? I just have to say that,” he added to loud applause.
Tarantino won the best screenplay award, and Brad Pitt took home best supporting actor honors for his role as a loyal stuntman to Leonardo DiCaprio’s character in the film.
“I also have to thank my partner in crime, LDC,” said Pitt.
“I wouldn’t be here without you, man… I would have shared the raft, though,” he added, referring to the closing scene of “Titanic.”
“Once Upon a Time…” clearly resonated with the 90-odd members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA), which doles out the prizes, but other films made their mark.
Joaquin Phoenix cemented his Oscar frontrunner status by winning the best drama actor prize for his radical turn in “Joker,” a dark and controversial take on the comic book super-villain.
Phoenix, like several A-listers, used his speech to address climate change and the Australian wildfires, continuing until producers played him off with music.
He also thanked director Todd Phillips, saying: “You convinced me to do this movie and you encouraged me to give everything and to be sincere. And I’m such a pain in the ass.”
Renee Zellweger also burnished her Oscar credentials with an expected win for biopic “Judy,” portraying Judy Garland in her later years.
South Korean black comedy “Parasite” bagged the award for best foreign language film, as widely expected, while Awkwafina became the first actress of Asian descent to win the best comedy actress prize for “The Farewell.”
Oscar nominations voting is already under way, but does not close until Tuesday.
Stars arriving under bright California skies in couture gowns and extravagant jewels were greeted by British comic Ricky Gervais’s signature cutting one-liners.
“Let’s go out with a bang, let’s have a laugh at your expense, shall we?” joked Gervais, hosting the awards for the fifth and final time, before tearing into the industry with a no-holds-barred monologue.
Gervais tackled topics haunting the entertainment sector including #MeToo, lack of diversity, and the streaming wars, to name but a few.
An off-color joke about British actress Judi Dench and the critically slammed film “Cats” was bleeped out by censors.
Elton John’s “I’m Gonna Love Me Again” won best original song for “Rocketman,” a musical biopic about the legendary British musician’s life, and Taron Egerton won best musical/comedy actor for his starring role.
“It was one of the most emotional moments of my life to win this, the first time I’ve ever won an award with him,” said John, referring to longtime collaborator Bernie Taupin.
“It’s a relationship that doesn’t happen very much in this town – it’s a 52-year-old marriage,” added Taupin.
Tom Hanks welled up thanking his family as he accepted a lifetime achievement award.
Among the Globes handed out on the TV side, HBO hit “Succession” won best drama, fending off Netflix’s flagship “The Crown.” Its star Brian Cox won for best actor.
But “Crown” star Olivia Colman scooped best actress for her turn as Queen Elizabeth II.
Phoebe Waller-Bridge added a best comedy actress Globe to her Emmy win for her show “Fleabag,” which also won overall top comedy honors.
Netflix – which has disrupted the film industry in recent years – began the night far ahead of the traditional Hollywood studios with 17 Globe movie nominations.
“This show should just be me coming out, (saying) ‘You win everything, Netflix, good night,” joked Gervais.
But the streaming giant, which has spent billions to lure the industry’s top filmmaking talent, flopped to end with just one movie win.
Laura Dern won for her supporting turn in “Marriage Story,” a heart-wrenching divorce saga starring Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver, which began the night with the most nods (six).
“The Irishman,” a favorite to win best picture that cost Netflix $160 million to make, did not convert any of its five nominations.