The glitz-and-glamour season kicked into high gear Sunday when the 69th Annual Golden Globe Awards were handed out in Beverly Hills, Calif.
British comedian Ricky Gervais handled hosting duties for a third time. After his scorched-earth performance  last year, when he torched everyone from Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie to the Hollywood Foreign Press Association -- the organization behind the awards -- many wondered why the HFPA invited him back. Oh yeah, because people tuned in to watch the train wreck .
This year Gervais promised to deliver more pain  to Hollywood's bejeweled and bedazzled stars. He began by throwing a few barbs at NBC, the network airing the show: "Tonight you get Britain's biggest comedian hosting the world's second-biggest award show on America's third-biggest network ... it's four, it's four."
Gervais was also quick to point out that the Globes are the Oscars' boozier, more boisterous little cousin. "The Golden Globes are just like the Oscar but without all that esteem," he said. "The Golden Globes are to the Oscars what Kim Kardashian is to Kate Middleton. A bit louder, a bit trashier, a bit drunker and more easily bought."
Unfortunately, besides those and a few zingers about Eddie Murphy (see below), Gervais delivered a rather tame performance. His jokes were less snarky, less pointed and less interesting. After all the hype, he was a kinder, gentler host.
The awards show, honoring the best in television and film, gets a lot of credit for predicting Oscar front-runners  (the complete list of Globe winners is here ). How well that holds up for Sunday night's winners won't be known until Jan. 24, when the Academy Award nominations are announced.
Even though the three-hour show was a bit ho-hum, here are a few memorable moments.
Octavia Spencer Wins for The Help
By now everyone knows about all the controversy surrounding the film and the novel that inspired it , but just about everyone agrees that Viola Davis and Spencer gave inspirational performances as maids living and working in civil rights-era Mississippi. Both actresses scored Golden Globes nods and are expected to be among the Oscar nominees when they are announced.
Spencer received a big boost to her Oscar chances by winning the Golden Globe for best supporting actress. A clearly excited Spencer said, "With regard to domestics in this country now and then, I think Dr. King said it best: 'All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance,' and I thank you for recognizing that in our film."
Spencer's win was the only one for The Help, which had five nominations. In what may be considered a bit of an upset, Davis lost the best actress award to Meryl Streep, who won for her role as Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady. Look for those two to duke it out for best actress at next month's Oscars.
Morgan Freeman Receives the Cecil B. DeMille Award
The regal Sidney Poitier, himself a DeMille Award honoree, was on hand to deliver an eloquent speech about Freeman before turning things over to actress Helen Mirren. Mirren, who introduced Freeman's clip reel, is usually stellar at anything she does, but her attempts at humor about Driving Miss Daisy fell pretty flat.
As the clips rolled, we were reminded of all the dignified performances by Freeman in such films as Lean on Me, The Shawshank Redemption and Million Dollar Baby. And then one particular clip appeared that provided one of the most hilarious moments of the show: Freeman dressed as Dracula bathing in a casket  in an episode of The Electric Company.
Idris Elba Wins for Luther
It was great to see the former Stringer Bell get his first Golden Globe for the top-notch British crime drama in which Elba plays the brilliant but damaged Detective Chief Inspector John Luther. We also love hearing Elba speak in his beautiful lilting British accent. His shout-out to his daughter was precious: "To my beautiful daughter Isan, who's at home having a Golden Globe party. We did it, Mama, I love you. Cheers."
One of the weirder tidbits about Elba came from the Globes' public-address guy: "He co-produced a track on rapper Jay Z’s 2007 album, American Gangster." Is that the most interesting thing they could find about his career?
Gervais Throws a Few Jabs at Eddie Murphy
The host took a few moments in his opening monologue to joke about Murphy, who passed on hosting the Oscars after his buddy Brett Ratner stepped down  as producer of that awards show. Gervais quipped, "Who needs the Oscars? Not me and not Eddie Murphy. He walked out on 'em. He said no, and good for him. But when the man who said yes to Norbit says no to you, you know you're in trouble."
Gervais also took a few swipes at Murphy's and Adam Sandler's habit of dressing like women for laughs: "A bit of trivia for you, actually: Eddie Murphy and Adam Sandler, between them, played all the parts in the movie The Help. I can't believe they're not here. Or maybe they are; they're masters of disguise.”
The Globes Add a Little Diversity
In addition to those honoring Freeman, presenters included Paula Patton, Queen Latifah, Salma Hayek, Antonio Banderas and Freida Pinto. Mary J. Blige, nominated for best song, was spotted a few times on camera. And for some reason, even Chris Tucker had a seat at a table. Still, Hollywood's track record of providing roles for people of color remains pretty dismal -- unless, of course, they are looking for people to play maids or to drive Miss Daisy.