The con-artist caper "American Hustle" looked every bit the Oscar front-runner at the Golden Globes, winning acting awards for Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence.
Adams, in a low-cut dress evocative of her character's '70s style, won her first Golden Globe for best actress in a comedy or musical Sunday night at the Beverly Hills, Calif., ceremony. Lawrence took best supporting actress for her performance in David O. Russell's fictionalized Abscam tale.
The award returned Lawrence, a winner last year for Russell's "Silver Linings Playbook," to the stage for an acceptance speech — something she said was no easier a year later.
"Don't ever do this again," she told herself. "It's so scary."
Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, last year's co-hosts, picked up where they left off, starting the 71st annual Golden Globes with a torrent of punch lines that lambasted Matt Damon, Meryl Streep and, of course, George Clooney. The starry audience roared most of all when Fey described the four-Globe nominee space odyssey "Gravity."
"George Clooney would rather float away in space and die than spend one more minute with a woman his own age," said Fey.
Four months after its final episode, AMC's "Breaking Bad" won for best drama TV series and best actor in a drama series for Bryan Cranston (both their first Globes). Cranston called his honor "a lovely way to say goodbye." Creator Vince Gilligan said the award gave him "one more chance to thank the fans of the show," but left the final word for star Aaron Paul.
"Yeah, bitch," declared Paul, with what essentially became his character's catch phrase.
U2 and Danger Mouse won the award for best original song for "Ordinary Love," recorded for the Nelson Mandela biopic "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom." Bono said working on the film completed a decades-long journey with Mandela, having played an anti-apartheid concert some 35 years ago.
"This man turned our life upside down, right-side up," said Bono of the South African leader who died in December. "A man who refused to hate not because he didn't have rage or anger or those things, but that he thought love would do a better job."
Accepting the Globe for best supporting actor, Jared Leto also paid tribute to his inspiration. The actor, whose rock band took him away from movies for years before the part, won for playing a transsexual in the Texas HIV drama "Dallas Buyers Club."
"To the Rayons of the world, thanks for the inspiration," said Leto.
As expected, the Emmy-winning HBO film "Behind the Candelabra," the acclaimed Liberace drama directed by Steven Soderbergh, won for best movie or miniseries. Producer Jerry Weintraub, the famed Hollywood producer, accepted the award.
The telecast managed two expletives in its first 30 minutes, one from Elisabeth Moss (winner of best actress, miniseries or movie, for "Top of the Lake"), the other from Jacqueline Bisset (best supporting actress, miniseries or movie, "Dancing on the Edge"). Both were surprise winners.
But the playful interplay of Fey and Poehler again stole the show in the early going. The "SNL" duo, signed up to host next year, too, brought last year's Globes' telecast to a six-year ratings high of 19.7 million.
"This is Hollywood," explained Fey. "If something kind of works, they'll just keep doing it until everyone hates it."
Poehler said that in such a famous crowd, Damon was "basically a garbage person." He later sheepishly presented an introduction to best picture nominee "Captain Phillips: "It's me, the garbage man."
The Tracy Letts play adaptation "August: Osage County," starring Streep, Fey said, proved "that there are great parts in Hollywood for Meryl Streeps over 60."
Many of the awards were spread around. Spike Jonze won for his screenplay to his futuristic romance "Her."
Going into Sunday night, the favorites were "American Hustle" and Steve McQueen's unflinching epic "12 Years a Slave." The films and their much-nominated ensemble casts lead with seven nominations each, but they're mostly separated by the Globes' split between comedy-musical and drama categories.
Alfonso Cuaron's space odyssey "Gravity," a worldwide hit starring Sandra Bullock, is just as much a front-runner, only with a more limited cast. When Oscar nominations are announced Thursday morning, "Gravity" (nominated for four Globes) will likely clean up in the technical achievement categories that the Globes don't honor.
The Hollywood Foreign Press Association, a group of about 85 mostly freelance foreign journalists (Fey and Poehler mocked their publications), has recently undergone a change in leadership and, perhaps, a shift toward respectability. While the Globes have in the past been known for curious nominees like "The Tourist" and "Salmon Fishing in the Yemen," this year's nominees were seen as without such oddities.
This year, the Globes fall days after Oscar nomination voting concluded.
Follow AP Film Writer Jake Coyle on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/jake_coyle