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(photo credit: AP)
Although overlooked at the Screen Actors' Guild Awards, Sacha Baron Cohen walked away Monday night with a Golden Globe for best actor in a movie musical or comedy for his raucous satire Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. The British-born Jewish comedian's caricature of anti-Semitic, misogynist Kazakh reporter found a tremendous audience in Israel and around the world.
Also known for his alter-ego Ali G, Cohen spent a year on kibbutz as a teenager and was a member of Habonim, a Socialist-Zionist youth movement - a factor which may have contributed to his frequent use of Hebrew in the hit film (simply intended to sound foreign).
In colorful anatomical language, Cohen thanked co-star Kenneth Davitian for their famous naked-wrestling scene in which the heavyset hairy actor rolls around on top of Cohen, forcing him to breathe the fetid air from his buttocks.
"Kenneth, if it was not for that rancid bubble, I would not be here today," Cohen said.
Babel won best drama and Dreamgirls was named best musical or comedy at Monday's Golden Globes, establishing them as potential front-runners for a showdown at the Academy Awards.
"I swear I have my papers in order, governor, I swear," Babel director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu of Mexico joked after California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger presented the best drama prize for the sweeping ensemble drama that takes place on three continents.
Inarritu's wisecrack was a highlight of an otherwise ho-hum Globes ceremony, a show that failed to live up to its reputation as a freewheeling Hollywood soiree where stars sometimes cut loose with amusing antics.
The Globes for best dramatic performances were awarded for renditions of two wildly different heads of state: Helen Mirren won best actress as Britain's priggish monarch Elizabeth II in The Queen, while Forest Whitaker took best actor as magnetic but savage Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland.
Mirren noted that at age 25 in 1952, Elizabeth "walked into literally the role of a lifetime, and I honestly think this award belongs to her, because I think you fell in love with her, not with me."
Both Mirren and Whitaker have been regarded as Oscar front-runners since their films debuted last fall.
Mirren also won the Globe for best actress in a TV movie or miniseries as the current monarch's namesake of centuries ago in Elizabeth I.
The crowd-pleasing musical Dreamgirls also won acting honors for Eddie Murphy and Jennifer Hudson, its three prizes possibly positioning it as the nominal favorite heading toward the Oscars.
Babel, a tale of families around the globe linked by tragic events in the African desert, won only best drama, leaving its Oscar prospects somewhat up in the air. Other dramas it beat, including the crime saga The Departed and The Queen, still could challenge for the top Oscar.
Murphy, previously a three-time loser in the best-actor category at the Globes, finally won a major Hollywood honor after a 25-year career in which his fast-talking comic persona made him a superstar while critical acceptance eluded him.
"Wow. I'll be damned," said Murphy, who plays a slick soul singer struggling to change with the times and find new relevance as the Motown music scene evolves through the 1960s and '70s.
"People don't come to me with supporting roles," Murphy said backstage. "The reason I responded to this was that it was a great role. I've always been open to it; it just never came to me."
Hudson rose to fame barely two years ago on American Idol on the strength of her powerhouse voice, which she uses to great effect in Dreamgirls, a film that also shows her remarkable acting range, from brassy comedy to heartbreaking pathos as a soaring vocalist in a Supremes-like singing group.
"I had always dreamed but I never ever dreamed this big. This goes far beyond anything I could have ever imagined," said Hudson, who dedicated her award to the late Florence Ballard, one of the singers from the Supremes on whom her Dreamgirls character was based.
After a decades-long drought in which musicals were virtually absent from Hollywood's lineup, Dreamgirls is the third song-and-dance flick to click with audiences in the last five years. Moulin Rouge scored a best-picture Oscar nomination for 2001, while Chicago won best-picture for 2003, a feat Dreamgirls aims to emulate.
Meryl Streep won her sixth Golden Globe, this one as best actress in a musical or comedy for The Devil Wears Prada, in which she plays the boss from hell at a top fashion magazine.
"I think I've worked with everybody in the room," joked Streep, one of Hollywood's winningest actresses during awards season. "It makes you want to cry with gratitude. Until next year."
The best director prize went to Martin Scorsese for the mob tale The Departed, the second Globe for the filmmaker, boosting his prospects to finally win an Oscar after five nominations, all losses.
American director Clint Eastwood's Japanese-language World War II saga Letters From Iwo Jima won the honor for foreign-language film, a prize usually reserved for movies from outside the United States.
Backstage, Eastwood joked, "Now that I'm a foreign director, I've got to learn some languages."
The talking-auto comedy Cars took the first-ever Golden Globe for animated film, a category added because of the rush of cartoon flicks Hollywood now churns out.
"Animation is awesome everybody. It's my life. I've lived in it. It's so exciting to have our own category," said Cars director John Lasseter, the innovative director of the Toy Story movies who pioneered the current computer-animation craze.
The Queen won the movie screenplay honor for Peter Morgan.
AS HOLLYWOOD'S second-biggest film honors, the Globes are something of a dress rehearsal for the Oscars, whose nominations come out Jan. 23. The Oscar ceremony will be on Feb. 25.
The Hollywood Foreign Press Association that presents the Globes has roughly 85 members, while about 5,800 film professionals are eligible to vote for the Oscars.
Yet the group has a strong history of forecasting eventual Academy Awards winners and providing momentum for certain movies and stars as Oscar voters begin to cast their ballots.
Such Globe best-picture winners as Shakespeare in Love, American Beauty, Gladiator and Chicago went on to win the same prize at the Oscars. Globe voters were off target the past two years, anointing 2004's The Aviator as best drama, a prize that went to Million Dollar Baby at the Oscars, and 2005's Brokeback Mountain, which lost to Crash come Oscar night.
Nominations for the Oscars closed Saturday, so the outcome of the Globes cannot affect who gets nominated.
(AP with JPost Staff)