BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. (AP) - A Mexican director delivered the globe-spanning best drama Golden Globe winner. A U.S. director crafted the foreign-language champ. Another American won a key acting prize playing an African dictator. And a Brit received an acting honor for playing a Kazakh man.
Monday's Globes certainly lived up to their name with an international flavor among key winners, though the drowsy ceremony failed to live up to its reputation as a spontaneous counterpart to the staid Academy Awards.
"Dreamgirls," adapted from the stage hit about a female singing trio's rise to fame in the 1960s and `70s, led winners with three Globes: best musical or comedy and acting honors for supporting players Eddie Murphy and Jennifer Hudson. Mexican director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's "Babel," a sprawling ensemble tale centered on loosely linked families on three continents, won best drama.
After a fairly tedious three hours, the show finally ended with a comic highlight as California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger presented the drama prize to "Babel."
Inarritu quipped, "I swear I have my papers in order. Governor, I swear."
Backstage, Inarritu celebrated the growing strength of Mexican cinema, paying tribute to countrymen Alfonso Cuaron, who made the thriller "Children of Men," and Guillermo del Toro, who made Golden Globe foreign-language nominee "Pan's Labyrinth."
"Not only have we been directors, but we have been such good friends for years," Inarritu said. "I'm proud of Mexican cinema, making films around the world and talking about universal themes."
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."
"He was very charismatic, very funny," Whitaker said of Amin, whom he played as a strangely likable man despite the dictator's brutality. "That's how he was able to rise to power, and that's why the British army loved him so much and then ultimately placed him in power."
Whitaker and Mirren were considered heavy Academy Awards favorites going into the evening, and their Globe wins make them look like virtual shoo-ins for the Oscars on Feb. 25.
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." As today's Elizabeth, Mirren presented a human portrait of an old-school leader coping with her subjects' enmity over her handling of Princess Diana's death in 1997.
Backstage, a reporter whimsically asked if Mirren had heard from either Elizabeth about her performances.
"Elizabeth I did communicate with me, and she said you're the first one that got it right, Helen," Mirren said. "The second one hasn't communicated and nor would she. And if she did, I wouldn't tell you, anyway."
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.
In "Dreamgirls," Murphy played a wailing soul singer trying to keep pace with the times. Asked backstage whether the role means he may revive his own recording career, Murphy said, "Oh no, that's pretty much dead. No, that `Party All the Time' tour will not be happening."
Vocal powerhouse Hudson, who rose to fame barely two years ago as a finalist on "American Idol," has shown singing and acting chops that may promise a long career in both music and film.
"Last year this time, I wasn't sure if I was an actress, but now this gives, just gives me the confidence to want to carry on, to continue acting," Hudson said. "I did find a new love in acting, and I want to continue acting and continue singing, as well."
The Globes have a strong history of forecasting eventual Oscar winners, and the top acting recipients certainly solidified their prospects for Hollywood's biggest awards. But the best-picture race remained murky, with "Dreamgirls" and "Babel" getting a lift from the Globes but "The Departed" and "The Queen" remaining solid contenders.
Clint Eastwood, who had two directing nominations for his World War II films "Letters From Iwo Jima" and "Flags of Our Fathers," lost that honor to Martin Scorsese, who took home the best-director Globe for the mob tale "The Departed."
Eastwood did pull an unusual coup for an American filmmaker as the Japanese-language "Letters" won the foreign-language Globe.
British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen received the 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," in which he reprised his television role as a crass, clueless Kazakh journalist.
Last fall, he promoted the film in character as Borat. Monday night, he explained why he has resumed his own persona in public.