BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. – "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 Calif. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger presented the best drama prize, the evening's final honor for the sweeping ensemble drama that takes place on three continents.
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."
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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.
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.
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 colorful anatomical language, Cohen thanked co-star Kenneth Davitian for a naked-wrestling scene in which the heavyset hairy actor rolls around on top of Cohen, who has 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.
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.
"You don't know what this does for my confidence," said director Eastwood, whose "Letters" and its English-language companion piece "Flags of Our Fathers" generally have failed to catch on with audiences and earlier Hollywood awards.
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.
Warren Beatty received the Cecil B. DeMille Award for lifetime achievement.
"The truth is I haven't made an awful lot of movies, in fact," Beatty said, joking about the busy schedules of other older actors and filmmakers such as Eastwood and Jack Nicholson. "Something like this is enough really for a guy to go out and make another movie."
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.
But all four of 2005's acting recipients at the Oscars — Philip Seymour Hoffman, Reese Witherspoon, George Clooney and Rachel Weisz — also won Golden Globes.
Nominations for the Oscars closed Saturday, so the outcome of the Globes cannot affect who gets nominated.