BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. -- Annette Bening won the Golden Globe for best actress in a musical or comedy on Sunday, setting her up for her latest showdown at the Academy Awards, where the Hollywood veteran has never won.
The boxing drama "The Fighter" earned both supporting-acting prizes, for Christian Bale and Melissa Leo. Bale secured his position as front-runner for the same prize at Feb. 27's Oscars, while Leo boosted her own prospects at Hollywood's big night.
Bening received her prize for the lesbian-family tale "The Kids Are All Right," winning in a field that included "The Kids Are All Right" co-star Julianne Moore. The film stars Bening and Moore as a couple whose family falls into turmoil after their teen children seek out the sperm donor who fathered them.
"I'm very proud to be a part of this very special film about two women who are deeply in love and try to keep their family together," Bening said. "My partner, Julianne Moore, I have to thank first. She asked me to do the picture with her. She made it possible for us to shoot it where we shot it, when we did, so Julianne -- you are a class act, thank you."
The buzz around town on Globes weekend was not only about likely winners, but also about a lawsuit filed Thursday by a former longtime publicist for the Globes claiming the organization that runs the show, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, engages in payola schemes for nominations and awards. The allegations have been denied by the HFPA, a group of about 85 reporters covering show business for overseas outlets.
Ricky Gervais returned as Globes host for the second-straight year. Gervais joked that Globe nominees weren't picked just so that Globe voters could hang out with stars such as Depp.
"They also accepted bribes," Gervais said, referring to the publicist lawsuit.
Philip Berk, who heads the HFPA, made no reference to the lawsuit during his appearance early in the show, simply offering a perfunctory plug for the quality of Hollywood movies.
Gervais pulled few punches as the night progressed, mocking Hugh Hefner, Charlie Sheen, Cher, Bruce Willis, Mel Gibson, Scientologists and Robert Downey Jr., among others.
"Aside from the fact that it's been hugely mean-spirited, with mildly sinister undertones, I'd say the vibe of the show is pretty good so far, wouldn't you?" Downey, a presenter, shot back, perhaps only half-jokingly.
Bening received the same prize at the Globes 11 years ago for "American Beauty" and went into Oscar night as the favorite, only to lose to Hilary Swank for "Boys Don't Cry." Swank preceded her Oscar win with the Globe for best dramatic actress, a prize expected to go to Natalie Portman for "Black Swan" on Sunday. That would put Bening and Portman in a likely two-woman race for best actress at the Oscars.
Bale, who won for his role as a former boxer whose career unraveled amid drugs and crime, thanked his collaborators on "The Fighter," among them director David O. Russell and star and producer Mark Wahlberg, who plays boxer Micky Ward to Bale's Dicky Eklund, Ward's older half brother.
"I've really got to give a shout out to Mark, because he drove this whole movie, and you can only give a loud performance like the one I gave when you have a quiet anchor and a stoic character," Bale said. "I've played that one many times, and it never gets any notice."
Bale seems to be on the same awards track as his "Batman" co-star, the late Heath Ledger, was two years ago, when he won supporting actor at the Globes for "The Dark Knight" on the way to earning a posthumous Oscar.
Leo, who plays the domineering mother of Ward and Eklund, had gushing words for all of her co-stars -- along with her own mother and other ancestors.
"Here in Southern California, home of my mother, her mother, her mother before her -- look Mom, I got a Golden Globe!" Leo said. "Mark Wahlberg, you are a prince, you are amazing. It was so beautiful to play your mother."
"The Fighter" also is competing for best drama at the Globes, along with "Black Swan," "Inception," "The King's Speech" and "The Social Network."
The regal 1930s saga "The King's Speech" and the contemporary Web tale "The Social Network" are considered the favorites for best drama. "The King's Speech" led the Globes with seven nominations and "The Social Network" dominated awards from top critics groups.
"Toy Story 3," the top-grossing film released last year and the second sequel to 1995's digital animation pioneer "Toy Story," won the Globe for animated films, making Disney's Pixar Animation unit five-for-five in the category since it was added in 2006. Past Pixar winners are "Up," "WALL-E," "Ratatouille" and "Cars."
"Wow, were you two even born when the first 'Toy Story' came out?" "Toy Story 3" director Lee Unkrich said to his award's presenters, 16-year-old pop star Justin Bieber and 14-year-old Hailee Steinfeld, co-star of "True Grit."
Robert De Niro received the Cecil B. DeMille Award for career achievement.
"The Social Network" won two awards, best screenplay for Aaron Sorkin, creator of "The West Wing," and musical score for Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. Diane Warren's "You Haven't Seen the Last of Me" from "Burlesque" won for best song. The Danish family drama "In a Better World" won the foreign film Globe.
Sorkin had kind words for Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, played by Jesse Eisenberg in "The Social Network."
"Mark Zuckerberg, if you're watching, Rooney Mara makes a prediction at the beginning of the movie. She was wrong. You turned out to be a great entrepreneur, a great visionary and an incredible altruist," Sorkin said.
Among TV winners, "Boardwalk Empire" won two prizes, for best drama and dramatic actor for Steve Buscemi. Other TV winners included Katey Sagal as best actress in a drama for "Sons of Anarchy," Chris Colfer as supporting actor for "Glee" and "Carlos" for best miniseries or movie.
Colin Firth was considered the likely winner for best dramatic actor for "The King's Speech," in which he OVER 19 LNsplays Queen Elizabeth II's father, George VI, amid his struggle to overcome a debilitating stammer.
Firth's competition included "The Social Network" star Eisenberg, who plays Internet innovator Zuckerberg as he founds Facebook then falls into legal tussles with former associates over the website's riches.
The Globe ceremony traditionally had a strong track record as a forecast for what film would win best picture at the Oscars. But the two shows have split in recent times.