Golden Globes award American Hustle, Breaking Bad

American Hustle cemented its place as an awards season front-runner at the 71th annual Golden Globes Sunday night by picking up a trio of major honours, including one of the night's two best film awards.

The David O. Russell-directed crime caper saga, inspired by the Abscam scandal, won best musical or comedy film as well as two actor categories for Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence at the annual celebration of film and television.

"One of the benefits of the motion picture business is that we get to make films about people ... We had the privilege of telling this particular story about the art of survival, about resilience and reinvention," said producer Charles Roven, who thanked his "dream team of actors" that also included Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper and Jeremy Renner.

Lawrence picked up the first award of the evening, earning the best supporting actress in a film trophy for her performance. About an hour later, her co-star Amy Adams took the prize for best actress in a musical or comedy.

One of top nominees at the start of the evening, the searing 12 Years a Slave, left with just one trophy, albeit a significant one heading into the Oscars: best dramatic film.

Departed drug drama Breaking Bad, which became must-see TV in its final season last year, was a top television winner: named best TV drama. Star Bryan Cranston earned his first trophy for playing school-teacher-turned-meth-kingpin Walter White.

"The best thing about this, I think, is that it gives us — all the people up here and all the people who worked on Breaking Bad — one more chance to thank the fans of the show, especially the early adopters… Thank you for helping us get to here," show creator and executive producer Vince Gilligan said onstage, surrounded by his cast.

Cranston, who earned five nominations as Walter White, had won best actor in a TV drama just minutes before.

"This is such a wonderful honour and a lovely way to say goodbye to a show that means so much to me," he said in accepting the award before quipping, "[thanks to this], everyone around the world will be able to share in Breaking Bad's mirth and merriment."

Emceed for a second consecutive year by comic favourites Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, the Globes are awarded by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, and the event is considered a looser, more carefree and wider-ranging toast of Hollywood than the upcoming Academy Awards.

The two Saturday Night Live alums were warmly welcomed and their opening extremely well-received by what they called the night's "high-wattage, mega A-list" crowd, who laughed uproariously as they — tongue firmly in cheek — alternately saluted and skewered stars such as Tom Hanks, Matt Damon, George Clooney, Julia Louis- Dreyfus, Matthew McConaughey and Martin Scorsese, as well as themselves.

Poehler later shed some of her breezy, confident demeanour when she was named winner of best actress in a TV musical or comedy for Parks and Recreation, her first Golden Globe win.

"I've never won anything like this," she said breathlessly "This is so cliché, but you get really nervous. I’m so thrilled to be a part of this evening, among such great people ... I never win, so I can’t believe I won!"

The HFPA honoured a wide field throughout the night, spreading Golden Globe trophies out to a range of winners. Dallas Buyers Club, Behind the Candelabra and TV newcomer Brooklyn Nine-Nine were among the multiple prizewinners at the gala.

Canadian director Jean-Marc Vallée's AIDS drama Dallas Buyers Club earned a pair of trophies for two of its stars: Matthew McConaughey, who famously lost more than 40 pounds to portray the real-life, HIV-positive, alternative medicine crusader Ron Woodroof, and Jared Leto, who portrayed his transgendered business partner.

Calling the long in-the-works film an underdog just like Woodroof himself, McConaughey quipped: "I’m glad it got passed on so many times — really glad or it wouldn’t have come to me," as he accepted best actor in a dramatic film.

He added: "This film was never about dying. It was always about living."

His co-star, actor and musician Leto, won best supporting actor in a film for his widely praised turn as Rayon.

"It was a very transformative role, and I had to do a lot of things to prepare," Leto began, detailing his waxing regime before turning more serious.

"[After having been away from acting for six years], it’s more than an honour to come back and have this love and this support. I never expected it and I never even dreamed of it … And to the Rayons of the world: thanks for the inspiration. I love you."

Behind the Candelabra, HBO's acclaimed saga exploring the life of outrageous entertainer Liberace, won for best miniseries or TV movie. Mid-evening, Michael Douglas picked up his fourth Globe trophy ever for his performance as the famously flamboyant pianist. When working on the drug drama Traffic in 1999, Douglas recalled that director Steven Soderbergh had asked him: "Ever think about Liberace?"

"Low and behold ... years later, I get this incredible gift of a screenplay," he continued, singling out his co-star Matt Damon and director Soderbergh for extended thanks.

Another SNL graduate, Andy Samberg, saw his latest venture pick up multiple honours as well. The newcomer sitcom  Brooklyn Nine-Nine was a surprise winner of best TV musical or comedy series, besting established rivals The Big Bang Theory, Modern Family, Parks and Recreation as well as cable hit Girls. Samberg himself seemed surprised upon winning the title of best actor in a TV comedy or musical.

Earlier Sunday, authorities were rushing to clean up last-minute incidents, including reports of a fire sprinkler and pipe bursting over a section of the red carpet earlier Sunday afternoon. Staffers used air blowers and wet-dry vacuums to clear the scene.

Regardless, some of Hollywood's most famous faces — including Meryl Streep, Hanks, Robert Redford, Julia Roberts, Sandra Bullock and Cate Blanchett — strode the red carpet and were peppered through the packed audience at the event.

This year's winner of the HFPA's lifetime achievement honour, the Cecil B. DeMille Award, was iconic New York director Woody Allen, who famously avoids award shows. Actress Diane Keaton — who starred in Allen classics such as Manhattan, Annie Hall, Love and Death, Manhattan Murder Mystery and Sleeper — accepted on his behalf.

"I think it’s safe to say that Woody Allen is an anomaly. He’s made 74 movies in 48 years … He’s directed them. He’s starred in them. He’s written them," she said.

Hailing Allen's "unforgettable female characters," she noted that "179 of the world’s most captivating actresses have appeared in Woody’s film and there’s a reason for this …They wanted to. They wanted to because Woody’s women can’t be compartmentalized. They struggle, love, dominate. They are funny and flawed … They are, in fact, the hallmark of Woody’s work."

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