French black-and-white, silent film homage "The Artist" and Alexander Payne film "The Descendants" walked away from the 69th Annual Golden Globe Awards presentation as the big winners, bagging three and two top awards respectively as the industry's top award event unfolded at Beverly Hilton Hotel in Los Angeles Sunday evening.
"The Artist," which had led the field with six nods and won four Critics' Choice Awards Thursday, also grabbed an acting award and best score. It bested its main rivals including the cancer-patient story "50/50," the comic romp "Bridesmaids," writer-director Woody Allen's fantasy "Midnight in Paris" and the screen-legend portrait "My Week With Marilyn."
Clooney, a Critics' Choice winner, won the major acting prize, the Best Actor in a Drama, for his role in Alexander Payne's tragic-comic film "The Descendants." The movie is about a land baron who tries to reconnect with his two daughters after his wife suffers a boating accident.
The nine-time Golden Globe-nominee for both his television work on "ER" and such films as "Michael Clayton" thanked fellow nominee Brad Pitt for his good work and Michael Fassbender for taking over the "frontal nudity responsibilities." He won a best-actor Globe for "O Brother Where Art Thou?" and a supporting-actor prize for "Syriana."
Clooney was also nominated this year for Best Director and Best Screenplay for "The Ides of March," a political thriller.
The Golden Globe for Best Actor in a motion picture comedy or musical went to Jean Dujardin for "The Artist."
The Golden Globe Awards take on a unique format: the organizers dole out trophies in two separate categories including motion picture comedy/musicals and dramas.
Michelle Williams won the Best Actress award in a motion picture (musical or comedy) category for her portrayal of Marilyn Monroe in "My Week with Marilyn." The 31-year-old actress dedicated her award to her six-year-old daughter.
"I consider myself a mother first and an actress second. The person I most want to thank is my daughter, my little girl, whose bravery and exuberance is the example that I take with me in my work and in my life," Williams said during her acceptance speech.
Meryl Streep, who got 25 previous nominations and has won seven times, went on to win the Best Actress award in a drama for "The Iron Lady," beating out strong contenders including Rooney Mara in "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," Viola Davis in "The Help," Glenn Close in "Albert Nobbs" and Tilda Swinton in "We Need to Talk About Kevin."
Martin Scorsese upset the annual awards presentation by beating out other contenders Michel Hazanavicius ("The Artist"), George Clooney ("Ides of March"), Alexander Payne ("The Descendants") and Woody Allen ("Midnight in Paris"), to garner the Best Director award for his film "Hugo."
On the television side, Showtime's 2011 anti-terrorism series "Homeland" and ABC's comedy "Modern Family" took away best drama and best comedy respectively.
PBS' "Downton Abbey," a British television period drama series, won for miniseries.
Kate Winslet won Best Performance by an Actress in a TV miniseries/movie for her role in HBO's "Mildred Pierce."
The England-born actress scored two Globes in 2009 for her work in a pair of movies -- "Revolutionary Road" and "The Reader," picked up her third Globe for playing a self-sacrificing heroine of the Depression-set drama.
Winslet, who is also an Emmy Award winner, also got a Golden Globe nod for "Carnage," Roman Polanski's latest production.
Idris Elba, Winslet's countryman, won Best Actor in a TV miniseries/movie for his role in BBC One's crime drama "Luther."
Madonna won the Golden Globe award for Best Original Song for singing the song, "Masterpiece" in her film W.E.
"This is a surprise," she said during her acceptance speech.
The evening's first award, the Best Supporting Actor in a feature film, went to Christopher Plummer for "Beginners." He played an elderly widower who comes out as gay.
Morgan Freeman received the Cecil B. DeMille Award from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA), honoring his contributions to the entertainment industry.
The award event was hosted by edgy comedian Ricky Gervais, who returned for the third consecutive year despite some criticism he received last year for his biting humor that some deemed borderline-offensive.
The event was broadcast on NBC to 199 countries and regions around the world, according to HFPA.
Statistics showed that since the Golden Globes adopted the split drama/music format in 1963, 64.6 percent of the films that had won a Golden Globe eventually ended up with best picture of the Academy Awards.
The 84th Academy Awards will be handed out at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood, Los Angeles on Feb. 26.