They try least and laugh last

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Nothing needs or loves a narrative more than an awards season. The Golden Globes on Sunday fed that need like hungry reporters at a press table — though the diet wasn't always what was expected.

There were, of course, the obvious items: Mickey Rourke continuing down the comeback trail. Kate Winslet winning one for hubby and one for Harvey, becoming the first actress to take two film Golden Globes in the same year. "Slumdog Millionaire" scoring the hat trick of best picture, director and screenplay despite no stars and chunks of non-English dialogue.

But beneath every obvious element lurked a more subtle one.

Big awards tend to go to big names with big awards-season presence — it's why Meryl Streep has six Globes on her mantel.

But it was actors with a charming lack of polish who won the hearts of Globes voters this year — Mickey Rourke and his frequent use of "balls" and "aints" and "goddamns" and Sally Hawkins looking a little like she was a deer and the award was the headlights, each triumphing over more deft veterans.

The question now: Do these rough-around-the-edges performers help or hurt with Oscar voters?

"Slumdog" proved a curious case. It's a frontrunner that won — but the very fact that it's a frontrunner is a surprise. In so doing, the film doesn't just herald new talent — it heralds the arrival of Bollywood at a time when the U.S. market for foreign-set fare is small. If the sight of Danny Boyle tossing out Indian phrases backstage didn't underscore this, the vision of a Reliance-funded Steven Spielberg talking about potential DreamWorks projects did.

The organization throwing the party also tossed in some surprises. The HFPA gets flack for going with the tried-and-true. And Sunday night offered some firewood for critics; familiarity was especially present on the TV side, where all but one prize went to HBO or "30 Rock."

But the group also showed a willingness to recognize new talent. Five major film prizes went to first-timers, as Rourke, Hawkins, Boyle, Colin Farrell and writer Simon Beaufoy all won statues on their debut try.

But maybe the juiciest plot point is this: For all the years of planning awards movies and campaigns, sometimes it's those who try least, or last, who come away with the most gold. Fox Seachlight is a specialty division designed less than most to rack up awards — yet it dominated at the Beverly Hilton, winning in six out of the seven categories in which it had movies nominated.

Meanwhile, films that had been greenlighted with statues in producers' eyes — "Frost/Nixon," "Milk" and "Doubt" — were shut out.

Even more strikingly, Searchlight won with films it took on only as late as this summer. One of those movies, "The Wrestler," had no distribution as of Labor Day. The other, "Slumdog," was an orphan after Warner Independent went out of business; you could almost forget its strange history until a producer at the stage thanked Jeff Robinov.

The Oscars will bring some of the same and some that is new. But the Globes on Sunday night make the point that every time awards season seems poised to bring one thing, it brings something else.
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