Streep won her leading actress award for Julie & Julia and compared the indomitable spirit of her mother to that of master chef Julia Child, whom the acclaimed actress plays in writer-director Nora Ephron's movie.
The Blind Side star Sandra Bullock won the dramatic leading actress Globe for her portrayal of the real-life Leigh Anne Touhy, who brought a homeless high-school student into her family. Bullock said that the Touhys taught her that a family is made up of those who have your back, and she thanked husband Jesse James for having hers.
She also told her American family to put down the Maker's Mark, and her German family – in perfect German – to brush their teeth and go to bed.
Robert Downey, best actor for the comedy Sherlock Holmes, thanked his wife Susan for telling him Matt Damon would win. Dramatic acting winner Jeff Bridges, for Crazy Heart, told the audience as it rose to its collective feet, "You're really screwing up my under-appreciated status."
Though the Globes – which honor both TV shows and movies – are not considered an accurate barometer of the Oscars to come, other notable winners on Sunday were supporting actors Mo'Nique in Precious and Christoph Waltz in Inglourious Basterds, best comedy picture The Hangover, best dramatic picture Avatar and its director James Cameron.
Cameron said he thought his ex-wife, Kathryn Bigelow, would, in fact, win the director award, for her Iraq war drama The Hurt Locker. "She deserved it," he said.
An Emotional Mo'NiqueMo'Nique was the first winner of the night, as best supporting actress in a movie, for Precious. Shaking as she clutched her award, the actress, comedian and talk-show host said, "First let me say, thank you God for this amazing ride that you're allowing me to go on. I'm shaking, but I tell you all, I am in the midst of my dream."
The movie itself, a bitter drama about a Harlem teen, went into the evening with three nominations, though the night's frontrunner, Up in the Air starring George Clooney, had six nods.
Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds took the honors for its bloodcurdling Nazi Hans Landa, played by Austrian actor Christoph Waltz, named best supporting actor in a movie.
Four-time nominee Toni Collette took home the night's first Globe for leading actress in a comedy TV series, for The United States of Tara. During a previous time at bat, the Australia-born star said she was "on the loo and totally missed" her category.
Another four-time nominee, Dexter star Michael C. Hall, was honored as the best actor in a dramatic series. Sporting a knit cap, as he is finishing treatment for cancer, Hall thanked his colleagues, for their "incredible collaborative energy"; his wife, actress (and Dexter costar) Jennifer Carpenter; and another family member. "Hi, mom," he said.
First-time winner Julianne Margulies, best leading actress in the dramatic series The Good Wife, acknowledged some of her sister nominees, saying "Glenn Close – I would bow down, but the dress would rip." She also thanked CBS chief Les Moonves "for believing in the 10 o'clock drama."
Actress nominees Drew Barrymore and Jessica Lange helped collect the Globe for Grey Gardens, named best TV movie for the drama about Jacqueline Kennedy's eccentric Bouvier family cousins. Barrymore, accompanied by Justin Long, was eventually named the winning lead actress in a TV movie.
She apologized for being flustered as she made her acceptance speech – especially because "I've been in the room since I was 7 years old" – and thanked her producer "for taking a chance on me."
Alec Baldwin, it was announced, was at a benefit event and not able to collect his Globe as 30 Rock's best leading actor in a comedy series. For once, that NBC series did not win as top sitcom. Instead, that honor went to the Fox freshman comedy Glee, whose award, said its producer and co-creator Ian Brennan, was dedicated "to anyone who ever got a wedgie in high school."
Repeating its Emmy victory, Mad Men won for dramatic TV series.
Sir Paul McCartney presented the best animated feature award, noting, "Animation is not just for children. It is also for adults who take drugs." And the winner was Disney and Pixar's Up.
Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert DeNiro helped pay tribute to modern master Martin Scorsese, this year's Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award winner. DeNiro likened the pairing of himself and his frequent director to an old married couple who still love each other but who stopped sleeping together.
As Nicole Kidman pointed out at the start of the show, stars wore special ribbons to the banquet to promote the message to help with the relief operation in Haiti.
Host Ricky Gervais opened the program with a PG-13-rated monologue in which he discussed plastic surgery on his penis, and how he wished he were holding his own instead of hosting the show at that moment. After also taking good-natured swipes at Steve Carell, Kiefer Sutherland and Angelina Jolie, he said, "Let's get on with it, before NBC replaces me with Jay Leno."