Last Updated Jan 12, 2014 11:27 PM EST
Shut out all night at the Golden Globes, the historical drama "12 Years a Slave" eked out the night's top honor, best film drama, while the 1970s con-artist caper "American Hustle" landed a leading three awards, including best motion picture - comedy or musical.
David O. Russell's "American Hustle" and Steve McQueen's "12 Years a Slave" were tied for the most nominations, with seven apiece, heading into Sunday's ceremony. But it was "Hustle" that had the better night overall, winning acting awards for Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence.
Awards were otherwise spread around.
Matthew McConaughey took best actor in a drama for his performance in the Texas HIV drama "Dallas Buyers Club." Leonardo DiCaprio, a nine-time Golden Globe nominee, won his second Globe for best actor in a comedy for his work in "The Wolf of Wall Street." Cate Blanchett was named best actress in a dramatic motion picture for her role in "Blue Jasmine."
Alfonso Cuaron won best director for the space odyssey "Gravity," a worldwide hit and critical favorite.
Adams, in a low-cut dress evocative of her character's '70s style, won her first Golden Globe for best actress in a comedy or musical Sunday night at the Beverly Hills, Calif., ceremony. Lawrence picked up the first award of night's telecast, winning best supporting actress for her performance in Russell's fictionalized Abscam tale.
The award returned Lawrence, a winner last year for Russell's "Silver Linings Playbook," to the stage for an acceptance speech -- something she said was no easier a year later.
"Don't ever do this again," she told herself. "It's so scary."
The night's biggest winners may have been hosts Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, whose second time hosting the Hollywood Foreign Press Association's Beverly Hills, Calif., ceremony was just as successful as last year's show. Fey concluded the night by toasting the awards as "the beautiful mess we hoped it would be."
The pair kicked off the ceremony with a torrent of punch lines that lambasted Matt Damon, Meryl Streep and, of course, George Clooney.
"Tonight, you're basically a garbage person," Poehler joked to Damon about the night's level of star wattage.
Last year's co-hosts again had the crowd rolling with their opening act. The starry audience roared most of all when Fey described the four-Globe nominee space odyssey "Gravity."
"George Clooney would rather float away in space and die than spend one more minute with a woman his own age," said Fey.
The hosts' interplay stole the show in the early going. The "SNL" duo, signed up to host next year, too, brought last year's Globes' telecast to a six-year ratings high of 19.7 million.
"This is Hollywood," Fey explained. "If something kind of works, they'll just keep doing it until everyone hates it."
Poehler and Fey, as they did last year, sought to get off the stage and mingle among the guests. In one memorable bit that parodied the Hollywood legacies who serve as stage guides, Poehler played Fey's surly daughter. They left it open as to whether Harvey Weinstein was the father.
Many of the night's surprise winners were literally caught speechless. Andy Samberg (best actor in a comedy series, "Brooklyn Nine-Nine"), Robin Wright (best actress in a TV series, drama) and even Poehler, herself (best actress in a TV series, comedy), appeared particularly shocked to win and each stumbled through their thanks. Poehler celebrated by making out with Bono.
Spike Jonze was also blindsided by his best screenplay win for his futuristic romance "Her."
"I'm a terrible public speaker," said Jonze. "And I'm bad at English. And it's the only language I know."
Four months after its final episode, AMC's "Breaking Bad" won for best drama TV series and best actor in a drama series for Bryan Cranston. Cranston called his honor "a lovely way to say goodbye." Creator Vince Gilligan said the award gave him "one more chance to thank the fans of the show," but left the final word for star Aaron Paul, who borrowed his character's often-quoted phrase and declared, "Yeah, bitch!"
The Globe for best TV comedy series went to newcomer "Brooklyn Nine-Nine."
U2 and Danger Mouse won the award for best original song for "Ordinary Love," recorded for the Nelson Mandela biopic "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom." Bono said working on the film completed a decades-long journey with Mandela, having played an anti-apartheid concert some 35 years ago.
"This man turned our life upside down, right-side up," said Bono of the South African leader who died in December. "A man who refused to hate not because he didn't have rage or anger or those things, but that he thought love would do a better job."
Accepting the Globe for best supporting actor, Jared Leto also paid tribute to his inspiration. The actor, whose rock band 30 Seconds to Mars took him away from movies for years before the part, won for playing a transsexual in the Texas HIV drama "Dallas Buyers Club.""To the Rayons of the world, thanks for the inspiration," said Leto.
"Behind the Candelabra," the acclaimed Liberace drama directed by Steven Soderbergh, won for best movie or miniseries, as well as best actor in a TV film for Michael Douglas.
"The only reason you're not here is I had more sequins," Douglas told co-star Damon while accepting the award.
Woody Allen was honored with a lifetime achievement award for more than four decades of writing, producing and directing films. He didn't attend Globes on Sunday, however, and actress Diane Keaton accepted it on his behalf.
The telecast managed two expletives in its first 30 minutes, one from Elisabeth Moss (winner of best actress in a miniseries or TV movie, for "Top of the Lake"), the other during an awkward, rambling speech by Jacqueline Bisset (best supporting actress, miniseries or TV movie, "Dancing on the Edge"). Both were surprise winners.
Arrivals streaming into the Beverly Hilton for Sunday night's show did had to navigate one unlikely obstacle -- a part of the red carpet was drenched when a lighting rig set off a sprinkler a few hours before show time. Crews used wet dry vacuums to clean it up.
The Hollywood Foreign Press Association, a group of about 85 mostly freelance foreign journalists, has recently undergone a change in leadership and, perhaps, a shift toward respectability. While the Globes have in the past been known for curious nominees like "The Tourist" and "Salmon Fishing in the Yemen," this year's nominees were seen as without such oddities.
This year, the Globes fall days after Oscar nomination voting concluded. The Academy Awards announce the 2014 nominees Thursday.