Spielberg on top of Globe

“Schindler’s List,” Steven Spielberg’s haunting and powerful film about a Nazi businessman’s rescue of Jews during the Holocaust took honors for dramatic picture, director and motion picture screenplay at Saturday night’s 51st Golden Globes Awards.

With Saturday’s win, “Schindler’s List,” which received six nominations, appears to be picking up momentum as the odds-on Academy Award favorite in several important categories, including best director, since the Golden Globes — awarded by the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. — are seen as an early indicator of Oscar sentiment. Clint Eastwood, who last year received a Golden Globe for his direction of “Unforgiven,” went on to win the best director Oscar.

“‘Schindler’s List’ was the experience of my motion picture life,” Spielberg told the cheering audience of 1,200, which gave thedirector a standing ovation. “It is my proudest moment.”

Like “Schindler’s List,” the comedy television series “Seinfeld” was also a triple award winner. The show was named best comedy series, while star Jerry Seinfeld received a Globe for best performance by an actor in a comedy or musical TV series and co-star Julia Louis-Dreyfus collected a supporting actress award.

“There’s a lot of cleavage in this room,” Seinfeld cracked to the crowd at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. “And that’s why a Golden Globe Award is the highest honor you can receive on a night like this.”

“The Piano,” another strong Oscar contender that tied with “Schindler’s List” with six nominations, picked up one Globe. Holly Hunter was honored for best female dramatic performance for her role as a mute virtuoso in colonial New Zealand.

Tom Hanks was honored for best dramatic actor for his role in “Philadelphia,” in which he plays a lawyer with AIDS who sues hisformer law firm for firing him. The film was honored with another Golden Globe when Bruce Springsteen’s “Streets of Philadelphia” was named best original song.

Like Spielberg, both Hanks and Hunter, with their Globe honors, look to be favorites in their respective categories come Oscar time.

“Mrs. Doubtfire” picked up two Golden Globes. The box office smash was named best musical or comedy film, while Robin Williams won best actor in a musical or comedy for his masquerading as a British nanny.

Other motion picture winners were Angela Bassett, who won the Globe for best actress in a musical or comedy for her fiery performance as Tina Turner in “What’s Love Got to Do With It,” and Tommy Lee Jones and Winona Ryder, who won best supporting Globes for their roles in “The Fugitive” and “The Age of Innocence,” respectively.

Miramax’s “Farewell My Concubine” won the Globe for best foreign-language film, the first time the honor has ever gone to a Chinese film.

Other small-screen multiple winners included Steven Bochco’s gritty cop show “NYPD Blue” and the HBO drama “Barbarians at the Gate,” which collecting two Globes each.

“NYPD Blue,” which has been dropped by some TV stations because of its explicit material, was selected best drama series, while series star David Caruso was honored for best performance by an actor in a dramatic series.

“People can make up their own minds about what they want to watch,” producer Stephen Bochco said, referring to the ongoing controversy over the show.

“Barbarians,” the story of financial shenanigans during the high-flying ’80s, picked up a Globe for best miniseries or TV movie, while James Garner won for best actor in a miniseries. Kathy Baker won best actress honors for a dramatic TV series for her role on “Picket Fences,” while Helen Hunt picked up the award for best actress in a musical or comedy series.

The Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award went to Robert Redford, who did not attend the event. His Sundance Film Festival got under way Thursday in Park City, Utah.

Not surprisingly, last week’s deadly earthquake was on a lot of people’s minds, and references to it surfaced throughout most of the evening. Before the program began, producer Dick Clark pointed out emergency exits, while assuring the crowd that the building was safe. And during the show, HFPA president Mirjana Van Blaricom announced that the organization was making a $ 50,000 donation to aid victims of the earthquake.

But despite the earthquake, the evening’s emotional high points were undoubtedly the awarding of the best directing GoldenGlobe to Spielberg and Tom Hanks’ acceptance speech for his role in “Philadelphia.”

“It is odd and surreal for me to stand here and say that I feel lucky,” Hanks told the audience. “As a heterosexual man who does not have AIDS, to say I was lucky to play Andrew Beckett, a gay man who suffers from terminal AIDS. To stand here tonight after all we’ve been through as a city, to stand here today in the midst of all we’re going through as a nation, as a people and as a society, in the face of the current holocaust that is taking several of hundreds of thousands of lives.

“However, I have to say that I am a very lucky man,” he continued. “I’m a lucky man to have made the choices I made this year.”

Hanks’ thanking of TriStar — the studio behind both “Philadelphia” and “Sleepless in Seattle”– which he called “a pretty good studio,” seemed ironic, since studio chairman Mike Medavoy, who greenlighted both films, exited TriStar only two weeks ago.

Hanks, who accepted his award by thanking a number of the film’s advisers who have since died of AIDS, received a standing ovation as he left the stage.

Equally powerful were Spielberg’s two acceptance speeches for “Schindler’s List,” a film that was — judging by the thunderous applause — the sentimental favorite of the audience.

“It is so painful to remember and so easy to forget,” Spielberg said. “Thank God so many of you are remembering. This is dedicated to the survivors.”

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