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It was a big night for big names at Golden Globes

Big Hollywood names claimed trophies at Sunday night's Golden Globe awards, with legends Meryl Streep, Martin Scorsese, Woody Allen and George Clooney picking up honors.

Streep, who plays former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher in "The Iron Lady," won the award for best actress in a motion picture drama.

Clooney won the best actor award for his role in "The Descendants," and the film itself later won for best motion picture drama. In the film, Clooney plays a Hawaiian land baron who struggles with family issues as his cheating wife lies in a coma.Scorsese won the Golden Globe for best director for "Hugo," his love letter to the early days of film.

Allen won the best screenplay award for "Midnight in Paris," but did not attend the show to pick up the trophy in person.

Before the big hitters started their treks to the podium, the honors were fairly evenly split between a number of different actors, movies and TV shows.

Michelle Williams won for actress in a musical or comedy as Marilyn Monroe in "My Week with Marilyn," 52 years after Monroe won the same prize for 1959's "Some Like It Hot."

Williams offered thanks for giving her the same award Monroe once won and joked that her young daughter put up with bedtime stories for six months spoken in Monroe's voice. "I consider myself a mother first and an actress second, so the person I most want to thank is my daughter, my little girl, whose bravery and exuberance is the example I take with me in my work and my life," Williams said.

The supporting-acting Globes went to Christopher Plummer as an elderly widower who comes out as gay in the father-son drama "Beginners" and Octavia Spencer as a brassy housekeeper joining other black maids to share stories about life with their white employers in the 1960s Deep South tale "The Help." "With regard to domestics in this country, now and then, I think Dr. King said it best: 'All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance.' And I thank you for recognizing that with our film," Spencer said.

"The Adventures of Tintin" won for best animated feature film, with director Steven Spielberg accepting the award.

"The Artist," an almost-silent black and white film, won the award for best movie musical or comedy, and another for Ludovic Bource's original score. Jean Dujardin also won a Golden Globe for best actor in a comedy or musical for the film.

Madonna claimed her second Golden Globe for her original song, "Masterpiece," from her film "W.E.," about the love affair of Wallis Simpson and King Edward VIII.

"A Separation," from Iran, won the award for best foreign-language film. Writer-director Asghar Farhadi uses a divorcing couple's domestic troubles with a young child and an aging parent as the means to examine gender, religious and class distinctions in contemporary Iran.

Television awards were spread between new favorites and old standbys.

Fan favorite "Downton Abbey," PBS' look at the lives of servants and the wealthy family in a British manor house during World War I, claimed the award for best TV series, miniseries or TV movie.

Peter Dinklage won the best supporting actor award in a TV series, miniseries or movie for his role as Tyrion Lannister in HBO's "Game of Thrones." He said that his new daughter was with her first babysitter Sunday night "so I'm a little nervous." Dinklage also mentioned Martin Henderson, a dwarf in England who was picked up and tossed by a drunken stranger last fall. Henderson is now partially paralyzed.

"Modern Family" won the award for best TV comedy or musical, while "Homeland" won for best TV drama.

Claire Danes won the Globe for best actress in a TV drama for her "Homeland" role. She mentioned in her speech that she had won the same award at age 15 for her role in "My So-Called Life," and wanted to be sure to thank her parents since she had forgotten to thank them the first time around.

Laura Dern claimed the award for best actress in a television comedy or musical, for her role in HBO's "Enlightened."

Kate Winslet took home the honor for best actress in a TV series, miniseries or movie for her role in the remake of "Mildred Pierce."

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The award for best actor in a TV drama went to Kelsey Grammer for "Boss."

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Matt LeBlanc won the award for best actor in a comedy for "Episodes."

Idris Elba won for best actor in a TV series, miniseries or TV movie for "Luther."

Jessica Lange won the award for best supporting actress in a TV series, miniseries or movie for her role in "American Horror Story."

Ricky Gervais, who has ruffled feathers at past shows with sharp wisecracks aimed at Hollywood's elite and the Globes show itself, returned as host for the third-straight year.

While Gervais' comedy seemed toned-down from 2011, he started with some slams at the ceremony itself. Gervais joked that the Globes "are just like the Oscars, but without all that esteem. The Globes are to the Oscars what Kim Kardashian is to Kate Middleton. A bit louder, a bit trashier, a bit drunker and more easily bought. Allegedly. Nothing's been proved."

The Golden Globe Awards are given out by the roughly 90 HFPA members at a gala dinner and ceremony in Beverly Hills that is annually among the key events during Hollywood's awards season because of the media exposure it brings.

Honors bestowed on TV shows often lure audiences that can turn a little-seen program into a hit, and films and stars that are declared Golden Globe winners often go on to compete for Oscars, the world's top movie prizes given out later this year.

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But veteran Hollywood awards watcher Tom O'Neil of website Goldderby.com notes that in recent years, as more awards shows have aired on TV and Oscar organizers have made changes to their nomination process, the HFPA's influence has waned.

"Six of the last seven years they haven't picked the same best movie. 'Slumdog Millionaire' is the only one," said O'Neil.

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