On the eve of the Golden Globes awards show, I asked someone very close to the Hollywood Foreign Press Association what he thought about the bevy of lawsuits and bad publicity being leveld at that organization. He sloughed it off by saying, “Well, it’s going to be a fun show at least.” That sums it up. Forget the scandal and controversy. All Hollywood wants is to have a night of schmoozing and fun and maybe get some bragging rights to move their movies forward in the Oscar race. The actual results won’t even have any effect on Academy Awards nominations as those polls closed Friday, so this is just an excuse to party, which is exactly how the HFPA advertises it. 

From inside the Beverly Hilton International ballroom, jaded journalists at my table in the back seemed genuinely shocked at just how far host Ricky Gervais went to insult the organization he was working for, not to mention everyone else in the room. It was as edgy a performance as these things can possibly be and, like him or not, it kept your attention. Ryan Gosling told me it seemed “like David Lynch was directing the show”. I thought it refreshing to see someone go so un-PC on NBC.

It was an awards show where not only the host was unafraid to say what he thought, but also the winners in their acceptance speeches. It was as if we’d all wandered into a Friars Roast. Best Supporting Actor Christian Bale made a big point of thanking one of the producers of The Fighter, Ryan Kavanaugh, by saying the two had made an agreement he would. Kavanaugh has been KO’d from contending for PGA and Academy awards due to stringent rules governing producer credits so the shout-out at the Globes was a boost. I asked Kavanaugh if what Bale said about an “agreement” between them was true and he said absolutely not —  turning this speech into a case of “he said, he said”. After also winning at Friday’s Critics Choice Movie awards, Bale is proving to be a first–rate acceptor, mixing heart and humor with genuine skill. He seems to be a shoo-in for Oscar as does his The Fighter co-star Melissa Leo, who also won the Best Supporting Globe. They’d become the first Supporting pair from the same film to win Academy Awards since 1986, when Michael Caine and Dianne Wiest both won for Hannah And Her Sisters.

Globe winners Colin Firth for The King’s Speech and Natalie Portman for Black Swan also would appear to be strong frontrunners for the lead Oscars, although Annette Bening did herself a lot of good when she accepted Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy for The Kids Are All Right by saluting what she noted was 1962’s Most Promising Newcomer Golden Globe winner in the audience — husband Warren Beatty. If speeches at the Globes can make a strong impression on Oscar voters, this one probably did.

If the Globes did nothing else, it was to solidify The Social Network’s status as frontrunner by winning Best Picture (Drama), Screenplay, Director, and Music Score, the same four kudos it received two nights earlier at the CCMAs. Some think the HFPA voters wanted to stay with the status quo already established by many critics groups so the embattled members can gain some much needed credibility after questionable nominations like The Tourist and Burlesque in Best Picture Comedy or Musical.

TSN co-producer Scott Rudin told me, “I am always surprised whenever I win one of these,” he said. Really? A lot of pundits thought it was a lock although HFPA members seemed to be quite divided on what they liked. At Sony Pictures’ low-key after-partym insiders were nervous that SAG on the 30th could give The Fighter its Best Ensemble Cast award stalling (at least temporarily) The Social Network’s current momentum. Despite all their wins last night, the Sony party was the first of six big post-awards fetes to stop well before midnight. By contrast, The Weinstein Co/Relativity Media post-party was hopping.

Harvey Weinstein told me he was happy with the Globe showing of The Fighter (The Weinstein Co has foreign rights) and The King’s Speech which won key acting awards but nothing else. According to Harvey, this is just the beginning of awards season. “The real people are going to start voting now,” he stated, clearly placing more importance on upcoming Guild and Academy contests. Weinstein noted how his Best Picture Oscar winners Shakespeare In Love and The English Patient weren’t big winners with critics but went on to triumph anyway. One Academy voter who also doubles as a shrewd observer of the Golden Globe process told me she’s convinced The King’s Speech will be able to turn this around, but director Tom Hooper told me they need to do it soon. (Hooper was escorting his mother Meredith who found the property for him.) The next opportunity will be the Producers Guild awards which Rudin has been lobbying hard. A Social Network win there would be problematic for others to catch up — and that’s an understatement.

In terms of the Hilton’s post-parties, HBO outdid themselves with a lavishly designed poolside party. Warner Bros/In Style magazine was packed wall-to-wall people keeping even stars waiting in line to get in at different points in the evening. Fox, across the parking lot at the old Robinson’s Department store building, was nicely decked out but not every partygoer made the effort to get there. NBC/Universal’s 4th floor event was very well attended. Focus Features topper James Schamus, who scored two Globes for The Kids Are All Right including Best Picture Musical or Comedy, told me his 2011 slate is the best they’ve ever had and thinks Christopher Plummer could be Oscar-bound next year for their June release, Beginners.

It had been a non-stop weekend of parties all leading up to the Globes with big turnouts for soirees thrown by Film Independent, BAFTA, Disney, Paramount, Sony (at Amy Pascal’s  house late Saturday), Mike Medavoy, CAA, and others. It can feel like everyone is on a cruise always running into the same people, but Nicole Kidman didn’t mind. “I haven’t been on this circuit in a long time and even my husband seems to like it. He’s always finding interesting food to eat at these things so it’s all good.”

Onward. BAFTA nominations are Tuesday, and Oscar nominations in just  8 days.