The act — or was it real? — grew tiresome even before the end of Ricky Gervais’ comparatively brief, zinger-laden monologue launching the 73rd Golden Globes on Sunday. His quiver of zingers was full as the sour comic scorched Jennifer Lawrence on equal pay for women, NBC for lacking nominees, Jeffrey Tambor for the size of his gonads, the former Bruce Jenner for doing little for the cause of women drivers and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association for, I guess, existing. Indeed, one theme the host returned to several times within the opening speech and throughout the program (which went several minutes beyond its three-hour allotment) fell flatter than all the rest: The Golden Globe, he insisted, “That award is, no offense, worthless.”

That is a screechy old saw to play, and the audience was having none of it. Not only because of the number of real surprises among the awards — two for Amazon’s Mozart In The Jungle (who would have imagined a show with a classical music hook could win anything these days?); oneSylvester Stallone for Sir Colin Callender’s magnificent production of Wolf Hall, shown here on public television; another for Sly Stallone, who got the Lazarus of the Year award, rising from the rocky depths to win best supporting actor (for Creed) and being rewarded with a rousing salute from the audience; and Aaron Sorkin’s screenplay win for Steve Jobs, a film that faded behind the autumn burst of Spotlight, Carol, The Revenant, The Hateful Eight and others. But also because, despite the sea of bleeps that kept the viewing audience in the dark about some of the ruder moments and left a lot of dead air, there was plenty of human feeling in evidence as well.

“Pain is temporary, film is forever,” said Alejandro G. Iñárritu, accepting his directing award for The Revenant, which also had a superb weekend at the box office. He concisely recapped the difficulties of filming the epic tale of man versus bear and other unruly natural assets, and was more than matched by Leonardo DiCaprio near the end of the ceremony. Accepting his award, DiCaprio paid tribute to the people of the First Nations and indigenous peoples essential to the story and to the making of the film. “It is time,” he said, “that we heard your voices and protect this planet for future generations.”

Lady GagaLady Gaga, a newcomer to these soirees and winner for her role on American Horror Story: Hotel, seemed even humbler here than she is in concert with Tony Bennett. Looking like a million bucks — hard to believe this is the same woman who a few years back was inspiring snark about her gender — she said, “I feel like Cher in that John Patrick Shanley film Moonstruck. This is the best moment of my life. … You help me explore my creativity in ways I never could.” That struck me as extra noteworthy for having the class not only to connect with the film but to acknowledge who wrote it.

Tom Hanks had only slightly-too-windy words in praise of Denzel Washington, receiving the Cecil B. DeMille Award for his work, and Washington himself might have given more thought to his speech, but it was nice to see an honoree bring his family up there onstage with him. Both Taraji P. Henson (who handed out cookies as she approached the podium in honor of the matriarch she plays on Empire) and director Ridley Scott (winning for The Martian) told the orchestra to shove it when they got the hook for going on too long. “I waited 20 years for this — you gonna wait,” said Henson, nodding to the pit. Scott was more succinct. “Screw you,” he offered.

Weirdness was delivered by Jamie Foxx, presenting for best score and announcing Straight Outta Compton as the winner and then begging forgiveness when the true winner was 87-year-old Ennio Morricone for The Hateful Eight. Was Foxx sampling Steve Harvey, or making a comment about the overlooked history-of-rap film? I thought it was the latter.

For his part, Gervais got lamer as the evening wore on, and his routine with Mel Gibson was especially bilious on both their parts (sample: Gervais, coming up with “one good thing” to say about Gibson: “I’d rather have a drink with him tonight in his hotel room than with Bill Cosby.” Gibson: “I love seeing Ricky every three years. It reminds me to get a colonoscopy.”)

It went downhill from there. The final words heard on the telecast were from Gervais: “From myself and Mel Gibson, Shalom.” Very classy. I preferred the dead air.