Kate Winslet and Danny Boyle among British winners at this year's Golden Globes

• Kate Winslet wins best actress and best supporting actress
• Danny Boyle's Slumdog Millionaire on course for Oscar glory

Slumdog Millionaire, British director Danny Boyle's story of an Indian reality TV contestant, dominated Sunday's Golden Globes awards in Los Angeles, scooping best director and best drama.

It was also a good night for the Reading-born Kate Winslet, who won the two categories for which she was nominated: best dramatic actress for Revolutionary Road and best supporting actress for The Reader.

In her acceptance speech, Winslet said that she never won awards, a remark picked up later by presenter Ricky Gervais, who remembered telling her: "Do a Holocaust movie, the awards come." It was also a nod to Winslet's cameo turn in Gervais's TV sitcom Extras, in which she played an Oscar-hungry version of herself, taking a role as a nun in a Nazi drama specifically with the intention of appealing to Academy voters.

In an emotional address for her suprise win for Revolutionary Road, Winslet paid tribute to her "spectacular" co-star, Leonardo DiCaprio, and to her husband, Sam Mendes, who directed the film.

Perhaps the most highly anticipated award of the night was the posthumous Golden Globe given to Heath Ledger for his performance as the Joker in The Dark Knight. Acknowledging his contribution, Christopher Nolan, who directed the Batman sequel, paid tribute: "He will be the turn we miss, but he will never be forgotten."

The Globes are traditionally seen as a harbinger - sometimes unreliable - of form for Oscar night, a month and a half away. Sunday night's awards place the feelgood Slumdog Millionaire firmly at the front of the Oscar reckoning, as well as dealing a blow to other hopefuls.

While Slumdog Millionaire also won awards for best script and best score, Frost/Nixon failed to pick up a single award, despite being nominated in the best drama, director, actor, screenplay and score categories.

Likewise, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, starring Cate Blanchett and Brad Pitt, directed by David Fincher and nominated in five categories, was not a winner on the night.

The Wrestler, another Oscar frontrunner, fared better, with its star Mickey Rourke winning the best dramatic actor award and Bruce Springsteen winning for best song. Rourke, seen by many as this year's comeback kid, dedicated the award to his canine companions, past and present. "It's been a very long road back for me," he told the audience. "Several years ago I was almost out of this business. I'd like to thank all my dogs. Sometimes when a man's alone his dogs are all he's got."

The rejuvenated awards ceremony - it was cancelled last year because of the scriptwriters' strike - celebrated its return with a night of classic Hollywood glitz. The red carpet, the frocks and the lachrymose acceptance speeches were all in attendance as a roster of Hollywood A-listers turned out for the relatively informal evening at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.

One of the biggest surprises of the evening came as Sally Hawkins won the best actress in a comedy or a musical prize for her role as a perky schoolteacher in Mike Leigh's Happy-Go-Lucky. The British actor beat off stern competition from Hollywood royalty, including Frances McDormand, Meryl Streep and Emma Thompson. The distance from her table to the stage was an indication of the unexpectedness of her victory.

Closer to the front but, in the end, without much purpose, was Anne Hathaway, mistakenly identified by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association website as best actress in a drama for her role in Jonathan Demme's Rachel Getting Married.

The Pixar-Disney collaboration paid off with a win for the dystopian robot romance WALL-E in the best animated feature category. The croaky 'bot beat off competition from the John Travolta-voiced dog Bolt - a solo effort by Disney - and Kung Fu Panda, Dreamworks' attempt to capitalise on last year's Olympics-inspired enthusiasm for things Chinese.

Another animated feature, the Israeli film Waltz With Bashir, won the best foreign language film award. An animated documentary that examines the massacres of Palestinians during the 1982 Lebanon war, the highly political film has received multiple nominations this awards season.

Speaking backstage after accepting the award, director Ari Folman said that he did not regret the film's relevance: "Unfortunately, the film is always relevant," he said. "There's only one major statement, which is an antiwar statement, and it is relevant now and unfortunately it was relevant two years ago, when we were working on it."

The glitz and guff of the ceremony at the Beverly Hilton Hotel represented a turnaround from last year's bizarre event. A year ago, in the midst of a writers' strike that had seen most production in Hollywood shut down, the Golden Globes dropped the glamorous prize-giving in favour of a more sombre press conference at which a list of winners was read out.

The advantages of last year's arrangement were that it was shorter, cheaper and more reflective of the significance of the Globes. The downside was that it deprived Hollywood of one of its primary love-ins of the year as gowns were returned to designers, the red carpet was rolled up and Steven Spielberg and Rumer Willis had to wait an extra year for their moment in the spotlight.

This year amends were made: Spielberg was duly given the Cecil B DeMille award for lifetime achievement, and la Willis - offspring of Bruce Willis and Demi Moore - was acknowledged as Miss Golden Globes, an accomplishment reserved for the children of the stars.

Unlike most film awards, the Golden Globes, awarded by the obscure Hollywood Foreign Press Association, rewards the year's television productions. Tina Fey's 30 Rock was the big winner, scooping best musical or comedy series, best actor for Alec Baldwin and best actress for Fey.

The other big television victor was the HBO miniseries John Adams, which was rewarded with Golden Globes for its leads, Paul Giamatti, Laura Linney and British actor Tom Wilkinson.


Dan Glaister in Los Angeles

The GuardianTramp

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