The results of last night's Golden Globe Awards confirmed what Hollywood insiders have been saying for months: This year's Oscar race is likely to be the most wide open in years. Instead of letting one film dominate, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association chose instead to spread the cheer around, awarding four movies — Almost Famous, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Gladiator and Traffic — with two trophies apiece. Factor in big wins for Cast Away, Erin Brockovich, Nurse Betty and O Brother, Where Art Thou?, and suddenly the 2001 Academy Awards is shaping up to be the biggest nail- biter since George W. Bush squeaked past Al Gore in Florida.

But it's safe to say that Gladiator's win as Best Motion Picture (Drama) gives the Russell Crowe epic the edge to take home the gold next March. However, Ang Lee's surprise victory as Best Director for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (it also won Best Foreign Language Film) also boosts the martial arts fantasy's prospects.

Lee — whose previous efforts include Sense and Sensibility and The Ice Storm and whose next project is a big-screen update of The Incredible Hulk — was asked to describe the secret to his success. "I work very hard," he said.

No one was more surprised by Lee's directing win than Julia Roberts, who presented him with his trophy but who was counting on her Erin Brockovich helmer Steven Soderbergh to triumph for either that film or Traffic. Later, Roberts could be overheard saying that two of the most difficult words she ever had to say were, [and the winner is] "Ang Lee." (Ironically, Lee said meeting Roberts was one of the biggest thrills of the night for him.)

Tom Hanks won Best Actor in a Motion Picture Drama for his role as a castaway in Cast Away. Could a third Oscar be in his future? "The whole [awards] season is a wild, wild ride," he said, "and if you happen to see a torpedo passing, you just grab hold of it and hold on for as long as you can until it comes to a stop."

While Hanks was speaking to the press, his wife, Rita Wilson, was watching the telecast on a nearby monitor. When Roberts won for Best Actress in a Motion Picture (Drama) for Erin Brockovich, Mrs. Hanks pulled out her Golden Globes scorecard and checked the pretty woman off as the winner. She then predicted that Traffic would be named Best Motion Picture (Drama). When TV Guide Online joked, "Are you involved in an office pool?," Wilson managed a polite chuckle and answered, "No." (Gee, it seemed funny at the time.)

Roberts may have been bummed that her buddy Soderbergh went home empty-handed, but she wasn't protesting the foreign press's decision to award her with a statue. However, she did admit that she felt his loss didn't bode well for her. "When Steven didn't win for either fabulous film, it didn't look like a family kind of night."

Well, her beau, Benjamin Bratt, never had any doubt that his ladylove would prevail. "He had said all along that I was going to win," she said. "So, he was right. I'm glad to be wrong." Afterwards, TV Guide Online witnessed Roberts' emotional reunion with Bratt — the first time she saw him since winning. In what was truly a heart-stopping moment, Roberts raced to Bratt and the duo kissed and held each other for nearly five minutes. A security guard who walked in couldn't believe his eyes. "Wow," he said. "This is cool."

Roberts eventually went off to do more press, leaving Bratt behind to guard their Golden Globe goody bags. When approached by TV Guide Online for a comment about his whirlwind evening, the former Law & Order star graciously said, "I'm not doing any press. This isn't my night."

Cameron Crowe's rock biopic Almost Famous won as Best Motion Picture (Comedy or Musical) and for supporting actress Kate Hudson. Crowe wouldn't divulge too many details of his next film, Vanilla Sky, in which he reunites with Tom Cruise for the first time since Jerry Maguire. "Tom plays a publisher in New York," he said. "It's a romantic thriller, which is sort of new territory for me. It has a lot of music though — can't get away from that."

Moments after winning, Hudson called her parents, Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell, who were traveling back to Los Angeles and unable to attend. "They're proud," Hudson said, "and they just want to know what party to come to." For her part, Hudson is trying not to get caught up in the Oscar hype. "I'm not going to think about it because I'll drive myself crazy. It would be amazing, but I'm enjoying this right now."

Benicio Del Toro won best supporting actor for his role in the drug drama Traffic, which also nabbed best screenplay honors. Asked by a reporter what an Oscar would mean, he said: "[I'd] have to get another tuxedo."

George Clooney won best actor in a comedy film for O Brother, Where Art Thou? and Ren&#233e Zellweger won best comedy film actress for the black comedy Nurse Betty. The former ER doc — who also was nominated for producing CBS's Fail Safe — said that he has no plans to turn his back on the small screen. "I haven't abandoned it. I grew up in it. I'm very proud of it. I'm trying to work in all mediums."

Zellweger brought the NBC telecast to a standstill when she pulled a Christine Lahti and nearly missed her award because she was in the latrine. The actress later said she knew something was up when "girls [started] yelling in the bathroom."

On the TV front, NBC's The West Wing and HBO's Sex and the City were the big winners, picking up awards for best drama and comedy series, respectively. For the second year in a row, Sex's Sarah Jessica Parker won as best actress in a comedy series, and backstage she admitted that this one was "sweeter — if you can possibly imagine something being sweeter."

Parker — whose hubby, Matthew Broderick, was in Chicago rehearsing for his role in the stage version of Mel Brooks's The Producers — said she thought Bette Midler was going to win "for all of her years and years of work, not just for what she's doing now on CBS."

West Wing's Commander in Chief Martin Sheen won for best actor in a drama series. The outspoken Democrat and staunch Al Gore supporter said he did not watch Bush's inauguration on Saturday. "I had not the slightest interest in it," he seethed, adding that he thinks his liberal NBC drama has struck a chord with viewers because it's on "the right side."

Later, TV Guide Online asked Sheen what he thought of Fox's Temptation Island nipping on West Wing's heels in the ratings. "I've never heard of it," he said. "What is Temptation Island?" When it was explained that it's a show in which real-life couples are tempted to cheat, the actor was appalled. "They try to make them be unfaithful? I think it's vulgar!"

Once and Again's Sela Ward followed up her Emmy win last September with a Golden Globe for best actress in a drama series. The former Sisters star said her success may signal the dawning of a new age in Hollywood. "At 44, when my career historically should be over, here I am on a wonderful show, with a wonderful opportunity, so I guess it shows that there are some great roles for women over 30 out there."

Frasier's Kelsey Grammer won as lead actor in a TV comedy. "I was so surprised I forgot to thank anybody," he later said, adding that he could see the NBC sitcom going on for at least another four years.

Robert Downey Jr.'s win for his supporting work on Ally McBeal provided one of the night's high points (no pun intended). Sadly, the actor — who is facing more jail time for his Thanksgiving weekend drug arrest in Palm Springs — refused to answer reporter's questions backstage, opting instead to make the following statement: "I just wanted to share this with my fellow parolees, um, nominees and just say that this really means a lot. It's been a great pleasure working on the show. The Hollywood Foreign Press: They say that we're eccentric and colorful — you know, actor types — and then you hook up with them... and I guess the real major difference is that they can bicker in 12 languages and most of us can't. But this certainly means a lot to me and I really appreciate all of the support that has come from pretty much everyone in general, and I accept this with great humility and gratitude. Thank you very much."

Other TV winners included: Showtime's Dirty Pictures (best miniseries or movie), Vanessa Redgrave (best supporting actress in a TV series, miniseries or motion picture for HBO's If These Walls Could Talk II), Brian Dennehy (Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman) and Judi Dench (best actress in a miniseries or movie for Last of the Blonde Bombshells). Dench — whose husband, actor Michael Williams, died earlier this month — was not in attendance.

Al Pacino received the Cecil B. DeMille Award, which honors outstanding contributions to entertainment.

When all was said and done, Ward summed up what makes the Golden Globes the best party of the year: "You get to socialize and have dinner instead of sitting in an auditorium." (Not to mention you get to see Julia and Ben make out.)