Kate Winslet won the Golden Globe for best female supporting actor in a motion picture Sunday, the first winner in an evening that will award 25 prizes to the year's best of film and television in a ceremony in Beverly Hills.

Accepting the award for her role in the biopic Steve Jobs, a visibly surprised Winslet thanked her costar Michael Fassbender and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin, whom she called "crazy" for writing famously long lines of dialogue.

In the first television award, Maura Tierney won best supporting female actor in a series, limited series or TV movie for her role in Showtime's The Affair.

The award for best television comedy went to Amazon's Mozart in the Jungle, while the best female actor in a comedy series award went to newcomer Rachel Bloom for CW's Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.

Among the top film nominees for awards yet to come were 1950s-era same-sex romance Carol, nominated for five awards, biopic Steve Jobs, up for three more awards, and frontier revenge epic The Revenant and real-estate bubble caper The Big Short, each nominated for four.

Transgender family comedy Transparent and women's prison comedy series Orange is the New Black led the nominations for television awards. Pop star Lady Gaga was nominated for a best acting award for her series American Horror Story: Hotel.

Denzel Washington will receive the Cecil B DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award.

The champagne-soaked honours in Beverly Hills drew some of Hollywood's biggest stars, including Jennifer Lopez, Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Sylvester Stallone and Harrison Ford.

Hosted by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the awards dinner has a reputation as a no-holds-barred party where Hollywood's A-list lets it all hang out.

British comic Ricky Gervais kicked off the ceremony with an irreverent monologue he warned would be so scathing that he would have to go into hiding afterward.

"Not even Sean Penn will find me," he said, in a crack at Saturday's revelation that the 55-year-old actor met secretly late last year in Mexico with fugitive drug kingpin Joaquin Guzman.

Gervais went on to skewer everyone and everything from Jennifer Lawrence's protest over equal pay for women in Hollywood to the Golden Globes themselves.

Addressing the night's coming winners, he said "that award is - no offence - worthless," joking "that some confused old journalists wanted to give you [a Golden Globe] so they could meet you in person and take a selfie with you."

Awarded in 25 categories honouring film and television, the Golden Globes are among Hollywood's most coveted prizes, and are seen as an early indicator of films' Oscar chances.

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