Typically it's easy enough to gauge where the Hollywood Foreign Press Association is going to lean. It's a small enough group and there are enough of their whisperers out there that usually long before the show, more or less, everyone has a pretty good idea. But this year things were all over the place and the younger members of the group exemplify some shifting tastes. So we ended up with a love-spreading evening that dotted all the t's and crossed all the i's.

One thing going into the awards that was making the rounds was that the group were not big collective fans of Steve McQueen's "12 Years a Slave." And indeed, throughout most of the evening, it appeared the film might be headed for a shut-out. There must have been a thick nervous air hanging in the FOX viewing party tent in the Hilton parking lot, but by now at the after-soiree, spirits are surely high with relief. But the vote must have been very close.

Indeed, the HFPA spread the love about as much as they possibly could have. "American Hustle," "Dallas Buyers Club," "Gravity," "12 Years a Slave" and "The Wolf of Wall Street" all received major wins. The director prize didn't even go to one of the Best Picture winners. That's not totally uncommon, of course, because they like to get as many people up on that stage as possible, but one single prize for the Best Picture - Drama winner? Again, it must have been close. And the only major Best Picture play that went away empty-handed was "Captain Phillips." ("Nebraska also turned up a goose egg but doesn't appear to be in the hunt for the Best Picture Oscar win in any case.)

Do Golden Globe wins do anything to shake up an Oscar race? Not really. Sometimes you can knock a speech out of the park and corral some extra love as a result, but no one really did that tonight. And anyway, Oscar ballots were already in, so the nominations have been decided.

All of that said, I do think Matthew McConaughey may have auditioned for an Oscar win tonight with his speech (as much as he could get out before being played off by the orchestra like everyone else, that is). A screenplay win for a movie like "Her" certainly helps box office-wise as it expands wider. "American Hustle's" dominance (a field-leading three trophies) embosses it as a winner heading into phase two, and hey, Oscar voters like to know they're voting for winners. So that'll help.

But for the most part, no, this isn't some major needle-mover or barometer. Even last year, when "Argo" caught its stride first at the CCMAs then at the Globes, I submit its fate was already sealed.

So no need to over-analyze things like Alex Ebert's Best Original Score win or "The Great Beauty" snatching the Best Foreign Language Film prize. It's all just another run on the awards season ladder, and as they tend to do when we have a close race like we do this year, the Globes just kept the door open for everyone.

The Oscar nominations come Thursday. That night, the Critics' Choice awards (the next big televised awards show). By this time next week, we'll have some more direction, but this promises to remain a contentious season right through the next phase. The three-way race between "American Hustle," "Gravity" and "12 Years a Slave" is most certainly on.

If you want to relive the night, be sure to read through Dan Fienberg's live-blog of the ceremony. We'll have best and worst for you later.

Stay tuned later tonight for Greg's party coverage. (Alas, this was the first year in a number of them that I couldn't make it out to the show and after-party circuit. This bug that everyone has? Yeah, I have it, too.)