Apologies, dear reader, for the delay in posting this. Rest assured that normal service shall resume, albeit at the tail end of awards season. The ceremonies are going to culminate with the Oscars on the 2nd of March, but the British film scene has already had its main gala, with the 67th British Academy Film Awards being held on the 16th of February. As a quick reminder, this blog’s predictions for the BAFTAs – the T standing for Television due to the all-encompassing nature of the governing body – can be found here.
In the face-off between Gravity and 12 Years a Slave, the former came out the winner in terms of number of awards won. It came away with 6 wins on the night, the most of any nominee. The categories it managed to scoop were Best Director (Alfonso Cuarón), Best Cinematography, Best Sound, Best Original Music, Best Special Visual Effects and Best British Film. The last one caused some raised eyebrows due to the very subtle Britishness of Gravity, its eligibility relying on its production team and funding rather than its on-screen talent and director.
Still, BAFTA rules state that films need to indicate whether they consider themselves eligible or not before the nominations are decided, and Gravity chose to do so with rewarding results, while 12 Years a Slave did not. Still, Steve McQueen’s masterpiece did not go away empty-handed. It won Best Picture and Best Actor in a Leading Role for Chiwetel Ejiofor and while those were its only wins, they were both in major categories. Nonetheless, it was still a relatively disappointing night for the film as it failed to win either of the supporting acting categories.
Best Actor in a Supporting Role went to Barkhad Abdi, the Captain Phillips star picking up his first major award in the absence of Oscar-favourite Jared Leto. Best Actress in a Supporting Role, meanwhile, still looks like a two-way race with Jennifer Lawrence winning for American Hustle over Lupita Nyong’o. Nyong’o still remains the slight favourite for the Oscar, but the situation this year is similar to the leading actress category two years ago. Viola Davis won the big Oscar barometer, the SAG, but Meryl Streep won the Golden Globe and the BAFTA, before going on to pick up the biggest honour of the year. With Lawrence having picked up the Globe along with her BAFTA, and Nyong’o having won the SAG along with a slew of critics’ choice wins, it looks like this category will go down to the wire.
While the supporting categories went against recent form and even the leading actor win upending the existing order – favourite Matthew McConaughey missed out on a nomination – Best Actress in a Leading Role went, unsurprisingly, to Cate Blanchett for Blue Jasmine. And all credit to her, she did not phone in her speech, choosing to make a heartfelt dedication to the late Philip Seymour Hoffman.
With Stephen Fry steering the night along with his usual aplomb and sophistication, the rest of the night was a mixture of expected but satisfying wins and a few pleasant surprises. American Hustle saw David O. Russell pick up a second consecutive screenplay BAFTA, this time for Best Original Screenplay, which he shared with Eric Warren Singer. British sentimentalism might have played a small part in awarding Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope the Best Adapted Screenplay award for Philomena but when the script was so good, no one could justifiably begrudge the result.
American Hustle won a third award for Best Makeup and Hair, a very deserving win given the amount of wigs and hairspray it must have taken to transform such a well-known ensemble. Other expected wins went to Frozen for Best Animated Film, The Act of Killing for Best Documentary and The Great Beauty for Best Film Not in the English Language. Each one of those wins represented a very different film, but each one is now the undisputed favourite for their respective Oscars.
Rush took home a surprising win for Best Editing, but it was a worthy victor given the excellent work of the team involved. As much as I hate to admit it, The Great Gatsby is now a multi-BAFTA winner, picking up the trophies for Best Costume Design and Best Production Design. Best Short Animation went to Sleeping with the Fishes and Best Short Film to Room 8. Peter Greenaway was awarded the prize for Outstanding Contribution to British Cinema. Up-and-coming talent, meanwhile, was also recognised, with Will Poulter winning the audience-voted EE Rising Star Award and writer-director Kieran Evans winning Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer for Kelly + Victor.
The highlight of the night, however, had to be Dame Helen Mirren receiving the Academy Fellowship. Even the presence of a genuine royal to hand out the award, HRH Prince William – referred to as her grandson by Stephen Fry earlier in the evening – could not outshine Dame Helen’s genuine delight and soft-spoken grace. Having taken a moment to thank her husband, the eloquent Dame led a round of applause for teachers who had worked to inspire all the industry giants present at the ceremony. It was particularly poignant as her own childhood teacher, Alice Welding, had passed away two weeks prior to the awards at the age of 102.
Dame Helen rounded off her speech with a wonderfully apt quote from the Bard:
Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp’d towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.