Yesterday marked the 63rd Annual BAFTAs, the United Kingdom’s equivalent to the Oscars. Stars filtered into London’s packed Royal Opera House to celebrate the best films of 2009. In traditional British fashion, the ceremony was to-point, taking only two hours to complete. Minus the ostentatious ‘F-I-L-M’ lettering on stage and host Jonathan Ross’ sad stabs at humour, in which jokes about his jokes elicited more laughter from the crowd, the show ran quite smoothly as it honoured quite a few unexpected winners with statuettes.
Though this year’s main competition was between Avatar and The Hurt Locker, I assumed the British Academy of Film and Television Arts would have recognized the UK-made An Education with more accolade. Not only did it lose in the category of Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay, An Education lost to Fish Tank in the category of Outstanding British Film. Only Carry Mulligan was able to carry the weight of the film’s many nominations by winning Best Actress. Even that was not deserved, in my opinion.
This year’s biggest prizes went to The Hurt Locker. Not only did it conquer Avatar for Best Picture, The Hurt Locker also defeated it in the categories of Best Cinematography, Editing and Director. Could these results be a good predictor for the Oscars in two weeks? I am not totally convinced. I think The Hurt Locker may have a good chance, but the sheer mass appeal surrounding Avatar should cement its place as the Best Picture of 2009–and the Oscars often bend more towards blockbusters than the BAFTAs. On the other hand, the award for Best Director is a different story. While James Cameron still has a good chance at winning for the second time, his former wife Kathryn Bigelow, winner at this year’s BAFTAs, could very well triumph. Who will win? Viewers can take comfort in the fact that a close up of the loser’s strained and smiling face will be shown, as it was during the BAFTAs, one of the highlights of the program.
Kathryn Bigelow on the set of The Hurt Locker
The remaining awards were all fairly predictable. Colin Firth, the quintessential Brit, won for Best Actor in A Single Man (over Oscar frontrunner Jeff Bridges in Crazy Heart), while Kristen Stewart beat out her contenders for The Orange Rising Star Award. Even she didn’t seem surprised to top Carry Mulligan, knowing that Twihards have more voting power than most major political parties. What did set this year’s BAFTAs apart was Venessa Redgrave’s acceptance for the Academy Fellowship Award, which closed the ceremony. Her speech, documenting the beginnings of her extensive career and her love for film, did not leave a dry eye in the house. A rare touch of class, like Bigelow’s recognition of the effects of war during her acceptance speech(es), reminding viewers that the ceremony isn’t actually about celebrities but, like the backdrop loudly proclaimed, about film as art.
– Charles McNeill