Thursday night I had the odd pleasure of attending an awards show. It was the Britannia Awards, put on by BAFTA/LA. Essentially 4 tributes – Tilda Swinton, Don Cheadle, Stephen Frears and Sean Penn, and a performance by Gavin Rossdale, the geek in me was actually kind of excited to experience something like this first hand. They didn’t allow a camera (the ones here were taken by a phone), so I figured I’d paint a little picture.
My friend Brad and I arrived at the hotel where in Century City where the awards were being held. This was met with confusion as to how valet parking works – neither of us had used it before – and an immediate sense of feeling very underdressed. We got our tickets, lurked in the foyer for a while to watch a few celebrities walk in, and then headed downstairs to find our table. #81. It was understandably one of the worst tables there, but I did have this really naive image of myself sitting beside Gus Van Sant or something, shaking Tilda’s hand as she went up to receive her tribute. This was our view:
I quickly thanked god I had a plus one because I don’t know how I would have made it through the night. Our 10 seat table was filled with a very eclectic mix of people, none of whom’s names I remember. By the end of the night, Brad and I came to know them as: the wealthy British ex-patriate couple, the May-December gay couple, the guy who fell asleep through half the awards, the single old lady and her plastic surgery enhanced daughter, and eventually, the new girl.. who missed dinner and popped in awkwardly as the awards began.
Since none of us would likely ever socialize with one or other and had a wide range of professions, the conversations didn’t always flow. I got the obligatory “How old are you?” from about half of them, and the older gay man asked me if I was “with Tony.” “I don’t think so,” I replied. Apparently Tony was some sort of choreographer in Britain. “You look like you might be his nephew,” he told me.
This prompted my little introductory spiel to ensure no more confusions. “Do they have BAFTA in Canada,” one asked us. “A journalist,” the wealthy wife had said. “Are you going to be writing stuff down?” It was at this point I decided that yes, I was.
Conversations varied from non-existent to recent films we’d seen to politics. It turns out the gay couple had gotten married in in Massachusetts a year or so back, where they had been living. Their lives there had something to do with horses, but I wasn’t quite sure how it all fit together. Obviously though, they had rightfully strong thoughts on Prop. 8. Older gay man did most of the talking for his couple, as did wealthy wife for hers. In fact, I don’t think I ever heard wealthy husband speak the whole night. Anyway, wealthy wife can’t vote because she’s British but said she would have voted No, and “was sure plenty of her friends did.” Older gay man went on a rant about how people’s previous marriages in California were going to be retroactively annulled, which I got in a brief argument about how that wasn’t necessarily the case. But older gay man was stubborn, so I decided from now on to just nod and smile.
Dinner finished and Brad and I went to have a cigarette before the awards start. We had arrived at 6:30pm and it was 9pm and the awards hadn’t started yet.
Outside, we experienced the most bizarre portion of the evening. A man approached us, dressed in a tan, polyester suit. He had this odd, unexplainable up-do and sort of reminded me of an very tanned, sort of gay, American version of Eric Idle. His opening line was, “are you guys in a boy band”
I had no idea where this was going, and it went somewhere I definitely didn’t expect. Apparently, he is a host of game shows and beauty pageants for some network I’ve never heard of. He was at the hotel scoping out venues for his new online reality series, Braveheart Women, the first online series devoted to beauty pageantry. It was intended to “for purposeful and driven women” to “find themselves.” And with a bunch of celebrity judges, it was “sure to really take off”.
Then he totally changed gears. “Hey, can I tell you guys something,” he said. “I’m a bit of a health nut. You know, I used to drink and do drugs and party but now I’m really a bit of a healthy nut…So it really concerns me that you two are smoking.”
Brad gave a rehearsed speech that I could have easily given myself about how he knows smoking is bad for him and he wants to quit blah blah blah… “I dont think you understand,” he said to Brad and then looked at me. “But you do, don’t you?”
“I don’t think I do.”
Then, of all things, he asks us if we’ve read The Secret. And tells us that on Sundays there is this gathering – not religious, just spiritual – in Hollywood that celebrates something like The Secret called Agape. “When are you guys leaving?” We tell him Monday. “Well that’s the funny thing about Monday,” he said back. “It’s the day after Sunday.” He writes down the website of the event – www.agapelive.com – on his wacky business card and tells us to have a good night.
We get back in side and the show is just about to start. For some reason, the introductory music is the theme to “Requiem For a Dream”.
Harry Shearer, who I was kind of excited to watch as the host, takes the stage to begin his first of a hundred bad jokes. Like the one about how “Joe the Plumber” signs a record deal. Or how Sarah Palin initially thought Russia was Cleveland until McCain’s camp taught her otherwise. Or how next “they’ll ban gay funerals.”
Thankfully, Jack Black was soon on stage to present a highlight clip for first honoree Stephen Frears. “I think I’ve seen Dangerous Liaisons 37 times,” is Black’s introductory line. Annette Bening soon follows to actually give Frears the award, telling a cute story about how she wanted to be in Liaisons but ended up landing Valmont instead and how they he took a chance on her with The Grifters. “Thank God Geena Davis turned it down,” she said. Frears comes up. Sleeping guy at my table begins earning his nickname despite Frears witty, endearing speech.
Next out comes Eddie Izzard to honor… Don Cheadle? Izzard makes an awkward tie to Cheadle through a shout out to Obama: “[Cheadle] is a great man. Who happens to be an African-American. I only mention this because we are holding this ceremony just two days after Barack Obama because the first African-American president of the United States. The most important thing about these people is their work and not the colour of their skin.”
I OBVIOUSLY agree with Izzard. But it all just sort of seems besides the point in this context. Essentially just because they’re both African-American, Cheadle needs a comparison to Obama? I think it was just an excuse for Izzard to say Obama and watch the audience cheer and clap at him.
Anyway.. now a suave looking Ben Affleck comes out to give Cheadle his award. He speaks warmly about Cheadle’s humanitarian work saying he has set an example for himself. Cheadle gets a standing ovation, comes up and gives a good speech. Sleeping guy sleeps through it.
Its 9:55. For some reason, we get a montage of former BAFTA/LA winners, and then Shearer comes out: “Ladies and gentleman, Gavin Rossdale…” 25% percent of the room slowly gets up to go to the bathroom, and we go for a cigarette. Poor Gavin.
We come back in to the joy of seeing Angelica Huston on stage. “Every once in a while – in a rare while – an actress transcends our expectations,” she said. She is speaking of Tilda Swinton, and cues the tasty highlight reel: Edward II! War Requiem! Man to Man! And the scene in The Beach where she tells Leo they’re just fuck buddies.
Hugh Laurie is hilarious introducing Tilda herself: “I actually had never seen any of Tilda’s films, so that highlight reel was a big help.”
As expected, Tilda’s speech is fantastic. “It’s very strange this getting awards, I have to confess until so recently that the only thing I’d ever won was a raffle when I was twelve. I got a bottle of aftershave I gave my brother for Christmas and he still has it.”
Next Patricia Clarkson comes to introduce Sean Penn‘s clip. She’s lovely as expected. Penn’s clip show is a bit bizarre though. Clips of his guest stints on Friends and Ellen? Then Paul Thomas Anderson comes on to give Penn the award. Anderson compares Penn to Stanley Kubrick which seems a bit much. Penn gets a standing ovation (as Cheadle did, but not Swinton or Frears – what to they have against the Brits?)
Penn opens with politics: “I’ve never been able to put the word ‘my’ before president before. I’d like to congratulate my president.” Huge cheers. Nothing about Milk or Prop 8 which disappoints me but he totally scores with his final line.. “Guy Ritchie is back!” Whoa.
10:45 and its over and I’m ready to join the sleeping guy. We go to figure out how to get our car back, and end the night on a high note when James Cromwell is standing in front of us in line: