After almost a week of warm-up events (including Saturday’s incredibly elegant Nominees Party at Kensington Palace, home of future monarch Prince William and Kate, no less), Sunday night’s EE BAFTA Awards, dolled out in the opulent confines of London’s Royal Opera House began with a blast of Kasbian and ended with a spiky speech by Fellowship recipient Mike Leigh. Leigh, whose “Mr. Turner” had been all but snubbed by BAFTA voters — “some people expect me to be rude” — used his time at the mic to thank those who had supported him across 20 features as well as the less receptive financiers who’d said no to him down the years — “boneheads, philistines and uninspired skinflints… may you all rot in hell.”
In the two plus hours in between, regular host and professional bon vivant Stephen Fry was his typically erudite and loquacious self, even if the innuendo quotient was noticeably lower than normal, introducing Best Film presenter Tom Cruise with the gambit: “OMFG… it’s Tom fucking Cruise” (you don’t hear introductions like that at the Oscars); poking fun at Putin and North Korea; blaming the weekend’s DGA Awards for several notable absentees (“Let’s drink a glass for the dissolution of the Director’s Guild Of America”); and using “arsewash” in relation to the very lovely Rosamund Pike.
And, following on from last year’s kiss with Leonardo DiCaprio, Fry called upon “Birdman” nominees Michael Keaton and Edward Norton to step up, pucker up and kiss him. They obliged. (Later, Cuba Gooding, Jr. planted one on Fry, quipping: “I’ve never kissed royalty before.”) Meanwhile there was a standing ovation for presenter Stephen Hawking (subject of “The Theory Of Everything,” a big winner on the night taking home three awards including Best British Film), several lump-in-the-throat-inducing speeches, and an appearance from “golden balls” himself, David Beckham.
While BAFTA has, occasionally, found itself accused of being too partisan, this year the love was spread around the globe with five awards for “The Grand Budapest Hotel” — Music, Original Screenplay, Costumes, Hair & Makeup and Production Design — three for “Boyhood” — Film, Director, and Supporting Actress for Patricia Arquette — and “The Theory Of Everything,” its star Eddie Redmayne the enormously popular winner of the Best Actor Award who regaled the immaculately tailored audience with the tale of his previous visit which involved food poisoning, bolting from the auditorium and “redecorating” the corridor.
As a BAFTA member, I got to vote in 19 categories this year and, of those, nine of my choices won, most pleasingly “Boyhood” for Best Film and Richard Linklater for Best Director who wasn’t on hand to receive his award as, along with fellow Best nominee (and Best Original Screenplay) winner Wes Anderson, he was stuck in LA at the DGAs where neither won anything. In his absence, Ethan Hawke stepped on stage to collect it, talking about Linklater’s love of British cinema and noting that “[he] is frankly going to be pissed off he’s not here tonight”.
“Whiplash”’s two wins were equally well received, particularly JK Simmons for Best Supporting Actor, although Best Actress Oscar favorite Julianne Moore was, to my mind, a surprise winner for “Still Alice,” only because I was certain Felicity Jones would follow her “Theory of Everything” co-star onto the stage to pick up an award. As it was, she was there to present the one for Best Visual Effects to “Interstellar” alongside Stephen Hawking, who, she noted, was “the only person more intelligent than Stephen Fry.” To which Hawking replied: “Yes. And better looking.” There were moving speeches, too, from “Boyhood”’s Patricia Arquette and, later, her onscreen son Ellar Coltrane, a touching video tribute by Robert Downey, Jr. to his Chaplin director, the late Sir Richard Attenborough.
Other well-deserved and popular winners were “The Lego Movie” picking up the BAFTA for Best Animated Film, the movie having been snubbed by the Oscars, a point its directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller acknowledged with some gentle Academy digging, “You are our favourite academy by far…”; Emmanuel Lubezki, picking up his second Best Cinematography BAFTA in so many years for “Birdman”; the public voted Rising Star Award going to Jack O’Connell. I was particularly pleased to see “Boogaloo And Graham” win Best Short Film and “The Bigger Picture” win Best Short Animation, having voted for both, which are up for Oscars later this month. Personally, I would have loved to have seen Dan Gilroy win Best Screenplay for “Nightcrawler” (read it, it’s brilliant) but, alas, he lost to Anderson’s script for “The Grand Budapest Hotel.”
Once the ceremony was over, guests were bussed the short journey to the Grosvenor House Hotel for the post-show dinner, where tables were themed around the five Best Picture nominees, before everyone departed into the night for one of the many after-after soirées, among them the Weinstein Company’s near hallowed bash, where the music was loud, the booze copious, and nominees Ed Norton, Michael Keaton, Rosamund Pike, Amy Adams, Steve Carrell, Mark Ruffalo, Dan Gilroy, Rene Russo, as well as presenters Chris Evans, Mark Strong and Tom Hiddleston chatted and partied till late as Harvey Weinstein prowled the room with good grace, despite his company ending the evening empty-handed after “The Imitation Game” or “Big Eyes” failed to covert any of their 11 combined nominations. Great party, though. Roll on next year.