The British Academy of Film and Television Arts Los Angeles (BAFTA LA) always throws an entertaining awards party that combines unabashed awards-mongering with flowing drinks and warm hilarity. All were in good supply at the Beverly Hilton Friday night as rookie comedian host Jack Whitehall delivered laughs. “The Brits in 2015 have been killing it,” said Whitehall, explaining the slackened stiff upper lip of the Britannia Awards. “We don’t pay each other compliments. We don’t do flattery. We don’t do praise. We don’t do emotions.” The room roared.
Also killing it were award-winners James Corden—the ebullient CBS talk-show host accepted the Britannia Award for British Artist of the Year, hilariously presented by “Trumbo” star Bryan Cranston—and “Trainwreck” writer-star Amy Schumer, who accepted her Charlie Chaplin Britannia Award for Excellence in Comedy from kindred spirit Seth MacFarlane. “She is operating in the Goldilocks zone,” he said. “She’s insanely great, seriously logical, and brings a voice to the most marginalized group in America: young blonde white women…Amy’s vagina is like Benghazi. A few years ago no one knew it existed.”
“She’s one of the few people able to be so vulnerable and dreadful at the same time,” said her “Trainwreck” director Judd Apatow on video.
“We work so hard to look pretty for men, but you are disgusting,” Schumer told the tuxedos in the crowd, describing some of the ways in graphic detail. “You guys don’t have anal over the pond?” she asked. “I’m a huge fan of Charlie Chaplin, people also referred to him as the little tramp… I can’t believe Gloria Steinem talked about me. In your face Wintour! What am I talking about?” she wound down. “I am from Long Island and I have a lower back tattoo.”
On the more earnest side, two stars who have played Sherlock Holmes, Robert Downey Jr. and Sir Ian McKellen (on video), paid tribute to humanitarian award-winner Orlando Bloom, a goodwill ambassador for Unicef since 2009.
Timed for the start of the Oscar season, the BAFTA Britannia Awards always draws a fair share of Oscar contenders happy to press the flesh.
At the Disney table were studio chief Alan Horn and presenter JJ Abrams, who was presenting the Albert R. Broccoli Britannia Award for Worldwide Contribution to Entertainment to Hollywood veteran Harrison Ford, who not only created Indiana Jones but will soon return as Han Solo in Abrams’ new “Star Wars” film. “His characters are authentic because the man is authentic,” said Abrams. “There’s no one like Harrison before or since.”
Three of his directors weighed in on video. “He’s powerful,” said “Blade Runner” director Ridley Scott. “You’re born that way. You don’t learn it.” Added George Lucas: “He’s bigger than the parts he plays, but able to lose himself in the part.” And Steven Spielberg teased: “I can’t wait to work with you on ‘Indiana Jones 5.’ That’s no announcement. It’s my fervent hope.”
Ford capped the evening with a humble off-the-cuff acceptance speech that drew tears from his wife Calista Flockhart.
The question remains whether Disney will gain any awards traction for the “Episode VII -The Force Awakens,” which will be a box office behemoth to rival “Jurassic World.” The “Star Wars” saga has not been rewarded outside of tech categories in the past, although the first one, “Episode IV – A New Hope,” did earn noms for Best Picture, Alec Guinness for supporting actor and George Lucas for writing and directing.
Brit auteur Stephen Frears presented the Stanley Kubrick award to his current leading lady Meryl Streep (“Florence Foster Jenkins”), wearing a black pantsuit, who thanked BAFTA: “I’m honored to receive this award that has been given to a distinguished group of men—and men,” said Streep, who has been supporting feminist history “Suffragette,” which took a drubbing from Whitehall for its weak box office.
“Brooklyn” Oscar hopeful Saoirse Ronan presented the John Schlesinger directing statue to “Spectre” filmmaker Sam Mendes, who thanked BAFTA for plucking him away from the last three days of his promo tour. “Daniel Craig makes out with a woman his own age?” said Whitehall. “If James Bond is leading the feminist agenda we’re in trouble.”
On video, Craig thanked Mendes: “He’s got your back.” Jake Gyllenhaal (“Jarhead”) described Mendes’ attention to both character and visuals. Mendes told young directors who are taking on an action franchise to channel their inner 12-year-old, point the camera at one thing at a time, and if they’re playing roulette with someone else’s money, if they put all your money on black, be prepared to explain why…on the day be prepared but be prepared to make shit up,” he concluded, reminding the audience that if the world’s best directors (Quentin Tarantino, Christopher Nolan, JJ Abrams, P.T. Anderson et al) insist on shooting in 35 mm, “there is a reason.”
The U.S. television premiere of the 2015 British Academy Britannia Awards will air on Pop on Friday, November 6. The show will also air in the UK and in Europe, Latin America, Canada, South Africa and Asia.