Matt Damon is one of Hollywood’s biggest stars, and a superb actor. This fall audiences anticipate his return in two high-profile award-season movies. He plays a rather nasty character in “Suburbicon,” a film noir ’50s dramedy adapted from a Coen brothers script and directed by George Clooney, Damon’s old chum and “Oceans” co-star. And he’s a goofy sad sack in “Downsizing,” a future-world sci-fi comedy with an ecological message from Oscar perennial Alexander Payne, in which he becomes 5 inches tall to save the environment.
It makes perfect sense for BAFTA to present Damon with a well-deserved award — the Stanley Kubrick Britannia Award for Excellence in Film — at the Britannia Awards October 27 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. After all, he won an Oscar in 1997 with buddy Ben Affleck for writing “Good Will Hunting,” and was nominated for his performances in that movie as well as “Invictus” and “The Martian,” and last year as a producer of “Manchester By the Sea.” Like Clooney and Affleck, Damon is the ultimate Hollywood multi-tasker.
But Damon should soak up every minute of the BAFTA Britannias spotlight, because it may be the only awards attention he receives this season. Here’s why. Even though Damon gives strong performances in both anticipated Paramount releases, they divided critics at Venice and Toronto. Payne’s sporadically brilliant holiday satire “Downsizing” (Paramount) landed better reviews (it sits at a respectable 74 on Metacritic) while Clooney’s deflated comedy “Suburbicon” scored a miserable 46. The Academy tends to favor serious dramas over comedies anyway, and while Damon deftly maneuvers the challenges of these movies, neither character earns much audience sympathy. That could be a problem for Oscar voters.
Joining Damon on Britannia Awards night are honorees Dick Van Dyke, who will receive the Britannia Award for Excellence in Television, “Selma” and “A Wrinkle in Time” director Ava DuVernay, who will receive the John Schlesinger Britannia Award for Excellence in Directing, “The Crown,” “Breathe” and upcoming “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” series star Claire Foy, who will receive the Britannia Award for British Artist of the Year, and actor-director Kenneth Branagh (“Murder on the Orient Express”), who will receive the Albert R. Broccoli Britannia Award for Worldwide Contribution to Entertainment. British comedian Jack Whitehall returns as host.
Prior recipients of the Stanley Kubrick Britannia Award for Excellence in Film include Jodie Foster, Meryl Streep, Robert Downey Jr., George Clooney, Warren Beatty, Jeff Bridges, Tom Cruise, Daniel Day Lewis, Robert De Niro, Clint Eastwood, Tom Hanks, George Lucas, Sean Penn, Steven Spielberg and Denzel Washington.