Politics and gloom dominated the British Academy Britannia Awards at the Beverly Hilton on Friday night, where awards for Excellence were presented to Oscar-winning director Steve McQueen, Marvel producer Kevin Feige, television star Damian Lewis (“Billions”), and British Artist of the Year Emilia Clarke (“Game of Thrones”). But the night belonged to Cate Blanchett and an incendiary Jim Carrey, who both brought politics into the room.
“We have to acknowledge we are all fucked up and turn around and give each other a hug,” said Blanchett as the black-tie diners in the Beverly Hilton ballroom set down their wine glasses and embraced each other. As she accepted her Stanley Kubrick Award for Excellence in Film, the feminist advocate thanked prior winners Jodie Foster and Meryl Streep, her longtime agent Hylda Quealey, and dedicated her award to the late producer Alli Shearmur. Blanchett added that she hopes there will soon be an award for excellence named after her presenter, Lucasfilm CEO Kathleen Kennedy.
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Carrey went much further with his outrage at the current political climate. “I’m glad it didn’t come in the mail,” he said, waving his Charlie Chaplin Britannia Award for Excellence in Comedy. “Without empathy like that, Charlie Chaplin’s Little Tramp would never have existed, and without empathy, we won’t either.” He added, “Shamelessness is not and never will be a superpower” and thanked Christine Blasey Ford and Colin Kaepernick. “We have capitalism without a conscience…kidnapping children is not what great nations do!”
After presenters D.B. Weiss and David Benioff said the 23-year-old Emilia Clarke’s first “Game of Thrones” audition made them think of Joan of Arc, Clarke thanked them for her career, “which gave me the strength to fight my real-life battles.” “Homeland” and “Billions” star Damian Lewis thanked Showtime’s David Nevins and cited comedian Dick Van Dyke: “I does what I likes and I like what I do.”
“Iron Man” filmmaker Jon Favreau, presenting the Albert R. Broccoli Award for Worldwide Contribution to Entertainment to Marvel president Feige (sans baseball cap), praised his “uncanny ability for picking out people with real potential,” he said. “He creates a consistent Marvel universe. He takes big swings and always connects.” Feige thanked “Black Panther” filmmaker Ryan Coogler, who was on hand with star Daniel Kaluuya, for connecting far beyond what anyone expected.
As always, the BAFTA Britannias take place as the Oscar season is in full swing — which is why Feige brought along Coogler and Kaluuya for maximum exposure. And John Schlesinger Britannia Award for Excellence in Directing winner McQueen was supported by his “Widows” stars, Oscar perennial Viola Davis (who called him “both a teacher and a life coach” who “presents the world as it is”) and Supporting Actress contenders Michelle Rodriguez and Elizabeth Debicki.
The British voting block at the Oscars is substantial in both the UK and America. McQueen and Kaluuya are Brit hopefuls this year, along with period royal dramas “Mary Queen of Scots” (Focus Features) starring Irish actress Saoirse Ronan, and “The Favourite” (Fox Searchlight), starring Olivia Colman and Rachel Weisz, which is also expected to get a boost from BAFTA nominations on January 9 and the awards on February 10, two weeks ahead of the Oscar ceremony on February 24.
British comedian Jack Whitehall delighted the crowd as host at BAFTA’s biggest event outside of the UK, suggesting that the world needs a new Marvel superhero, Captain Brexit. The awards show streamed live in the U.S. and Canada via BritBox, the subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) streaming service from BBC Studios and ITV.