To celebrate fifty years of James Bond, this year’s award ceremony opened with Welsh crooner Tom Jones performing Bond song ‘Thunderball’ as a montage of clips from the famous movie series was projected behind him. Renaissance man and general brainbox Stephen Fry returned as host, bringing his usual mix of effusively flowery language and cheeky humour; during his opening speech he convinced Brad Pitt to blow a kiss into the camera for the audience at home.
It came as no surprise to anyone that charming black and white silent film The Artist picked up seven of the twelve awards it was nominated for, including Best Film, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay and Best Cinematography. Director Michel Hazanavicius seemed delighted with the attention paid to his film by the British Academy, and also said he was proud that Brad Pitt knew how to pronounce his name so well (Pitt presented him with the BAFTA for Best Director).
British favourite Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, which was close behind The Artist in the nomination stakes, only received two awards in the end; Best Adapted Screenplay and Outstanding British Film. When accepting the Screenplay Award, writer Peter Straughan gave a touching speech in which he thanked his wife and co-writer Bridget O’Cooke, who died before Tinker, Tailor was finished. Straughan said: ‘She wrote all the good bits; I made the coffee’. He also jokingly thanked The Artist for ‘not being adapted from a book’.
Race relations drama The Help, which was up for five awards, in the end only received one; Best Supporting Actress for Octavia Spencer, who seemed utterly overjoyed at her win, nearly dropping her award onstage due to excitement. Meryl Streep (who left her glasses behind at her table when she accepted her Golden Globe) very nearly lost her shoe on the steps as she ascended to the stage to accept the Best Actress BAFTA for her performance in The Iron Lady – luckily, Britain’s own Prince Charming Colin Firth was on hand to save the day.
While nobody was shocked that The Artist swept the board, it still came as a bit of a surprise that Jean Dujardin was presented with the Best Actor BAFTA; it had been assumed that Best Actor was a two horse race between US heavyweights Brad Pitt for Moneyball, and George Clooney for the Descendants. However, it seems that Dujardin’s charismatic performance in the Artist was silent, but deadly. Dujardin ended his speech with a silent movie gag: ‘As Buster Keaton would say…’ he exclaimed, before trailing off into silence.
A special award presented this year was Outstanding Contribution to British Cinema for actor John Hurt, who recently played Control in Tinker, Tailor (he is also famous for playing Kane, the unfortunate astronaut who experienced the ‘chest-burster’ in sci-fi film Alien). He was presented with the BAFTA by Billy Bob Thornton, received a long standing ovation from the star-studded audience and gave a humble speech in which he took the advice of his wife by keeping it short, finishing with a simple ‘thank you’.
Among other awards presented this year was the BAFTA Fellowship for genius director Martin Scorsese, whose work includes Taxi Driver, Goodfellas, The Departed, and recently the fantastical children’s film Hugo (which also won awards this year for Best Sound and Best Production Design). Spanish Auteur Pedro Almodóvar’s The Skin I Live In picked up the gong for Best Film Not in the English Language, but there were no awards for British favourite Shame, and only one for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 (Special Visual Effects).
Now that the BAFTAs are over and done with, all eyes are looking forward to the Oscars on the 26th of February – will the Artist reign supreme there too? As usual, Stephen Fry closed the awards with an impassioned speech about the love of cinema; ‘Let’s all keep lining up for tickets and sitting in the dark, support your local cinema, live and love film.’