BAFTAs 2014

Last night the Royal Opera House in Central London hosted the 67th annual BAFTA awards, a night to celebrate film and television, for Britain and the world. Held in the middle of the awards season, it is generally a good indicator for what films will receive the most coveted prize in the film industry, the Oscars.

Last year Argo won best film, Daniel Day-Lewis won best actor, and Christoph Waltz and Anne Hathaway took the best supporting acting prizes. They all went on to win Oscars.

For the ninth time, treasure of the British isles, actor Stephen Fry, hosted proceedings. A slightly more restrained and low key evening than other events, it was a nice simple show without the pomp of the Oscars.

This year the awards were dominated by ‘Gravity’ with the film picking up awards for visual effects, cinematography, best sound and original music, Best British film, while Alfonso Cuaron won best director. Thoroughly deserving of the awards it got, the film is a cinematic masterpiece, and thoroughly deserved the cinematography prize. I am however not so keen on films winning so many awards, taking away recognition from equally deserving films.

Gravity’s award also sparked huge online debate about whether the film is classed as a British film. Variety posted on Twitter “Gravity qualifies as a British film for ‘significant British creative involvement,’ though 12 Years a Slave didn’t submit in [the] category.”

However Andreas Wiseman expressed the view that Gravity does not pass BAFTA’s ‘cultural test’. ‘A film needs 16 points in the BFI’s ‘cultural test’ to qualify as #British | Does #Gravity pass? Not by my maths.” He then included a link to British Film Institute’s ‘culture test for a film’. Guy Lodge chipped in on Twitter with “I hear the reasons for Gravity qualifying as a British film. I understand them. But still… no.” Peter Davies of Fishbeat Productions also expressed his disagreement over the win – “Gravity, the American financed film, directed by a Mexican, starring two Americans, filmed in England, wins Best British film at BAFTA.”

I would have to say, looking at the people who worked on the film, it doesn’t feel very British. Just because your set is located in England, I don’t think that qualifies the film as being ‘British’. I would have to concur with the above.

The most coveted honour of the evening,  the award for Best Film, went to ’12 Years a Slave’. On receiving the award, director Steve McQueen thanked his  “one and only mother for having the faith – never give up” and added “Right now there are 21 million people in slavery. I just hope that 150 years from now our ambivalence will not allow another film-maker to make this film.” An interesting note to remember, that films can highlight the reality and injustice of the world in a way that other forms cannot.

Captain Phillips star Barkhad Abdi won the best supporting actor prize, while Jennifer Lawrence was named best supporting actress for American Hustle.

David O Russell picked up the best original screenplay prize for the 1970s crime drama American Hustle, about two con artists who get entangled with the FBI.

The Great Gatsby gained awards for production and costume design and deservedly so . The best short film award was handed to Room 8, an interesting piece about a prisoner who discovers a magical box with a baneful secret.

In a shock for the evening, Frozen beat out Despicable Me 2 and Monsters University for the Best Animation award.

Kieran Evans won the outstanding debut by a British writer, director or producer went to Kelly + Victor, the tale of a young couple embarking on a passionate love affair.

Rush won the award for best editing. A great award for a great film, but I was a little disappointed. Rush was my favourite film of the year, and with only 1 award from the BAFTAs, it doesn’t hold high hopes for the Oscars. Director Ron Howard joked on the red carpet he felt like “a grateful foreign exchange student”.

Philomena won Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope an award for their adapted screenplay for the film. Based on the true story of an Irish woman trying to find the son she was forced to give up for adoption, the film is a touching British masterpiece.

Best Actress went to Cate Blanchett who said when receiving her award “Phil, buddy, this is for you, you bastard. I hope you’re proud.” in honour of the late Philip Seymour Hoffman who died earlier this month. She added that Hoffman was “a continual profound touchstone”.

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Despite not winning, Dame Judi Dench set a Bafta record with her 15th acting nomination. When asked about it on the red carpet, she replied: “I didn’t know until you told me. Thanks for reminding me. It means I’ve been going for a very, very long time.”  She really is a true legend of the screen.

All in all, a low key BAFTAs this year, a few suprises, mainly the few awards that ’12 Years A Slave’ actually picked up. But we await the Oscars, the far more interesting big brother of the awards season.

By David Roberts

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