Ben Affleck at the Baftas (Photograph: Getty Images)
On Sunday evening the British Academy Film and Television Awards (better known as the Baftas) were held at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden. The red carpet was a soggy scene, and Hollywood’s hottest intoned for many hours on meteorology. It was a happy television audience when Stephen Fry eventually brought his purple prose to the pulpit.
Ben Affleck won for his direction of Argo, which in turn was named best film, gaining it more yardage in its sprint toward Oscar success. Lincoln has been reclining in an armchair on the edge of the finish line for months, and may very way topple over it, with a yawn, by Oscar night. This is very difficult to call, but Argo’s thighs are certainly pumping after a resplendent Sunday in London. Quentin Tarantino’s original screenplay for Django Unchained was honoured. This makes coy amends for Tarantino’s inexplicable exclusion from the director category.
The acting categories went according to expectations – for the most part. As inevitable as Stephen Fry getting a gag about lubricant into his script, Anne Hathaway was awarded best supporting actress for her role as Fantine in Les Miserables, and the sun shone on the nothing new as Daniel Day-Lewis was named best actor. One is in mild emotional limbo as his performance in Lincoln wins another award (and continues its course toward an Oscar); not because it is undeserving, but because Joaquin Phoenix must remain un-lauded, left clawing at his beard at the back of the hall, having delivered such a performance in The Master, so twitching and boggled and brilliant. Christoph Waltz was awarded best supporting actor for Django Unchained, and in his studied and choppy English delivered a charming speech in which he praised Quentin Tarantino – "You silver-penned devil!" – against impending tears. This builds on his victory at the Golden Globes, though it would remain a surprise if he defeats Tommy Lee Jones, Alan Arkin and Philip Seymour Hoffman at the Oscars considering he took the statue for a comparable performance in Inglorious Basterds.
The British Academy’s compliance ceased at the best actress category, however, as they chose Emmanuelle Riva over Jennifer Lawrence and Jessica Chastain. Although one’s money is still safest behind Lawrence for the Oscar, the pluck it took to choose a 85 year old, whose heyday was the French New Wave, might re-conjure the dissident poltergeist which spooked the American Academy into voting for The Artist, and open minds to the possibility of making Riva their unlikely recipient.
A number of the technical categories this year can be treated with more interest than the shoulder-shrugging they usually receive. Les Miserables was given the award for best sound in recognition of its recording technique, wherein actors perform their pieces live, dictating the tempo of their numbers rather than miming to a pre-recording (reservedly labeled ‘revolutionary’ in the making of musicals). In addition, Life of Pi was given the special visual effects award for a project that included the lavish creation of Richard Parker, the digital tiger, work which has been credited with making a significant contribution to the union of technology and art.
Below is a complete list of the winners.
BEST FILM: Argo- Grant Heslov, Ben Affleck, George Clooney
OUTSTANDING BRITISH FILM: Skyfall - Sam Mendes, Michael G.Wilson, Barbara Broccoli, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, John Logan
OUTSTANDING DEBUT BY A BRITISH WRITER, DIRECTOR OR PRODUCER: Bart Layton (Director), Dimitri Doganis (Producer) – The Imposter
FILM NOT IN THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE: Amour- Michael Haneke, Margaret Ménégoz
DOCUMENTARY: Searching for Sugar Man- Malik Bendjelloul, Simon Chinn
ANIMATED FILM: Brave - Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman
DIRECTOR: Argo – Ben Affleck
ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: Django Unchained - Quentin Tarantino
ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: - David O. Russell
LEADING ACTOR: Daniel Day-Lewis - Lincoln
LEADING ACTRESS: Emmanuelle Riva - Amour
SUPPORTING ACTOR: Christoph Waltz - Django Unchained
SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Anne Hathaway – Les Miserables
ORIGINAL MUSIC: Skyfall - Thomas Newman
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Life of Pi – Claudio Miranda
EDITING: Argo - William Goldenberg
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Les Miserables - Eve Stewart, Anna Lynch-Robinson
COSTUME DESIGN: Anna Karenina - Jacqueline Durran
MAKE UP & HAIR: Les Miserables - Lisa Westcott
SOUND: Les Miserables - Simon Hayes, Andy Nelson, Mark Paterson, Jonathan Allen, Lee Walpole, John Warhurst
SPECIAL VISUAL EFFECTS: Life of Pi - Bill Westenhofer, Guillaume Rocheron, Erik-Jan De Boer
SHORT ANIMATION: The Making of Longbird - Will Anderson, Ainslie Henderson
SHORT FILM: Swimmer - Lynne Ramsay, Peter Carlton, Diarmid Scrimshaw
THE EE RISING STAR AWARD (voted for by the public): Juno Temple
OUTSTANDING BRITISH CONTRIBUTION TO CINEMA: Tessa Ross
THE BAFTA FELLOWSHIP: Alan Parker