Baftas 2013: Argo wins big

A round-up of the winners and losers at this years British Academy Film Awards

baftaThis year’s British Academy Film Awards saw Argo take home the prize in the Best Picture category, beating off stiff competition from Les Misérables, Life of Pi, Lincoln and Zero Dark Thirty, and establish itself as favorite for the main prize at the Oscars later this month. Argo’s success so far, has made the Oscars decision to exclude Argo from both the Best Director and Best Editing categories (usually the bellwethers for what will go on to win Best Film) even more curious and leads to the suspicion that Spielberg’s historical epic Lincoln may still be in contention.

If Argo does emerge victorious at the Oscars, it will be the first time that a film has won Best Picture without being nominated for Best Director since Driving Miss Daisy in 1990. Incidentally, 1990 was also the year that Daniel Day-Lewis won his first Best Actor statuette, which, after taking home the prize at the Baftas, he looks all but certain to do again for the third time this year for his towering performance in Lincoln. Day-Lewis provided one of the evenings most memorable speeches, making light his notoriously stringent method acting practices, claiming that “just on the chance that I might one day have to speak at an evening such as this, I’ve actually stayed in character as myself for the last 55 years.”

Argo is an extremely well crafted, solidly entertaining thriller but for all its merits, it is fairly unremarkable; but unremarkable is a quality that awards voters seem to hold in very high regard. This was seen in the Animated Film category, with Pixar’s underwhelming Brave triumphing against slightly more esoteric fare in the form of Paranorman and Tim Burton’s Frankenweenie.

The much-documented grumbles from those that believed Sam Mendes’s Skyfall had been unfairly snubbed by all the major awards were somewhat allayed by the fact that Thomas Newman prevailed in the Best Music category for his work on the film, and it also trumped Les Misérables in the Best British Film category. Despite this, Les Misérables came away from the Baftas the most awarded film (Hair and Makeup, Production Design, Best Supporting Actress), although possibly not in the categories it most wanted to.

Elsewhere, Django Unchained, did pretty well out of the evening, with Quentin Tarantino triumphing in the Original Screenplay category and Cristoph Waltz prospering in the Supporting Actor category. While Waltz’s performance in Django Unchained was very fine, Samuel L. Jackson’s deeply unsettling performance in the film was probably more worthy of recognition.

One of the few shocks of the night came when 85 year old french actress Emmanuelle Riva, star of Amour, beat bookies-favourite Jennifer Lawrence in the Best Actress category to the visible dismay of Silver Linings Playbook director David O. Russell.

Awards ceremonies don’t make for the most thrilling of televisual experiences at the best of times, but Bafta’s inexplicable decision to not broadcast the event live dispossessed the Baftas of any semblance of tension, with the list of winners circulating twitter 90 minutes before the awards were televised. What made this year’s Golden Globes (almost) bearable was the brilliance of the Tina Fey and Amy Poehler’s hosting. Funny, irreverent and willing to poke fun at Hollywood stars (without the look at how outrageous I’m being knowingness of Ricky Gervais), Fey and Poehler were almost the complete antithesis of Stephen Fry, who hosted this year’s event.

Fry’s monologues comprised of gushing about the nominated films (“I can honesty say on having presented these awards on many occasions, I cannot remember a roster of films, performances, scripts and productions that I have so admired”), some safe Radio 4-friendly gags and vaguely current pop culture references (Linkedin). While entirely competent, Fry’s hosting did leave you hoping that next year Bafta might take a risk and hire a British female comedian to host such as… Miranda Hart. On second thought, they are probably be better off sticking with Fry.

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