No surprises as The Artist dominates the Baftas

14 Feb

Awards darling The Artist swept the board at Sunday night’s 65th Baftas, winning in seven of the 12 categories it was nominated in.  The British film industries premier film awards ceremony, held in the luxurious surroundings of the Royal Opera House, was a somewhat staid and predictable undertaking, offering up little in the way of surprises.

Host Stephen Fry did his best to irreverently mug his way through proceedings, lest he let our global showcase turn into an Oscar-esque snoozefest, but the distinct lack of any leftfield wins lent the whole affair a rather pedestrian air.

In a sense, BAFTA have achieved what they set out do a decade ago by moving the event from post to pre-Oscar slot.  By doing so the awards are more relevant and commercial than ever before and are seen as a reliable indicator of the destination of the Oscars, albeit with a smattering of patriotic Brit chest beating.

And the guest list shows the A-List care .  Virtually all of Hollywood’s finest including Clooney, Pitt, Streep, Dujardin and er Jonah Hill, were in attendance, yet the flipside of cosying up to the US audience is that the Baftas have lost their independent British edge.

Whilst the British Independent Film Awards and The Evening Standard British Film Awards shirked convention and rightly recognised Olivia Colman’s tremendous performance in Tyrannosaur, BAFTA didn’t even see fit to shortlist her.

As a result, the Baftas felt very much like a dry run for Oscar night on February 26.  As expected, The Artist scooped Best Film and Best Director, with Jean Dujardin also edging ahead of Clooney in this fiercely contested two-way tussle for Best Actor.   Less expected, but no less deserved, was the silent film’s success in the Best Original Screenplay category.  One suspects that the Academy won’t extend it the same courtesy.

OK, who ordered the trio of smug looking Frenchmen? (source: PA)

Meryl won Best Actress for The Iron Lady, whilst Octavia Spencer and Christopher Plummer’s wins in the supporting categories were equally predictable and are likely to replicated at The Kodak.

Perhaps Baftas saving grace came in the Outstanding British Film category, where thankfully Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy triumphed over Lynee Ramsey’s crass and incredibly overrated We Need To Talk About Kevin.  The spy thriller also landed Best Adapted Screenplay for Peter Straughan and his late wife Bridget O’Connor, recognition for what was a tremendously difficult and refreshing adaptation of Le Carre’s dense source material.

Asif Kapadia’s stunning film Senna, so brazenly ignored by Oscar, was rightly awarded Best Documentary and added the Editing prize for good measure.  Other Brit winners included the publicly voted Rising Star award for Adam Deacon and the Outstanding debut gong for Paddy Considine for his work on Tyrannosaur.

Yes, 2012 does seem set to be one of those years where one film (The Artist) steamrollers awards season, meaning the excitement and anticipation is somewhat muted, but regardless, Baftas choices were those of a body tinged with conformity.

One hopes BAFTA in 2013 is a braver and more independent spirit.

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