Tom Beasley was at the glamorous BAFTAs ceremony last night on behalf of Flickering Myth. Here, he shares his take on the evening, the awards and that excruciating opening monologue…
There were a lot of winners at the BAFTAs last night. Rami Malek cemented himself as the Best Actor frontrunner for the Oscars, The Favourite topped the table and Alfonso Cuarón was on stage so often that I pondered simply nicking his seat in the audience.
There were also, however, plenty of losers. Chief among those was the host Joanna Lumley, whose trademark charm was entirely buried by a script so achingly terrible that comparisons to Poundland Christmas crackers were arguably too forgiving. By the time she delivered a pun about the “Klan Film Festival” in reference to BlacKkKlansman, the silence in the room was palpable. The ceremony has certainly been hit hard by the loss of Stephen Fry, whose gentle wit and endless verbosity was always a highlight.
My own night started at the side of the red carpet, sandwiched between areas full of screeching fans who seemed desperate to get just about anyone to take a selfie with them. Needless to say that my ears weren’t prepared for the noise that greeted Timothée Chalamet. His current film is called Beautiful Boy, but the yelling of his desperate devotees was even sharper and more piercing than his cheekbones.
It wasn’t a reporting position conducive to getting some brilliant red carpet content, but it did allow me to enjoy Jessie Buckley’s sincere apology to waiting fans that she was “so cold” and needed to get inside, Octavia Spencer struggling with a beautiful, but very impractical, dress and Dexter Fletcher hurrying up the steps to the Royal Albert Hall, loudly worrying about being “the last one in”.
Once inside, I took my vantage point in a box way above the hall of famous people. I quickly picked out Olivia Colman, who looked as if she was having the time of her life from the first moment she entered, and Spike Lee, whose bold purple ensemble was probably visible from space. The one drawback, actually, of being there in person was not being able to see the celebrity cutaways during the monologue. Twitter tells me that Steve Coogan’s eye roll and grimace was something to behold.
Very quickly after the awards got going, the evening looked set to banish the spectre of problematic movies that have loomed large over this season. Although Bohemian Rhapsody did manage to win two awards, including Best Actor, and Green Book star Mahershala Ali pipped British darling Richard E. Grant – or the Notorious R.E.G. as I’m now calling him – to Best Supporting Actor, these movies’ influence on the night was minimal. The first award, Best British Film, had been widely pegged for Bryan Singer’s Freddie Mercury biopic, but instead went to The Favourite. If ever there were an awards season sigh of relief, that was it.
The evening continued to be a perfect storm of success for The Favourite, en route to seven gongs – the highest total of the night. Yorgos Lanthimos’s bawdy royal comedy won awards for Best Original Screenplay and a number of technical categories, as well as scooping Best Supporting Actress for Rachel Weisz and Best Leading Actress for Colman. The Peep Show star’s speech was a rambling delight, expressing genuine thanks and appreciation to those who voted for her and the people who made the movie possible before declaring that “we are gonna get so pissed later”. Truly a queen for the people. Until that point, it was Malek who had earned the biggest ovation, but Colman blew everyone else out of the water.
Elsewhere, BAFTA really spread the wealth. It was Roma that picked up Best Film and Best Director, but elsewhere there were single prizes for the aforementioned Green Book, Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman, Marvel blockbuster Black Panther and musical drama A Star is Born, among many others. Handing the Best Editing prize to the messy, ramshackle Vice was a bit of a head-scratcher but, with that exception, the awards were largely pretty agreeable. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse nabbed the Best Animation prize and the vertiginous climbing tale Free Solo was able to best a very strong Best Director shortlist.
The BAFTAs are not necessarily an Oscar bellwether, but as final voting starts tomorrow, they may play a valuable role in ensuring films are fresh in the minds of those filling in their ballots. This could be a boon for The Favourite and more or less ensures Roma‘s march to Best Picture glory for Netflix. Elsewhere, though, this is far from an awards season earthquake emanating from central London. It’s more of a small ripple, albeit one propelled by Olivia Colman’s megawatt grin.
The final word on the ceremony should go to two very special prizes. BAFTA deserves credit for devoting the final portion of its ceremony to Thelma Schoonmaker, worthy winner of the Fellowship Award. As one of the most prolific and successful editors in Hollywood history – more than 20 films with Martin Scorsese alone – she has toiled in a corner of the film industry that gets very little time in the spotlight, so it was great to see her get a big moment in the sun.
Finally, though, it’s worth turning to one of the true highlights of this year’s BAFTAs. Letitia Wright, of Black Panther fame, was voted for by the public to win the EE Rising Star Award and, in an emotional speech, she spoke about how she struggled with depression and almost quit acting just a few years ago. Her advice to anyone else who’s suffering similar issues to “let your light shine” really struck a chord with those in the room. We’re lucky to have her, and I think everyone can be pleased she didn’t quit.
All images courtesy of BAFTA/Guy Levy.
Tom Beasley is a freelance film journalist and wrestling fan. Follow him on Twitter via @TomJBeasley for movie opinions, wrestling stuff and puns.