Last week, the glitz of Hollywood descended on the Royal Albert Hall in London for the BAFTAs. After a tumultuous year where films have taken a backseat to the drama of the real world, it was nice to take a night off from reality and enjoy the glamorous fashion and an evening of celebrating 2016’s best film offerings.
The big winner of the night was La La Land, which won the prizes for Best Film, Director (Damien Chazelle), Leading Actress (Emma Stone), Cinematography and Original Music. Considering its 11 nominations, it was not quite the clean sweep many expected it to be. La La Land has divided audiences, and I am afraid I fall into the Debbie Downer category regarding this sunny musical; while it was a perfectly decent film, I feel it paled in comparison to other nominees, such as Arrival, I, Daniel Blake, and Moonlight.
Emma Stone faced stiff competition in the Leading Actress category, nominated alongside Meryl Streep, Amy Adams, Emily Blunt and Natalie Portman. I would have loved to see Amy Adams take home the BAFTA instead, especially considering she was robbed of a nomination from the Oscars this year - she was phenomenal in Arrival and definitely deserves more recognition for her performance.
“La La Land won big, but I feel it paled in comparison with other nominees”
One category where La La Land missed out was in Leading Actor, where Ryan Gosling was inched out by Casey Affleck for Manchester by the Sea. This was a controversial choice considering the prevalent allegations of sexual harassment made towards him. I will be honest and say I have not had the chance to see Manchester by the Sea yet, and will reserve judgement on Affleck’s performance until I have. This film also took home the award for Best Original Screenplay, hardly a surprise given it being nominated for this award at the Golden Globes and the upcoming Academy Awards.
The Supporting Actor and Actress awards went to Dev Patel (Lion) and Viola Davis (Fences) respectively. While Viola Davis has been sweeping awards for her role, Dev Patel was a surprise win, having been expected to lose out to Mahershala Ali (Moonlight). Patel’s win made him the first actor of Asian descent to win an acting award at the BAFTAs, a remarkable and important feat. He is also only the third actor of Indian descent to ever be nominated for an Academy Award, and after his victory in London, it is entirely possible he will take home the Oscar too. This category was Fences’ only win (and only nomination), while Lion also won for Best Adapted Screenplay.
“Host Stephen Fry did a great job, and managed to fit in some digs against Trump”
Although the ceremony lacked the drama of Meryl Streep’s scathing political speech at the SAG awards, or of Adele going full-Mean Girls at the Grammys and snapping her trophy in half to share with Beyoncé, it did have its fair share of poignant moments. Host Stephen Fry did a great job, and still managed to fit in some digs at the new American President. Emma Stone knocking into the podium on the way up to collect her award was an endearing moment, while Viola Davis’ acceptance speech, in which she honoured the lives of African-Americans whose suffering “did not make it into history books”, was one of the best of the night.
The ‘In Memoriam’ segment was also moving, paying tribute to Gene Wilder and John Hurt amongst others, as well as Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher.