The 71st Baftas, celebrating the best of British and international cinema of the last year, was held on 18th February at the Royal Albert Hall and hosted by Joanna Lumley.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri dominated the night, winning 5 Baftas for: Best Film (beating Call Me By Your Name, Darkest Hour, The Shape of Water and Dunkirk), Outstanding British Film, Best Actress (Frances McDormand), Best Original Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor (Sam Rockwell). The casting choices clearly paid off because the performances of McDormand as a grief stricken but determined mother, and Sam Rockwell as a brutish and inept cop were duly recognised. Rockwell was nominated alongside castmate Woody Harrelson who stole every scene he was in. It is apt that Three Billboards, a film about protesting wrongs in society, dominated the awards as another protest was a constant presence throughout the evening.
Almost every actress at the ceremony wore black, as was the case at the Golden Globes in January, to show their support of the Time’s Up campaign, shedding a light on and challenging sexual harassment in the workplace. The red carpet was also disrupted by a group of domestic violence activists called Sisters Uncut, who laid down on the carpet, wearing ‘Time's up Theresa’ jumpers, in protest of Theresa May’s domestic violence bill. Other than Frances McDormand who, to be fair, did wear mostly black, and Kate Middleton who, as a royal, is not allowed to make political statements, only three mostly unknown attendees wore colourful outfits. The Time’s Up movement is gaining momentum and the dark dress code may also be repeated at this year’s Oscars in March. It was not only a movement of women, either, as many male actors showed their support by wearing a Time’s Up pin.
Gary Oldman, one such actor to wear the pin, took the best actor award for his portrayal of Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour. His performance was good but, and this may be a minority opinion, it didn’t seem BAFTA-worthy, especially when up against such talented nominees. Watching Darkest Hour, it is hard to forget that Oldman is just acting a part, and even with all that makeup, Churchill still looks like Jim Gordon got fat.
Daniel Kaluuya was more deserving of the Best Actor Bafta, however, there is some justice as he won the rising star award for Get Out, the horror mystery in which he plays the leading role. During Kaluuya’s acceptance speech, he said, ‘I am a product of arts funding in the United Kingdom’, and thanked those who support such funding. Look for Kaluuya in Black Panther, which is in cinemas now, and Widows, which is due for release later this year.
Alison Janney scooped Best Supporting Actress for I, Tonya, where she plays Margot Robbie’s overbearing mother. This was the only award the movie deserved as, in all other respects, it was duller than a pair of poorly maintained ice skates…
Guilmero del Toro won best director for The Shape of Water, which is tipped to take best picture at the Oscars. Del Toro thanked Frankenstein author Mary Shelley, saying that ‘she gave voice to the voiceless and presence to the invisible’.
Oft nominated but rarely victorious Ridley Scott received the fellowship award, presented by Prince William, the president of BAFTA. If you are not familiar with Scott’s work, then you must have been living under a very large rock since 1979. Scott gave an emotional speech and discussed the importance of teachers in society saying, ‘teaching is the most important of all professions, sort that out and social problems will get sorted out’. This sentiment is even more relevant this week as Newcastle University lecturers go on strike over a pension dispute. Scott’s monumental portfolio includes Alien, Blade Runner, Thelma and Louise and Gladiator.