You’d expect the BAFTAs, the acronym for the British Academy Film and Television Awards, the equivalent of the British Oscars, to celebrate British film. You’d only be partially right. But if you looked at this year alone, you wouldn’t be wrong. The King’s Speech has now been picking up momentum and weight at awards ceremonies with incredible speed, its like a bulldozer travelling at 80mph and sweeping up all the trophy shaped things in sight. For the BAFTAs to snub it there would have been massive controversy among the British filmmaking fraternity and critics circles groups. So yes The King’s Speech pretty much took home most of the cake, Best Film, Best Actor – Colin Firth, Best Supporting Actor – Geoffrey Rush, Best Supporting Actress – Helena Bonham Carter, Best Original Screenplay, Best British Film and Best Score.
However most surprisingly for me, it wasn’t a complete sweep. It only won half the number of awards for which it was nominated. Nominated for 14, and it could have won a lot more. BAFTAs are not usually a concrete prediction for Oscars but for this not to sweep does this mean that we may see a similar thing happen. Most interestingly, whilst the DGA was very friendly to Tom Hooper, over here we gave our award for Best Director to David Fincher for The Social Network, who also won at the London Evening Standard Awards a couple of nights before. It would be a surprise now if at the Oscars the British Tom Hooper wins Best Director. While the American Fincher wins the British award. Bizarre.
I do think this increases Fincher’s chances. Surprisingly enough, BAFTA is entirely made up of British members and as far as I know not many Brits worked on The Social Network. Yet I imagine most British gaffers and their mothers worked on The King’s Speech under Tom Hooper’s eye, so for him not to win that award is surprising but also gratifying. Because for one thing Fincher deserves it far more. Is he closer to Oscar? The Social Network had a fine display to elsewhere picking up Best Film Editing and Best Adapted Screenplay, which are now almost certs for Oscar gold. Those two elements were crucial for that film’s success.
Other winners elsewhere during the ceremony, included a nice and again faintly predictable string of technical wins for Inception picking up 3 for Best Special Visual Effects, Sound and Production Design. I wanted it to win at least one major, perhaps Original Screenplay to just at least give Nolan something for his efforts. He won at the WGA awards so he may win at the Oscars, but his work as both writer and director and producer is going sorely unnoticed, especially by the Brits. Also Alice in Wonderland made a decent showing in the technicals for both Best Make Up and Costume Design, which were actually deserved wins despite the overall crumminess of the finished product.
Other “obviously” awards went to Toy Story 3 for Best Animated Feature, Natalie Portman winning Best Actress for Black Swan and Roger Deakins winning Cinematography for True Grit. There were surprises for both who won and who didn’t win. Biggest of all is perhaps the fact that Christian Bale didn’t win for The Fighter, he’s been picking up awards left, right and center but tonight it didn’t happened. Obviously the gracious gentlemen didn’t want to interrupt The King’s Speech love. Also a shock to see The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo winning Best Foreign Language Film beating out very stiff competition from the spectacular Of Gods and Men and the hotly tipped Biutiful.
The King’s Speech pulling both the double, Best British Film and Best Film was a surprise considering the BAFTA members usually like to split that. In 2009, Best British Film went to the documentary Man on Wire, whilst Slumdog Millionaire won Best Film. Last year, The Hurt Locker won Best Film, while Andrea Arnold’s Fish Tank picked up the Best British Film. Just another example of the film’s almighty power with voters. Of course Colin Firth was always going to win Best Actor, and very rightly so. His performance in that film is extraordinary and the chemistry he has with Geoffrey Rush is a complete marvel to watch. He deserves all the plaudits he gets and this late push into the limelight should get him some more serious and more dramatically weighty roles.
In other areas, there was a BAFTA Fellowship Award given to Christopher Lee for his extraordinary body of work over the last 60 years. There also an Outstanding British Contribution to Cinema award given to the Harry Potter franchise, which was very strange and had a very long, very dull speech. Producer David Heyman has the best gag of the night though, as the directors of previous movies: Alfonso Cuaron, Mike Newell and David Yates slowly made their way to the stage he quipped “they weren’t any quicker at shooting either”. Best speech was from Helena Bonham Carter picking up her prize for Best Supporting Actress, which was long but hilarious and gracious and heartwarming all at once.
At this point it probably sounds like I’m trashing The King’s Speech far too much when I actually gave it a positive review and put it in my top ten best of the year. In my original review, I said that it was a massive awards contender and ‘the British were coming’. To clarify, I only ever saw Colin Firth winning and the other actors, perhaps the screenplay getting nominations. The only thing that is extraordinary about that film is the acting, take that away you have a very blandly mounted film with some moments of tension, it sometimes tips into looking like a cinematically exhibited stage play. Which it started life as and hasn’t managed to fully claw itself away from. The ridiculous amount of nominations that have been heaped upon it now make the film seem all the less likeable, because it doesn’t deserve them its just a bit “meh” at the end of the day. It and the filmmakers now feel important and that it has something important and notable to tell us. When it was just a simple crowd pleaser it hurt no one, now it has the baggage of awards nominations it just seems worthy, and if there’s one thing I can’t stand it’s sanctimonious worthiness in films.
That is what The Social Network lacks, it has no feeling of its own self importance. It is self conscious, very much so, its an Aaron Sorkin script for Christ’s sake, but it never feels like what it is saying is important or crucial. In fact that’s what most of the critics have done to it. Labelled it as important, as a reflection of our times. And to a certain extent that is very true. But the film from a filmmaking point of view is impeccably crafted and Fincher’s job with that material was pitch fucking perfect, translating that and making it cinematic, making it gripping, making it flow and making Sorkin’s jet speed dialogue stick in your brain rather than just fly across your head.
The King’s Speech doesn’t deserve to sweep the Academy Awards, The Social Network deserves the triumph. I’m British too and I don’t want to see the British movie win. Which means it probably will. A full list of winners is below.
The King’s Speech
BEST BRITISH FILM
The King’s Speech
OUTSTANDING DEBUT FEATURE
Four Lions – Chris Morris
FILM NOT IN THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Toy Story 3
David Fincher – The Social Network
BEST LEADING ACTOR
Colin Firth – The King’s Speech
BEST LEADING ACTRESS
Natalie Portman – Black Swan
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Geoffrey Rush – The King’s Speech
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Helena Bonham Carter – The King’s Speech
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
The King’s Speech – David Seidler
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
The Social Network – Aaron Sorkin
BEST ORIGINAL MUSIC
The King’s Speech – Alexandre Desplat
True Grit – Roger Deakins
The Social Network – Kirk Baxter, Angus Wall
BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN
Inception – Larry Dias, Guy Hendrix Dyas, Doug Mowat
BEST COSTUME DESIGN
Alice in Wonderland – Colleen Atwood
Inception – Richard King, Lora Hirschberg, Gary A Rizzo, Ed Novick
BEST SPECIAL VISUAL EFFECTS
Inception – Chris Corbould, Paul Franklin, Andrew Lockley, Peter Bebb
BEST MAKE UP AND HAIR
Alice in Wonderland – Valli O’Reilly, Paul Gooch
ORANGE RISING STAR AWARD
Sir Christopher Lee