The British Academy Film and Television Awards used to be a small, provincial affair that no one who wasn’t British turned up to, even though the nominations seemed designed to match up with the Oscars, leading to a lot of video speeches and collections on behalf of. Then, someone in the BAFTA publicity department had a brainwave. They completely separated the film and television categories and moved the film awards to take place in mid-February – before the Oscars. Suddenly, the BAFTAs were another step on the road to possible Oscar glory, a place to dress up and gush and hope that there’s still time to gather a few extra Oscar votes (especially in 2008, when it was one of the few Oscar warm-up ceremonies not affected by the Writer's Guild of America's strike). These days, they’re attended by all but the most heavily pregnant of the Oscar nominees, and only the British weather puts a dampner on things.
In recent years, the BAFTAs have also moved to the Royal Opera House, in an attempt to look even more like the Oscars (though the slightly sweaty look on Quentin Tarantino suggests that alcohol may be flowing a little more freely here). Some things don’t change though - Stephen Fry has presented them for years. Authoritative, witty, just a little bit edgy without going into Ricky Gervais territory and oh-so-terribly-British, the BAFTAs without Fry would be the biggest shake-up since Sir Terry Wogan stopped presenting Eurovision (trust me, if you're British, that was a big deal). This year, however, he has a beard.
Fry opens by joking about the new corporate sponsorship, and reminds us that he, like me, cares about the little things by observing that he's 'used the word philosophy quite wrongly.' He goes on about British things, unsurprisngly, and mildly insults The Hobbit even though he's in it, but all in all he's funny, Jennifer Lawrence blows a kiss to the camera like a good sport and all is well. He may also have made a crack about how 'British' Les Miserables is or isn't - I have to confess, having only managed to finish tomorrow's Greek Archaeology lecture five minutes before the start, I was trying to cook a very large stir fry in a very small frying pan at the time (that was going about as well as you'd think).
This is followed by an utterly random performance of her current single from Paloma Faith, complete with strange dancers alarming all the Hollywood A-listers by getting far too close as they prance rythmically down the aisles. Fortunately this is accompanied by a montage of the year in film that features Arnie decalring once more, 'I'm back,' immediately followed by Kermit the Frog exclaaiming 'Good grief!' Finally, Fry makes us all feel loved by welcoming the television audience, gives the usual reminder to the Hollywood elite please to give short speeches, and we're into the awards.
Outstanding British film, presented by Bradley Cooper and Ben Affleck (Cooper has re-grown his hair after Silver Linings Playbook and looks like Will from Alias again, which makes me happy).
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
Seven Psychopaths (tiny applause as everyone tries to remember what that was)
The camera cuts to Javier Bardem while the producers thank Daniel Craig, since Craig isn't there, which amuses me. Not a surprise, this one, and well deserved - for all the plot holes, it really was a very good film.
Fry's link makes a reference to the glamour of a car park in Leicester, which completely confuses everyone who isn't British - it's where we bury our kings).
Best Original Screenplay, presented by Sally Field (who describes poor Eddie Redmayne's sudden attack of sickness in far too much detail - let the man keep his dignity, and let me eat in peace!)
Django Unchained (big cheer)
Zero Dark Thirty
Quentin Tarantino thanks Harvey Weinstein, which seems honest, for one thing! Django is the only one of these films I've seen, so purely on the basis of getting bums on seats, it's winning as far as I'm concerned.
The five films up for Best Film (Fry was quite emphatic about there being five of them, a strange dig at the Oscars since the higher number of nominations might be the only reason this film squeezed in there) get little presentations, as is the fashion now, starting with Argo.
Best Supporting Actor, presented by Jennifer Lawrence (Fry suggests if The Hunger Games had been made in Britain it would have been The Really Quite Peckish Games)
Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained
Alan Arkin, Argo
Philip Seymour Hoffman, The Master
Tommy Lee Jones, Lincoln
Javier Bardem, Skyfall (the clip here is the wonderful bit of homoerotic flirting between Bardem and Craig, nicely chosen)
Waltz is humble and quite sweet even though he already has an Oscar, good for him. I might have gone for Bardem for that wonderfully slimy performance in Skyfall, but Waltz was excellent as well, playing the light side of the same coin against Inglorious Basterds' dark side.
Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer, presented by Billy Connelly, who is wonderful ('Ladies and gentlemen... Stephen. I'm overcome with joy at presenting an unsuspecting stranger with a death mask on a stick').
James Bobin, The Muppets
Bart Layton/Dimitri Doganis, The Imposter
Tina Gharavi, I Am Nasrine
David Morris/Jacqui Morris, McCullin
Dexter Fletcher/Danny king, Wild Bill
One of the winners is very excited at having peed next to Samuel L Jackson. I've only seen The Muppets, though I'll forever love Dexter Fletcher for Press Gang (an ancient British kids' drama in which he starred. Also for Stardust).
Best Film presentation - Life of Pi (big cheers).
Special Visual Effects, presented by Chris tucker (who's shouting alarmingly like Richard Taylor from WETA used to on Fellowship of the Ring DVD commentaries)
The Dark Knight Rises
Marvel Avengers Assemble (or The Avengers to the rest of the world)
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Life of Pi
The winner uses the phrase ‘real or not real’ a lot, clearly unaware of its significance to teenage girls and readers of Young Adult fiction. I love my SFF, but I thought this was well deserved - the special effects in that film were so good I forgot they were special effects, which is as it should be.
Best Supporting Actress, presented by (due to dropout by David Hasselhoff, a gag which Clooney joins in on with enthusiasm) Bearded George Clooney.
Amy Adams, The Master
Anne Hathaway, Les Miserables
Helen Hunt, The Sessions
Judi Dench, Skyfall (cheers from the audience)
There are eruptions from the audience when Hathaway wins. She cries and looks shocked which is a bit odd given that this award was the biggest foregone conclusion since Usain Bolt took to the running track, but it turns out it was horror at herself for almost walking past George Clooney without hugging him, which seems fair enough. I can’t decide if I really like her dress, or really don’t like it... She says she'd be holding Eddie Redmayne’s hair back if she wasn’t holding a BAFTA, which is sweet and less visceral than Sally Field's over-sharing. She also thanks Victor Hugo which is rather sweet. Thoroughly well-deserved ward for a performance that had me crying at the trailer - if she doesn't take home the Oscar, it might be a sign of impending Rapture.
Best Film presentation - Zero Dark Thirty (which spends the whole evening getting polite if cautious applause).
Best Adapted Screenplay, presented by Simon Pegg and Jennifer Garner. Pegg is strangely fierce.
Silver Linings Playbook
Beasts of the Southern Wild
Life of Pi
Nice, simple speech from David O'Russell. I liked Silver Linings Playbook but didn't love it - I'm a bit bemused by all the attention it's been getting and might have gone for Life of Pi or Argo, but it was a nice little film, so well done to all involved (especially Harvey Weinstein).
Outstanding British contribution to cinema, presented by Danny Boyle (still just about clinging to the national party that was summer 2012, Fry calls his opener the greatest Olympic opening ceremony of. all. time.) Boyle talks about football and everyone is very confused.
Tessa Ross (from Film Four)
Best Film presentation – Lincoln
Film not in the English language, presented by Gemma Arterton (glamourous) and Tim Roth (a little scary)
Rust and Bone
First no-show, and no one to collect it either, despite being a bit of a dead cert in this category. I haven't seen it because it looks utterly miserable, as do several of the others. I did notice three of these nominees were in French, though. Clearly our old grudges are being slowly eroded, in the world of film at least.
EE Rising Star Award, presented by John C Reilly and Sarah Silverman (who I will always think of as Rain Robinson from Star Trek: Voyager). Their bit is reasonably funny.
Andrea Riseborough (including a clip from W.E., where to be fair the only good thing in it, according to most critics, was her performance)
Temple can barely walk in the stilts she’s wearing. She has a written speech, which given the nerves is probably a good thing. I’m surprised this didn’t go to Elizabeth Olsen or (my favourite) Suraj Sharma, but Temple was very good in The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus and Atonement a few years back.
Obituaries. Nora Ephron’s is the orgasm scene from When Harry Met Sally. For composers they play some of their music, which is nice.
Best Documentary, presented by Henry Cavill and Martin Freeman (I’m reasonably sure Freeman mouths ‘hello mate’ at Fry as he walks on). Henry Cavill is huge! He didn’t look that big on The Tudors... but then he is standing next to a hobbit.
Searching for Sugar Man
West of Memphis
They’re very excited that the musician featured in the film is now playing to a sold-out stadium in Capetown. Aw. I'm ashamed to say the only documentary I've ever seen in a cinema is Senna (I'm still angry about its Oscar snub), so I can't comment on these.
Best Film presentation – Les Miserables. I sing along.
Fry jokes about meaty awards with no horse in them, which gets a reasonably big laugh, meaning either all the Brits (and Irish and French) are paying attention, or our unorthodox eating habits have made international news.
Best Director, presented by Sir Ian McKellen, in a fabulous pink bow tie.
Ang Lee, Life of Pi
Ben Affleck, Argo
Michael Haneke, Amour
Kathryn Bigelow, Zero Dark Thirty
Quentin Tarantino, Django Unchained
Huge cheers and a hug from Clooney for Affleck. Speed speech to try get everyone in ('I remember their names because they’re sitting right there... I have nothing more moving to say except I love you – my wife, I also love you!’ Then a pause and a really sweet thank you for getting a ‘second act’ and he dedicates the award to anyone else trying to get theirs. Jennifer Garner is welling up and actually I am a little bit too). Thoroughly deserved, and what Oscar voters were thinking in not nominating him is a mystery. Ang Lee would have been a deserving winner too, but he already has a Best Director Oscar (I know Affleck has an Oscar too, but he shares that with Matt Damon).
Best Leading Actress, presented by Jeremy Renner
Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook
Helen Mirren, Hitchcock (which came out this week, so it’s technically
Emmanuelle Riva, Amour
Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty
Riva couldn't be here, which given she's an octogenarian, we’ll let her off. A surprise, I thought it would be Jennifer Lawrence, and actually I was rooting for Lawrence. I may have been underwhelemd by Silver Linings Playbook, but I thought her performance in it was great (as it was in The Hunger Games). Riva is apparently fantastic, but the movie is still too depressing for me to want to watch.
Best Leading Actor, presented by Sarah Jessica Parker in trousers (big cheer)
Ben Affleck, Argo
Bradley Cooper, Silver Linings Playbook
Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln
Joaquin Phoenix, The Master
Wow, Bearded Joaquin Phoenix is actually here. Not winning though. Day-Lewis (unbearded), jokes about staying in character as himself and having BAFTAs placed in every room of every house he’s ever lived in. Slightly Bearded Bradley Cooper looks emotional again (That's not code for 'drunk' – he really does look emotional). I was hoping a British lack of interest in American amednments would give Hugh Jackman a fighting chance here, as I think he deserves it more than anyone (for great acting while singing, brilliantly) and has got unlucky, going up against Day-Lewis (who already has enough awards anyway). But of course, Day-Lewis is British, so to him it goes (as will the Oscar, for playing an American President. Jackman, an Australian playing a Frenchman, is totally doomed).
Best Film, presented by Samuel L Jackson (Fry explains that the presenter had to be a number of things, but most importantly 'in London tonight'). jackson gets up and says, 'Can I just say... well of course I can, I’m Samuel L Jackson!' He also observes that all the Hollywood people on his flight over made it like a remake of Snakes on a Plane. Love this man.
Life of Pi
Zero Dark Thirty
Samuel L Mother-Hugging Jackson laughs in an ‘Oscar best director voters don’t know what they’re doing’ sort of way as he announces the winner. Bearded George Clooney declares, ‘Ben, if this is your second act I don’t know what you’re going to do for your third act’ while the third producer's wife is actually full on sobbing in the audience.
BAFTA Fellowship, which they've really got to stop doing last. Don't the BAFTA people understand that it's Best Film everyone's waiting for, and most probably turn off after they've seen it? Presented by Kevin Spacey, who hasn’t got the memo that you’re supposed to hold off on naming the person untill the last possible minute as if on a reality TV show, though the quick congratulations he offers personally is rather sweet.
Everyone applauds politely, wondering when they can get to the drinks. Parker is funny and humble, though I'd be too scared of Russell Crowe to make jokes at his expense. Unfortunately, I went out to pour myself a whisky and missed Parker's joke about Roman invasions, but I appreciate it all the same.
There's a nice closing shot of Hathaway holding her BAFTA while Fry muses on the oddness for the phrase 'shooting your shorts,' and BAFTA is done for another year.
Awards Presented Earlier (presenters appeared to include Alice Eve, Nicholas Hoult, and Ben Whishaw, the latter two of whom I was rather sad to have missed seeing on screen).
Short Film – Swimmer
Short Animation – The Making of Longbird
Costume Design – Anna Karenina
Make-up and Hair – Les Miserables
Animated Film – Brave
Sound – Les Miserables (very well deserved)
Editing – Argo (no one knows how to judge it, so a good indicator of 'Best Film')
Cinematography – Life of Pi (picked up by Ang Lee himself in his cinematographers' stead))
Original Music – Skyfall
Production Design – Les Miserables (one of the winners seems to be wearing cat ears??!!)
And that's it - we don't seem to have a Best Song, and were forced to give Skyfall Original Music instead, and we end on the image of a woman picking up a major award while wearing what look for all the world like sparkly cat ears. Until next year!
Photo of Anne Hathaway copyright BAFTA/Steve Butler, from http://awards.bafta.org/film-red-carpet-2013. Photo of Sarah Jessica Parker from http://www.justjared.com/photo-gallery/2808876/sarah-jessica-parker-baftas-2013-red-carpet-03/.