BAFTA is the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, the equivalent of the US Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (they hand out the Oscars). BAFTA LA was created to be "a bridge between the Hollywood and British production and entertainment business communities." These awards are meant to celebrate “the special relationship between Britain and America.”
What makes these awards different is that they are awarded for an entire body of work, not just one role. There are no nominations, per se. The honorees know who they are before they turn up for the event.
Before we got to the meat of the show, we had to endure all the red carpet nonsense with Olivia Lee. I am not a fan of this woman’s, and her fawning over George Clooney was just embarrassing.
My patience, however, was paid off in spades by the host for the evening. Rob Brydon is one of my favorites. His humor is subtle and, more importantly, hilarious. He made me laugh out loud quite a bit.
The presentations are nicely done. A friend of the honoree speaks for a bit about the award and why it is being given; we are shown a clip of the honoree’s work that includes testimonials by others with whom they have worked; and, then the award is given by another close friend. Being British, the speeches are witty and lovely and there was a minimum of fawning.
Benedict Cumberbatch: Britannia Award for British Artist of the Year
This award “honors either an emerging talent or an established artist who’s given outstanding performances throughout the year.” Presented by Chiwetel Ejiofor and Alice Eve, Cumberbatch was humble and sweet, refusing to accept too much of the credit for this award. Instead, he talked about the collaborative nature of filmmaking and dedicated the award to his parents.
Idris Elba: Britannia Humanitarian Award
This award honors “a colleague who uses the art of the moving image and his status in the industry to drive positive social change and actively shine a light on important humanitarian issues that need global attention.” Elba is very involved in the Prince’s Trust, a charity founded to help disadvantaged young people. I didn’t know this, but Elba received help from the Trust when he was young. The fact that he is giving so much back to them made me respect him even more. Presented by Zindzi Mandela (yes, he is her father) and Sean Penn (both of whom know a thing or two about giving back), Elba spent his speech talking about how he wishes he could do more for the Trust and how the award is going to them.
Sacha Baron Cohen: Charlie Chaplin Britannia Award for Excellence in Comedy
This “honor recognizes talent whose popularity and cultural impact exemplifies the uniquely transcendent quality of excellent comedy.” Frankly, I am not a fan of this man, but he stole the show tonight. He set up a gag where Grace Cullington, the oldest surviving actor to work with Chaplin, presents him with a cane. Clowning like Chaplin, Cohen stumbles and pushes this frail, old woman in a wheelchair off the stage. The horrified gasps from the audience turned to gales of laughter as the audience realized they had been had. There is no Grace Cullington; it was a stuntwoman. I laughed until I cried.
Kathryn Bigelow: John Schlesinger Britannia Award for Excellence in Directing
“Recipients of this honor are deeply respected, distinctive and innovative directors, whose contribution as both technicians and artists represents the zenith of the directing profession.” Presented by
Sir Ben Kingsley: Albert R. Broccoli Britannia Award for Worldwide Contribution to Entertainment
“Recipients are that rare breed of iconic and trail-blazing individuals whose innovative approach has had a profound, lasting impact on the entertainment industry and whose contributions to the moving image are second to none.” Presented by Shohreh Aghdashloo and Sigourney Weaver, Kinglsey was another gracious winner. He talked about how impressed he is with the younger actors coming through and how much they inspire him. It was a lovely speech from a man who has been acting for decades.
George Clooney: Stanley Kubrick Britannia Award for Excellence in Film
This award is “presented to a unique individual, upon whose work is stamped the indelible mark of authorship and commitment, and who has lifted the craft to new heights.” Presented by Julia Roberts, Clooney’s speech was witty and grateful. The best thing he said, however, was on the red carpet. Asked if he would ever move to England, he responded that because he has a house on a lake in Italy, the chances are slim. It made me laugh.
The evening ended with the six honorees on the stage. It was quite a collection of talent and they got the standing ovation they deserve.