So the biggest night in British film has finally arrived, with a new venue, the same host and the odd surprise.
New for the BAFTAs, the show kicked off in the Royal Albert Hall with a display from Cirque de Soleil, before a humorous entrance from host, Steven Fry. Equipped with plenty of jokes and sly, overly British jabs at everyone’s favourite president, Fry was on good form, keeping everyone laughing and the night in an enjoyable tone. Of course, one of the best games to play on awards nights is guess-the-presenter-from-the-intro; made more difficult at times with Fry’s amusing quips (Hugh Grant as Vin Diesel and Dwayne Johnson’s replacement was an especially tough one…also loved ‘Prince Bill’).
The awards went out mostly as expected, following the trails most of the previous shows had trudged. One of the main surprises was Dev Patel’s win for Supporting Actor, a deserving winner, but one that hasn’t claimed the prize at other ceremonies (he was sweetly surprised and humbled in his speech). Lion also, fairly unexpectedly, claimed the adapted screenplay gong, winning over some other scripts which perhaps showed greater creativity. Otherwise, there we’re really any major shocks or upsets; La La Land, of course, took home the most awards of the night with five, suggesting it hasn’t lost steam and will probably dominate at the Oscars. It was also a lovely moment to see Mel Brooks receive the Fellowship Award, and skip through a roll of his greatest moments, as well as, on the other end of the spectrum, Tom Holland recognised as the Rising Star winner.
What are often the highlights of awards shows are the speeches. Of course, there were those that made you want to fall asleep; some because they were so boring, others merely because of their delivery. One of the oddest speeches of the night was that from adapted screenplay winner, Luke Davies, someone who has won for his work with words, yet delivered a strangely disinteresting speech, not even mentioning the real Saroo at all or the true story (and subsequent book) his screenplay was based on. Odd, but who can account for the stage, nerves and everything else.
Of course, politics were present, but mostly in more subtle ways. Fry had some excellent tries at Trump, especially when referencing Meryl Streep, and the speeches wove in the themes of the moment a little less directly. A lot was made of the way films unite us, and how we need to stand together (Lonergan went a little more direct in talking about protests his daughter has been to since the presidential election, before turning it a different way). Viola Davis also gave a beautifully eloquent speech about how each person’s story matters; even if they are not the ones who are remembered in history, they were just as important in contributing towards it. Ken Loach went political, but not in the realm of the Donald, but talking about the issues with the UK benefits system presented in his film. It is great to see people using their platform to say something, though a little less pointedly here than at other ceremonies.
Overall, a great and entertaining ceremony, with worthy winners, even if most could be predicted. Now on to the Oscars…