The Artist. Photo credit: Getty Images, Weinstein Company
French (almost) silent black-and-white film The Artist won a leading seven prizes at the British Academy Film Awards on Sunday night, including best film, director and original screenplay for Michel Hazanavicius, and best actor for Jean Dujardin. The film also scored in the cinematography, costume design and original music categories. The film’s big BAFTA haul confirmed The Artist’s status as warm favorite to sweep the boards at the Oscars.
In a night of very few genuine shocks, Meryl Streep won best actress for The Iron Lady, Christopher Plummer won the supporting actor prize for his turn as a septuagenarian gay father in Beginners, Octavia Spencer was feted for her role as a nurse in The Help, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy was named outstanding British film, and director Asif Kapadia’s Senna, about Formula 1 racing driver Ayrton Senna, picked up BAFTA’s new documentary feature award.
“Perhaps the most emphatic upset came in Foreign Film category,” said Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian. “Asghar Farhadi’s A Separation had been the frontrunner, but in the event, the Bafta went to Pedro Almodóvar’s macabre nightmare The Skin I Live in – Bafta voters appear to have responded more to the gorgeouse sleekness and richness of this chilling and atmospheric film.”
So dull. Robbie Collin of The Daily Telegraph said the awards ceremony was “so dull.” “Around halfway through last night’s Bafta awards ceremony, at some point between The Artist winning Tastiest On-Set Sandwiches and Most Appealing Poster Font, I was struck by just how cataclysmically boring it all was, and not just because I knew the results already thanks to the BBC’s deranged insistence on screening the ceremony two hours late … The problem arises from this year’s awards race containing the most foregone conclusions in recent history.” Collin insisted that most of the major categories “had obvious frontrunners and the vast majority of them were black and white and French all over. Those that didn’t (Best Supporting Actress, arguably Best Director and Best Cinematography) seemed to settle on the least controversial option available, which tended to be the one linked to The Artist anyway.” Collin said awards season sweeps “can be lots of fun when they’re either unexpected or undeserving, and many would argue that the recent successes of Slumdog Millionaire and The King’s Speech were one or the other. But the mania for this black and white, largely silent comedy – which will now undoubtedly culminate with its coronation as Best Picture at the Oscars next week – is becoming a bit tedious because it’s neither. Is it the best film of the last 12 months? In my view, absolutely – but it would be nice if someone had the nerve to suggest otherwise.”
“The award for least surprising event in any awards season went to Meryl Streep, winning the best actress Bafta as the great imitator of Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady,” observed Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian. “Like Helen Mirren in The Queen, she has begun a triumphal progress to the Academy Awards.”
Awards season’s ‘consensus-bandwagon.’ Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian lamented that “Bafta missed their chance to break The Artist’s silence … So, however much I love The Artist, I have to confess that even I found myself a little restive at its all-around triumph this evening. For it to get best film and best director is pretty fair in my book, and Jean Dujardin – tonight’s best actor winner – does a wonderful job. But I would have preferred to see Gary Oldman or Michael Fassbender get the best actor Bafta for their performances in, respectively, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and Shame.” Bradshaw criticized awards season’s general “consensus-bandwagon in favour of certain films” and failure to “spread the awards love around.” Specifically, he lamented that neither Lynne Ramsay nor Tilda Swinton, in the best director and best actress categories, did not won for We Need To Talk About Kevin, “which doesn’t really do justice to this extraordinary film.”