A SHARPER BLUR

Wide Range. Cultural Focus. Editor Patrick Neithard

London Calling! BAFTA!

A butler polishes the mask shaped trophies handed out at the BAFTA Photo AFP/ GETTY images

A butler polishes the mask shaped trophies handed out at the BAFTA Photo AFP/ GETTY images

In London, last night, the BAFTA 2014 film prizes were awarded. The unexcited ceremony revealed secret bonds. And a definitely surprising scrounger.

 

by Patrick Neithard

There is definitely a big sweeper. Pocketing six of eleven BAFTA nominations, the Sci-Fi thriller „Gravity“ by mexican U.S. immigrant director, writer, producer and editor master Alfonso Cuarón surprised.

With the prize of his best British film (british-american, for that matter) “Gravity” made for a good prelude to the BBC show. It can be seen as a sign where the film industry currently is headed, as the 3D thriller appeals through visually orgiastic imagery. What makes it a colossal pleasure is its clearly hollywoodesque production with the application of pure technology. Not that surprising, however not very british either. The BAFTA film prize was followed by the one for best director to Cuarón, and a very well, but not best deserved for the „Gravity“ cinematography by Emmanuel Lubezki. That decision came clearly at the expense of Sean Bobbitt, nominated in the same category for his proficiency in filming “12 Years a Slave”. But it`s just awards season. Perhaps there may be an Oscar instead. However, “Gravity” also garnered in the categories sound, original music and special effects, and is thus by now definitely a hot favorite for the Oscars coming early March. BAFTAs and Oscars are rarely identical, but they BAFTA`s often appear like an european interjection between the Golden Globes earlier in the year and the Academy Awards, between „freestyle“ and „show running“. Nevertheless, the BAFTA appear surprising this year as „Gravity“ is not a purely “British film”. And it did not only beat „12 Years A Slave“, it also beat the British-South African co-production “Mandela, The Long march To Freedom”. It will be interesting to see if the biopic might still better come off at the Oscars.

 

 Nevertheless. Only two BAFTAs for “12 Years a Slave”

 

The BAFTA, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts awards in the first of three annual events the movies. Later in the year, in April, television and video games are being awarded. Today was all in the name of the movie, and in addition to the best English movie also to the world’s best english spoken film. And highly anticipated it was. Nominated were, as already at the American Golden Globes, “American Hustle”, “Captain Phillips”, “Gravity”, “Philomena” and “12 Years a Slave”. Had “Gravity” won in this category, the disappointment could not have been greater. Instead, nearing the end of the show ultimately “12 Years a Slave” by the british-born conceptual artist (and Turner Prize Winner 1999) and director Steve McQueen coveted the trophy. An hour earlier, Chivetel Ejiofor accepted his BAFTA as best male lead. “That’s for you!” the now visibly relieved actor shouted towards director Steve McQueen, resounding his great disappointment during the Golden Globes a couple of weeks ago in Beverly Hills, where it had to be at a nomination, and that was that.

 

Ethnicities, life & global systems

 

One thing appears to be crystallizing. Contemporary cinema deals with the various topics of post-colonialism and racial issues, consequentally with highly differentiated approaches. “Captain Phillips” is a story based on a true event in 2009 when Somali pirates hijacked an American freighter. His role as the Somali pirate “Muse” brought Barkhad Abdi a BAFTA for this years best supporting actor. As a native German speaker I have to admit, English speakers choose the right term when they define roles as „supporting“ actor. (compared to the german term „minor part“ or „minor role“) as Abdi`s performance truly is supportive, alongside Tom Hanks as Captain Phillips. One might ponder the questions as to how much political issues are in play in the course of the jury`s decision making. At times the grounds upon which they seem to be made appear visible by an exuberant award-distributing, on the other hand the sheer refusal to heap a movie with vast bouquets of prizes becomes palpable. Perhaps it is simply award politics when Lupita Nyong`o, this years two prize nominee („supporting actress“ and „rising star“) for her excellent acting in “12 Years a Slave” went empty handed, which seems like a gesture that there might be better chances at the upcoming Academy Awards. Preveniently, award-spoiled Jennifer Lawrence received, in absence, the BAFTA for her albeit essentially glamorous and expertly acted, but not necessarily best supporting actress in respect of the choices of nominees, in “American Hustle”. Exactly, it`s that movie which was awarded for best original screenplay.

 

Cordial, eternal bonds between actors

 

Nominated as best actress was, among others, Emma Thompson for “Saving Mr. Banks”, a movie about two weeks of negotiations for the Mary Poppins film rights . The multifaceted actress who rose above her early successes in Jane Austen – films, (she is extremly convincing as an Archangel opposite Meryl Streep in the AIDS drama miniseries “Angels in America”) presented the best male supporting role. Her almost archangel-like shout with glee when announcing the winner Barkhad Abdi spurred the illustrious gathering of the film industry to thunderous applause for the winner. And at London Opera, where the BAFTAs are always awarded, this time by the way in the presence of Prince William, applause always feels acoustically fine tuned. However, Emma Thompson has been outdone by Kate Blanchett. Blanchett, this time as a muse to city neurotic Woody Allen in his feature „Blue Jasmine“, accepted elegantly and confident, without coquetry, to simply not have prepared any kind of acceptance speech. And without further ado she devoted her award to the recently deceased actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, honoring his professional legacy: “…in this sense, Phil, buddy, you bastard! This one is for you!” To witness such loyal and heartfelt eternal ties between actors amid the suspense of „who will win?“, well, that makes the event worth watching.

 

Astray, faith, fate

 

“Philomena” was awarded for best adapted screenplay. Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope portray the search of Irish Catholic Philomena Lee (Dame Judi Dench) who, decades ago gave her child away to adoption. Judi Dench performed in the role of a woman forced to adoption due to her faith after an unwanted pregnancy as if it was custom taylored. Steve Coogan, who wrote the story, performs alongside Judi Dench. And again in London he praised Philomena Lee, who at the beginning of the year had been already present at the Golden Globes. “Her story is now told to the end, but there are thousands who are still ignored by the Vatican.” A story which talks about painful and traumatic memory just as much as about life as a journey. The journey as a genre, that`s what also has been awarded with the win to Kieran Evans for his outstanding debut “Kelly & Victor”, a love story that explores the space between escapism and intimacy. And there`s a best animated movie, “Frozen” loosely based on Hans Christian Andersen`s fairytale „Snow Queen“.

 

Special prizes

 

Aside form traditional awards, the BAFTA grants three special awards. The EE BAFTA Rising Star Award went to the youngest nominee, the British newcomer Will Poulter. The 21 year old was visibly delighted. In “We`re the Millers” he is Jennifer Aniston`s son, after his talent got noticed in 2007 in the youth feature “Son of Rambow”. The BAFTA for Outstanding Contribution to British Cinema was (finally) awarded to the Briton director Peter Greenaway. His ongoing work short-circuits historic academic painting of the Renaissance and Baroque with an avantgardist storytelling, often artistically mastered over scenography, editing and montage. In 1989, Helen Mirren had the female lead in one of his pictorial masterpieces “The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover“. (The piece takes place in a restaurant) and with her, the worlds between the cook, the thief and herself collide in a silently passionate, in parts rambling, in other parts tightly spaced world fully coded by colors down to her wardrobe. 2006, (meanwhile just like Judi Dench ennobled to a dame) Helen Mirren personified her Royal Highness, “The Queen”, Elizabeth II., which added to the fact that she was finally awarded with the BAFTA Fellowship Award honour prize by the BAFTA Association. This concluded the BBC 1 show through which showman Stephen Fry led with deliciously poignant remarks and delicately dosed wit while his final speech appealed to the courage to remain inspired, to create flourishing projects, and to remain hopeful, as again today it had become obvious that many ways may lead to a BAFTA. Aaah, cinema. World of fiction, and reality.

 

© 2005 -2016 A Sharper Blur and Patrick Neithard. All rights reserved

 

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