Monday, February 11, 2008

BAFfled Again

With the WGA strike reducing the Golden Globes awards to a press conference and there still being an outside possibility that the Academy Awards may not take place, this year was the one chance for the BAFTA ceremony to really shine. Oh dear.

The thing with awards ceremonies is they pretty much follow a standard routine: Presenters read the nominations, the winner is announced, they accept the award and get their moment in the spotlight. Once they’re off the stage it’s on to the next category.

The only way to really liven up proceedings is for the presenters to get some good banter going and have a laugh without coming across as complete cocks; the winner of a particular category is completely unexpected; or the person accepting the award has something more inspiring to say than to simply thank their co-workers/family/agents, thereby coming across as a total plank.

Of those three, the first and third can only really work if the audio is up to snuff so that the audience can hear what the people on stage are saying. Which was where the BAFTA ceremony fell down quite badly. Maybe the audience at the Royal Opera House could hear every word, but the broadcast sound was fucked from the outset, echoing back on itself then dropping out altogether. Once it was fixed a whole lot of banging and crashing went on backstage.

It wasn’t at all surprising that, in the scrolling credits, the surname of the Sound Supervisor was Duff. The one benefit clawed back from this complete OB foul up was we missed out on a fair amount of Jonathan Ross’ witless blather.

As the various presenters came and went, it became even more evident that only actors with theatre experience should be exclusively employed for this kind of lark. Especially since a little scamp like Daniel Radcliffe can fuck up on the autocue but brush it aside and keep going, while actors who work exclusively in film looked like rabbits caught in the headlights from the moment they appeared on stage.

As for the awards, it was a typical spread. Everyone has their own gripes, feeling that their own personal favourites were short-changed. The big upset was Julie Christie losing out as Best Actress, which did, for a moment at least, liven the proceedings.

Last year, having been showered with pretty much every award she was eligible for, for her performance as ‘ER indoors’ in The Queen, Dame Helen Mirren was snubbed by both the British Independent Film Awards and the London Evening Standard British Film Awards. This time around, having won at the Golden Globes and been lauded as Best Actress by the National Board of Review, the Screen Actors Guild, and pretty much every film critics association or society by region or city in America, the still luminous Christie discovers that her fellow countrymen seem loathe to follow suit.

The problem with the BAFTAs is that if the awards are handed to American films critics accuse the Academy of pandering to America. If they’re doled out to “English” films the same people accuse BAFTA of being too parochial, short-sighted, or just plain wrong. Damned if they do or damned if they don’t, the only option left is to hand as much as they can over to any European movies that are short-listed.

Not to say that La Vie en Rose didn’t deserve to win. Picking up four awards, it was the triumph of the night, coming out ahead with No Country For Old Men behind with three. That left Atonement trailing behind with two awards from the 14 nominations, putting it on an equal footing with The Bourne Ultimatum.

I had meant to see Atonement but was always held back by three words: ‘starring Keira Knightly.’ Skimming through the post-ceremony paper articles, many of the hacks seemed to be starting a gentle burn that little miss Keira hadn’t been handed the Best Actress gong. I just feel that to get a Best Actress award you have to be able to act. Grinning like it’s all a jolly jape or pouting because someone’s gone and put a dark cloud over everything doesn’t tick the requisite boxes.

Instead I read the Christopher Hampton’s script. Unfamiliar with McEwan’s novel, when I got to the big reveal my reaction was pretty much: Oh, is that it? Maybe it works better in prose where the reader becomes more emotionally invested in the characters of Robbie and Cecilia. It reminded me of something from The Outer Limits or maybe even The Twilight Zone.

The thing I still find the most interesting about the whole televised ceremony is the BBC’s decision to break it in two with the Sunday night news plopped in the middle. The awards show isn’t broadcast live so why not show the whole thing at a later time or a different night? That way people like Roger Deakins, accepting the Best Cinematography award for his work on No Country For Old Men, isn’t relegated to a clip in the “also awarded” pile dropped in at the end like an afterthought.

They could argue that to delay transmission would mean that people could find out from other media who wore what and won what. But just like last year, the moment the awards ceremony started on BBC1, the complete list of winners was posted on the BBC website.

2008 marks the centenary of the birth of Sir David Lean. At the ceremony, apparently, there was a tribute to the great director. That would have been nice to see rather than, say, the team from The Golden Compass picking up their award for Special Visual Effects.

Apparently Joe Wright instructed his DP to watch Lean’s back catalogue before they started work on Atonement. In The Sunday Telegraph Lean’s widow gives her opinion of the film and especially the “celebrated” extended steadicam shot on the beach at Dunkirk.

Ouch.

4 Comments:

At 8:23 pm, Blogger Ian said...

Thanks for the Lean wife link. Having read how the infamous overly-referenced Steadicam scene was devised (thanks to the rather excellent "American Cinematographer" magazine) it's always struck me as odd that the director gets all the credit for the innovative shot that was actually suggested and then executed by the Steadicam operator, not the director.

I haven't seen "Atonement" so have no idea if Joe Wright is as good a director as people keep saying he is. I did think he did a good job on "Pride and Prejudice".

But the biggest disappointment was Ross. I know he's one of those "you either like him or you loathe him" characters and I rather like him, but he was hopeless at the BAFTA's with embarrassingly infantile "jokes" that just had the Brits cringing and the Yanks looking totally confused.

 
At 11:44 pm, Blogger Good Dog said...

Ross can be okay when he's not be smug, lecherous, going on about his wife/kids/pets, explaining how brilliant Japan is, dropping into conversation how much money he makes, or generally just being a complete cock.

The best time to listen to his Radio 2 show is when people like Mark Lamarr and Jo Brand are standing in for him.

The problem with him presenting the BAFTAs is he brought in after Stephen Fry bowed out.

Whereas Fry is wonderfully erudite, and can word the most filthy jokes in such a way that even the most prudish prude would find them funny, Ross is just an oik who can't see beyond an average knob. gag.

Apart from that...

 
At 7:07 am, Blogger Brian Sibley said...

May I sign up for your JR Fan Club please?!

The relegation of so many craft awards to the 'Also Won...' montage at these events, is testament to what we all know: award ceremonies on TV are really just about Star-F***ing.

And the thing about the Best Actress Award is that whilst we LOVE the 'concept' of "foreign film", we don't actually believe that foreigners are ever entitled to WIN anything - except in their own little sophisticated, esoteric, ghetto-category, 'Best Foreign Film'!

Miss Cotillard was bloody marvellous; as was Julie Christie. So, basically, it's all meaningless... Would that one could say the same about Mr Ross' salary-cheque!

 
At 9:04 am, Blogger Riddley Walker said...

"outside broadcast" + "fucked up audio" = BBC.

Always has, always will.

 

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