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Our Round-Up of this year’s BAFTAS 2018: “Diverse voices finally being heard”
February 19, 2018
Every year, the British Academy of Television and Film Awards is a refreshingly British celebration of the year in film, with the spotlight on homegrown talent in addition to the familiar faces from across the pond. While presenting the award for Best Supporting Actress, Bryan Cranston noted that this year is a particularly notable year for British cinema in general, with two high-profile retellings of the Battle for Dunkirk (Darkest Hour and Dunkirk) both nominated across multiple categories. Elsewhere, British-Irish playwright Martin McDonagh’s Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri dominated the Golden Globes, while Get Out, which stars British actor Daniel Kaluuya, has picked up close to 50 wins across 2018 award season, the most for any film this year. Joanna Lumley hosted the evening which saw a crowd dressed predominantly in black, in solidarity with the #TimesUp movement and empowering speeches from the diverse list of presenters and winners.
In a year that has seen women across Hollywood stand up to the abusive men in power, it seems only fitting that Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri would continue it’s awards season sweep at this years BAFTAs. The dark comedy-drama picked up the award for Outstanding British Film early on, beating the likes of Darkest Hour and The Death of Stalin. Actors Francis McDormand and Sam Rockwell went on to win prizes for Leading Actress and Supporting Actor respectively, and rightly so; both actors bought nuance and complexity to morally reprehensible characters, and both are poised to take home an Academy Award next month. Without McDonagh’s biting and darkly comical script, these characters would not exist, so it is only fair that the writer/director took home the award for Original Screenplay, dedicating his award to the #TimesUp movement. Finally, Three Billboards won the coveted Best Film award in a race that could have easily gone to Guillermo Del Toro’s magical The Shape of Water, or Christopher Nolan’s time-bending WW2 thriller Dunkirk.
When collecting the award for Outstanding British Film, McDonagh pointed out that Three Billboards was made before the allegations of sexual harassment against super producer Harvey Weinstein set off a chain reaction that will seemingly have a permanent effect on the power structure within Hollywood. In any other year, a film like Three Billboards may have been too dark, too twisted to be such an awards juggernaut – but the story of a woman refusing to let the male-dominated powers that be hold her back clearly struck a nerve with this year’s voters. Elsewhere, nominations for genre pictures like Get Out and bizarre auteurist fantasies like The Shape of Water seem to signal a change in the taste of voters away from the overly sincere, dour biopics of previous years and towards films with a message, crafted by directors with a singular vision.
Picking up the award for Leading Actor, Gary Oldman cements himself as the firm front-runner in the race for Best Actor at the Academy Awards, beating veteran actor Daniel Day Lewis (Phantom Thread), and a slew of rising talent including Timothée Chalamet (Call Me By Your Name) and Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out) at this year’s BAFTAs. For his role as Winston Churchill in Joe Wright’s biopic Darkest Hour, Oldman also snagged the Golden Globe and SAG Award for Best Actor. On the subject of young talent, Chalamet and Kaluuya competed for this year’s EE Rising Star award with Kaluuya ultimately taking home the award thanks to a pair of high-profile roles in last year’s Get Out and this year’s record-breaking Black Panther. Kaluuya used his speech to call for more arts funding for lower income areas, crediting his introduction and decision to pursue acting to such programmes. Finally, Alison Janney picked up the Supporting Actress award for her role as Tonya Harding’s abusive mother in the dark comedy biopic I, Tonya which opens in UK cinemas this Friday.
Perhaps the only big surprise of the evening was Guillermo Del Toro’s victory in the Best Director category for The Shape of Water. Up against homegrown talent Christopher Nolan (Dunkirk) and Martin McDonagh, as well as Denis Villeneuve for the visual masterpiece Blade Runner 2049 and Luca Guadagnino for the serene Call Me By Your Name, Del Toro’s vision of a mute janitor’s love affair with a captured amphibian creature triumphed. Del Toro used his acceptance speech to credit the British artists that inspired his career, especially Mary Shelley, who’s creative stamp is visible across all of the Mexican director’s filmography and continued obsession with misunderstood monsters.
There is no doubt that Del Toro directed the hell out of The Shape Of Water, but its victory does further the debate surrounding Best Picture vs. Best Director. Martin McDonagh’s film won Best Film in two categories, as well as trophies for both of it’s main actors – what more can a director do to win the award? Perhaps this was more of a lifetime achievement award for Del Toro; the director has been crafting his own modern fairytales for over two decades and The Shape of Water feels like a more accessible culmination of all of his previous efforts.
As the Academy Awards approach (our thoughts on this year’s nominations), Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri and The Shape of Water seem to be the front-runners for best picture. The former is a timely, yet decidedly un-PC film that puts deplorable characters front-and-centre, and the latter is a beautiful-yet-atypical look at loving ‘the other’. Three Billboards loses it’s home field advantage moving into the American-hosted Oscars, although the wave of backlash against the film’s racist characters seems to have had no effect on it’s awards season sweep so far. Last year, Damien Chazelle’s wonderful La La Land triumphed at the BAFTAs but was beaten by Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight at the Academy Awards. Perhaps The Shape of Water will do the same this year.
Selecting a ‘best’ in anything in the entirely subjective world of art is pointless, but in industry voted award ceremonies such as the BAFTAs and Academy Awards, it at least gives an impression of the industry’s ever-changing tastes. If the montage at the beginning of this year’s BAFTAs ceremony can tell us anything about the industry’s taste at the moment, it’s that unique, diverse voices are finally being heard and given the platform they deserve, let’s just hope it can be sustained.
Words by Ethan Megenis-Clarke @_ethanmc
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