The night of February 10th 2013 saw what was, in my view, one of the most balanced and even-handed BAFTA ceremonies in a long time.
Even the sycophantic acceptance speeches were tightly cut down – allowing host Stephen Fry to spray a slew of superlatives all over the audience (and get Lincoln mixed up with LinkedIn during one of the show’s better jokes).
There seemed to be a conscious effort to reward the sheer breadth of work from across the world. While I was expecting Lincoln, Les Miserables and Zero Dark Thirty to clean up, BAFTA went one better, casting its net wider and making sensible, satisfying choices like Emmanuelle Riva for Best Actress in Amour.
Riva was outstanding in Michael Haneke’s deeply moving study of ageing and the inevitable march towards death and I was pleased that BAFTA hadn’t gone for the obvious choice in that particular category (Jessica Chastain for Zero Dark Thirty – terrific though she was in it).
Other noteworthy wins included Life of Pi for Best Special Effects, which was immensely heartening – no other film last year so tactfully used effects in service of the story. The film’s cinematographer Claudio Miranda was also deservedly awarded.
For me however, the most satisfying win of the night was Searching for Sugar Man for Best Documentary. Whilst I was pleased that rival doc The Imposter picked up Best British debut (even though I was rooting for the excellent Wild Bill), for me, Sugar Man was always the more complete, intriguing and uplifting experience. The brilliant McCullin would have been my second choice for the win.
And for the category closest to my heart – Best Original Score. I was thrilled that Thomas Newman picked up the award for his tremendously effective (and under-appreciated) score for Skyfall, his second BAFTA win following American Beauty. Interesting too that it happened on the same night that Adele won a Grammy!
Elsewhere it was business as usual with the brilliant Argo picking up much-deserved gongs for Best Film and Best Director (the latter making up for Ben Affleck’s omission from the same category in the Oscars).
Daniel Day-Lewis won Best Actor for Lincoln (and was atypically warm during his acceptance speech); Christoph Waltz’ typically devilish performance in Django Unchained saw him awarded for Supporting Actor; and a teary Anne Hathaway was as much of a shoe-in as Day-Lewis for her impressively gritty turn in Les Miserables.
Naturally, it being an awards ceremony there were some irksome inclusions. The general pandering towards Silver Linings Playbook seemed to pervade a great deal of Stephen Fry’s hosting (come on, it was good but not that good) and Best Adapted Screenplay should not have gone to that film but Life of Pi.
It was also a mistake offer the Best Animated Feature to Pixar’s Brave when it should have gone to Aardman’s The Pirates – except of course, it rather idiotically wasn’t nominated. The peculiar lack of British awards support for homegrown institution Aardman is a galling and frustrating one.
On the whole though, a very satisfying BAFTA ceremony that sensibly awarded a plethora of cinema from around the world instead of simply focusing on the obvious choices. And Skyfall winning Best British Film confirms (as if confirmation were needed) that Bond is one of Britain’s greatest and most potent institutions. The BAFTA’s will return… in 2014.