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‘Argo’ tops at baftas ‘Les Miz’ bags most awards

LONDON, Feb 11, (Agencies): Iran hostage crisis drama “Argo” won the best film prize at Britain’s BAFTA awards on Sunday in a further boost for US actor-director Ben Affleck’s movie ahead of the Oscars later this month.
At a rainy but celebrity-packed ceremony at the Royal Opera House in London, Affleck also won the best director award, highlighting the fact that he has been snubbed in the same category at the Academy Awards.
Daniel Day-Lewis boosted his status as Oscar favourite as he was named best actor for his presidential turn in Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln”, while 85-year-old French screen legend Emmanuelle Riva won best actress for “Amour”.
Anne Hathaway won best supporting actress for her performance in the musical “Les Miserables” while Christoph Waltz won best supporting actor for his role in Quentin Tarantino’s blood-soaked western “Django Unchained”.
Dozens of stars defied the sleet and wind of a typical British winter evening to sashay down the red carpet for the awards, which are widely viewed as a bellwether for the Oscars on Feb 24.
The British Academy of Film and Television Arts awards, or BAFTAs, have picked the same best film as the Oscars for the last four years in a row, and for five of the last 10 years in total.


Freshly

Veteran British actress Helen Mirren stole the show with freshly dyed pink hair, while US star Jennifer Lawrence blew a kiss to television audiences during the ceremony, just as Brad Pitt did last year.
“Les Miserables” won the most awards with four including Hathaway’s gong, plus prizes for production design, sound and hair and make-up, followed by “Argo” with three, also including editing.
But it is “Argo” that now has the wind in its sails for the Oscars. The movie, about a CIA mission to rescue diplomats in Tehran in 1979, also won the top Golden Globe awards last month against all the odds, beating “Lincoln”.
Affleck took the best director award from the Directors Guild of America a week ago as well.
Glossing over his own Oscar snub, Affleck said the BAFTA best director award was a second chance for him after a career that took off when he starred in the 1997 picture “Good Will Hunting” with Matt Damon.
“I want to say this is a second act for me and you’ve given me that, this industry has given me that and I want to thank you and I’m so grateful and proud,” he said as he accepted the award from British actor Ian McKellen.
Riva’s best actress award for her role as a dying woman in “Amour” — which won the Palme d’Or in Cannes last year — came after the movie by Austrian director Michael Haneke also won the best foreign language film award at the BAFTAs.
French star Riva is the oldest ever nominee for the best actress award at the Oscars.


Role

Britain’s Day-Lewis meanwhile added to a trophy cabinet that already contains the Golden Globe and a Screen Actor’s Guild award for his role as US president Abraham Lincoln, but it was the only BAFTA for the movie.
Cult director Tarantino won the award for best original screenplay for “Django Unchained” and David O. Russell picked up the best adapted screenplay award for romantic comedy “Silver Linings Playbook”.
In a rare accolade for the James Bond series despite its enduring appeal over the past 50 years, “Skyfall” was named best British film and the score won the best original music prize. “Skyfall” is Britain’s highest grossing film ever.
The BAFTAs ceremony ended with the awarding of a special fellowship to filmmaker Alan Parker, the director of movies including “Midnight Express”, “Birdy”, “Angel Heart” and “Bugsy Malone”.
Long a highlight of the British film industry calendar, the BAFTAs have been growing in stature over the years and are now seen as one of the key indicators of Oscar success.
Day-Lewis — a famously intense actor who reportedly stayed in character as the 16th US President throughout the “Lincoln” shoot — cracked a joke as he was given his prize.
He said that in anticipation of having to make an acceptance speech, “I’ve actually stayed in character as myself for the last 55 years.”


The British awards, known as BAFTAs, are increasingly glamorous — despite a well-earned reputation for dismal weather — and ever-more scrutinized as an indicator of likely success at the Hollywood Oscars. In recent years they have prefigured Academy Awards triumph for word-of-mouth hits such as “Slumdog Millionaire,” “The King’s Speech” and “The Artist.”
This year they spread their honors widely, with multiple trophies for “Life of Pi,” “Silver Linings Playbook,” “Amour” and “Django Unchained,” as well as “Argo.”
Kathryn Bigelow’s Osama bin Laden thriller “Zero Dark Thirty” was shut out of the prizes, despite five nominations.
This season’s movie with momentum is crowd-pleaser “Argo,” which has been building steam with big prizes at ceremonies such as the Golden Globes, the Producers Guild and the Directors Guild of America Awards.
It is now considered a front-runner for the best picture award at the Oscars on Feb. 24, even though Affleck was not nominated for best director there.
“Argo” marks a change for Affleck, whose first two features as director — “Gone Baby Gone” and “The Town” — were set in his native Boston. In “Argo” he stars as Tony Mendez, a CIA agent who poses as a sci-fi filmmaker in a risky plot to rescue Americans in Tehran.
“I wanted to get as far away from Boston as I could,” Affleck said. “I ended up in Iran.”
“Skyfall,” the highest-grossing film in the Bond series’ 50-year history, was named best British film — rare awards-season recognition for an action movie. Thomas Newman’s score also won the best-music prize.


Director Sam Mendes said he was accepting the trophy on behalf of the “1,292 people” who worked on “Skyfall.”
“We all had high expectations for this film and it’s fair to say all of them have been exceeded,” Mendes said. “Here’s to the next 50 years.”
Quentin Tarantino picked up the original screenplay award for “Django Unchained,” and Christoph Waltz was named best supporting actor for playing a loquacious bounty hunter in Tarantino’s slave-revenge thriller.
Waltz said his victory was entirely due to Tarantino — “you silver-penned devil, you.”
Tarantino also revealed that he plans another film that sets out to right an historical wrong, after anti-Nazi saga “Inglourious Basterds” and “Django Unchained.”
“I think there is something about this that begs a trilogy,” he said. “I don’t know what the third one’s going to be yet.”
Hathaway said she was “overjoyed” at being named best supporting actress for her brief but powerhouse performance in “Les Miserables.” She said she was so taken aback that “I almost walked past George Clooney without hugging him.”
She also expressed sympathy for co-star Eddie Redmayne, who had been due to present an award but — co-presenter Sally Field informed the audience — was vomiting backstage.
“Feel better,” Hathaway said. “I mean I’d be holding your hair back, but, you know...”


Writer-director David O. Russell won the adapted screenplay prize for “Silver Linings Playbook,” a comedy about characters confronting mental illness.
“Les Mis” also took trophies for production design, sound and makeup/hair, and “Life of Pi” received honors for cinematography and visual effects.
Before the ceremony, stars including Clooney, Affleck, Hugh Jackman, Samuel L. Jackson, Amy Adams and Bradley Cooper braved a chilly rain that turned to snow outside the Royal Opera House.
For once it was hair, even more than frocks, that drew attention — many stars opted for dark colors, though Marion Cotillard defied the dull weather in a canary-yellow gown. Beards were de rigeur among male stars including Clooney, Affleck and Cooper, while Helen Mirren turned heads with a pink ‘do, sported in honor of breast cancer awareness.
 

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