LONDON, Feb 13, (Agencies): Glamour was shot through with grit at the British Academy Film Awards on Sunday.
Frothy musical “La La Land” took five prizes including best picture, but major awards also went to tough welfare-state drama “I, Daniel Blake” and fractured-family stories “Lion” and “Manchester by the Sea”.
In keeping with an awards season that has coincided with a wrenching change of government in the United States, even “La La Land’s” prizes came with a political tinge.
Accepting the best-actress trophy for playing a barista who dreams of Hollywood stardom, Emma Stone said that “this country and the US, and the world seems to be going through a bit of a time”.
She said that in a divided world, it was vital to celebrate “the positive gift of creativity and how it can transcend borders and how it help people to feel a little less alone”.
The UK awards, known as BAFTAs, are often seen as an indicator of who will win at Hollywood’s Academy Awards, held two weeks later. “La La Land” already is a dominant force at the Oscars, with 14 nominations. It also has won seven Golden Globes.
“La La Land” had 11 nominations for the British awards and won prizes for Stone, director Damien Chazelle, music and cinematography as well as best picture.
But while the luscious musical was an academy favorite, voters also rewarded less escapist fare.
Stone’s co-star, Ryan Gosling, lost out on the best-actor prize to Casey Affleck, who played a grieving handyman in “Manchester by the Sea”.
Affleck, who is also Oscar-nominated for the role, thanked writer-director Kenneth Lonergan for creating a film that “dignifies everyday lives and their struggles with great compassion”.
The wintry New England drama also won Lonergan the prize for best original screenplay.
British actor Dev Patel pulled off an upset, beating favorite Mahershala Ali, from “Moonlight”, to the best supporting actor trophy for “Lion”, about a young man who goes searching for the Indian family from which he was separated as a child.
The London-born Patel expressed shock at being a winner at a ceremony he used to watch on TV with his family.
He said “Lion”, which co-stars Nicole Kidman is “a film, about family, about a love that transcends borders, race, color, anything”.
The “Slumdog Millionaire” star thanked his “amazing team, who had the insane task of trying to get this Indian dude, this noodle with wonky teeth and a lazy eye and floppy hair, work in this industry”.
“Lion” also took the BAFTA for best adapted screenplay.
Ken Loach’s “I, Daniel Blake” was named best British film. The 80-year-old director used his acceptance speech to lambast the country’s Conservative government.
Loach said his docudrama about a carpenter trying to get welfare after a heart attack shows that “the most vulnerable and the poorest people are treated by this government with a callous brutality that is disgraceful”.
Loach apologized for making a political speech, but told reporters backstage that “you can’t do a film like this and then talk showbiz”.
Loach was cheered by an audience at London’s Royal Albert Hall that included Prince William, his wife, Kate, and nominees including Meryl Streep, Affleck, Stone and Kidman.
Both William and Kate wore black and white — he a tuxedo, she an off-the-shoulder Alexander McQueen gown and glittering chandelier earrings.
Viola Davis won the supporting actress BAFTA for “Fences”, Denzel Washington’s adaptation of August Wilson’s stage drama about an African-American family.
A visibly moved Davis praised Wilson’s play for showing “that our lives mattered as African Americans”.
“The horse groomer, the sanitation worker, the people who grew up under the heavy boot of Jim Crow”, she said. “The people who did not make it into history books, but they have a story — and those stories deserve to be told”.
Ava DuVernay’s film about mass incarceration in America, “13th”, was named best documentary, and Laszlo Nemes’ unbearably powerful Holocaust drama “Son of Saul” took the trophy for best foreign-language film.
The stars brought a dose of glamour to gray, wintry London, as hundreds of fans lined the red carpet outside the domed concert hall beside London’s Hyde Park.
Many said they were unsurprised politics made a guest appearance at the ceremony, as it has so often this awards season. Streep is among the stars who have used the awards stage to criticize US President Donald Trump.
Master of ceremonies Stephen Fry joked about Trump’s dismissal of Streep as overrated, declaring from the stage: “I look down on row after row of the most overrated people on the planet”.
Prince William, who serves as president of Britain’s film academy, presented the academy’s lifetime-achievement honor to veteran comedian Mel Brooks at the end of Sunday’s ceremony.
The 90-year-old entertainer said he would treasure the trophy.
“This is one of the awards you will not see on eBay”, he said.
“I think film, when at its best, reveals there is more that ties us together than tears us apart”, said producer Jordan Horowitz. Fellow producer Fred Berger praised the UK industry for “challenging us and setting the bar”.
Stone said the film was “one of the greatest working experiences of my life” and went on to thank BAFTA for bringing the industry together to “celebrate the positive gift of creativity, how it can transcend borders and make people feel a little less alone”.
Composer Justin Hurwitz scored “La La Land’s” first award of the night for best original music. Linus Sandgren also won the BAFTA for the film’s cinematography.
BAFTA chair Jane Lush took the stage ahead of the ceremony’s official start, hitting the first of many political notes of the evening as she commented on diversity issues within the industry. Lush said it was shocking that in the 21st Century “your gender, race, and background can still hold you back”. She also remarked on the success of British talent in US films, commenting that she feared “someone might build a wall across the Atlantic to keep us out”.
After an on-stage performance by Cirque du Soleil to open the show, host Stephen Fry took the stage. In his opening remarks he also took a swipe at Donald Trump. While welcoming Meryl Streep to the ceremony he said Streep was “one of the greatest actresses of all-time. Only a blithering idiot would think otherwise”. Turning his attention to Casey Affleck he then joked he was “one of the best actors in his family”.
The EE Rising Star BAFTA award, the only award voted for by the public, went to “Captain America: Civil War” and “The Impossible” star Tom Holland. Holland, who is currently filming “Avengers: Infinity War”, will soon be seen as Peter Parker/Spider-Man in “Spider-Man: Homecoming”. The young star beat out Anya Taylor-Joy, Laia Costa, Lucas Hedges and Ruth Negga for the award.
Holland singled out two acting coaches, Nick Evans and Ben Perkins, for thanks, saying it was a profession too often overlooked. Evans worked with Holland on his stage performance in “Billy Elliot”. Perkins worked with the actor on his breakout film role in “The Impossible”.
Ava DuVernay’s “13th” won the BAFTA for best documentary, marking a first BAFTA film award for Netflix.
Hungarian director Laszlo Nemes took home the award for foreign language for 2015 Oscar-winner “Son of Saul”, beating out nominees including Maren Ade’s “Toni Erdmann” and Pedro Almodovar’s “Julieta”.
One surprise of the night, including seemingly for its director Travis Knight, was Laika Entertainment’s “Kubo and the Two Strings”, taking home the prize for best animation. The film beat out Disney stablemates “Zootopia”, “Moana” and “Finding Dory”. “It’s utterly shocking”, said Knight in the press conference following his win.
Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer went to Persian-language horror “Under the Shadow”, directed by Babak Anvari.
“The Jungle Book” snapped up best special visual effects for Robert Legato, Dan Lemmon, Andrew R. Jones and Adam Valdez.
It was a very even-handed celebration of the year in film amongst craft categories. Madeline Fontaine took the award for costume design for “Jackie”, while “Florence Foster Jenkins” claimed the prize for make up and hair for J. Roy Helland and Daniel Phillips.
“Arrival” took the award for best sound; “Hacksaw Ridge”’s John Gilbert took the prize for editing; while “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them”, claimed the production design award.
The UK’s National Film and Television School scored another win in the short film category, taking the prize for British short animation for “A Love Story”. Refugee crisis allegory “Home” took the prize for British short film.
French actress Isabelle Huppert presented the previously announced special BAFTA award for Outstanding British Contribution to Cinema to UK art-house exhibitor Curzon.
Mel Brooks, who shared BAFTA’s Animated Film Award in 1964 for his three minute short “The Critic” but had only been nominated once in the intervening years for his screenplay for 1974 classic “Blazing Saddles”, was honored with a BAFTA Fellowship, the body’s highest accolade, for his outstanding and exceptional contribution to the industry. The comedy legend was presented with the award by actors Simon Pegg and Nathan Lane and BAFTA president HRH the Duke of Cambridge.
“I think BAFTA has made unbearably good choices tonight, especially me”, said Brooks. “I want to thank Harvey Weinstein for having nothing to do with this award tonight”.
He apologised to the Duke and Duchess for the American Revolution. “We were young”, joked the Brooks. “I don’t think of England as a foreign country. I think of it as a vast Brooklyn that just speaks better”.
“Having an American here is very moving”, added Brooks on a more serious note. He said to be awarded the BAFTA Fellowship following in the footsteps of “Hitchcock, Olivier, Powell and Pressburger; champions and idols of my life, is a singular and august honor”.