The revamped BAFTA Film Awards, which saw the last four categories be broadcast live for the first time, returned to screens on Sunday night with two hosts and a new venue.
German war epic, All Quiet on the Western Front, was anything but quiet, taking home seven wins from fourteen nominations, including Best Film and Best Director. Up against award season favourites like Everything Everywhere All at Once, Netflix’s underdog contender made history by the end of the night, scoring the highest number of BAFTAs for a foreign language film.
Other big winners of the evening were Martin McDonagh’s Irish tragi-comedy, The Banshees Of Inisherin, taking home four awards, as did Baz Luhrmann’s whirlwind biopic, Elvis.
AN INTRODUCTION TO REMEMBER
Host Richard E. Grant arrived at the venue in the Batmobile and made his way to the stage through the auditorium dressed in a dramatic floor-length white cape. But his entrance was soon overshadowed by Oscar winner Ariana DeBose’s opening musical number. The West Side Story star put in one of the most fantastically camp and bizarre musical performances ever seen at an awards show, with a medley of ‘Sisters are Doin’ It For Themselves’/‘We Are Family,’ and a bespoke 45-second song-rap celebrating, by name, many of this year’s female nominees.
This segment, which featured lyrics such as “Electric Malady? Marie, girl, what a slay” and the internet’s personal favourite, “Angela Basset did the thing,” had cutaways shots of the named women in the audience, where most looked unamused or perplexed. Viola Davies, Emma Thompson, and Jamie Lee Curtis, on the other hand, appeared to have enjoyed their shoutouts.
IRISH TALENT TAKES CENTRE STAGE
It was a great year for Irish talent, with The Banshees of Inisherin winning four of the top awards. The film’s first win saw Kerry Condon take to the stage to accept the award for Best Supporting Actress. She thanked director and writer, Martin McDonagh: “You make me so proud to be an Irish woman.” Up next, Barry Keoghan wins for Best Supporting Actor and, keeping his acceptance speech short and sweet, dedicates his win to the kids of Summerhill “that are dreaming to be something from the area where I came from.”
The final two wins, Best Original Screenplay and Outstanding British Film, were accepted by McDonagh, who, in the speech for the latter, joked that “every Irish person in the cast and crew are going ‘best what?’” He finished the speech thanking Rosie, the British stand-in donkey: “She’s from Stoke-on-Trent.” Three Irishmen were vying for the Best Actor award – the hotly-tipped Colin Farrell for The Banshees of Inisherin, Paul Mescal for Aftersun and Daryl McCormack for Good Luck to you, Leo Grande. However, the award ultimately went to Austin Butler for his role in Elvis. Also flying the flag for Ireland were the cast and crew from the acclaimed An Cailín Ciúin which was nominated in the category of Best Film not in the English Language. Meanwhile the Northern Ireland black comedy An Irish Goodbye won Best British Short. Prior to the show, both Paul Mescal and Best Supporting Actor Nominee, Brendan Gleeson, were hailed for their efforts to speak Irish on the BAFTA red carpet.
COSTUME DESIGNER SANDY POWELL AWARDED BAFTA FELLOWSHIP
Sandy Powell OBE has made history as the first costume designer ever to receive the BAFTA Fellowship award. It is the highest accolade bestowed by BAFTA upon an individual, in recognition of an outstanding and exceptional contribution to film, games or television.
Powell is one of the world’s most revered costume designers, whose extensive body of work can be seen in many iconic films of the late twentieth and twenty-first centuries – from period films such as The Favourite and Shakespeare in Love to fantasy productions including Mary Poppins Returns and Cinderella, and Scorsese classics like The Wolf of Wall Street and The Irishman. “’It really is a huge honour to be invited to join such an incredible group of filmmakers who have received this fellowship and an even greater one to be the first costume designer,” said Powell. “’I am most grateful for the generosity and guidance I have received throughout my life.” She closed out her speech by dedicating the award to those who work in the fashion industry: “I accept this fellowship on behalf of my community. The supervisors, assistants, coordinators, and PAs. The tailors, and cutters, the stitchers and buyers, the weavers, the knitters, the printers and dyers. The leather workers, the shoemakers, milliners, jewelers, the standbys, dressers, fitters, and crew. In fact, everyone who makes this work possible.”
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT
As with every awards show, there is always the odd blunder and something that could be improved upon for next year. For the BAFTA Film Awards 2023, the show was not without blunders – Carey Mulligan’s name was read out incorrectly for Best Supporting Actress, a result of an unfortunate miscommunication from Troy Kotsur’s sign language interpreter, and there was a moment where Sir Patrick Stewart began to open the gold envelope before the nominee VT had played.
In another move that made the broadcast feel rushed, BAFTA shoved the craft category awards into a quick montage that omitted both the nominee’s VT and acceptance speeches. Lastly, this year’s BAFTAs have met criticism for the lack of diversity in the winners’ line-up. Though the nominee pool was diverse, by the end of the night every single winner was white. The concern follows BAFTA’s dedication to boosting diversity during its film awards process, with Chair Krish Majumdar making it one of his top priorities. As reported in Deadline, a grueling diversity review gave rise to “120 changes across its voting, membership, and campaigning process, including increasing the films viewed by voters and adding 1,000 members from under-represented backgrounds.”
Film journalist, Ali Plumb, shared a hotdog-fingered joke with Everything Everywhere All at Once’s Jamie Lee Curtis on the red carpet, in a moment which saw Curtis encourage Plumb’s hotdog gloved hand to ‘pick her nose.’
Also on the red carpet, The Whale Best Actor nominee Brendan Fraser coyly flashed a bright yellow bumper sticker to the camera that read “Honk if you’d rather be watching the 1999 cinematic masterpiece ‘The Mummy’ starring Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz.”
Guillermo del Toro stressed the importance of animation in his acceptance speech for winning Best Animated Feature with Pinocchio: “Animation is not a genre for kids. It’s a medium for art, it’s a medium for film and I think animation should stay in the conversation.”
Aftersun writer and director Charlotte Wells took home the award for Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer. In an emotional speech, Wells reflected on the film’s touching testament to father-daughter relationships, discussing how it relates to her own life and gave a special thanks to her Turkish crew – a tribute that included a heartfelt mention of the tragic earthquakes that hit Turkey earlier this month.
Jamie Lee Curtis, who was presenting the Outstanding Debut award alongside Ana Taylor Joy, made a dig at Netflix, who recently made the news after announcing that password sharing will no longer be accepted. She joked “This is top secret. All show business people use the same Netflix account.” She leaned closer to the mic and revealed the password as “Sir_Patrick_,” before exaggeratedly mouthing “Stewart.”
Special thanks to Hannah Butters for her contribution to The Buzz – BAFTA Film Awards 2023.