The Artist added another batch of awards to its shelf last night, these ones hailing from across the pond in ol' Blighty. The annual BAFTA (that's the British Academy of Film and Television Arts for all of us Yankees) Awards were handed out last night at London's Royal Festival Hall and all of the big Oscar contenders -- George Clooney! Michelle Williams! Brad Pitt! -- made the trip to press the flesh on the red carpet.
But none of their combined Hollywood star power could challenge The Artist for supremacy; Michel Hazanavicius's crowd-pleasing ode to silent movie magic picked up seven awards, including Best Actor (for the hardworking Jean Dujardin, who must have hopped the red eye to London after appearing on Saturday Night Live the night before), Best Director and the Big Kahuna, Best Film. But a few movies not named The Artist also went home with trophies. The British-made Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy won for Adapted Screenplay and Outstanding British Film, while Pedro Almodóvar's The Skin I Live In pulled a surprise victory over the much-lauded Iranian drama A Separation for Film Not in the English Language and the terrific (and, sadly, overlooked by Oscar) non-fiction feature Senna, about the titular Formula One racer, nabbed two awards for Editing and Documentary. As for the broadcast itself, it was a model of efficiency, restraint and good humor. In other words, it was a thoroughly English production. Here were the highlights as we saw 'em:
His Name is Jones... Tom Jones
Hands up those of you who already knew that Tom Jones had been knighted. We can't have been the only folks caught off by the Welsh-born crooner being introduced as Sir Tom Jones. But we recovered quickly enough when he busted out a spirited rendition of "Thunderball" over a montage of clips celebrating James Bond's 50th anniversary. Too bad we didn't get a medley of old Bond tunes, though. How awesome would it have been to hear Jones tackle "Goldfinger," "Nobody Does it Better" and "The World Is Not Enough"? Actually, strike that last one.
A Little Bit More of Fry (Hold the Laurie) Please
We've gotten so accustomed to Ricky Gervais's hostile Golden Globes hosting gigs that it was a pleasure to see a British comic -- in this case former Hugh Laurie partner Stephen Fry -- that actually seemed to enjoy emceeing one of these dog-and-pony shows. From his opening line (said in reference to the waves of applause that greeted his arrival onstage), "Please stop... oh you have," he put us immediately at ease and had us chuckling all night.
Meet Helena, the Crazy Cat Lady
One of our favorite thing about awards season in recent years has been keeping track of the crazy things Helena Bonham Carter wears to (and says at) the various awards shows daring enough to invite her. Tim Burton's main squeeze didn't disappoint last night, showing up sporting a poofy blue dress and a rat's nest hairdo. Carter's presentation of the Best Supporting Actor award was equally daffy, beginning with her oddly phrased summation of what it takes to be a great supporting performer ("You have to come in and nail it and then pray you're not cut too much" -- speaking from personal experience there, Helena?) and then reassuring the audience that she'd personally deliver the statue to the absent winner, Christopher Plummer. You'll probably want to phone ahead Helena -- if you just showed up looking the way you did onstage, he might call the cops.
Hey, Billy Bob is Still Alive!
We can't remember the last time we saw Billy Bob Thornton in the flesh... or onscreen for that matter. But the "almost mythical" (as Fry put it in his grandiose introduction) actor/director/musician finally resurfaced last night to present the award for Outstanding British Contribution to Cinema to John Hurt. Then out strode a bespectacled, soul patch-sporting Billy Bob, who opened his remarks with the self-deprecating joke, "Okay, the moment you've all been waiting for -- an inarticulate guy who can see about four feet in front of him with an IQ of just under 50 to present an award." And while Thornton (who directed Hurt in the upcoming film, Jayne Mansfield's Car) did flub one line off the Teleprompter, he recovered quickly and plowed ahead without further incident. Welcome back, Billy Bob. We're ready for Sling Blade 2 whenever you are. (Oh, and Hurt's speech was pretty good too.)
Who Loses a Shoe? Honestly!
You can never tell what's going to happen when Meryl Streep wins an award. At the Golden Globes last month, she forgot her glasses and the other nominees valiantly tried to pass them up to the stage. (We still think David Fincher took them home as a souvenir.) And last night, she interrupted her walk to the stage to hand her purse the lady sitting in front of her (here's hoping that was someone she knew) and then lost her shoe while climbing the steps, forcing Colin Firth to retrieve it and then kneel down to slip it back on her foot. (Of course, that may have been her plan all along. That Meryl is one foxy minx.) If she wins the Oscar, she might want to make sure to glue her various accessories to her person.
Everybody Loves Jean
Even his competitors for the Best Actor trophy beamed broad smiles by the time Gallic star Jean Dujardin wrapped yet another charming victory speech for his starmaking turn in The Artist, this time with a nod to Buster Keaton's famous stone face. (He earned bonus points from the British crowd for namechecking Benny Hill.) No question about it -- Dujaridn is easily the best French import to hit the world scene since sliced brioche.
And They Also Love Marty
We could listen to Martin Scorsese talk about movies all day long (check out his invaluable surveys of American movies and Italian cinema if you want to further your film education) and the comments he made about the importance of British cinema following his standing ovation were both erudite and wonderfully personal... much like Hugo.
So These Two Aussie Dudes Walk Into the BAFTAs
And here we thought Russell Crowe had absolutely no sense of humor! Credit a bearded, burly Hugh Jackman (who will play the Valjean to Crowe's Javert in the upcoming Les Miserables movie) with getting the famously explosive Gladiator star to crack a smile for once. The two Aussies turned their presentation of the Best Film award into a full-on comedy routine poking fun at Fry, the lavish surroundings and the scripted lines scrolling on the Teleprompter screen. Forget Billy Crystal -- can we get these two to host the Oscars?
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