Friday Film: 10 things I learnt at the Baftas 2024

10 things I learnt at the Baftas 2024

I was lucky enough to attend the Baftas, again, last Sunday, and also the winners press conference. Here are some thoughts:

1.The BAFTAs remain a significant and strategic step on the route to Oscar. Securing the votes of the British Academy will stand nominees in good stead for the American Academy of which British voters are also members. When I left the event last night, there was a lot of “catching up” going on across the dinner tables. I expect a good deal of it was schmoozing for votes. However, the Baftas are not just a stepping stone to the Oscars. With each passing year they establish the event as a worthy partner to the Oscars. The Baftas may be smaller, they may be held in colder weather and ‘Bafta winner’ on a movie poster may not have the global stature of ’ Oscar winner’ but the British Academy has the credibility of a film organisation that doesn’t easily bend to fads.

2.The Baftas now bring full throttle glamour and star power. The A listers were out in force (Bradley Cooper, Emma Stone, Christopher Nolan, Margot Robbie, Emily Blunt, Robert Downey Jr. et al). The outfits, too, were not sedate numbers or try outs for the Oscars, they were full blown, headline grabbing, head turning fashion statements. Emma Stone continued her Bella from Poor Things look off screen, with a tangerine dress boasting an enormous puff sleeve that could have hidden a small child in it. Emily Blunt shimmered in a cutout, crystal embellished gown that could have been a piece of art. And not to be outdone, Bradley Cooper, Andrew Scott, Rami Malek and Barry Keoghan brought the male catwalk designs to the red carpet.

3.The presence of royalty gives the BAFTAs a kudos which the other academies can’t offer. It makes for international coverage of the awards, beyond just the entertainment pages. Prince William, the Prince of Wales, is the President of Bafta and his attendance, in a stylish blue velvet tuxedo, but, this year, without his wife, Catherine, who is recovering from surgery, made for headlines around the world. I noted a particular surge from both the press and the waiting fans the moment he arrived. The red carpet parted, much like the Red Sea, as people clamoured to wish him well and ask about the health of both the Princess and his father, King Charles who has cancer.

4.It is still possible in 2024 for the host of an awards show to be funny! Who knew? The evidence from shows in recent years, including the BAFTAs, has been that if you’re not Ricky Gervais, Tina Fey or Amy Poehler, hosting an event like this can be a poisoned chalice that can tank your career. Instead, everyone’s favourite Doctor Who, David Tennant, pulled the prestigious gig off with aplomb. And he did it without constantly referring to his ethnicity, sex or political views. He did it without alienating large swathes of the audience and he did it without insulting the actors and filmmakers in the hall. Instead he went for good old, much missed entertainment, good humour and pulling in his showbiz mates, likes Michael Sheen and Stanley Tucci, to be part of the fun.

5. An oompah loompah and Iron Man would make an awesome double act. Either as future hosts of a big awards show or in a comedy film, Hugh Grant and Robert Downey Jr. both possess a quick wit and great comedic timing which makes their appearances on stage at these shows a highlight. Whether they wrote all their own lines, Grant when he presented the Best Director award and Downey Jr. when he won Best Supporting Actor, doesn’t matter. You suspect they had a major hand in writing them because each has the talent to be drily funny and self deprecating but with a touch of bite. Quick! Someone book them for next year’s event or the Golden Globes or write them a punchy, barbed wire funny script.

6. A moving, heartfelt speech, when you’ve won an award, will make you new fans and ensure that you keep winning. It’s not as easy as it may seem.We’ve all heard speeches that are self congratulatory, cringeworthy and downright arrogant. It takes skill to touch the hearts of your audience, sound humble and grateful but still acknowledge the difficult journey you’ve travelled. Da’Vine Joy Randolph (winning for Best Supporting Actress) and Samantha Morton, receiving the Fellowship of Bafta, particularly, nailed it. Morton dedicated her award “to all the children in care”. She had been a child in care herself, moving through various children’s homes, and, she spoke, passionately, about how movies can change lives because they had transformed hers.

7. Bradley Cooper and Carrie Mulligan must be wondering what more they have to do to pick up an award. Cooper took over Maestro from Spielberg. He did an incredible job with it, he wrote, directed and acted in the film, endured hours of make up to age as Leonard Bernstein and promoted the film with passion. It was cast as a front runner early during award season but since then, nothing. A journalist who regularly interviews the stars told me that Cooper is one of the nicest people to talk to, in the industry, and she thinks he will be very disappointed for everyone else on the film, rather than himself that the movie seems to be becoming an also ran. Mulligan, similarly, is a consistently excellent performer who seems to get overlooked all the time. If the British Academy didn’t give her the best actress award, it’s unlikely that the American one will, next month.

8. Despite their Bafta successes it’s not necessarily a guaranteed skip across the winning line at the Oscars for every winner. Many will recall that none of the four actors who prevailed at the BAFTAs last year went on to win the Oscar.(I still maintain that Bafta got the winners right). That said, Cillian Murphy probably has the edge on Paul Giamatti now, for Best Actor but a lot may be determined by who wins the upcoming SAG. Similarly, Emma Stone may have stiff competition, at SAG and the Oscars, from Lily Gladstone, who was a surprise omission from the best actress nominee list at the BAFTAs. My own view is that the competition should come from Carey Mulligan and Sandra Huller. The two supporting acting awards, meanwhile, are probably a lock for Robert Downey Jr. and Da’Vine Joy Randolph. The latter when told about the late release of her film The Holdovers in the UK, uttered a very British profanity to much amusement at the winners press conference.

9. Oppenhomies is a thing! Yes, the multitude of actors in the 46 hour epic Oppenheimer spent so long working on the film, they’ve formed a buddy group and they’re called Oppenhomies. Like Swifties and the Beyhive, they really do exist, they commune and they are possibly bigger than most armies. Can there be a cooler squad to be part of? Cillian Murphy let the cat out of the bag about the group when he gave his Oppenhomies a shout out during his speech after winning Best Actor. On another note, I suspect that Cillian Murphy will be hugely relieved when awards season is over and he doesn’t have to interact with strangers anymore! He does his best but the discomfort of a very private man having to promote himself rather than a role, just oozes off him. He’ll definitely need some downtime with his new Oppenhomie, Oscar, after March!

10. The costume designers on Poor Things envisaged a colour palette for Bella’s clothes that was connected to the inside of a body. Very profound. However, when they showed their ideas to director Yorgos Lanthiman, they told us, during the winners press conference, he took one look and said “Your colours are those of rotten apples.” When the designers looked at their proposals again, they saw that he was absolutely right. They were, indeed, working through the shades of an apple as it rots! Amusingly, as they were speaking to us, on the screen, we saw that Emma Stone had just won for Best Actress. The designer took a look at her dress and someone quipped “she’s wearing a pink lady!”