Monday Movie: Reflections on Baftas 2023

(All photos and video by me, save the cover photo of Cate Blanchett and Austin Butler together)

It didn’t rain (or hail or snow, as it has done in past years). The host, Richard E Grant’s jokes were tame but he didn’t completely bomb (like Jerrod Carmichael did at the Golden Globes). The awards were fairly evenly distributed between the big films, so there was an element of surprise. And the usual suspects complained about the show the next morning on Twitter. So, all in all, the Baftas did good.

I  was in the thick of the star studded event, also attended by Royalty, so, perhaps, I have a rosier tinted view of it than those who saw the truncated television broadcast.

My positive views may also have been affected by the fact that I found myself inches from Austin Butler at various points but yes, I’d say it was one of the better BAFTAs for several years.

Here’s a brief run through of the day and evening:

Although the broadcast didn’t start until 7pm on BBC1, the actual proceedings began, at the Royal Festival Hall, early in the afternoon.

Red carpet 

The red carpet officially started at 3pm although the main stars didn’t start arriving until close to 5pm

As ever, the carpet was a frenetic affair. It was also unusually compartmentalised this year. There was the entry point, which is often the most interesting because that’s where you see the stars before they put on their public faces. It’s where you see the deep breaths taken before they enter the media fray, where the gowns are puffed out, sleeked down and spread just so by assistants so that the cameras will catch the best angle of a design dream. Then there were the areas for official photographs where the big names pose for the pictures that will go round the world. I spotted Florence Pugh having a great time there swirling and twirling in a spectacular, orange gown. After the photos came the media interviews, with outlets from around the world clamouring for that exclusive or funny sound bite they can rush off to their editors. The reality is that it’s the rare star who actually says anything unexpected or controversial on a red carpet.

After navigating the various press pens the stars finally sashayed down the most public part of the red carpet where they encountered the fan pens full of excited people with coveted wristbands who had been waiting hours for a chance of a quick selfie.

In this section there was also one of those 360° photo booths where Angela Bassett, Rami Malek and others looked to be having great fun.

Then it was into the Awards.

The ceremony 
In the past the BAFTAs have had acrobats to open the show. No, I don’t know why, either. This year they went with a more traditional opening; Oscar winner Ariana Debose singing and dancing energetically. The star studded audience seemed to be into it, bopping along to her Sister Sledge and Aretha Franklin medley. Then, she went into a rap about the female nominees. Jamie Lee Curtis still gamely smiled and danced along but those watching at home were less impressed. True, the rhyming was not exactly Eminem level but Debose’s effort didn’t deserve the brutal social media takedown it attracted. It’s been sufficiently awful for her to delete her social media account.

Dame Helen Mirren led a moving tribute to the late Queen Elizabeth ll, describing her as the country’s leading lady but as mysterious as a silent movie star.

Awards-wise, although it was a particularly good night for The Banshees of Inisherin and All Quiet on the Western Front, the prizes were pretty widely distributed. I’d been told to look out for All Quiet on the Western Front as the likely winner of Best Film and it proved a sound tip. Elvis director Baz Luhrmann could be seen mouthing “Bravo” as the large team went on stage for the big award. Don’t discount it as the dark horse for the Oscar but I don’t think it will win there. Everything Everywhere All at Once is going to take the win there, though a number of people have told me during awards season that they don’t really like or understand the film! 

I was delighted with the acting wins. Each was richly deserved. Inevitably, as all four winners are white, there were a few (usual) cries of ‘racism’. The supreme irony in such a complaint on the grounds of race is obviously lost on those complaining. Some media outlets, predictably, ran with this as the main story from the show and declared that Bafta would now face a social media ‘storm’. From what I saw, more people were arguing over whether Austin Butler’s win meant that the Oscar was now in his bag, instead of that of Colin Farrell or Brendan Fraser. 

The Bafta win is significant. Many Bafta voters are also members of the Academy. But it’s not over until it’s over. Everyone is still campaigning hard. And the fans of each man are still hopeful.

Winners Press Room

It was great to be in the winners pressroom where happy victors came backstage with their awards and chatted to the media.

Highlights included:

A clearly delighted Kerry Condon (Best Supporting Actress) telling us of the “weird, blackout moment” when her name was announced. It was so surreal for her she just sat there. All the ‘boys’ from the film had to tell her to get up and go collect her award!

She spoke warmly of her character, Siobhan, in The Banshees of Inisherin. Condon described her as evolved, even though she had spent her whole life caring for others, like her brother and putting their needs first. Condon wondered whether this aspect had resonated with others, especially women who sacrifice their lives for others. Of course, Siobhan has a memorable line in the film, when, frustrated beyond endurance with the bickering of the men arguing about whether they’re boring, she cries “You’re ALL feckin’ boring”! Condon was asked which line from the film was her favourite. She said that it was a line Brendan Gleeson utters, where he asks the priest whether God cares about a little donkey dying and suggests that if he doesn’t, then that’s where it all probably went wrong.

Condon’s co-star Barry Keoghan (Best Supporting Actor) bounding into the room a ball of energy in a dapper red suit, the jacket of which he discarded halfway through the interview  because he was so hot. Reflecting on the 14 Oscar nominations for the film, he questioned why he had chosen to wear red. “I should’ve worn green,” he reflected ruefully.

 On stage he had dedicated his Bafta to  “the kids who are dreaming to be something in the area I came from”.

In the press room he said that his dedication was for all kids anywhere who had those dreams. Many will now know of Keoghan’s own impoverished background, the death of his mother when he was only 12 and that he and his brother grew up in 13 different foster homes. But he has spoken of those hard times insightfully; saying that on paper he was destined to mess up his life but he decided not to dwell on it but to use it, almost as ammunition to move forward.

Asked where he would put his Bafta he reflected for a moment before softly replying, “Over my mother’s picture. that would go nicely together.” 

Asked about his celebration plans, he said he would go celebrate his win with his baby son.“I’ll order room service and just cuddle him. “

Best Animated Film director Guillermo Del Toro, when asked where Pinocchio was, telling us that he was “off somewhere getting drunk!”

Seeing Cate Blanchett (Best Leading Actress) savouring the smell of chicken wafting up from the hall downstairs where dinner would later be served. 

She had been unusually emotional on stage recalling the toll this demanding role of Lydia Tar, had taken on her family life. She elaborated on this in the press room by explaining that she had not seen her husband and sons for several months during filming in Germany and what a challenge this had been for everyone.

As ever, she was the epitome of elegance in a beautiful black gown adorned with pearls on the neckline. “You look fabulous,” one of the journalists was compelled to call out as she left. “So do you,” she replied. “You can come again!”

Getting within a few inches of Austin Butler (Best Leading Actor) again. He also could probably smell the chicken because he asked us if we were hungry because he was starving! 

He described receiving a Bafta award as feeling somehow ‘extra prestigious’ because of its history and all the English actors he’d revered over the years.

I reminded him that in an interview he had said that a few years ago he had considered giving it all up. What would he now say,  as a BAFTA winner, to that young, disillusioned Austin?

“I’d say hang in there,” he replied. “Life is a rollercoaster, sometimes you’re down, sometimes you’re up, so, keep riding, keep going.”

He was asked about Lisa Marie Presley. While some newspapers reported that he ‘fought back tears’ when speaking of her, this is not correct. He was obviously reflective but respectfully described it as an “unimaginably tragic time” and said that “grief is a long process, so my heart and my love is with them” (the Presley family). He added that he felt honoured at how he had been welcomed by the family.

In respect of the experience of playing Elvis and making the film, he described himself as so lucky to have stood on a stage, looking down at the jumpsuit he was wearing and having a brief sense that he was experiencing to a tiny degree what Elvis would have known. 

He spoke briefly about the two films he has just completed (Dune 2 and Bike Riders)but added that as of now he is unemployed! Although this does mean he will be able to go on vacation after March.

Austin Butler answering my question

Yours editorially