By Caryn James | James on Screens February 8, 2011 at 5:00AM
No one pays attention to the London Evening Standard Film Awards – well, barely anyone. The awards from the British newspaper were not a blip on the Oscar radar. Then, yesterday, Andrew Garfield was named best actor for his roles in Never Let Me Go and The Social Network, beating the formerly unbeatable -- not to mention very British and ever-charming at acceptance speeches -- Colin Firth.
Now I love Never Let Me Go, which I’ve called the most underrated film of last year (in my DVD review). Garfield shows real dramatic strength as a man (a cloned man, but with a human heart) desperate to spend some time with his love before his inevitable early death. But this award is loopy. He’s hardly the center of the film – Carey Mulligan is -- and he doesn’t have to carry it the way Firth carries The King's Speech.
It’s hard to believe that these awards, determined by a jury of British critics, mean anything when the best actress prize was an even wackier choice. Kristin Scott Thomas was named best actress for Leaving, a ludicrous French film in which she is a middle-class married woman who has an affair with a working-class man and goes a little psycho. As in crime-spree psycho. She’s extremely good, as always -- Kristin Scott Thomas is the best – but in this case she should get a prize for surviving bad material. We could create an award for that, but best actress?
Given Firth’s frontrunner status in the Oscar race, though, this becomes a story about momentum. And maybe it plays to his advantage, adding a little doubt. After all, no one really likes an inevitable winner; that’s dull. But I give the story exactly five days to play out, because the BAFTA awards are on Sunday, and I still wouldn’t bet against Firth.