Love was very much in the air for "The Revenant" at the EE BAFTA Awards in London Sunday, winning five in total, including Best Film, Best Director and Best Actor, making it a successful Valentine’s Day treat for this frost-bitten epic of snow and survival. Whether that makes "The Revenant" the overwhelming favorite for the Oscars in a fortnight’s time, muscling itself ahead of "Spotlight" and "The Big Short," remains to be seen, but the film’s continuing success at the UK box office coupled with its critical adoration made it a good evening for director Alejandro G. Iñárritu and his team.
In his typically cheeky opening, Stephen Fry, hosting for the 12th year, took jabs at presidential candidate Donald Trump and the Russians, although his now traditional audience "kiss" participation game was upgraded to include a "Kiss Cam." But while real-life couple Alicia Vikander and Fassbender politely declined to play along to Fry’s calls for a kiss (a moment not shown in the TV broadcast), DiCaprio planted a smacker on the cheek of a slightly bemused Dame Maggie Smith ("If she was any more of a national institution she’d have railings around her") and actor-comedians Eddie Izzard and Rebel Wilson got suitably "smoochy."
During the evening, reference was made on a number of occasions to the issue of diversity following this year’s Oscar nominations, with presenter Sacha Baron Cohen introducing the award for "Best White Actress," while Rebel Wilson, who presented Best Supporting Actor, began by saying: "It’s so great to be here at this really serious event. I have never been invited to the Oscars because, as you know, they are racist," before continuing, "But the BAFTAs have diverse members and that’s what we all want to see in life isn’t it, diverse members," then joking of nominee Idris Elba, "You’re making me a bit nervous… But I’m socially programmed to want chocolate on Valentine’s Day."
Fry wasn’t without a contentious moment of his own, saying of winning costume designer Jenny Beaven ("Mad Max: Fury Road") as she left the stage that "only one of the great cinematic costume designers would come to an award ceremony dressed as a bag lady" to some gasps inside London’s Royal Opera and consternation on Twitter. (She was dressed down for the occasion.) Fry later tweeted a photo of the two of them at the post-Awards dinner, saying they were good friends, but, since then, he appears to have deleted his Twitter account.
Otherwise, events proceeded with a zip (the ceremony lasting just two and a half hours) as Oscar favorites Brie Larson and Leonardo DiCaprio picked up Best Actress and Actor for "Room" and "The Revenant," respectively. While DiCaprio was on hand, thanking his mum on her birthday, Larson was in Australia filming "Kong: Skull Island," and so "Room" director Lenny Abrahamson gave a wonderfully gracious speech on her behalf, thanking co-star Jacob Tremblay who, inexplicably, was overlooked by both BAFTA and the Academy.
Elsewhere there were a win apiece for "Spotlight" and "The Big Short" for Original Screenplay and Adapted Screenplay, awards that should be replicated at the Oscars, while "Mad Max: Fury Road," which seemed initially to have some traction, winning several early evening awards — picking up those for Production Design, Editing, Makeup & Hair and Costume — faltered when it came to the bigger categories.
Still, at least George Miller’s film won some. Both "The Martian" and "Carol," with a combined 15 nominations, ended the evening with zero, the latter’s Sandy Powell falling to win despite being up for both "Carol" and "Cinderella." Or maybe because of it. Emmanuel Lubezki picked up his third consecutive BAFTA for Best Cinematography (and fourth overall) for "The Revenant," following "Gravity" and "Birdman," while the award for Visual Effects went to "Star Wars: The Force Awakens."
In the Best Supporting categories there was home grown success for Mark Rylance in "Bridge of Spies," winning the film’s sole award (although he, too, was absent, his latest play having just opened on Broadway), and Kate Winslet, who charmed the room with a typical effusive acceptance for "Steve Jobs." The Rising Star Award, voted on by the public, went to the delightful and hugely popular John Boyega, whose force has most definitely been awakened.
Another popular winner was Sir Sidney Poitier, who received BAFTA’s highest honor, the Fellowship, although he was too ill to travel. Instead, he and his daughter were presented with the award on video by Jamie Foxx, Poitier saying: "Today my cup runneth over because I am here with my daughter and the future filmmakers of the world in celebration of this wonderful art form."
Best Documentary went to Asif Kapadia’s stellar "Amy," Best British Film went to "Brooklyn," and Outstanding British Debut went to Naji Abu Nowr and Rupert Lloyd for "Theeb," in what was a particularly strong year for debutants. Both short film awards were picked up by women filmmakers, Nina Gantz and Emilie Jouffroy for "Edmond," and Caroline Bartleet and Rebecca Morgan for "Operator"; 87-year-old Ennio Morricone won the award for Best Music for "The Hateful Eight," but was in Dublin performing a concert; "Inside Out" scooped Best Animation over British favorite "Shaun the Sheep"; "Wild Tales" won Best Film Not In The English Language; and Angels Costumes received the Outstanding British Contribution to Cinema.
Since its move to before the Oscars, the BAFTAs have cemented their importance on the awards season calendar, with the ceremony itself supported by several high profile warm-up events, including the BAFTA Film Gala, in aid of the "Give Something Back" campaign, to raise funds to nurture and support talented young people from all backgrounds and help inspire and guide their career, as well as the much-loved Lancome Nominees Party, once again held at Kensington Palace, home to future King William, which was attended by Benicio Del Toro, Cate Blanchett, Penelope Cruz, Ridley Scott, Mark Ruffalo, Dakota Johnson, George Miller, and Eddie Redmayne, among many others.
After Sunday’s ceremony, guests were bussed back to the Grosvenor House Hotel on Park Lane for a late dinner, before, around midnight, attendees either partied in the Grosvenor’s Ballroom or headed off into the cold night (clutching the various film-themed placemats that adorned the tables), towards studio-hosted parties, with the prize ticket once again being the Weinstein Company’s celebrated bash — which saw winners and losers downing Grey Goose and dancing and partying long into the night.
Given the Awards’ date, there were, inevitably, many professions of love from the various winners, with Best Director winner Iñárritu dedicating the award to his wife Maria on the eve of their 24th anniversary. "That’s what I call heroism, endurance, and lone survival," he quipped. But perhaps the most emotional few minutes was reserved for the In Memoriam segment, which included far too many familiar names and faces, among them Alan Rickman, David Bowie, and Sir Christopher Lee.
As Fry said in his final wrap up: "How much we lament the passing of our heroes, film endures where we don’t. Generations as yet unborn will enjoy the work of those we have lost. Film is forever, film defies death."
It was a fine and fitting way to end.