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BAFTA’s 2018: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

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For light there is dark. For good there is bad. And for the ugly there is beauty. 

The BAFTAs, the last big awards ceremony before the biggest of them all on March 4th in Los Angeles, took place on Sunday. So how did the ‘British Oscars’ rate? 

The Venue

The Good 

For most non Brits, England means London and Royalty so the majestic Royal Albert Hall in South Kensington is as good as it gets. Gone are the days when the BAFTA’s made do with the Odeon Leicester Square and George Clooney’s head in photographs would be adorned with the logo of a nearby kebab shop. Now  the red carpet is draped across a wide, imposing set of steps and the bright dome of the hall looms beautifully above the swirling skirts of the A-Listers who flock to the event knowing that a win here bodes well for Oscar. 

The Bad  

Have you ever tried entering the Royal Albert Hall? Solving the Rubik’s cube is easier. 

The Host 

The Good

This year Joanna Lumley, officially known as Joanna Lovely took the helm. Since she is both a national treasure and posher than the queen she did so with class and a Stella McCartney dress which made her look like a high ranking member at a Jedi Council meeting called to discuss the exciting discovery of a new prodigy of the Force. 

Although her scriptwriters went easy on the jokes and there were no memorable one liners a la Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, Ms Lovely made the evening a relaxed affair in which no American star had to feign amusement as a drink problem they’d prefer to keep hidden was openly mocked. 

The Bad 

Since it is actually illegal to criticise Joanna Lumley, it can only be whispered, in criminal tones, that her opening monologue wasn’t actually very funny.  

And it must have been a drag for her to see Rebecca Ferguson turn up to present in an identical dress. However, Patsy from Ab Fab even managed to make every woman’s nightmare a nice moment; ‘we’re dressed like twins because we’re the same age,’ she purred, making light of the 37 year gap to dispel any awkwardness. 

The Ceremony 

The Good

It was shorter than the interminable Oscars. 

Sam Rockwell was finally recognised and on taking the best supporting actor award humbly noted that he had been a ‘journeyman actor’ throughout his career so this acknowledgement was great. 

LONDON, ENGLAND – FEBRUARY 18: Martin McDonagh (L), Pete Czernin (2ndL) and Graham Broadbent (R), winners of the Outstanding British Film award, Sam Rockwell, winnerof the Best Supporting Actor award and Frances McDormand, winner of the Best Actress award pose in the press room during the EE British Academy Film Awards (BAFTA) held at Royal Albert Hall on February 18, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by Jeff Spicer/Jeff Spicer/Getty Images)

Gary Oldman finally beat out his much awarded contemporary Daniel Day Lewis when he took the best lead actor prize. Both men came to fame at about the same time and were pitted against each other in the media as the posh, public school educated son of the poet laureate versus the ‘sarf London’ council estate boy whose sister appears in Eastenders. Both have had incredible careers but there’s no doubt that DDL with his 3 Oscars and numerous other awards has needed a bigger mantelpiece over the years. This win now surely sets Oldman up for the Oscar. 

Frances Mc Dormand for being, well, Frances McDormand. There’s something that happens to talented actresses once they reach a certain age – they become funny, largely because they no longer give any f**** and say exactly what they please. And in McDormand’s case, wear what they want too. Her rather hideous dress would normally come under bad but the fact she wore pink in the face of demands that all the women wear black in some pointless gesture of support for Times Up makes her best dressed ….because as a woman she should be able to wear whatever colour she damn well chooses.  

Three Billboards outside Ebbing Missouri winning the most awards including best film (and best British film). That may not be seen as good by fans of The Shape of Water and other contenders but, hey this is my article and 3 Billboards is my choice! 

Sir Ridley Scott’s rambling, brilliant, inspiring speech. It’s astonishing this trailblazer of cinema hasn’t won more awards in his incredible career. Even at this ceremony he didn’t win a competitive award but the coveted BAFTA fellowship. 

The Bad

The funereal look of the red carpet with all that enforced black. No matter how much people may want it to be otherwise, a large part of any film awards audience watches for the fashion and glamour. Ratings for awards ceremonies are decreasing dramatically each year as it is, putting people off with politics doesn’t help. There must be other more effective ways of raising awareness of  good causes than demanding that women dress as if they are in perpetual mourning. 

The Ugly 

Social media commentary on the awards. The attacks by mostly women on Kate Middleton for not wearing black were awful and missed the whole point of causes such as Times up. Awards season has also become a time when people who can’t produce a coherent tweet seek to attack ‘white men’ many of whom have produced the greatest work in cinema simply for being men and for being white. 

LONDON, ENGLAND – FEBRUARY 18: Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge attend the EE British Academy Film Awards (BAFTA) held at Royal Albert Hall on February 18, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by Chris Jackson – WPA Pool/Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

This topic probably deserves an article in its own right but for now one observation will suffice: Bigotry is bigotry, no matter how many likes you get for it. 

Politics. Again this is another topic which deserves its own article, but the relentless politicisation of film awards shows in the past few years is sucking the fun and entertainment out of them. The BAFTA’s, thankfully, have a lighter touch on the subject than the American shows but even so, the films and achievements of talented people are being overshadowed by the politics. Dwindling television audiences are a testament to how this is not a good move for the industry in the long term.

The Beauty?  

For all its faults it’s still the most magical way to spend a couple of hours in the dark – in a public place.

 

Awards News

Black Panther Aiming For Best Picture, Not Best Popular, According To Chadwick Boseman

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It’s Hollywood’s worst-kept secret; Marvel Studios’ chief Kevin Feige wants an Oscar. And not just a technical Oscar either. Following in the footsteps of Walt Disney, Feige’s ultimate goal is for one of his movies to win Best Picture. With Black Panther being a cultural juggernaut, the producer-extraordinaire sees it as his best chance yet and has reportedly hired veteran award strategist Cynthia Schwartz’s company – Strategy PR – to push for the nomination.

However, The Academy themselves threw a spanner in the works last month, when they announced the introduction of a brand new category at next year’s awards ceremony: Best Achievement in Popular Film. With Black Panther presently the highest-grossing film of the year domestically, and the second-highest internationally, it’s the clear favourite to win in the new category (at least, to the best of everyone’s knowledge – The Academy have, frustratingly, refused to define the new award). However according to King T’Challa himself, Black Panther actor Chadwick Boseman, that’s not the goal.

“We don’t know what [Best Popular] is, so I don’t know whether to be happy about it or not,” Boseman told The Hollywood Reporter, “What I can say is that there’s no campaign for Popular Film; like, if there’s a campaign, it’s for Best Picture, and that’s all there is to it.”

“A good movie is a good movie,” the Get On Up star continued, “and clearly it doesn’t matter how much money a movie makes in order for it to be ‘a good movie’ because if [it did], the movies that get nominated and win [predominantly low-grossing, highly-praised art-house fare] wouldn’t get nominated; and if it doesn’t matter, it doesn’t matter on both sides. For my money, the only thing that matters is the level of difficulty.”

“What we did was very difficult. We created a world, we created a culture … we had to create a religion, a spirituality, a politics; we had to create an accent; we had to pull from different cultures to create clothing styles and hair styles. It’s very much like a period piece. … So, as far as that’s concerned, I dare any movie to try to compare to the difficulty of this one. And the fact that so many people liked it — if you just say it’s [only] popular, that’s elitist.”

Chadwick has a point – the gross of a film has never, and should not, affect a film’s chances at winning Best Picture. However, whilst The Academy has made clear that a film can be nominated for both Best Film and Best Popular (frustrating many members who have then rightfully asked what the point is), they have somewhat written themselves into a corner when it comes to Black Panther. See, through a very specific sequence of events, The Academy have manufactured a situation where the most likely events to play out on the night will be Damien Chazelle’s buzzy First Man, a movie with an all-white cast and crew, winning Best Picture… whilst the all-black cast and crew of Black Panther accept the new ‘separate but equal’ award for Best Achievement in Popular Film. Yikes.

Black Panther is available on Digital, DVD, Blu-Ray and 4K now, and is rated 12A.

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Awards News

Danny DeVito To Receive Lifetime Achievement Award At The San Sebastian Film Festival

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Batman Returns star Danny DeVito is set to receive the coveted Donostia Award, honouring him for his career achievements, at the sixty-sixth annual San Sebastian Film Festival this September.

“The award recognizes a career of almost five decades related to acting in theatre, film and television, telling stories as an actor, producer and director,” the Spanish festival’s organisers said in a statement, “The Golden Globe and Emmy Award winner is known for his roles in television series Taxi and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and movies such as One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, Terms of Endearment, Romancing The Stone, Twins, Ruthless People, and Tin Men.”

“He has also directed – and starred in – hugely emblematic films, including The War of the Roses (1989), Hoffa (1992), Death to Smoochy (2002), Throw Momma From the Train (1987), Curmudgeons (2016), Duplex (2003), The Ratings Game (1984), and The World’s Greatest Lover (1977).”

The San Sebastian Film Festival will run from the 21st to the 29th of September. Danny DeVito can next be heard in animated children’s flick Smallfoot, which will premiere on the 23rd at the Festival.

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Oscars 2018

THE BURDEN OF OSCAR: POLITICS AND FILM.

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2017 was not overly kind to Hollywood. A drop in cinema audiences. Dismal summer box office. Increasing competition from the rise of Netflix and compelling television shows. Decreasing ratings for movie awards shows. Justice League.
And please, nobody even mention Harvey Weinstein or Kevin Spacey.

In short it all went a bit Pete Tong for La La Land last year.
In fact the La La Land /Moonlight mix up at the Oscars in February now seems a rare bright spot in the 2017 tinsel town calendar. Reading out the wrong best picture winner? Light relief! Oh, how we can laugh now at a ‘wrong envelope mishap’ in the wake of #metoo and #sheknew

So, where and when did the rot start?
I’d suggest November 2016. On 8th November to be precise. Hollywood was tux and gown ready to celebrate the presidential victory of the woman whose campaign many A listers had funded to the tune of millions. However, 60 million Americans had a different plan. Enter the Donald!
The rest is outrage history.

Hollywood has since used Twitter, late night chat shows the press and most of all, awards shows to bash Trump……….and by association the 60 million who voted for him. 60 million potential movie fans.

Some love the political content of awards shows. Some are infuriated by it. But for many the politics has just got old really quickly. All they want from their movie and tv stars is entertainment. Yet the one industry that has the power to bring polarised communities together isn’t managing it. Nor does the entertainment media help.

The dumbest question on the movie red carpet in 2017 was one that was repeated the most, earnestly each time as if it was something unbelievably profound: what do you think will Trump voters make of your film?
Alexander Payne when asked it at the Venice film festival was one of the few who refused to be baited. He said he hoped that he made films for everybody. Unfortunately for him, his film Downsizing didn’t exactly please everybody but at least he recognised that his role is as a filmmaker not political campaigner. Similarly, while other stars have lost fans due to their relentless political tirades, Frances McDormand has been gaining them by being funny, entertaining and making it clear that her politics are her private business. But Payne and McDormand are rare. Too many stars and filmmakers take the media bait or can’t resist lecturing the world on the cause du jour when it isn’t the time and place to do so.

That is the issue. There is a time and place to make earnest speeches, to berate, to demand change, to highlight injustice. The Oscars podium isn’t it.

I’ve been lucky enough to go to the Oscars. It was a terrific experience. It was everything I’d imagined the Oscars to be; glamorous, fun, starry and an escape from the norm. The dresses were colourful and gorgeous. The jokes were funny. Everyone was out to party!
Was it frivolous, unreal and superficial. Yep. And it was all the more wonderful for that because I’d come to the event from conducting a 15 day case in the High court about a paedophile ring. So I know about the real world, thank you. And so do the millions who watch the Oscars on television around the world. The Oscars is their escape from the real world, as it was mine.

Yes, the Oscars has always been political to a degree; Marlon Brando sending a Native American woman to collect his Oscar for The Godfather, Michael Moore leading the charge against President Bush and the Iraq war, Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon highlighting Haiti and many more issues. But those were moments in a lengthy ceremony. The rest of the show remained light and fun. The atmosphere overall wasn’t somber, even funereal. In the last 3-4 years the politics has completely overshadowed the films and the film stars.

The Oscars now seems to be first about race, sexuality, political affiliation, hashtag movements with the actual work second.

The #oscarssowhite in 2016 campaign was the first year that I can remember when a cause dominated the coverage, pushing the films and actors in contention for the awards out of the limelight. But it has continued. Last year the subject was President Trump. This year it’s #metoo and #TimesUp.
Around Oscar time I get asked 3 main questions: which of the nominated films do I recommend? Who do I think will win? Who had the best dress?

The first suggests that being nominated/winning really does help a film’s box office. And since the Oscars is essentially an industry event at which the film business shows off its wares, that’s a good thing. The second shows that humans are a competitive lot at heart. It’s why we love sport. No one truly likes ‘participation prizes’. We want there to be a ‘best’ so we can endlessly argue about it for evermore afterwards.
And yes, the third question is every bit as legitimate as the first two. Hollywood is the epitome of glamour. Fashion is big business that employs many people. The Oscars brings the two together on a world stage. And yes, women get asked about their dresses because it’s what many people tune in to see. The men’s tuxedos are the same each year. They aren’t the draw.
Funnily, the questions that don’t crop up are ‘what does Chris Hemsworth think about Brexit’ or ‘ What are Rebel Wilson’s views on the fiscal crisis’.
Maybe, just maybe, people don’t really care.

As I write this, some media outlets are reporting that Jennifer Lawrence and Jodie Foster will present the best actress award this year instead of Casey Affleck. He withdrew recently from the tradition of the previous best actor winner presenting the new best actress winner with her gong, most likely, because he didn’t want or need the media coverage that would have dogged him in respect of allegations of sexual misconduct which were subject to an agreement between him and two women. None of the trio are legally allowed to speak publicly about the agreement. No one outside their respective close circles and legal advisers knows what the terms of the agreement were. Affleck could have agreed terms because he’s guilty as hell and didn’t want a court trial to prove it. The women could have been lying through their teeth and didn’t want a court trial to prove it.

Or, you know, the truth could lie somewhere in the middle. As it often does. Point is, we will never know.

That, of course didn’t stop hysterical speculation last year on social media of what Casey Affleck was ‘definitely, absolutely, 100% guilty of” – because – wait for it- he always plays creepy guys on screen! And it wouldn’t have stopped it this year, specially in the wake of #metoo. So Affleck stepped aside.

If it’s true that Lawrence and Foster will replace him, has the Academy really thought it through? What’s the message here:

That it takes two women to replace one man?

That there are no men left in Hollywood who can even safely present a woman with an award?

That only women can present an award to a woman because gender segregation is where we’re at in 2018??!!

See, this is what happens when you add politics to the mix. You may think you’re doing something right but it can come out all wrong.

On Oscar night on Sunday, armed police and security guards will protect stars who will go on stage and speak passionately against guns. Actresses who cheered and gave standing ovations to convicted child rapist Roman Polanski will now speak passionately against sexual predators. The list is endless of hypocrisies Hollywood can be called out for, so the wise thing to do might be to leave politics outside the door and, you know, entertain on the biggest night of the glamour industry.

However, I’m not betting on it.

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