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BAFTAs 2023 Reaction



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 following day on Twitter. So, all in all, the Baftas did well.

Movie Marker 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.

The television ratings were up on recent years too, which must be a relief for Bafta. It’s also good for the film industry. Major broadcasts, like the Baftas, employ hundreds of people. They bring worldwide media attention to the films; they inspire aspiring filmmakers. All that would be lost if ratings drop because viewers aren’t entertained.

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

Although the broadcast didn’t start until 7 pm on BBC1, the actual proceedings began, at the Royal Festival Hall, early in the afternoon. Of course, the preparations at the venue had begun even earlier. It’s always impressive how quickly and efficiently those who build the red carpet canopy and stage work.

Red carpet 
The red carpet officially started at 3 pm, although the main stars didn’t start arriving until close to 5 pm. As ever, the carpet was a frantic 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 around 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 sang and danced energetically. The star-studded audience seemed 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, but those watching at home were less impressed. 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 Best Film winner, 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! 

All Quiet’s Edward Berger pipped the expected favourites to the post for his Best Director award, but I don’t see that repeated at the Oscars.

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’. I saw more people arguing over whether Austin Butler’s win meant the Oscar was now in his bag instead 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. Arguments between different fandoms on the internet and social media are part of the course during a competitive awards season. They are usually more organic and genuine than angry campaigns about identity politics if they are not too unpleasant.

Winners Press Room

Movie Marker was in the winner’s pressroom, where happy victors came backstage with their awards and chatted with the media.

Highlights included:

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

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

In the press room, he said that his dedication was to all kids anywhere who had those dreams. Many will now know of Keoghan’s 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 he was destined to mess up his life on paper, 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 briefly 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 cuddle him. “

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

Charlotte Wells (Best Debut) told me, in answer to my question whether winning a best newcomer award meant extra pressure for the next project, that Aftersun had come from ‘within’ and so would her next project. She said she would not work to outside forces or other people’s expectations, wryly quipping that people may not then like the next project as much.

Getting severe and semi-political with the team behind Navalny (Best Documentary )

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 Tár 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 he had considered giving it all up a few years ago. 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 the tears’ when speaking of her, this is incorrect. He was 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 the family had welcomed him.

Regarding 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 he is currently unemployed! Although this does mean he can go on vacation after March.

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