There was something off about last night’s BAFTAs 2018. It wasn’t the award winners, who delivered great speeches and often acknowledged the tumultuous political climate and changing gender dynamic of Hollywood today. It also wasn’t Joanna Lumley, who proved to be a perfectly decent and enthusiastic host, despite grappling with an autocue that seemed to constantly feed her nonsense and platitudes rather than incisive quips.
The problem, it seems, is the way the BBC treats the BAFTAs. For years, there has been an infuriating discrepancy between the ceremony itself and its transmission on television, which means everyone with a Twitter account already knows who has won by the time the television show gets moving. It’s almost as if the BAFTAs are just an inconvenience for them at this point and that’s something that carries through to the ceremony. In the most British way imaginable, the BAFTAs 2018 reflected something that’s traditional enough that we know we should do it, but have lost sight of why.
Over on the awards side of things, though, the winners were a selection of very good films. The corrosive, potent drama Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri scooped five awards, including Best Film and Best British Film – continuing the tradition of Stateside interlopers nicking that prize after Gravity did so a few years ago. The other main Best Picture frontrunner, The Shape of Water, left with three awards including Best Director for Guillermo del Toro.
There was an air of predictability to these prizes. Indeed, they were even more predictable than I had predicted earlier in the day. I saw the BAFTAs as an opportunity to reward Christopher Nolan and the enormous homegrown achievement of Dunkirk, which managed only one award, for Best Sound. This year’s BAFTAs ceremony seemed completely disinclined to reward the British, avoiding it at every turn. In that regard, the rousing victory for Daniel Kaluuya in the audience-voted EE Rising Star category was a real bright spot for the evening, along with the celebration of Ridley Scott, who won the Fellowship Award.
It is not the role of BAFTA to simply mimic the whims of the Academy, but rather to highlight the talent on this side of the pond. Three Billboards is a fantastic movie and one that deserves all of the awards attention it is receiving, but it was a little disappointing to see it winning so many gongs at a ceremony that didn’t find room to honour Dunkirk or, most unforgivably, Paddington 2. Given the critical adoration and box office love for that movie, it’s stunning that BAFTA didn’t see fit to reward it. The divisive response to Sam Rockwell‘s work in Three Billboards seemed to leave the door wide open for a richly deserved Hugh Grant victory, but this BAFTAs ceremony wasn’t willing to twist in that direction.
The problem with the BAFTAs 2018 comes down to presentation. Without the pomp and ceremony of the Oscars, there needs to be something special to inject the BAFTAs with energy. After more than 70 years, it feels as if the BAFTAs ceremony has simply become another cog in the awards season machine, when it should be something special that honours the best of the British movie industry in a similar way to Spain’s Goya Awards or the AACTAs in Australia. And, for goodness sake, just show it on TV live.
What did you think of the BAFTAs 2018? Would you have liked to see more representation for the Brits at the ceremony? Let me know in the comments section.