Everyone thought they knew who would win this year’s Bafta film awards. Atonement was supposed to sweep the board. Julie Christie was the best actress favourite for Away From Her and Control was considered a certainty to nab the Alexander Korda award for best British film.
Bafta’s members had very different ideas and there were enough surprise winners this year to underline the independent mind of a membership unimpressed by easy sentiment or blind patriotism. Bafta winners have the comfort of knowing their work was judged on merit and awarded in admiration.
The Bafta nominations were notable for the absence of some of the most critically admired, high-profile American releases of the past year including Sweeney Todd, The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford, Into The Wild and Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead.
The Bafta winners come from a diverse range of productions. Barnstorming Edith Piaf biopic La Vie En Rose won the most awards of the evening, which may well be the first time that a foreign-language film could claim such an honour. However, it is one of the year’s ironies that its four wins did not include best foreign-language film. Atonement’s meagre score of two wins from 14 nominations leaves the equally ironic impression that Bafta voters may have chosen it as the year’s best film but they did not consider it the best written, best photographed, best edited, best acted or best directed. There is also the ongoing anomaly of the year’s best film being British but not being judged the year’s best British film. Last year, The Queen was voted best film and the Korda for best British film went to The Last King Of Scotland. The situation was repeated this year with a much-deserved Korda award going to Shane Meadows for This Is England, a first for the British writer-director after two previous Korda nominations for Twenty Four Seven (1997) and Dead Man’s Shoes (2004).
The writers strike in America and the diminished Golden Globes ceremony had placed some pressure on Bafta to up the glamour stakes and produce a star-studded, show-stopper of an evening. Despite a smattering of significant absentees from among the nominees, including George Clooney, Cate Blanchett and Rising Star winner Shia LaBeouf, the star quotient was high with presenters ranging from Sylvester Stallone to Harvey Keitel, Kevin Spacey, Jeff Goldblum, Eva Green and Kate Hudson. Unlike 2007, all the major winners were present including Marion Cotillard, Daniel Day-Lewis, Javier Bardem and Tilda Swinton, who probably deserved an extra award for the most eye-catching dress of the evening.
The weather was kind, the Royal Opera House is an amazing venue - despite the sound glitches - and UK television personality Jonathan Ross seemed much more comfortable in his second stint as Bafta host. Bafta has to be happy with the diversity of the winners and the success of the evening. It almost seems insulting to still be judging the Baftas as a stepping stone on the road to the Oscars; it is clearly a world class event in its own right.
But Cotillard’s best actress win and the strong showing for La Vie En Rose do suggest that Julie Christie is not such a sure thing for the Oscars and that the French selection committee must have regrets they did not choose it as their national Oscar candidate.
Atonement (Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Paul Webster)
Best British film
This Is England (Mark Herbert, Shane Meadow)
The Carl Foreman award for special achievement by a British director, writer or producer in their first feature film
Matt Greenhalgh (writer) Control
No Country For Old Men (Joel Coen, Ethan Coen)
Juno (Diablo Cody)
The Diving Bell And The Butterfly (Ronald Harwood)
Film not in the English language
The Lives Of Others (Quirin Berg, Max Wiedemann, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck)
Ratatouille (Brad Bird)
Daniel Day-Lewis (There Will Be Blood)
Marion Cotillard (La Vie En Rose)Supporting actor
Javier Bardem (No Country For Old Men)
Tilda Swinton (Michael Clayton)
La Vie En Rose (Christopher Gunning)
No Country For Old Men (Roger Deakins)
The Bourne Ultimatum (Christopher Rouse)
Atonement (Sarah Greenwood, Katie Spencer)
La Vie En Rose (Marit Allen)
The Bourne Ultimatum (Francis, Scott Millan, David Parker, Karen Baker Landers, Per Hallberg)
Special visual effects
The Golden Compass (Michael Fink, Bill Westenhofer, Ben Morris, Trevor Wood)
Make up and hair
La Vie En Rose (Jan Archibald, Didier Lavergne)
The Pearce Sisters (Jo Allen, Luis Cook)
Dog Altogether (Diarmid Scrimshaw, Paddy Considine)
The Orange rising star award
Outstanding British contribution To cinema
Barry Wilkinson (property master)