Best picture ‘1917’ is big winner at British Academy Awards

Jill Lawless

LONDON (AP) — Gut-wrenching World War I epic 1917 was the big winner at last Sunday’s British Academy Film Awards (BAFTA), winning seven prizes including Best Picture and Best Director.

Sam Mendes’ drama about one of the most devastating conflicts in British history bested hotly tipped American contenders including Joker, The Irishman and Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood at a glitzy London event that was overshadowed by criticism of the nominees’ lack of diversity — even from some of the nominees themselves.

Director Mendes based 1917 on his grandfather’s wartime experiences.

Shot in sinuous long takes that immerse viewers in the action, it follows two British soldiers on a perilous mission across No Man’s Land to try to avert a suicidal offensive.

1917 was also named best British film and won the cinematography prize — Roger Deakins’ fifth win in that category. It also took trophies for production design, sound and visual effects.

ABOVE & BELOW: Britain’s Prince William and Kate, Duchess of Cambridge arrive at the Royal Albert Hall in London for the BAFTA Film Awards; and Callum McDougall, Charles Chapman, George Mackay, Jayne-Ann Tenggren, Sam Mendes, Pippa Harris, Krysty Wilson-Cairns, Mark Strong and Andrew Scott, winners of Best Film for ‘1917’ at the Bafta Film Awards. PHOTOS: AP/ AFP

ABOVE & BELOW: British actor Micheal Ward poses with the Rising Star Award with citation reader British actor Daniel Kaluuya at the BAFTA British Academy Film Awards at the Royal Albert Hall; British filmmaker Mark Jenkin, British producer Linn Waite and British actress and producer Kate Byers pose with the awards for an Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer for their work on the film ‘Bait’; Actress Renee Zellweger poses with her award for Best Actress for ‘Judy’; and British Actor Andy Serkis poses with the award for Outstanding Contribution to British Film at the BAFTA British Academy Film Awards

Joaquin Phoenix was named Best Actor for superhero story Joker, which charts the origins of Batman’s ginning nemesis. Renee Zellweger won the Best Actress prize for the Judy Garland biopic Judy.

Joker took three awards — Best Actor, Casting and Score — from 11 nominations. Martin Scorsese’s mob drama The Irishman had 10 nominations but went home empty-handed.

Victory at the British awards, known as BAFTAs, is often a good predictor of success at Hollywood’s Academy Awards, being held this year on February 9. Like the Oscars, the British awards have struggled to become less male and white.

No women were nominated as best director for the seventh year running, and all 20 nominees in the lead and supporting performer categories were white.

Phoenix slammed the lack of diversity in his acceptance speech, saying it sent “a very clear message to people of colour that ‘You’re not welcome here’”.

Awards organisers called it “disappointing” that there were no performers of colour among the acting nominees, who are chosen by 6,500 academy members who work in the United Kingdom (UK) and international film industry. The Rising Star Award – the one trophy decided by the public – went to black British actor Micheal Ward.

British star Cynthia Erivo, who is Oscar-nominated for her performance as abolitionist Harriet Tubman in Harriet but was snubbed by Britain’s Academy, declined an invitation to perform at last Sunday’s award ceremony in protest.

The British Academy has promised to review its voting procedures.

BAFTA chairwoman Pippa Harris said the problem was “an industry-wide issue”.

“It takes everyone to look at what they’re doing,” she said. “Awards are right at the end of a whole process, and so we need to look at the types of films being made, the opportunities that people are getting, how the films are being promoted. All of these things play a part.”

Scarlett Johansson, a Best Actress nominee for Marriage Story, said the lack of recognition for female directors was disappointing.

“So many women made great films this year,” she said. “And I think it just goes to show you that there is a systemic problem that is very prevalent.”

Hours before the event and several miles away, three people were wounded and a knifeman shot dead by police in what police called a terrorism-related attack.

The BBC cancelled plans to broadcast interviews from the red carpet on its news channel as a result.

Brad Pitt was named Best Supporting Actor for Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood, Quentin Tarantino’s fairy tale of 1960s Los Angeles. He didn’t attend, but sent a jokey acceptance speech, read out by his co-star Margot Robbie.

“Hey Britain – heard you just became single. Welcome to the club,” he said — one of several references during the ceremony to the UK’s exit from the European Union (EU), which became official last Friday.

Pitt also referenced recent tumult in Britain’s royal family, saying he was going to name the trophy Harry, “because he’s really excited about bringing it back to the States with him”.

Laura Dern was named best supporting actress for playing a take-no-prisoners divorce lawyer in Marriage Story. She noted that her mother, Dianne Ladd, had won the exact same prize in 1975, when Dern was six, for Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore.

Bong Joon-ho’s Korean-language drama Parasite was named best foreign-language film and also took the prize for best original screenplay. Organisers set out to make the awards ceremony carbon neutral for the first time. The red carpet was made from recycled fibres. Instead of the goody bags of past years, guests received a “gifting wallet” made from recycled plastic and containing vouchers. The post-awards dinner featured sustainably sourced food, including a vegan option.

Stars walking the red carpet were encouraged to make “sustainable” fashion choices by wearing an outfit they already owned or renting one for the occasion.

Prince William — the British Academy’s president — and his wife Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, were the guests of honour at last Sunday’s ceremony. William presented a BAFTA Fellowship, the academy’s top honour, to Lucasfilm boss Kathleen Kennedy.

The Lord of the Rings and Planet of the Apes star Andy Serkis – the maestro of motion-capture acting – was handed a prize for outstanding British contribution to cinema.

Falling two days after Britain left the EU, the evening couldn’t avoid the subject of Brexit.

“We know it’s been a hard week for you guys and it’s very nice to take a little bit of your gold, back home – where it belongs,” joked New Zealand director Taika Waititi as he collected the best adapted screenplay prize for Jojo Rabbit.

WINNERS OF THE 2020 BRITISH ACADEMY FILM AWARDS

Winners of the 2020 British Academy Film Awards, presented last Sunday:

Film 1917

British Film1917

Director – Sam Mendes, 1917

Actor – Joaquin Phoenix, Joker

Actress – Renee Zellweger, Judy

Supporting Actor – Brad Pitt, Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood

Supporting Actress – Laura Dern, Marriage Story

Rising Star – Micheal Ward

British Debut – Writer/Director Mark Jenkin, producers Kate Byers and Linn Waite, Bait

Cinematography – Roger Deakins, 1917

Original Screenplay Parasite

Adapted ScreenplayJojo Rabbit

Film Not in the English LanguageParasite

Original Score – Hildur Guðnadóttir, Joker

Editing Le Mans ‘66

Production Design 1917

Casting Joker

Costume Design Little Women

Sound 1917

Visual Effects1917

Makeup and Hair Bombshell

Animated Film Klaus

British Short Film Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone (If You’re a Girl)

British Short Animation Grandad Was a Romantic

Outstanding British Contribution to Cinema – Andy Serkis