As I have written previously, the British Film Academy rescheduled its award ceremony a few years back so that it wouldn't seem to be an anticlimax after the Oscar ceremonies and in the attempt to give greater prominence to British films and British taste. The truth of the matter is that it remains a pretty parochial affair, despite valiant attempts to make it an international sparkling occasion.
Apart from a number of purely local awards such as outstanding British film, outstanding contribution to British cinema, outstanding debut by a British writer or producer or director, and a Fellowship award given to one of the grand old-timers of the British scene, the nominees pay lip service to some of the international favourites, but also feature an eclectic group of British performers who have been ignored elsewhere (not that these usually win anything). The producers then try to add to the "glamour" of the occasion by roping in presenters who are absolutely nothing to do with British cinema or the most recent film year. This year's included Matt Dillon, Dustin Hoffman, Uma Thurman, and an unbelievably laid-back and slightly incoherent Mickey Rourke.
Other American "celebrities" in the audience tend to be the lesser nominees, and few non-British actors bother to turn out for the ceremony unless they are pretty certain to be among the winners. If either George Clooney or Meryl Streep were in the audience, they might as well have been invisible. Furthermore I don't know that the BAFTAs can be taken as serious indicators of the Oscar results. Several unstoppable juggernauts like "Up" for best animated film, and Christoph Waltz and Mo'Nique as shoo-ins for best supporting awards appear to repeat themselves at every ceremony, although I would like to have Maggie Gyllenhaal see off Mo'Nique at the Oscars. However the British bias which awarded Colin Firth best actor and Carey Mulligan best actress (also awarded as best British breakout performance, although the highly-nominated "An Education" won no other awards) are unlikely to be repeated at the Oscars, despite nominations for both of them. If you ask me, Sandra Bullock (who was not even nominated here) will walk away with the best actress Oscar on a wave of populist emotion and Jeff Bridges will get his long overdue and well-deserved recognition; he was indeed among the nominees yesterday, but since his film has only just reached these shores, I doubt that many of the British voters have seen it.
There is only one award voted for by the great British public and that is the so-called 'rising star' award which the British Academy would probably have liked to have gone to one of the several British nominees, but the surprise winner was Kristen Stewart, voted in by the legions of "Twilight" fans out there.
The biggest winner overall was "The Hurt Locker" which won six of the eight categories for which it was nominated, including best director for Kathryn Bigelow. This was at the expense of only two technical awards for "Avatar", much to James Cameron's evident disappointment. I would be a little surprised to see this pattern repeared at the Oscars since commercial success does weigh heavily amongst the Academy voters, but it sure would be nice if it did, especially for the talented and rather self-effacing Bigelow who would become the first female best director winner.
What else? I'm not too bothered about the winners for costume design or make-up or even music, but I do hope "A Prophet" does not repeat its win for best foreign-language film, since I truly believe that "The White Ribbon" is the superior movie; however I have a horrible feeling that one of the outside nominees like the jointly-directed Israeli/Arab effort will take the glory.
Finally a few words about this year's Fellowship winner, Vanessa Redgrave. Her acceptance speech had its 'senior moments' where she seemed to lose the thread of what she was saying, but her whole demeanour was so graceful that hers was a truly popular win for the home audience.