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Sunday, February 13, 2005

BAFTA Madness

All movie awards shows are infected with a certain kind of madness. I'm not talking about the kind inflicted by massive drug use, egomania, or the other usual afflictions of those in celebrity business. Think about it, these performers, directors, writers, cinematographers, gaffers, etc. spend anywhere from 3 months to a year and a half working on a film (except for Owen Wilson, who has only 2 weeks to complete each shoot so that he can get onto his next picture and break the world record for most appearances, currently held by Johnny Depp). At the end of this long work, they quite naturally look upon the finished product as having some kind of special grandeur and magic, be it The Aviator or Son-in-Law. Obviously in the vast majority of cases they are completely off their bean, and might as well be on rock cocaine for all the judgement they've displayed.

For example, Mike Leigh said of his film Vera Drake, "It's an immense privilege to have been allowed the freedom to make as uncompromising a film as I think we've made, and to make such an epic film with such a small budget." (Italics mine) Epic film on a small budget? I think that's exactly what Phil Tucker had in mind when he created Robot Monster (in glorious 2-D!!), and can't you imagine Ed Wood describing his bargain basement work, Plan 9 From Outer Space, as "epic". "That scene where the paper plate flying saucers burst into flame...it made me think of the burning of Atlanta in Gone with the Wind!" The normal translation is, "Hey, this turned out pretty well, considering someone financed it on credit cards." Although, to the modern studio director, a low-budget is simply one where they didn't get their usual seven-digit fee.

So while I'm sure Leigh's politically-saturated potboiler of a mid-twentieth century illegal abortionist is probably well-directed and acted (a best actress award for Imelda Staunton, in fact), pardon me if I withhold the term "epic" for films like Shichinin no samurai, Aguirre, der Zorn Gottes, The Passion of the Christ, and Lawrence of Arabia. Maybe Epic Records handled the soundtrack for the film? That's as close as they'd get.

Several awards were handed out last night, most of which even movie buffs will have forgotten by this time next month, as we all gather to hammer the Motion Picture Academy of America for their usual insufferable shortsightedness and insularity, and to see what monstrousity Lindsey Lohan will wear to the show. Some awards and events of note last night, however:

  • The best foriegn-language film went to The Motorcycle Diaries, a remake of The Wild One, only with Che Guevara offered in the Marlon Brando role, in an attempt to include far more gratuitous violence that the original. The award was presented to Mr. Guevara himself, who was located and dug up for the occasion. He had few remarks however, being quite dead.
  • Mike Leigh won the best director award, causing the frequently overlooked Martin Scorsese to mutter something about finding an abortion-related screenplay as soon as possible, so he could "finally win a frickin' best director award".
  • Scorsese's film, The Aviator, did win best picture, breaking the otherwise expected Citizen Kane curse, which states that no film about an eccentric billionaire shall be allowed to win a major award in an English-speaking country. This bad omen was balanced by the fact that the film contained a characterization of Katherine Hepburn, who has won more awards than any living human being after John Williams.
  • Finally, the Orange Award, for best British film as decided by the public - which is a bit like winning Miss Congeniality at the Miss America pageant, went to Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Askaban (which was voted by our writers as the most likely movie to up our readership if we included it in a post). Producer David Heyman and the charming lead actress Emma Watson accepted the award and thanked the millions of people who voted for the film, most of whom weren't even aware of the existence of Scorsese's and Leigh's films, and have probably forgotten all about them since last night.

Of course the Grammys are next. The BAFTAs will seem like the Nobels and Pulitzers compared to that.


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