BAFTA Film Awards: Ceremony Highlights & Lowlights – Deadline

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After a few years in limbo, the BAFTAs finally found a host to replace the much-missed Stephen Fry in David Tennant. The Doctor Who actor proved an amiable and funny emcee, although much of his humor would have gone way over the non-Brits in the audience, starting with a lengthy filmed skit riffing on his BBC TV series Staged, co-starring Michael Sheen. (You can watch it above.)

It was a night of surprises, not especially pleasant ones for the teams behind Barbie and Killers of the Flower Moon, and there were no egregious upsets. Neither were there any of the usual technical nightmares that have plagued the event in the past. 

Instead, there were lots of low-key but memorable moments, like Oppenheimer’s Robert Downey Jr., dressed in a gray tail suit to collect his Best Supporting Actor award recalling his life in 30 seconds (half it ran thus: “When I was 15, I wanted to be Peter O’Toole. When I was 25, I worked for Richard Attenborough with Anthony Hopkins. When I was 35, I finally understood why he thought Tony would be a better role model for me than Peter”). 

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Da’Vine Joy Randolph was similarly charming on accepting her Best Supporting Actress award, swooning over presenter Chiwetel Ejiofor and bringing her Holdovers co-star Paul Giamatti to tears when she told him, “I cry every time I see your name.” Equally emotional were June Givanni, receiving this year’s Outstanding Contribution award; Samantha Morton, whose BFI Fellowship was awarded after filmed testimony from Tom Cruise; and the whole audience, who went wild for Still’s Michael J. Fox who handed out the Best Film award to Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer.

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Wonka star Keegan-Michael Key, presenting, sustained a surprisingly funny attempt to pretend to be British, and, taking the first award of the night for Best Original Screenplay, husband and wife team Justine Triet and Arthur Harari joked that their murderous marital drama Anatomy of a Fall had taken on a life of its own (“I want this room to be my witness if anything happens to me,” said Harari). 

All night, speeches were crisp and clean, with only the teams behind The Zone of Interest and 20 Days in Mariupol bringing politics into the conversation, even after Tennant gave the go-ahead by mentioning the recent murder of Alexei Navalny, subject of last year’s Best Documentary winner.

The musical numbers left a lot to be desired. Sophie Ellis-Bextor performed her Saltburn showstopper “Murder on the Dancefloor,” which is more than a few rungs down from Shirley Bassey doing “Diamonds Are Forever” in 2022. Meanwhile, Hannah Waddingham doing a slowed-down version of Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time” wasn’t quite what the particularly touching obituary sequence (Michael Gambon, Glenda Jackson, and Tom Wilkinson hit especially hard in the UK) was crying out for. By far the worst of all, though, was a comedy routine by Nick Mohammed performing as a sweaty light entertainer called Mr. Swallow. We must never think or speak of it again.

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