It was over almost as fast as it begun. Host Stephen Fry wasted little time on 16th February as he proceeded to keep the cheesy jokes brief and the awards rolling steadily throughout the televised broadcast. A lot of hype surrounded the big contenders of Gravity, 12 Years A Slave and American Hustle, as we waited to see who would emerge victorious. A few surprises arised and one can debate who actually came out on top in a classic quality versus quantity debate.
Steamrolling in sheer terms of numbers was Gravity as it walked away with 6 of the slightly creepy statues for Outstanding British Film, Best Director, Best Cinematography, Best Music, Best Sound and Best Visual Effects. Clearly in the lead, the praise being lavished on the space thriller is for its technical achievements and, for that, it is thoroughly deserving. A visual and aural masterpiece, the film is a sensory treat and grabbing both directing and cinematography awards shows it was equally strong on the creative side as it was the technical.
By comparison, 12 Years A Slave walked away with but a modest 2 awards. Yet it can be argued these were among the most prestigious. Bagging Best Film and Best Actor for Chiwetel Ejiofor’s outstanding portrayal of Solomon Northup, the film is clearly no loser here. Gravity can claim honours for the best of British film, but the Best Film category itself was a strong showing for British cinema and 12 Years A Slave heralds Steve McQueen at its helm as one the UK’s rapidly growing stars. In this instance, it is fair to say both can be called successes and the British film industry can be proud.
Elsewhere, Best Actress went to Cate Blanchett for her lead in Blue Jasmine, fending off favourites Sandra Bullock and Amy Adams for Gravity and American Hustle respectively, as well as British stalwarts Judi Dench and Emma Thompson. This slight surprise was topped possibly only by Best Supporting Actor honours going to Barkhad Abdi for his antagonist role in Captain Philips, the announcement of which saw Tom Hanks visibly over the moon for his colleague and an emotional response throughout the room. Defeating Daniel Bruhl (Rush), Bradley Cooper (American Hustle), Matt Damon (Behind The Candelabra) and hotly tipped favourite Michael Fassbender (12 Years A Slave) is truly an outstanding achievement in itself.
Another surprise, personally speaking, was the relatively quiet ceremony had by American Hustle. On another day, it probably would have cakewalked the ceremony, but in the face of outstanding competition this year it left with a respectable 3 awards in Best Supporting Actress (Jennifer Lawrence), Best Original Screenplay and Best Make-up and Hair. And whilst the film featured a strong effort in the production department, it was nonetheless beaten to Best Costume Design and Best Production Design by The Great Gatsby to those who can think far enough back to remember that.
Overall, there are 3 take-home messages from BAFTA 2014. Firstly, the British film industry is in rude health. Secondly, with the Oscars only days away now, do we have an indication for who will be beating it out for top honours on the biggest stage of them all? No doubt Gravity stole a lot of limelight at the BAFTAs, but will American audiences sway in another direction? Will British film continue this success story? Will Leonardo DiCaprio EVER get his Oscar? The competition will also be blown apart by additional names such as Dallas Buyers Club and Her.
Third and finally, we can rest assured that Despicable Me 2 has another shot for animated film glory after losing to Frozen in what I would personally call “the biggest outrage of BAFTA 2014”.