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5 good things that happened at the 2020 BAFTAs

Including red carpet lewks, Joaquin Phoenix calling out systemic racism and Top Boy's Micheal Ward winning prizes!

by Douglas Greenwood
03 February 2020, 2:11pm

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Another weekend, another glitzy Hollywood awards ceremony! Yup, last night the BAFTAs swung around, meaning the finish line (that’s the Oscars) is finally in sight. It was a big night for the films we had expected to do well with little room for curveball choices. WW1 epic 1917 took home seven prizes including Best Film, Best Director and Best British Film, the divisive comic book flick Joker nabbed three, while Parasite, directed by our king Bong Joon-Ho, went home with two.

In the acting categories, what were once predictions now seem to be inevitabilities. The same four performers, Joaquin Phoenix (Joker), Renee Zelwegger (Judy), Laura Dern (Marriage Story) and Brad Pitt (Once Upon A Time... in Hollywood) have won their respective Critics Choice Award, SAG Award, Golden Globe and BAFTA, meaning their victory at the Oscars is now pretty much a lock-in.
So, in a night that felt like every other night in the awards season calendar so far (fatiguing, familiar, all too white and male-led), what good things happened at the 2020 BAFTA ceremony?

The speeches!

The awards presenters’ segues – penned by the show writers – might’ve been excruciating at times, but there was some light relief on the night in the form of two on-stage speeches in particular. Steering clear of the overly fawning thank yous, Once Upon A Time… in Hollywood star Brad Pitt – who was in absentia and asked co-star Margot Robbie to collect his Best Supporting Actor prize – sent over a speech that managed to make digs at both the Brits and himself. “Hey Britain, heard you just became single,” Margot read off a folded sheet of paper, to swathes of laughter from the crowd, adding: “Welcome to the club. Wishing you the best with the divorce settlement”. He also sent over a joke alluding to Meghan Markle and Harry leaving London to become financially independent in America: “He says he is going to name this [award] Harry because he is really excited about bringing it back to the States with him,” Margot said. “His words, not mine!”

Later, Rebel Wilson took to the stage and delivered a speech that addressed the “snub” of Cats, and her sarcastic response to the all-male nominees for Best Director. I think we may stan?

The fashion!

Because BAFTA comes so late into awards season and so close ti the Oscars, most stars' outfits are usually a little more low-key to offset the dazzling nature of whatever they’re about to unveil on the more vibrant, LA red carpet. Last night, however, a few actors slipped through the cracks with their style. Despite a widespread call to arms from BAFTA for stars to recycle old outfits or wear vintage, most stars rocked up in custom or couture. Rooney Mara, a monochrome queen, wore Givenchy couture. Jodie Turner-Smith, model and star of Queen and Slim, looked iconique in a custom bumblebee yellow Gucci gown. Zoe Kravitz in Saint Laurent? Jaw-dropping. A vision.

Joaquin Phoenix!

Throughout the night, several stars, including the show’s presenter Graham Norton, had a go at addressing the widespread whitewashing and male-dominated line-up of nominees, often trying to stick the knife in with a lick of humour. But it was Joaquin Phoenix, who won for his performance as a psychotic loner in Joker, that delivered the most sobering speech on the matter. It forced the predominantly white audience to address their own complicity in an industry plagued with systemic racism, and provided the biggest talking point of the night.

Micheal Ward!

While the big four acting categories were dominated by white stars, the Rising Star award featured a more diverse line-up. Alongside Jack Lowden and Booksmart’s Kaitlyn Dever, Waves’ Kelvin Harrison Jr, Awkwafina and Top Boy’s Micheal Ward were all nominated for the audience-decided prize. In the end, it was the underdog Micheal Ward who took home the prize. He delivered a genuinely heartfelt speech, praising his mother in the audience and his late father. In a year plagued by predictability, Micheal’s win injected it with fresh energy.

For Sama! And Bait!

Micheal wasn’t the only unexpected winner on the night. BAFTA have, in the past, been known for championing smaller films that get overlooked elsewhere, but this year the underdog spirit was a little more scarce. Joanna Hogg’s The Souvenir, which should have earned a handful of nominations, was sorely overlooked. In its place, though, was a pair of films that took home prizes they deserved. For Sama, Waad Al-Kateab’s journey through love and conflict inside ISIS-ruled Syria, took home the Best Documentary prize -- one of the few non-technical prizes awarded to a woman. There was also the sweet victory for Bait, a low-budget but brilliantly shot film about gentrification and community set in a fishing village. Its creator, Mark Jenkins, won the prize for Best Outstanding Debut for a British Director, Writer or Producer.

Check back this time next week for some Oscars coverage, which will probably look incredibly similar to this!

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