Anyway, back to the E...E awards, operating in treacle. Stultified by the sponsor name, everyone took an age to walk on to the stage. The men were trying to remember who they needed to take up with them and which woman to kiss (girlfriend or co-star?). The ladies were debating whether or not it was safe to leave their handbags on their seat and struggling to climb the stairs in their tight dresses and high heels. There were no E...E or Royal Opera House ushers to assist or hurry. Someone had had the foresight to keep Stephen Hawking's wheelchair stage right and step-free, but the Polish production crew of Ida, which won Best Film Not In The English Language, had been shoved at the back of the auditorium. (Although they didn't necessarily take the longest to get on stage.) It was so snail-like that the teenage stars of Boyhood were probably wondering if this was really what they had sacrificed their entire childhood for. Maybe everyone was just surprised that for once it wasn't raining outside.
Stephen Fry also seemed awkward. Probably because he has been too busy honeymooning with his young husband to practise his lines. His recent marriage was all he wanted to talk about. Personally I'd much rather have heard more of his excellent thoughts on God, but this possibly wasn't the setting for that. However, his links were still more lucid than the introductions of any of the award presenters. All these actors being feted for their supposedly excellent performances, yet none of them can read an autocue. The presenters only had two (fairly predictable) lines to say - could they not have learned them by heart so that their gushing could sound at least faintly authentic? David Beckham presented the award for Outstanding British Film like a five year old does phonics. But he is a footballer - he is allowed not to be able to read. But not an actor. It's a job requirement.
Unless you are in a Mike Leigh film, as he doesn't bother with scripts. Leigh received the Academy Fellowship this year, and actually bothered to turn up to receive it. I love his films, although haven't yet managed to see Mr Turner, which received four nominations but no awards this year. His improvised method of story-telling is so unique in cinema and, as Imelda Staunton (presenting the award) said, "organic". This reminded me of a play of Mike Leigh's I saw at the National Theatre many years ago, which was so "organic" that a live mouse appeared on set, thoroughly distracting the audience but not the cast discussing anti-Semitism on stage. I wish that the actors had noticed so they could have shown us their true ad-libbing skills. Mike Leigh was in the bar during the interval, but I didn't have the courage to ask him about it, fearing he might bite my head off. Or ask me something about Zionism.
I did see Mike Leigh's last film, Another Year, at the cinema. It was the second film I took my baby daughter to see at City Screen's Big Scream. This crazy notion of taking a babe-in-arms to a current film release in the cinema was a lifesaver for me during the first year of parenthood. It made me feel human again. Even if I missed half of every plot by crouching down on the floor changing nappies, or in later months chasing after my daughter determinedly crawling towards another baby's food. And even if the material being presented to her was utterly inappropriate - Lord Voldemort avada-kedavring, King George VI using the F-word, Aron Ralston cutting his own arm off. If my daughter had actually been conscious during Black Swan, she might not be so enthusiastic about her ballet lessons now. But at least I was familiar with most of that year's award nominees.
Whereas this year, things were pretty hopeless. Britain is usually so behind on film releases that Baftas are often to awarded to films not yet in our cinemas, but this year most of the nominees were already circulating. But I had only managed to see two of them, Wild and The Theory Of Everything. And that was only because our daughter was ill last weekend and my husband was kind enough to give me a pass out while he stayed at home to look after her. My husband and I used to go to the cinema at least twice a week, and had the time to read film reviews in the Sunday papers and London's Time Out magazine. But now seeing a film in the cinema is a rarity, especially together. Although the one film we saw together last year, '71, about a British soldier lost behind enemy lines in Belfast, did receive a mention, as its lead actor won the Rising Star Award.
|Hit or miss on the red carpet?|
I have never been to the Baftas of course, but that doesn't mean I am not under the illusion that I could get to go one day, when my screenplay for - well, that needs work - gets nominated. We used to think they ought to have subtitling awards ceremonies. "And the Bafta for best fast subtitle edit in a medical drama goes to Rebecca Dodgson for ER season five, episode four." "I must just thank the company's medical dictionary, which gave me the opportunity to use such fine spelling during the emergency thyroidectomy."
I have been to the Royal Opera House, the Baftas' venue of choice. My dad occasionally took me, not only to the very cheapest seats up in the gods, but at the very back of those gods too. But I can't really blame him, given the ticket prices. A better deal was to go to the Sunday afternoon recitals in the Floral Hall, where you were nearer the G&Ts in the bar and in spitting distance of the stage. There was no spitting of course, just lovely performances of the Trout Quartet or from Ian Bostridge.
And I did once stand behind Outstanding Debut By A British Actor, Writer Or Presenter award presenter Tom Hiddleston at an airport check-in. He wasn't so famous then. He was still flying Ryanair for one thing.
Slow and awkward the whole proceedings might have been, but away from the Baftas and the silly sponsor name, the two minds at the helm of the evening, Stephen Fry's and Stephen Hawking's, remain utterly brilliant. May intelligence always win the day.