By Evelyn Heis, Film & TV Editor
This Sunday evening marked the 76th annual British Academy Film Awards, better known as the BAFTAs, which were held in London’s Royal Festive Hall. Alongside the River Thames, the hall itself, though lavish in its own right, was gleaming with the best directors, actors and creatives of our time. From Michelle Yeoh, Brendan Fraser, and Cate Blanchett, among many other greats, the red carpet welcomed these extraordinary stars in their finest attire.
In just a few weeks, the 95th Academy Awards (aka. The Oscars) will be taking place, so it’s safe to assume that the tension within the industry is pretty high. We’re certainly not in Kansas anymore and have officially entered prestigious award season, and the British Academy Film Awards tonight indeed proved to be rewarding.
For those of you who have better ways of spending your Sundays and missed the Awards ceremony-- unlike me, who anxiously sat through the whole live stream-- worry not because Epigram Film & TV have you covered.
I am honoured to present you with a breakdown of the 76th British Film Academy Awards.
The BAFTAs are a prestigious annual award show to honour the best British and international contributions to film and the industry. Celebrating tremendous talent across various categories, from Best Original Screenplay, Outstanding British Film, and Non-English Language Film to Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer, Rising Star and Best British Short Film, this award show is more significant than the Platty Jubes.
Hosted by the people’s princess, Alison Hammond, and “fashion icon” Richard E. Grant, the 76th BAFTAs ceremony had a vibrant air, propounded by our lively hosts and echoed by the audience’s incessant laughter throughout: “I’m sorry that it took me so long to get on stage. But what could be more British than a delayed train?”
Within the room’s high spirits, however, there was still room to commemorate the late Robbie Coltrane, Olivia Newton-John, William Hurt, and Anne Hetch with an In Memoriam tribute, showing clips of the stars’ best performances, which was incredibly moving.
If I had placed any bets on who I thought would win these awards, I would be seriously indebted. Not that it’s a bad thing, but I was pleasantly surprised- for the most part- with some of tonight’s winners.
For the Best Film Category, Edward Berger’s All Quiet on the Western Front took the big win, along with SEVEN other awards over the course of the night, including Best Director, Cinematography, Adapted Screenplay and Film Not in the English Language.
The whole cast made their way to the stage and huddled together as Berger delivered his acceptance speech: “First and foremost, I want to thank our fantastic leading actor Felix Kammerer. He had his on screen debut in our film. And without your performance, we would not have had a single nomination. Thank you.”
“I would like to thank BAFTA for honouring us with this amazing prize, especially chosen among all these fantastic fellow filmmakers and nominees. It’s truly an honour, and it makes us very, very proud.”
The nominations for Best Film included Everything, Everywhere, All At Once, The Banshees of Inisherin, Elvis, and Tár.
Anyone who has seen Cate Blanchett in Tár will agree with me when I say that she was truly sensational. The same can be said for tonight, as she gave a heartfelt speech while receiving the Award for Best Leading Actress.
“Thank you so much to BAFTA. This is extraordinary. I, likewise, didn’t prepare anything because it’s been such an extraordinary year for women. I mean, as you’ve seen in those clips, all of my fellow nominees, the conversation with all of you, off the screen and on the screen, has been nothing short of remarkable. And we know that we’re just the tip of the iceberg."
"Every year, these idiosyncratic, remarkable performances just break down the myth that women’s experience is monolithic. Thank you to BAFTA for recognising all of us. We sit in dialogue with one another.”
Viola Davis, for her performance in The Woman King, Ana de Armas. for Blonde and Michelle Yeoh for Everything, Everywhere All At Once, were some of the other female nominees alongside Blanchett.
After the internet has been making fun of his four-year-long (and counting) Southern accent, conspiring whether it’s real or merely a bit, Austin Butler received his first award of the year for his performance as Elvis Presley in Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis.
Taking home the Award for Best Leading Actor, Butler thanked the entire cast and crew, Lurhmann, and his family, before ending his speech with a heartfelt mention to the Presleys.
“And lastly, I want to thank the Presley family. I cannot thank you guys enough for your love and for sharing with me who Elvis truly was. I hope I’ve made you proud. This means the world to me. Thank you all so much.”
Elvis also took home awards for Best Costume Design, won by Catherine Martin, Make-Up and Hair, and Casting.
Other nominees included Colin Farrell for The Banshees of Inisherin, Brendan Fraser for The Whale and Paul Mescal for Aftersun.
In honour of the British Academy Awards being a British ceremony, there are indeed Awards reserved solely for British cinematic talent. The recipient of this year’s Outstanding British Film Award, however, surprised many.
The Banshees of Inisherin took home the 2023 Outstanding British Film Award despite being a tragicomedy that is set on the West coast of Ireland amidst the Irish Civil War. Starring the Irish Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, and Kerry Condon, The Banshees of Inisherin is the latest addition to Irish cinema at the hands of the British-Irish director Martin McDonagh.
Extremely overjoyed to have received this award, Mc Donagh addressed the elephant in the room when he accepted the trophy: “Thank you, BAFTA, for this British Film Award. I know every Irish person in the cast and crew are kind of going, ‘British What Award?’”
McDonagh proceeded to express his gratitude to the cast and crew while poking fun at the situation by listing some of the British members involved in the project.
“And finally, thanks to Rosie, our stand-in donkey, who’s British. Yes, she is she’s from Stoke-on-Trent. She never actually made it on screen. She was a bit too tubby. But Jenny loved her, and we couldn’t have made the film without her. So, thanks to Rosie and thanks to BAFTA.”
The Banshees of Inisherin also won the Best Original Screenplay Award, and Kerry Condon was awarded Best Supporting Actress for her brilliant and hilarious performance as the film’s voice of reason.
“Thank you for this part, Martin. Thank you for all the parts that you’ve given me throughout my career. They make me so proud to be an Irish woman.”
Unlike other award shows, the BAFTAs don’t just focus on critically acclaimed actors within the industry; indeed, they also highlight and celebrate up-and-coming talent.
This year, the EE Rising Star nominees included Sex Education (2019-), and Living (2022)’s supporting actress Aimee Lou Wood, alongside her Sex Education co-star Emma Mackey, who recently played Emily Bronte in the latest biopic Emily (2022); Good Luck to You Leo Grande’s (2022) lead, Daryl McCormack, Naomi Ackie from the latest Whitney Houston biopic, and The Woman King’s (2022) supporting actress, Sheila Atim.
Taking home the award, however, was public-voted and favourite Emma Mackey, who shared a teary and heartfelt hug with her co-star Aimee Lou Wood and accepted the BAFTA award with tremendous gratitude.
Also receiving an award for their budding talent was Charlotte Wells for her directorial debut, Aftersun, starring Paul Mescal and Frankie Corio, as she received the Oustanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer Award.
To conclude, All Quiet on the Western Front cleaned out the BAFTAs by dominating over seven categories. The Banshees of Inisherin and Elvis came head to head as they both took home four awards, beating the likes of The Whale, The Woman King, and Everything Everywhere All At Once.
Notably, the only award that Everything Everywhere All At Once received was for Editing, while Avatar: The Way of Water won Visual Effects, and Babylon picked up the Production Design Award.
While I was under the impression that Everything Everywhere All At Once would be sure to nab nearly all of the awards, I admit that I was still pleasantly surprised with all of tonight’s award recipients- although I wish Viola Davis would have gotten some recognition, especially since she was snubbed from an Academy Award nomination for The Woman King.
I now eagerly await the Oscars, as things have proven to be less predictable than I envisioned. My only hope is that Ke Huy Quan, Brendan Fraser and Michelle Yeoh get the recognition they deserve! Hopefully, time will tell.
Featured Image: Courtesy of Marc Hoberman/BAFTA
To catch up on last night’s BAFTA Awards, you can access the full ceremony on BBC iPlayer.