Once again, we are in the midst of the annual awards season which began back in January with The Golden Globes. This week alone has seen two of the biggest nights in British entertainment; the Baftas on Sunday night followed by the Brits on Wednesday. Both completely different in their style and tone but proving once again that Britain can compete on the world stage up against American equivalents; The Oscars and Golden Globes. Slowly attracting attention from our overseas counterparts, British entertainment is arguably more potent than ever and our homegrown talent is in demand all around the world.
The cream of acting talent took to the Royal Albert Hall for the biggest night in the British cinema calendar. The switch in venue from the Royal Festival Hall on London’s Southbank made a refreshing surprise to proceedings and the extravagant new set added to the glamour of the event. This wasn’t the only major change to the show as long time master of ceremonies; Stephen Fry was replaced by the ever charming Joanna Lumley. In such times when the subject of gender is hot topic for political debate, Lumley perfectly presided over the show with just the right balance between warmth and humour which undoubtedly qualified her position as host. It may be one hundred years since the establishment of the suffragette movement which may have explained her booking, yet as a consummate professional Lumley totally demonstrated that she was definitely not a token appointment. In fact you could argue that she triumphed the evening and personally in my opinion she completely surpassed Fry’s presenting style.
Presenting a prestigious award ceremony is no mean feat for a performer. You are essentially in charge of the whole show and if something goes wrong it’s your job to get the show back on track. This is further complicated when you add a packed theatre of half cut celebrities who each are all highly unpredictable in their behaviour and what they say. You just hope that the people reading the nominations will just do that without using it as a platform to air their personal views on a plethora of subjects ranging from politics to gender. As for the actual award winners, you just hope they get up, say their piece and then leave without thanking everyone from their first teacher to their underpaid cleaner! If you need further clarification on the importance of an award host, here’s my top five award winning presenters:
For over a quarter of a century, Jonathan Ross has been one of Britain’s most popular broadcasters and has become synonymous with the award ceremony. Replacing Michael Parkinson on The British Comedy Awards in 1991, Ross went on to present the show for an unprecedented seventeen years, taking a year off as a result of the controversy surrounding Russell Brand’s Radio 2 Show. Over the years, Ross has presided over everything from The Brit Awards to the BAFTAs and all with the same eddy sense of humour which vicariously balances on the fine edge between decently and crudity.
Making his award hosting debut at the 2007 show, Norton has presided over a staggering eight of the ten ceremonies since, only to be forced to pull out of two years due to his Eurovision duties. Blessed with a unique charm which automatically allows him to get away with the most scathing comments, Graham has become a favourite at the baftas and his opening monologue has become one of the most eagerly anticipated parts of the show. Like most accomplished entertainers, Norton loves it when things go wrong and presenting two hours of live television – this is almost a certainty. Squashing the misconception that the Baftas is a snooty, formal event exclusively for the showbiz elite, Graham has brought the event back down to Earth and everyone loves him for it.
Replacing Sir Trevor McDonald at the 2010 ceremony, Dermot has now become a permanent fixture of The National Television Awards. Not as well respected as the Baftas, the NTAs have developed a cult following thanks to regular contributors including; Ant and Dec, Philip Schofield and Holly Willoughby and the whole cast of the four main soaps. To be the perfect host of this ceremony you need to have the ability to have banter with the people mentioned above and make sure the show adheres to ITV’s commercial break structure. Dermot is the most suitable candidate for this as he’s never going to upset anyone with his edgy material but knows how to get away with gentle jostling of celebrities.
Presenting The Pride of Britain Awards is like no other ceremony. For once it’s not about overpaid celebrities getting gongs. Instead it honours the bravery and courage of ordinary folk who have helped others. Therefore the criteria of this type of award host is different from any other as wit and humour are replaced with empathy and understanding. For over twenty years, Carol Vorderman has remained a constant on the show as it means something to her. For this show, there is very little glitz and glamor except to hear about amazing people with amazing stories.
Hosting The South Bank Show Awards for a staggering thirty years, the ceremony honours a wide array of entertainment and the Arts. Now a television institution, Melvyn Bragg is widely respected as one of the longest serving broadcasters in Britain with a career spanning over half a century. Having interviewed some of the most prolific figures of the twentieth century, Bragg isn’t phased by a room full of hopeful celebrities and is the perfect candidate to preside over this feast of entertainment.
Now, that’s my top five awards presenters but could Joanna Lumley do any better?
It seemed that not everyone was impressed by Lumley’s hosting style when Jennifer Lawrence disputed her own introduction by referring to her as “the hottest actress on the planet.” The Hunger Games star promptly replied “That was a bit much Joanna!” as she prepared to announce the nominations for the outstanding British film. It would seem that people are so aware of the ongoing issues surrounding gender equality within film that people are terrified of being labelled as anything. The negative shadow of the recent Harvey Weinstein et al saga has made gender a taboo and people want to avoid anything to do with sexualisation, gender and equality.
If Weinstein and others are guilty of their alleged crime, surely the worst thing that the industry can do is to be ashamed to even speak of it? Or even to celebrate women’s equality? By that I mean that of course we should celebrate amazing work by women but why does everything have to come back to gender and equality? Now it seems that we’re even too scared to use superlatives to describe multi-talented women. At what point do you draw the line and say enough is enough and we shouldn’t be scared of the sexual connotations of complimenting women. Yet again, another award ceremony has been overshadowed by issues surrounding gender equality when it should be an opportunity to celebrate the incredible achievements of people in the Arts irrespective of gender, race, religion or ability.
The other big winners on the night were: Sam Rockwell for best supporting actor for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Gary Oldman for best actor in a leading role for The Darkest Hour and Frances McDommand for Best actress in a leading role.
It was a great night for Sam Rockwell and Frances McDommand as Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri picked up the highest accolade of the night for best film.
The coverted BAFTA fellowship was awarded to the celebrated writer, producer and director Ridley Scott, best known for iconic films including; Alien, Blade Runner and Gladiator. A worthy winner and the perfect way to bring the 2018 ceremony to a close.
At a time when the movie industry is suffering tough times, it’s great to know that the British film scene is alive and thriving! Long live storytelling and let’s hope that the 2019 Baftas won’t be overshadowed by claims about the sexual divide between men and women and the controversy surrounding abuse within this great industry. Hopefully these events will be able to stay as celebrations and we can continue to honour our favourite stars in these glamorous occasions.