Few surprises at the steady, if dull, Baftas, says our critic

by Shane Dillon
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It wasn’t exactly a huge surprise at the Baftas that the favourite – The Favourite – went on to scoop a whopping seven awards in a variety of fields.

The quirky film continued steamrolling its success through one awards ceremony after another, with the Oscars dead ahead in its sights later this month, on Sunday, February 24.

The awards haul was yet another victory for Irish production company (and member of Screen Producers Ireland) Element Pictures, which has made a name for itself in recent years with slightly oddball but entertaining films that audiences and critics have lapped up.

Olivia Colman grabbed a well-deserved Best Actress award for her turn, with her significant chops in comic roles all but forgotten after her striking turn as the somewhat horrid yet ultimately sympathetic heart of The Favourite.

Away from The Favourite’s expected successes, however, the Baftas had a few surprises in store, with some outright upsets in both the winners – and behind the scenes.

Away from The Favourite’s victory laps, there were few surprises in Baftas 2019, which largely played things safe and, to a degree, kept things pretty sterile.

Those watching at home, or reading up on it afterwards, learned from the short acceptance speeches that so-and-so was “very talented”, or that such-and-such film’s crew worked “very hard”, and so on. Great.

No maverick off-the-cuff diatribes, no controversial comments, nothing of any particular import from anyone, while seasoned old ham Joanna Lumley kept things rolling along without a glitch – or mukch of a spark – as the evening’s MC.

A few films stood out in the largely predictable roll-call of wins. While The Favourite largely swept the boards, the stirring Roma was in close pursuit, with the critically acclaimed film proving a particular hit on Netflix.

As a period piece with a very different flavor to The Favourite, its very personal tale of turmoil in 1970s Mexico leaves it trotting along as a dark horse to look out for at the upcoming Oscars, where it’s a particularly strong contender in a number of categories.

Bohemian Rhapsody added Bafta glory on the night to its awards haul, to nobody’s great surprise, with the film continuing to be an awards magnet despite its flaws.

It was also interesting to note that Black Panther (released a year ago) also had Bafta victory on the night, underscoring its place as one of the most critically and commercially successful films of recent decades.

Ultimately, despite the particular safeness of the wins, it’s hard to argue against the winners of the 2019 Baftas, with some great films and individuals singled out for particular glory.

At least it was a steady ship to follow – the upcoming host-less, potentially chaotic Oscars seems set to be a much wobblier affair.

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