A fascinating weekend in the long war that is awards season ended with Richard Linklater’s Boyhood – which follows a young man through 12 years of life – taking the best film prize at the British Academy of Film and Television Awards (Bafta) in the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. Linklater won best director.
Boyhood had been runaway favourite for the best film Oscar since late summer, but, when it lost to Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Birdman at the Directors Guild of America on Saturday night, most bookies moved the Iñárritu film into poll position. Boyhood and Birdman now seem tied in the race for the biggest prize.
Wes Anderson’s Grand Budapest Hotel, much admired since it opened a year ago, topped the Bafta charts with five wins, including those for score and production design.
Eddie Redmayne, viewed as being in a close battle with Michael Keaton, star of offbeat theatrical drama Birdman, took the best actor prize for his performance as Prof Stephen Hawking in the Theory of Everything.
More than a few odds-on favourites romped past the finishing line. Julianne Moore, a horrible 1/50 with bookies for the Oscar, duly won best actress for playing an academic with Alzheimer's Disease in Still Alice. J K Simmons, who plays a sadistic music teacher in Whiplash, won best supporting actor and thanked his wife for "many gifts, including our two above-average children". Patricia Arquette, who plays the protagonist's courageous mother in Boyhood, also came in at unbackable odds. "You made the ordinary, extraordinary. You made a movie about love," said the popular actress to Linklater.
There was good news for the domestic industry when Michael Lennox’s charming Boogaloo and Graham, in which two boys learn the facts of life in 1970s Belfast, was announced as best live action short. Mr Lennox’s film is nominated in the same category at the Oscars.
Before the ceremony began, controversy had gathered around the shortage of nominations for Mike Leigh's Mr Turner – which failed even to score a best British film nod – and the complete shut-out for the US civil rights drama Selma.
“I wish David Oyelowo was here tonight,” said Benedict Cumberbatch of the British actor who plays Martin Luther King in that film. “I don’t understand it. He would have got my vote.” Mike Leigh, whose film failed to convert any of its four technical nomination, was compensated with the society’s highest lifetime achievement award: the Bafta fellowship.
Audiences enjoyed a dig at the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, when Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, whose The Lego Movie was not even nominated for the best animated feature Oscar, accepted the equivalent prize from Bafta. "You are our favourite Academy by far," they said. "You guys win the award for best Academy. This is the end of the awards road for us, so we can say whatever we want. There's no one left to impress."
Until 2002, the Baftas took place in a temporal backwater after the Oscars. Since moving to their current spot the awards have become a very reliable pointer to the Academy Awards. It is reckoned that about 10 percent of the American Academy also votes at Bafta. The increased attention lures greater numbers of stars to London and ensures much attention at the red carpet. This year the fashion chatter was all about 1970s plunging necklines. Julianne Moore tried the look in scarlet. Reese Witherspoon did her plunging in ecclesiastic purple.
Among the most touching presentations saw Stephen Hawking and Felicity Jones, who plays the physicist’s wife in The Theory of Everything, handing out the famous Bafta mask for best visual effects to Interstellar.
“It’s my pleasure to present this award with the only man cleverer than Stephen Fry,” said Jones of the Bafta presenter. “Yes, and better looking,” replied Prof Hawking through his electronic voicebox.
The Theory of Everything beat such fancied pictures as Under the Skin and The Imitation Game to best British picture.
In two weeks’ time, the endless awards season will grind to a halt when the Oscars are handed out in Los Angeles.