It’s an event that keeps on getting better and better, a little awards show that’s escalated into one of the hallmarks of the film awards season, whether the “we’re one of the best Oscar predictors” stuff is annoying or not (which it is).
The night had a number of surprises, but in a sense, one of those surprises became a foregone conclusion half-way through the show. The whole room could tell — “Slumdog Millionaire” was going to walk away with the first clean BFCA sweep since “A Beautiful Mind” in 2001. Nothing for “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.” Nothing for “Frost/Nixon.” Nothing but the usual for the slowly-becoming-silver-medal-bound “The Dark Knight.”
Two big wins for “Milk” were nice. Sean Penn’s victory as Best Actor might have been inevitable, even though Mickey Rourke’s portrayal was probably the year’s most critically acclaimed of the year. I couldn’t help keeping an eye trained on Mickey two tables over, one of the wandering cameras crammed in his face as Penn delivered his acceptance. Clearly the “Wrestler” gang was a bit disheartened, nabbing only one win — for Bruce Springsteen’s title track. But Fox Searchlight was beaming nonetheless with it’s five “Slumdog” trophies.
I did as much mingling as the two minute commercial intervals would allow, but I did manage to finally meet the lovely Kate Beckinsale, nominated tonight for her criminally underseen performance in “Nothing But the Truth.” She’s a real sweetheart, happy for the few pockets of support she’s been able to find for the film, which was essentially avalanched by the Yari bankruptcy last month. There’s still Santa Barbara in a couple of weeks.
I have to say, being in the middle of Heath Ledger’s standing ovation was somewhat emotional. The win wasn’t surprising in hindsight, but as Laura Dern was opening the envelope, I couldn’t help but think the idea of major awards was suddenly a pipe dream for this performance. But it all went away quickly and Christopher Nolan gave a touching, spot-on acceptance speech on behalf of the actor.
(More, plus the full list of winners, after the jump.)
Speaking of speeches, high marks go to Ari Folman, taking the Best Foreign Language Film prize for “Waltz with Bashir.” He closed with a dedication to the “production babies” who were born during the making of the film. “This is for you, babies,” he said. “I hope one day when you grow up and you see the film and you see the war that takes place in the film, it will look to you like an ancient video game that has nothing to do with your life whatsoever.”
Then again, I was also taken by Maureen Ryan’s equation of the filmmaking process to Philippe Petit’s quip about his upcoming high-wire act featured in “Man on Wire”: “Impossible. Impossible. Impossible. Now, let’s go to work.” A decent night for speeches all around.
Well, there was Anne Hathaway nearly steering off the rails with her acceptance for half of the lead actress prize, but it was forgiven once Viola Davis stepped in to seal the moment with some nice sentiments on behalf of co-winner Meryl Streep. Other recent ties have included Daniel Day-Lewis and Jack Nicholson locking horns for Best Actor in 2002 and Amy Adams and Michelle Williams sharing the supporting actress trophy in 2005.
The biggest surprise of the evening had to be Kate Winslet’s victory in the Best Supporting Actress category, a field that seemed to be a toss-up between Marisa Tomei and Penélope Cruz (especially given applause levels in the room). But then again, word on the street is Winslet nabbed enough nomination votes to make the top five in both the lead and supporting categories for her “Reader” performance, and the group simply went with the category that has been campaigned by the studio for its tie-breaker. So there was plenty of support for the portrayal.
But on the whole, it was all “Slumdog” all the time. And the mood at the Viceroy after-party seemed to indicate that further. It seems almost a foregone conclusion, finally snaking its way through the industry. The Oscar is destined this year. And even though Phase II is always a different ballgame, and strange things happen, “Button”‘s goose egg tonight and an all around “meh” feeling toward the film seems to be chipping away at its potential to steal the crown. Indeed, it might just be “The Dark Knight” vs. “Slumdog” in the end, and the latter wins that battle in a cake walk when it comes to AMPAS.
(By the way, it looks like Xavi Rodriguez gets bragging rights in the predictions thread, correctly guessing a whopping 15 of the 17 victors, including the Winslet win. Bravo, Xavi.)
Full list of BFCA winners:
Danny Boyle, “Slumdog Millionaire”
Sean Penn, “Milk”
(tie) Anne Hathaway, “Rachel Getting Married” and Meryl Streep, “Doubt”
Best Supporting Actor
Heath Ledger, “The Dark Knight”
Best Supporting Actress
Kate Winslet, “The Reader”
Simon Beaufoy, “Slumdog Millionaire”
Best Acting Ensemble
A.R. Rahman, “Slumdog Millionaire”
“The Wrestler” from “The Wrestler”
Best Foreign Language Film
“Waltz with Bashir”
Best Documentary Feature
“Man on Wire”
Best Animated Feature
Best Young Actor/Actress
Dev Patel, “Slumdog Millionaire”
Best Action Movie
“The Dark Knight”
Best Comedy Movie
Best Picture Made for Television