Emily Blunt named British Artist of the Year

Posted by · 5:23 pm · November 3rd, 2009

Emily BluntOkay, let me get this out the way: I love Emily Blunt.

On screen and off, she exudes smarts, class and a welcome streak of British eccentricity. Most still remember her principally as the girl who cut through “The Devil Wears Prada” like a hot knife through butter, though it was 2004’s “My Summer of Love” which best showcased her dramatic chops and tart sex appeal. Put simply, she’s got it.

I did not, however, love Emily Blunt in “The Young Victoria.” Usually so alert and thoughtful on camera, the actress is stifled by the bland dramatics and fussy styling of Jean-Marc Vallee’s royal biopic; a practised scene-stealer herself, she gets a taste of her own medicine as Rupert Friend walks off with the film, in an underwritten part to boot.

Meanwhile, the film that was supposed to be her star-making vehicle (and awards breakthrough) instead got shrugged off by critics, as her name tumbled down the Oscar pundits’ lists.

So why has BAFTA’s Los Angeles branch chosen this of all years to hand her the Britannia Award for British Artist of the Year?

The award is one of several handed out by BAFTA/LA at an annual Hollywood ceremony honoring both British and international figures deemed to have made a particularly outstanding contribution to film. British Artist of the Year isn’t designated specifically for actresses, though the list of past winners suggests otherwise: since its inception three years ago, Rachel Weisz, Kate Winslet and Tilda Swinton have won the award.

The arguable merits of Blunt’s work in “Victoria” (and her superior turn in “Sunshine Cleaning”) aside, one has to wonder in what possible context the actress could be deemed this year’s standout British talent. Carey Mulligan might be too green for the honor, even if she is the year’s most talked about ingenue … but, uh, Colin Firth? Michael Sheen? Kristin Scott Thomas? Even Samantha Morton, who also just made a handsome directorial debut?

Ah well. Congratulations to an exciting talent. A BAFTA nod is looking like a very real possibility.




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20 responses so far

  • 1 11-03-2009 at 5:42 pm

    Brooke said...

    I love Emily Blunt, like you do.

    But, seriously, Kristin Scott Thomas deserves this award at some point in the future.

    If not now.

  • 2 11-03-2009 at 5:58 pm

    Lance said...

    This movie is at 76% at Rotten Tomatoes and almost all of the critics make a positive comment about Blunt. Among critics there is a consensus that she did an outstanding job. Also, she’s in a costume drama about a famous dead person and the academy loves that. I know that many people on this site didn’t get into her performance, but I think you’ve got to raise her odds a bit regarding the possibility of her getting nominated.

  • 3 11-03-2009 at 6:23 pm

    Frank Lee said...

    I have great affection for Emily Blunt. Like Kate Winslet and Helen Mirren, she never condescends to the American public or the American characters she plays.

  • 4 11-03-2009 at 7:09 pm

    Glenn said...

    I’m so glad I have Guy to back me up on my thoughts about this movie, and Blunt within it.

  • 5 11-03-2009 at 7:44 pm

    daveylow said...

    Because not everyone thought The Young Victoria was as bad as you did, and not everyone disliked her performance as you did.

  • 6 11-03-2009 at 9:46 pm

    rose said...

    Blunt is fantastic. And I liked The Young Victoria and I thought Blutn made the movie not Rupert Friend.

    For me Emily Blunt is the true English talent and she seriously gives others like Keira Knighltey, Sienna Miller a run for thier money.

  • 7 11-04-2009 at 12:15 am

    Salma said...

    This diminishes the chance of Carey Mulligan’s award hopes, not only at Oscars but also at BAFTA. Ok, it may not be happening but it would not surprise me if Meryl comes to win BAFTA and then takes away the Oscar. She will take the latter no matter what, but addition of a BAFTA Best Actress award would be brilliant. Also Emily Blunt can as well become triumphant with a surprise BAFTA nom and boast her chances for an Oscar nom.

  • 8 11-04-2009 at 12:17 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    “This diminishes the chance of Carey Mulligan’s award hopes …”

    Really, really not.

    And don’t forget, this is no longer as simple as Carey vs. Meryl.

  • 9 11-04-2009 at 12:19 am

    The Other James D. said...

    It’s nice to see Rupert Friend receive some love and affection.

    Did anyone else think he was impeccable in “Chéri”, a film that otherwise faltered? (I was also impressed with what little we saw of Felicity Jones–terrific, albeit minor, turn.) Can’t wait to see more from him (and Jones).

  • 10 11-04-2009 at 1:10 am

    mike said...

    way 2 quick to reign on her parade guy, whats wrong with her getting recognised, sure she may be getting it 4 the wrong movie but so what, we take these things way 2 seriously, the world is not about 2 change on this award. just saying cause i think she would be hurt if she read what u had 2 say.

  • 11 11-04-2009 at 1:30 am

    John said...

    I don’t know nobody who likes Emily Blunt in The young Victoria, she isn’t bad of course, but she isn’t good either, she is only serviceable, and the film is very forgettable.

  • 12 11-04-2009 at 2:14 am

    Aleksis said...

    Why wasn’t Emily Blunt nominated for The Devil Wears Prada? Wasn’t that the year the Little Miss Sunshine girl got nominated?

  • 13 11-04-2009 at 2:24 am

    Andrew said...

    You shouldn’t be so biased. The Young Victoria was a good film and Blunt did an excellent job playing Queen Victoria. I think she deserves the recognition. She was in Sunshine Cleaning this year as well and her performance in that film was outstanding. Every time people are going to criticise someone they start with the usual “I love [insert name here] but she/he doesn’t deserve….”. Such an old trick. And I agree, she should have been nominated for The Devil Wears Prada. Kudos to the Golden Globes for that.

  • 14 11-04-2009 at 3:54 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    Andrew: All opinion is a form of bias, no? We trade in perspective and opinion here. If you just want the news without a personal angle on it, pick up a copy of Variety.

    Mike: I’m sure Blunt is smart and thick-skinned enough not to be personally hurt by the opinion of one man (a fan, at that) who doesn’t like one particular performance of hers.

  • 15 11-04-2009 at 9:44 am

    daveylow said...

    The Young Victoria could have been so much better but after reading all the negative things thrown at the film online, I enjoyed all the scenes between Blunt and Rupert Friend very much. So maybe I went into the film with a different set of expectations than others.

  • 16 11-04-2009 at 10:50 am

    Alex said...

    To be fair there are a few things you have to consider. Blunt was named the recipient of this at the end of May. (Why BAFTA chooses its Artist of the Year in May is a completely separate discussion.) The award isn’t recognition for a single role, but rather what she’s done in the last few years, at least that’s the impression that I get. It was thought that The Wolfman and Wild Target were coming out this year. All that said, I don’t think that should diminish the recognition she gets.

    As for The Young Victoria, having read an earlier draft of the script, I can understand why Blunt wanted to do it. It wasn’t perfect, but it was definitely far sharper, edgier, and interesting than the finished product. I think in the end she did the best that she could.

  • 17 11-04-2009 at 10:54 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    Alex: Thanks, I wasn’t aware of that. Makes more sense, though I think the “Artist of the Year” tag is a bit of a misnomer then.

  • 18 11-04-2009 at 11:35 am

    Lance said...

    Blunt gives a smart performance. Blunt didn’t suddenly loose all the power and confidence that she had in “Devil Wears Prada.” She made the CHOICE to play this character in this more subdued manner because of who this character is. This isn’t Queen Elizabeth I and shouldn’t be played in the same way.

    She has to play the struggle between what she wants and what everyone is telling her to do. She wasn’t a strong, powerful woman – she was often influenced, and in some ways controlled by the people around her. During this time of her life she was called “Mrs. Melbourne” Her objectives aren’t the same as what a strong leader would have – many of her objectives are multi-layered and complex. Many times she is trying to please the people around her, while at the same time pleasing herself, her country and displaying how she wants to be viewed as a Queen. If she appears awkward it’s appropriate for this character.

    Her characterization is also excellent – she uses a different voice than she’s used in any role – it’s softer and the accent has changed. The physical characterization (her posture, facial expressions, gestures) are clearly different and suit this character.

    Her work in the different scenes are filled with levels and she raises her stakes (how much she wants her objective) to appropriate levels. The level of difficulty is very high because she is dealing with emotions and conflicts that barely anyone deals with in their daily lives. As an actress, she really has to do some exploring to comprehend these situations.

    I can understand someone saying that they disagree with Blunt’s choices but instead of just throwing adjectives on her performance what specifically should she have changed?

  • 19 11-04-2009 at 1:35 pm

    Guy Lodge said...

    Sorry for taking the lazy way out, but I like how I phrased it in my original review:

    “Given so little to chew on, it says something for Emily Blunt’s considerable screen charisma that she makes Victoria appear a less reactive character than has been written. As in “The Devil Wears Prada,” she frequently relies on her a kind of put-upon hauteur to extract humor from unprepossessing material, though there is perhaps too much of that playfulness at the expense of the precocious sensuality she displayed so brilliantly in “My Summer of Love”; this Young Victoria remains a notably sexless figure.”

  • 20 11-04-2009 at 3:46 pm

    Lance said...

    Guy – So, from this quote, you would have preferred that she didn’t show as much playfulness and showed more of a precocious sensuality.

    These particular choices also have to be historically accurate (depending upon how accurate the director wants the film to be) within the confines of what would be suitable for a royal figure. It’s interesting to note that Alastair Bruce acted as the historical advisor and according to this Emanual Levy article probably had a great influence over these choices: http://emanuellevy.com/comment/details.cfm?id=14492.

    Of course, the overall script doesn’t follow exactly what happened in history as Prince Albert didn’t actually dive in front of the bullet meant for Victoria, so you can make an argument for the actors having some license, also, in these areas.

    Personally, I don’t think it would have made sense for her to be more outwardly sexual. From what I read of this period, royalty was expected to act as sexless figures and there were very specific things they could and could not do. Even though there are some major historical inaccuracies in the script, the style of the film is very realistic and the actor’s choices should match up to this style.