The 76th British Academy Film Awards left me completely underwhelmed. What should have been an incredible celebration of cinematic talent ended up being a stagnated, regressive display that left me cringing at my television screen.
It wasn’t just the predictability of who would win, but the overall presentation and delivery of the show itself. Scripted jokes, awkward glances and questionable editing only succeeded in further expounding my frustration at seeing a sea of the same kinds of actors and creatives win, yet again.
There was some Bafta anarchy, so to speak – in the shape of cinematic underdog All Quiet on the Western Front winning Best Film; and Carey Mulligan being named wrongly as Best Supporting Actress – but not nearly enough. Nothing that would create a sense of suspense as we prepare for the upcoming Oscars.
If anything, after what I saw last night, my fear is that the Oscars will simply be a rinse and repeat of what’s gone before. To know who and what will win makes for boring entertainment, and offers an inadequate representation of just how expansive and eclectically creative cinema is right now.
The 2023 Baftas simply lacked energy, of any kind. It was all too easy to passively engage with the show than to become truly invested in the results. Perhaps it’s a relief not to have a Will Smith slapping Chris Rock controversy – and I can’t say I long for overt drama that eventually becomes the butt of every joke for the next decade – but we deserved something of substance.
In the middle of a sea of bad news and cost of living crisis, I wanted the Baftas to sweep me away; to provide some drama alongside all the glamour. If the best we’ve got is Kate Middleton giving her husband, Prince William, the lightest of PDAs, then we’re really desperate. No: I wanted something to appreciate, something tangible to sink my teeth into, rather than the pain of watching interviewees on the red carpet flail like dying fish under the watchful gaze of an international lens.
It also begs the question: why does a distinct lack of diversity still underpin awards ceremonies like this? In 2016, #OscarsSoWhite trended on social media. The 87th annual Academy Awards had failed to include a single Black actor in its nominations across the board. It rightly sparked a much needed conversation about representation.
But while steps have been taken to improve on that poor performance, I was struck by the continued lack of diversity which is apparently still destined to plague big ceremonies on screen.
As a viewer, I am tired of films being dominated by familiar, expected faces. This isn’t to say that those who won, like Cate Blanchett for Best Actress in Tar, weren’t deserving of acclaim – their performances were incredible, the films they starred in praised by critics and general viewers alike. Still, so too was their competition, including Viola Davis, Michele Yeoh, and Dolly De Leon.
Such notable and exceptional artists were once again left as nominations instead of winners. And, let’s be honest, each one of those names I’ve just mentioned deserved to win. While I don’t disagree that Kerry Condon gave an outstanding performance in The Banshees of Inisherin, Hong Chau’s undeniable, and palpable, performance in The Whale was equally sublime – if not more so.
What of Michelle Yeoh, an actress who is long overdue wider award recognition, but even more so after her role in Everything Everywhere All At Once? It was only a month ago that the media was rife with excitement at Yeoh’s Oscar nomination, due to her being the second ever Asian woman to be nominated for Best Actress.
Is it any wonder, then, that many feel like Yeoh has been snubbed by the Baftas, with some wondering if that snub will continue over into the Oscars as well? And yes, awards, like many other artist endeavours, are a matter of subjectivity. But I find it intriguing that “subjectivity” seems to take such a formulaic approach.
My main takeaway from the Baftas? A yawn-fest. Wake me up when it’s time for the Oscars.