Across the Atlantic, last night (February 10th) was a big night for both film and music. Over here, the EE BAFTAs took over Covent Garden and the opera house, whilst the Grammys rocked LA’s Staples Center. But how relevant are they?
Well, they are and they aren’t. Ultimately, the Academy Awards, or Oscars, are what people always refer back to in terms of their winners, but here in the UK the BAFTAs are thought of with affection and it is impossible not to be won over by the swarms of charming men and graceful ladies who turn up. On the other hand, there is little to rival the Grammys’ scale and significance in the world of music: the BRIT awards are looked upon with more derision every year as they choose to honour those who often receive pop chart success but little critical recognition, generally being on a much smaller scale with its simple rock/pop categories than the Grammys who honour all types of performance possible on true, massive American scale. So what of each individually?
The BAFTAs were hosted by Stephen Fry, a national treasure who lived up to expectations. There is just something about his honest, intelligent and rambling humour that defies you to find something wrong with him (although many of his best, topical jokes were wasted on the Americans in the audience). My immediate response to his appearance was to cringe at his facial hair, but this was self-deprecatingly referenced several times, even in relation to George Clooney, making it quite forgivable. He even made more sexual innuendos (including increasingly gay ones) than usual, completely appealing to the typical British humour of insinuation. His fellow presenters were also half delightful, half predictably awkward, with Tim Roth looking awkward with hands in pockets, and John C. Reilly and Sarah Silverman’s almost-hilarious diva act. However, the biggest talking point turned into poor Eddie Redmayne’s food poisoning upset backstage requiring a janitor on hand and a missed presenting spot with Sally Field.
As for the awards themselves, they were generally quite fairly distributed between the biggest films of the year, with Les Misérables receiving the most although ¾ were production recognitions, with only Anne Hathaway as a recognisable face onstage (with one of the best, most heartfelt but funny and short speeches of the night). The rest were mostly divided between Django Unchained, Argo, Skyfall and Amour. Notably, Ben Affleck won both best director and best film for Argo, which could well be the BAFTAs’ dig at the Oscars, considering his now infamous directing snub there. This distribution of awards could well be an attempt to play it safe, but is more likely a tribute to the excellently broad choice of films on offer at the moment, with a musical, a gore-fest about slavery, James Bond action, a French film and a historical drama showing how wide the field is.
This is in fairly stark contrast to the Grammys, with many winners receiving several awards, including Adele (obviously), Gotye and The Black Keys. Taylor Swift won less than she must be used to, but still managed to make her mark with her opening performance of ‘We Are Never Ever Ever Getting Back Together’, with speculations rife that she referenced ex Harry Styles with a British accent in the middle of the song. Ultimately, it is in its performances rather than its awards that the Grammys are important. The best producer award could be considered as one of the most important, but it is shoved into the pre-Grammy group that isn’t televised. On the other hand, Justin Timberlake continued his fantastic and stylised comeback with his most notable stage performance this year so far, with Jay Z leaping from his seat for his mid-song rap, the debut of song ‘Pusher Love Girl’ and a sepia tinted lens to go with the nostalgic style on stage, whilst young singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran teamed up with veteran Elton John for a beautiful rendition of the former’s ‘The A-Team’.
Although the awards are obviously significant to the winners and record companies, it is the electrifying and special, often one-off performances that America and the rest of the world will be talking about. The BAFTAs had Paloma Faith- an odd inclusion that felt a bit pointless- but it is the BRIT Awards that will be trying to emulate the Grammys’ performance standards next week, although they are likely to feel both stagnant- Justin will be singing there too, although hopefully he’ll continue his trend of being new and exciting- and different, with other global stars such as Michael Bublé and Muse set to hit the event.