LONDON – “The Power of the Dog”, Jane Campion’s thrilling western about two brothers clashing on a Montana ranch, starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Jesse Plemons, was the big winner of the EE British Academy Film Awards in London on Sunday night.
It was named Best Picture at the awards, better known as the BAFTAs, beating the likes of Denis Villeneuve’s sci-fi epic “Dune”, Kenneth Branagh’s “Belfast”, the black-and-white film based on his childhood in Northern Ireland, and Adam McKay’s “Don’t Look Up,” the divisive satire about climate change starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence and Meryl Streep.
Campion also won Best Director — the third woman to receive the award in the award’s history — adding momentum to this year’s Academy Awards.
She was not present to collect her prize in London. On Saturday, she was in Los Angeles at the Directors Guild of America Awards, where she also won the top award. At that awards ceremony, Campion drew attention when asked by Variety about derogatory comments actor Sam Elliott made about her film, including questioning the film’s “allusions to homosexuality.”
“He’s not a cowboy, he’s an actor,” Campion told Variety, adding, “The West is a mythical space and there’s a lot of space on the beach. And I think it’s a bit sexist.”
The BAFTAs were most notable this year for their string of winners, with not a single film sweeping the board, not even “The Power of the Dog” winning the two top prizes. Will Smith won Best Actor for his role as Richard Williams, father of tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams, in ‘King Richard’, while Best Actress went to British actress Joanna Scanlan for her role in ‘After Love’ , a low-budget film about a white Muslim convert who reveals her husband’s secret past.
That film has been little seen in Britain, let alone elsewhere, but Scanlan beat out stars like Lady Gaga (“House of Gucci”) and Alana Haim (“Licorice Pizza”), both of whom were in the audience. “Come on!” Scanlan accepted her award, adding, “Some stories have surprising endings.”
Hosted by Rebel Wilson, this year’s BAFTAs – the British equivalent of the Academy Awards – marked a return to a glamorous in-person ceremony at London’s Royal Albert Hall, after a largely virtual event last year.
“How good is it that award shows are back in real life?” Wilson said in an opening monologue, adding, “Actors, you can stop doing those wellness podcasts.”
Denis Villeneuve’s sci-fi epic “Dune” garnered a whopping 11 nominations in February, but received only five awards, mostly in technical categories, including special visual effects, cinematography and sound.
Other winners included Ariana DeBose, who won Best Supporting Actress for her performance as Anita in “West Side Story,” which she starred as Aunjanue Ellis (“King Richard”), Jessie Buckley (“The Lost Daughter”), Ruth Negga (“Passing”), Ann Dowd (“Mass”) and Caitriona Balfe (“Belfast”). Troy Kotsur won the Best Supporting Actor award for his role in “CODA,” the heartwarming film about a boisterous, largely deaf family in Massachusetts.
Kotsur, who beat out actors including Jesse Plemons and Kodi Smit-McPhee (“The Power of the Dog”), used sign language to receive his award and pitched the producers of the James Bond franchise, asking : “Have you considered a deaf James Bond?”
Drive My Car, the acclaimed Japanese drama about a theater director struggling with the death of his wife, was named the best film not written in English. Ryusuke Hamaguchi, the film’s director, seemed overwhelmed during his acceptance speech. “Well, that got rid of my jet lag,” he said through a translator.
His win was a sign that movies are “about language, they go across borders,” he added.
The BAFTAs are normally seen as a whistleblower for the Oscars, given the overlap between the voting organs of the two events. The Oscars are scheduled for March 27.
The appearance of a lesser-known winner in the Best Actress category at this year’s event may be related to sweeping changes in the voting process for the awards that BAFTA has introduced over the past two years to improve the diversity of nominees. Those included that voters had to watch a wide selection of movies before they could vote.
Some BAFTA voters fear those changes could jeopardize the future of the award show. Writing in February in The Hollywood Reporter, Scott Feinberg called the changes “an over-correction, no matter how well-intentioned,” and went on to say that “the organization is sending a signal to the world that it does not trust its own members to make wise and fair decisions.”