With Alan Cumming hosting, Matt Stone and Trey Parker on the winners list and Daniel Day-Lewis taking the stage with an Eastwooding routine, BAFTA/LA’s Britannia Awards sound considerably more fun than their parent organization’s February ceremony across the pond. Then again, that’s often the case with awards shows the general public doesn’t really know about — though they’ll have a chance to see for themselves when the ceremony is broadcast this Sunday on BBC America.
The Britannia Awards, which have been held by the British Academy’s Los Angeles outcrop since 1989, aren’t a competitive ceremony, but rather a celebration of a selected handful of individuals — usually mostly British, though not this year — deemed to have enriched the medium. It’s not an award tied to specific films, though they often alight on artists who already have a clear presence in the awards season.
Daniel Day-Lewis, for example, wasn’t recognized for his performance in “Lincoln,” though the timing of Steven Spielberg’s film surely contributed to the decision to hand the Oscar-winning star the Stanley Kubrick Award for Excellence in Film — an award that Spielberg himself accepted in 2000. Curiously enough, Day-Lewis is the first Brit to be given this particular Britannia Award since Hugh Grant nine years ago. In between, Americans to have taken the honor include Denzel Washington, Jeff Bridges, Clint Eastwood and Sean Penn, at the start of his 2008 path to Oscar glory with “Milk.”
Still, the award itself wasn’t why Day-Lewis has nabbed most of the headlines out of the event. The revered actor delighted the audience with a playful acceptance speech in which he dragged a chair onto the stage with him and addressed an invisible Barack Obama — who had, of course, just been re-elected the night before. “I know as an Englishman it’s absolutely none of my business,” Day-Lewis said to the chair, “but I’m so very grateful that it was you.” Parodying Clint Eastwood’s mortifying empty-chair routine may not be the most original gag by now, but if Day-Lewis is to give further speeches over the next few months — and many assume he will have reason to — it’s good that he’s feeling a little irreverent.
Another Britannia winner with a major film now out was Daniel Craig, who accepted the British Artist of the Year award –a neatly timed honor, coming just as “Skyfall” has become the top-grossing film of the year in the UK, and in less than two weeks. There’s a strong possibility that BAFTA will acknowledge the film further down the road, though Best Actor attention for Craig would be a bit of a stretch, so this seems as appropriate a way as any to recognize the current James Bond. Recent winners of the same award include Helena Bonham Carter, Tilda Swinton and Craig’s own wife, Rachel Weisz.
Meanwhile, the John Schlesinger Award for Artistic Excellence in Directing was presented to Quentin Tarantino — the first American ever to take an award that has recently been handed to the likes of Christopher Nolan, Danny Boyle and Anthony Minghella. With “Django Unchained” yet to be unveiled, we can only guess as to whether QT will be accepting any further honors this season.
The list of winners was rounded out by “South Park” creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker — whose stage music “The Book of Mormon” hits the West End early next year — who took the Charlie Chaplin Award for Excellence in Comedy, while game designer Will Wright won the Albert R. Broccoli award for Worldwide Contribution to Entertainment.
The full list of winners:
Stanley Kubrick Award for Excellence in Film: Daniel Day-Lewis
British Artist of the Year: Daniel Craig
John Schlesinger Award for Excellence in Directing: Quentin Tarantino
Charlie Chaplin Award for Excellence in Comedy: Matt Stone and Trey Parker
Albert R. Broccoli Award for Worldwide Contribution to Entertainment: Will Wright