‘The Artist’ cleans up at the BAFTAs

Well, quelle surprise. While its hometown advantage and impressive haul of 11 nominations gave “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” the appearance of a fighting chance in the BAFTA race, I think we all knew that the Brits, like pretty much everyone else, would fall in love with “The Artist.”

And boy, did they fall hard: with seven wins, including Best Film, Director, Actor and Original Screenplay, the French silent phenomenon completed the most comprehensive BAFTA sweep of the top categories in many a year. (Octavia Spencer, who added yet another Best Supporting Actress trophy to her mantel tonight, must be thanking her lucky stars that BAFTA voters correctly placed Berenice Bejo in the lead race.) “Tinker, Tailor,” meanwhile had to be content with the consolation prize of Best British Film, as well as Best Adapted Screenplay – a distant runner-up if ever there was one.

For the most part, it seemed, BAFTA voters were dutifully following their brief as Oscar bellwethers: Octavia Spencer and Christopher Plummer”s films haven”t the public or critical following in the UK than they do in the US, but their precursor sweep of the supporting categories were unimpeded here. Expect a number of their technical picks to repeat at the Oscars, too: though not nominated in the top race, “Hugo” took a pair of trophies for art direction and sound, no mean feat considering “The Artist” tore its way through costume design, score and cinematography (where “The Tree of Life” was unaccountably not nominated).

Where they veered from the frontrunner consensus, it was usually to recognize their own – or least this year”s honorary Brit, Meryl Streep, who predictably beat Oscar frontrunner Viola Davis to the Best Actress prize for her point-on interpretation of former UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. The Streep faithful will doubtless use this win as a springboard for renewed speculation on her Oscar chances, but should bear in mind that the American legend essentially won the BAFTA the minute she accepted this role.

Parochial voting has its upsides – inaugural Best Documentary champ “Senna””s additional win for Best Film Editing is delightfully well-deserved, and a happy outcome of BAFTA”s branch-only voting system in the technical categories. But it has considerable downsides too: Americans will no doubt be scratching their heads over the public-voted Rising Star Award, where British actor-rapper Adam Deacon (far from a household name in these parts)  was carried by the UK”s texting youth masses to beat a field of more internationally known names.

One offbeat vote that can”t be put down to patriotism was the loopy upset in Best Foreign Language Film, where “The Skin I Live In” beat “A Separation” – presumably due to Pedro Almodovar”s greater name appeal among general voters. As far removed from the Oscar race as that particular winner is, here”s hoping it doesn”t foreshadow a similar surprise on Oscar night.

And that, really, is all I have to say about that: due to the BBC’s infuriating decision to tape-delay the ceremony by two hours in UK, I haven’t actually seen anything but the list of winners. Get a clue, guys.

Check out the full list of winners below, and as always, remember to keep track of the ups and downs of the 2010-2011 film awards season via The Circuit.

Best Film: “The Artist”

Best Actor: Jean Dujardin, “The Artist”

Best Actress: Meryl Streep, “The Iron Lady”

Best Director: Michel Hazanavicius, “The Artist”

Best Animated Film: “Rango”

Best Adapted Screenplay: Bridget O’Connor and Peter Straughan, “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” 

Best Documentary: “Senna”

Rising Star Award: Adam Deacon

Best Original Screenplay: Michel Hazanavicius, “The Artist” 

Best Supporting Actress: Octavia Spencer, “The Help” 

Best British Film: “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” 

Best Supporting Actor: Christopher Plummer, “Beginners” 

Best Production Design: Dante Ferretti, “Hugo”

Best British Debut: Paddy Considine, “Tyrannosaur”

Best Foreign Language Film: “The Skin I Live In”

Best Makeup: “The Iron Lady”

Best Costume Design: Mark Bridges, “The Artist”

Best Cinematography: Guillaume Schiffman, “The Artist”

Best Film Editing: Gregers Sall and Chris King, “Senna”

Best Sound: “Hugo”

Best Music: Ludovic Bource, “The Artist”

Best Visual Effects: “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2”

Best Live Action Short: “Pitch Black Heist”

Best Animated Short: “A Morning Stroll”

For more views on movies, awards season and other pursuits, follow @GuyLodge on Twitter.

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