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Monday, February 17, 2014

12 Years a Slave wins top BAFTA awards

Director Steve McQueen (c) celebrates with Dede Gardner (l-r), Anthony Katagas, Jeremy Kleiner and Brad Pitt after winning Best Film for 12 Years a Slave at the BAFTA awards ceremony in London, last night.

Gravity claims biggest trophy haul with six wins, including Best Director

The harrowing drama 12 Years a Slave won the Best Film award at Britain’s top movie honours last night, cementing its status as favourite for the Oscars next month, but it was the space thriller Gravity that claimed the biggest trophy haul.

12 Years a Slave, by British director Steve McQueen with Hollywood’s Brad Pitt as a producer, had been tipped as the night’s major winner and also won Best Actor for Chiwetel Ejiofor as a man tricked and sold into slavery in the pre-Civil War United States.

McQueen, 44, said it was horrifying that 21 million people were still living in slavery around the world now. “I hope that, 150 years from now, our ambivalence will not allow another filmmaker to make this film,” he told the ceremony at London’s Royal Opera House.

McQueen, a video artist as well as a director, previously won kudos for his 2008 film Hunger, about an IRA hunger strike in Northern Ireland, and won Britain’s top visual art award, the Turner Prize, in 1999 for a video based on a Buster Keaton film.

Pitt, whose partner Angelina Jolie accompanied him to the ceremony, dressed like him in a tuxedo, said he was proud of the film, based on the real story of Solomon Northup. “It is a story that says we are all the same, and our freedom and dignity is everything, and that is what we are fighting for,” Pitt told a news conference.

Ejiofor thanked McQueen for bringing the story to the screen. Holding his Best Actor trophy, Ejiofor told McQueen: “This is yours. I’m going to keep it — that’s the kind of guy I am — but it’s yours.”

But Gravity, starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, took home six prizes from its 11 nominations, including the Best Director prize for Mexican Alfonso Cuarón and the awards for Cinematography and Outstanding British Film.

The 3-D special effects extravaganza also took the awards for sound, music, cinematography and visual effects. And despite its mixed parentage — made in Britain by a Mexican director and starring American actors —it was named best British film.

Cuarón paid tribute to star Sandra Bullock, who is alone onscreen for much of the film. “Without her performance, everything would have been nonsense,” he said.

Con-artist caper American Hustle charmed its way to three prizes, including original screenplay and supporting actress for Jennifer Lawrence. Its spectacular 70s stylings took the hair and makeup award.

The best-actress prize went to Cate Blanchett for her turn as a socialite on the slide in Blue Jasmine. She dedicated the award to her friend and fellow actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, who died this month, calling him “a monumental presence who is now sadly an absence.”

“Phil, buddy, this is for you, you bastard. I hope you’re proud,” Blanchett said.

The supporting actor prize went to Barkhad Abdi, who made an explosive screen debut as a Somali pirate in Captain Phillips. The 28-year-old called his experience of going from obscurity in Minnesota to stardom — complete with an Oscar nomination — “surreal.”

The prize for adapted screenplay went to Philomena, based on the true story of an Irish woman’s decades-long search for the son she was forced to give up for adoption.

The documentary prize went to Joshua Oppenheimer’s The Act of Killing, a powerful look at hundreds of thousands of killings carried out in 1960s Indonesia in the name of fighting communism.

Will Poulter (Son of Rambow, We’re the Millers), a 21-year-old actor, won the rising star award, decided by public vote.

The awards have become an essential stop for many Hollywood stars before the Academy Awards, held this year on March 2. In the past few years, the British prizes, known as BAFTAs, have helped underdog films, including Slumdog Millionaire, The King’s Speech and The Artist, gain Oscars momentum.

Herald staff with AP, Reuters, online media

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