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BAFTA surprises

In ceremonies held yesterday in London, the British Academy Film Awards announced its winners at one of Europe’s most glamorous film events. The BAFTA Awards, officially the Orange British Academy Film Awards but popularly known as BAFTAs, are considered an important indicator of success at the Oscars, which will be held on February 24 as planned (now that the Writers Guild strike seems to be over).

This year's show was given extra prominence by the Hollywood writers' strike that torpedoed last month's Golden Globes gala and threatened to derail the Academy Awards. Hundreds of fans gathered under an unseasonably warm February sun to watch stars including Anthony Hopkins, Sylvester Stallone, Keira Knightley and HARRY POTTER star Daniel Radcliffe arrive at London's Royal Opera House for the black-tie ceremony.

ATONEMENT, the film adaptation of the Ian McEwan novel set during the years of World War II, won the Best Film honors. Although nominated for 14 other prizes, it won only a Production Design award (losing out on writing, direction, editing and acting honors).

Daniel Day-Lewis won the Best Actor award, cementing his place as an Oscar favorite for his role as a larger-than-life oilman in THERE WILL BE BLOOD. Day-Lewis, a previous Oscar winner for MY LEFT FOOT, paid tribute to this year's strong field of nominees. ''It has been a mighty year and I am very proud to be included,'' he said.

In a surprise twist that could also be played out on Oscar night in two weeks, French actress Marion Cotillard won the Best Actress prize for her portrayal of songstress Edith Piaf in LA VIE EN ROSE. The film was also a surprise as the night’s biggest overall winner, capturing four prizes in all….for Best Actress, Music, Costume Design and Makeup. The choice of Cotillard could possibly be an upset to the status of Julie Christie, who is considered the frontrunner in the Oscar race for her performance in AWAY FROM HER.

Joel and Ethan Coen took the Directing Award for their brooding nouveau Western, NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, which also won Spanish actor Javier Bardem a Best Supporting Actor prize for his portrayal of an amoral bounty hunter. Veteran cinematographer Roger Deakins won the Best Cinematography prize for his stellar work of capturing the stark Texas landscape in the film.

Another major surprise was the choice of local favorite Tilda Swinton for Best Supporting Actress honors for her role as an amoral lawyer in the thriller MICHAEL CLAYTON. Swinton won out over favorites Cate Blanchett (for her incarnation of Bob Dylan in the omnibus film I’M NOT THERE) and Amy Ryan (as the mother in the Ben Affleck-directed thriller GONE BABY GONE).

Debut screenwriter Diablo Cody took the Original Screenplay prize for her winning script for the teen-pregnancy comedy JUNO, while the Best Adapted Screenplay prize was given to veteran Ronald Harwood for his adaptation of the Julian Schnabel-directed THE DIVING BELL AND THE BUTTERFLY.

In final awards, the hard-hitting skinhead drama THIS IS ENGLAND by local fave Shane Meadows took the prize as Best British Film, with rising star Shia LaBoeuf winning the Rising Star Award. Oscar winner Anthony Hopkins was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award. In all, a classy event in a season starved for glamour......

Sandy Mandelberger, Awards Watch Editor on fest21.com

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