Tag Archives: Stephen Beresford

BAFTA night: Boyhood and Theory of Everything triumph

8 Feb
boyhood_still

Boyhood, winner of Best Film at the BAFTAs

The curtain has just closed on a night of glitz, hits and wits at the Royal Opera House, and this year’s BAFTA winners are in.

No real upsets: The Theory of Everything wins Outstanding British Film, Best Adapted Screenplay and – duh – Best Actor in Eddie Redmayne (or “Ready Edmayne”, as host Stephen Fry called him). Boyhood wins Best Director, Best Supporting Actress and Best Film (Patricia Arquette). Julianne Moore got best Actress. I was sad not to see Mr Turner recognised for cinematography, especially after the BATAs’ snub for Mike Leigh in the director category (though they compensatedby giving him a Fellowship), but the one-take achievement of Birdman carried the day.

My own predictions have come true, for once: JK Simmons is Best Supporting Actor for Whiplash, a film I have written about a lot in the past; and Jack O’Connell, about whom I wrote “a star is born” when Starred Up was released, wins the Rising Star award from quite a strong crop this year.

The BAFTAs always seem more relaxed, less rehearsed than the Oscars. Eddie Redmayne in particular has not yet learned to be dull and reserved. Asked on the red carpet what the first film he ever saw was, he replied, “Willow – terrifying. I was so scared I kept pretending I needed the loo. My friend thought I had some sort of weird bladder issue.” Even in his acceptance speech, he began by recalling a previous BAFTA night on which he had decorated the wallpaper in an unusual way due to a bout of food poisoning.

Cuba Gooding Jr took exception at Stephen Fry asking for a kiss from Michael Keaton and not from him, and planted a big smacker on his mouth. Gooding Jr seemed genuinely a little dazed after. “You have very soft lips,” he interrupted himself to reminisce a minute later. The presenter of the Best Film award was announced as “Tom Fucking Cruise!” And Ralph Fiennes was funny throughout. “We love seeing you doing comedy” he was told of Grand Hotel Budapest, on the red carpet. “Thank you very much. I took it very seriously.” With only the merest hint of a wry smile to signpost the joke.

Oh, and I was glad to see the excellent Pride recognised for Outstanding British Debut. Writer Stephen Beresford said, “It took my 20 years to get anyone to agree with me that gay and lesbian activists and a mining dispute were the ingredients for a sure-fire comedy smash…” But he was right.

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Coal v kohl in Pride, this year’s breakthrough Brit hit

11 Sep

Pride movie

Every couple of years, a small British film comes along that transcends its parochial setting to touch a universal nerve, with award nominations and US box-office upsets ensuing. Think Brassed Off, or Billy Elliot. Now think Matthew Warchus’s Pride, released on Friday, which splices the DNA of both those sleeper hits.

Pride is based, as is so much Oscar-bait, on a true story: having realised, in 1984, that there is one minority group being persecuted even more viciously by the police than themselves, a Soho-based Gay & Lesbian group becomes one of the best fund-raisers for the miners’ strike – only to find the Welsh coal-men, however desperate they are, reluctant to accept charity from a bunch of “poofs and perverts”.

That the insular mining community is, for the most part, won over by the exotic visitors is no spoiler; without that there’s no movie. [In real life, they didn’t even need winning over, as this piece in GayStarNews shows.] But there’s a real joy in how it unfolds: particularly Dominic West’s showstopping disco routine to the song Shame, Shame, Shame in the miners’ social club. The ensemble cast is wonderful. Imelda Staunton and Bill Nighy, playing against type as a shy and stuttering poetry-lover, seem most likely to receive Best Actor noms, and the only false note is struck by the one irreconcilably homophobic villainess of the piece, who seems too much of a battle-axe to be true.

And the script… well, I wish I’d written it. The opening lines: “I’ve spoken to the Council about your deviant parties,” warns an older resident of the main gay character’s housing estate. “No need to do that,” he teases, “just knock on the door and we’ll let you in.” Further enraged, the man warns, “They’re sending policemen!” “Ooh, I do hope so!” The one-liners fizz throughout, but first-time writer Stephen Beresford is also deft at painting it black, as the spectre of AIDS beings to spread its chill.

As to the politics of the strike, that’s wisely ignored in favour of its human cost. But what starts as a good-hearted paean of tolerance and understanding for “poofs and perverts” develops into something more interesting and subversive still: a reassertion of the dignity and solidarity of the Labour movement, at a time when it is more sorely needed than ever. The ending had me in tears.