Bassey bosses it, raucous gags and muted politics: 9 things we learned from the Baftas 2022

The key takeaways from a ceremony that saw The Power of the Dog triumph – but Coda and Belfast emerge the real winners

1) Rebel Wilson a lively host by even the crudest measure

Joanna Lumley’s two-year stint as Baftas host was not a happy one – the prolific and brutal slaughter of gags was worthy of a Quentin Tarantino movie. Could Rebel Wilson, who brought the house down a couple of years ago ripping into Cats, do any better? Well, she scored a few direct hits. For instance (on her weight loss) “I’ve had quite a transformation – I hope JK Rowling still approves” and her gag about Will Smith’s open marriage. Balanced against that, however, was the cringey “back to the cinema” skit, which seemed mainly to be an opportunity to cram in a pixellated shot of her naked from the waist down along with various euphemisms for going for a dump. The gags about how many actors in the audience she wanted to shag also got a little stale … literally, when she brought out a cake of Benedict Cumberbatch’s face. AN

2) Belfast makes a late comeback

Kenneth Branagh arrives at the Baftas.
Kenneth Branagh arrives at the Baftas. Photograph: Neil Hall/EPA

For a while, back last autumn, Belfast looked like the film to beat this awards season. Kenneth Branagh’s drama tickled the Academy’s favour in a similar fashion to Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma: black and white, coming-of-age, cineaste autobiographical. But then it dipped. Other films built up a head of steam and Belfast looked increasingly doomed. Now, it rises once more, its spell out of the limelight re-energising the race and endearing it to anyone slightly jaded by big skies and conflicted cowboys. Branagh was popular on Sunday night, delivering a warm, button-pushing, fight-the-good-fight rallying cry for cinemas – and he’s even more popular in Hollywood. A good outside punt. CS

3) Coda’s feelgood story mightn’t be over yet

Every awards year seems to have a little movie that could; Coda is the one that has got the nod this time. A remake of a fairly obscure French film, entrusted to a director with a pretty short CV, it has ridden a wave of excitement for its emotive narrative arc and its discovery of a veteran talent in Troy Kotsur, only the second deaf actor to be up for an Oscar (after Marlee Matlin, who plays his wife in the movie). Coda seemed to have inspired real affection within the industry if the roars of approval greeting its two wins tonight were anything to go by. Director Sian Heder will be up against the same crew on Oscar night for best adapted screenplay; she may not repeat the trick, but Kotsur now looks nailed on for best supporting actor. AP

Coda star Troy Kotsur with his Bafta for best supporting actor.
Coda star Troy Kotsur with his Bafta for best supporting actor. Photograph: Neil Hall/EPA

4) Lots of Oscars still to play for …

The Power of the Dog will win the Oscars for best picture and director – that’s written in stone. Not just because, despite failing to take any other Baftas, it still won those two, but because it has now won every single picture prize going. And on Saturday Jane Campion won the Directors Guild America award – the most reliable bellwether of the Academy Awards. So: done deal.

But aside from those categories – and the actor awards, with Will Smith and Troy Kotsur being locks – there’s still lots to play for in the next fortnight. Might Coda and Licorice Pizza go home with the screenplay awards (there was a lot of love for the latter at Bafta)? CS

5) … with best actress impossible to call

It’s when you come to the best actress categories that the Baftas and Oscars really struggle to correlate. Joanna Scanlan, who won the Bafta, isn’t up for the Oscar but Olivia Colman and Kristen Stewart – both snubbed by Bafta – both are. Is it too soon for more Colman? Might Jessica Chastain’s shocked speech at the SAGs have won her sufficient favour to take it? Or does Nicole Kidman’s Lucille Ball tick the right boxes? Meanwhile, Judi Dench’s advanced years and treasure status could mean she gets a second supporting actress Oscar, though the smart money must be on Ariana DeBose – whose charming speech on Sunday can only have helped her cause. CS

6) Bond remains at the centre of the industry’s psyche

While No Time to Die only won a single award – for best editing – Bond loomed large over the ceremony. Rebel Wilson showed her Daniel Craig tattoo, Troy Kotsur was asked about the possibility of a deaf Bond and Shirley Bassey opened the show by singing Diamonds Are Forever. It’s 60 years since the first Bond film, and Bassey is now 85 – but her commitment to glamour and drama remain unshaken, and indeed unstirred, by the passing of time. It was rather moving. AN

7) Sign language interpreters steal the show

What was the night’s best performance? Rebel Wilson’s finger-waggling smutfest? Dame Shirley’s rafter-shattering vamping? Troy Kotsur’s engaging pitch for 008? I’d argue it was the amazingly graceful sign-language interpreters, who accompanied Kotsur and his director Sian Heder on stage when they picked up their awards – and even more splendidly accompanying Emilia Jones’ performance of the song from the movie. They really raised the level of the show. AP

8) Bafta grows in power … but still harbours inferiority complex

Now the Golden Globes are out of the picture, the road would appear clear for the Baftas as the unarguable silver-medal position in the awards race (with the Oscars still defeating all comers). But Bafta’s relationship with the US Academy is still tricky: it’s both saucer-eyed at its counterpart’s wattage and wants to assert its own homegrown traditions. Even if Joanna Scanlan’s triumph as best actress demonstrated a bit of independent thinking, some of the other decisions show the boot is still on the Oscar foot. That’s the only way to explain Ariana DeBose winning over Jessie Buckley (a result even DeBose didn’t see coming), and Will Smith defeating Benedict Cumberbatch (the latter taking it gracefully). And the number of awards presented to no-shows told its own story; pitching for Oscar votes is a demanding business. AP

9) Political gestures stay surprisingly discreet

With war raging in Ukraine, it seemed likely that a succession of stars would take the opportunity to share their thoughts about the crisis. Perhaps aware of the dissonance between a glitzy awards show and the horror of the invasion, however, few did. Rebel Wilson showed us the “universal sign language” for Putin – a raised middle finger. Andy Serkis made a convoluted joke about Priti Patel. Benedict Cumberbatch indicated on the red carpet that he wanted to be part of the “homes for Ukraine” scheme. Many wore blue and yellow badges to show their support. But grandstanding, in the main, was conspicuous by its absence. AN

• Join Peter Bradshaw and fellow Guardian film critics for a Guardian Live online event ahead of the Oscars on Thursday 24 March.


Catherine Shoard, Andrew Pulver and Alex Needham

The GuardianTramp

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