LONDON — “American Beauty,” with six awards including best picture, was the biggest winner at the British Academy Film Awards. But the Sam Mendes pic didn’t have everything its own way.
Indeed, Mendes himself, despite being London-bred, lost out in the running for best director to a Spaniard. Pedro Almodovar won the David Lean award for best achievement in direction for “All About My Mother,” which also picked up the prize for best-foreign lingo pic.
“I’m having a honeymoon with the British audience, and I’m very horny,” quipped Almodovar in his broken English.
And Charlie Kaufman’s script for “Being John Malkovich” bested Alan Ball’s Oscar-winning effort in the original screenplay catagory.
“American Beauty” did deliver the best actor prize for Kevin Spacey, and best actress for Annette Bening, whose imminent motherhood prevented her from attending the ceremony at London’s Odeon Leicester Square theater.
The film also triumphed for its music (Thomas Newman, another absentee), cinematography (Conrad Hall) and editing (Tariq Anwar and Christopher Greenbury).
It was a star-studded event on a balmy spring evening, with large crowds greeting the likes of Dustin Hoffman, Faye Dunaway, Hugh Grant and Naomi Campbell, who all presented awards, along with nominees such as Julianne Moore, Ralph Fiennes and Spacey.
One surprising defeat was Michael Caine, who was beaten to the best supporting actor award by Jude Law for his performance in “The Talented Mr. Ripley.”
Caine was presented instead with an honorary fellowship of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts. But his chippy speech revealed just how deeply he still feels that Britain still does not accord him the respect he is due, and which he gets in America, despite the standing ovation he received from the audience inside the theater.
“I’ve made 85 movies and only won one of these (BAFTAs),” he said in accepting the award. “I have never really felt that I belonged in my own country and in my own profession … It’s an honor to be invited in from the cold. It has been cold out there, but maybe I feel a little more welcome in my own country than I have up to now.”
“East Is East” was named best British film, while one of its rivals for that prize, “Notting Hill,” won the Orange Audience Award, voted by the general public from a shortlist of the 10 top grossing films of the year.
“The Matrix” picked up prizes for sound and special effects, and “Sleepy Hollow” also snared a brace for production design and costume design.
Neil Jordan won best adapted screenplay for “The End of the Affair,” the pic’s only win from its ten nominations. “Topsy Turvy” figured once, for best make-up/hair. And Maggie Smith’s strong hometown vote snared her the best supporting actress award for “Tea With Mussolini.”
Lynne Ramsay, director of “Ratcatcher,” was given the Carl Foreman award for best newcomer in British film.
Stanley Kubrick was awarded a posthumous fellowship of BAFTA, accepted by his widow to the only other standing ovation of the night. In general, the event was low on emotion, with the audience struggling to get involved with the somewhat perfunctory show staged by British Sky Broadcsting, which was televising the ceremony live for the first time.
Host Jack Docherty found most of his jokes falling flat, and his stabs at sincerity sounding fake. But the audience was consoled to find small bottles of champagne in the popcorn holders by their seats, which helped to smooth over the bumps.
The British Academy Film Awards were sponsored by the mobile phone company Orange for the second year.
Alexander Korda British Film Award
“East is East”
Pedro Almodovar, “All About My Mother”
Charlie Kaufman, “Being John Malkovich”
Neil Jordan, “The End of the Affair”
Annette Bening, “American Beauty”
Kevin Spacey, “American Beauty”
Maggie Smith, “Tea with Mussolini”
Jude Law, “The Talented Mr. Ripley”
“All About My Mother”
Thomas Newman, “American Beauty”
Carl Foreman Newcomer Award
Conrad L. Hall, “American Beauty”
Rick Heinrichs, “Sleepy Hollow”
Colleen Atwood, “Sleepy Hollow”
Tariq Anwar, Christopher Greenbury, “American Beauty”
Special Visual Effects
“Who’s My Favourite Girl?”
“The Man With Beautiful Eyes”
Orange Audience Award
Michael Balcon Contribution Award