Gala steers clear of stuffiness, long-windedness

By turns wittily scabrous and breezily reverential, the 12th annual Britannia Awards bestowed trophies Saturday night on a quartet of favorite sons and daughters.

Sponsored by the L.A. chapter of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, gala event at the Century Plaza managed to steer clear of both stuffiness and long-windedness.

The presenters, including a wound-up Robin Williams and a droll Sandra Bullock, roasted and toasted the award recipients in near equal measure.

Director Peter Weir was honored with the first-ever John Schlesinger Award for Artistic Excellence — “The man did well coming from a country that started out as a prison colony,” Williams quipped.

Sony America chairman Howard Stringer, who took the trophy for his contribution to worldwide entertainment, was praised, by the BBC’s Greg Dyke via video, for having managed so adroitly to be British to the Americans and American to the Brits.

Accepting for lifetime achievement from Robert Wagner, Angela Lansbury described her upbringing in a political and theatrical family as key to setting her on her chosen path. “Most of all I have loved the doing of it,” she said of her eclectic career.

Finally, as self-deprecating as ever, Hugh Grant, who copped the Stanley Kubrick award for excellence in film, quipped that he had never seen “so many similar performances come up on one show reel” as did those on the clips shown to honor his own performances.

BBC stalwart and Broadway comic Alan Cumming emceed the show. A champagne toast to Queen Elizabeth II went down much more enthusiastically than one to President Bush.

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