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High notes for ‘Pianist’

Brit Acad taps pic, director

See winnersLONDON — On a night when no film won more than two prizes, the big winner at the British Academy Film Awards was “The Pianist,” which picked up best film and best director for Roman Polanski.

The best pic award was a particular surprise, as “The Pianist” had received the fewest nominations, seven, of the five main contenders. With Oscar ballots going in the mail Tuesday, the two big wins — coupled with a similar double at France’s Cesar Awards on Saturday — give the Focus Features film impetus for the Academy Awards.

Polanski was not present to accept the honors, which were picked up in his absence by his star Adrien Brody and producers Robert Benmussa and Alain Sarde.

Daniel Day-Lewis was named best actor for his portrayal of Bill the Butcher in “Gangs of New York.” Nicole Kidman took the best actress crown for her turn as Virginia Woolf in “The Hours,” which also won best music for Philip Glass’s score.

Catherine Zeta-Jones triumphed on home turf in the supporting actress category for “Chicago,” which also won the BAFTA for sound.

Walken wins

Christopher Walken took the supporting actor prize for “Catch Me if You Can.”

It was a successful night, too, for Pedro Almodovar, who climbed on stage twice to accept best original screenplay and best foreign film awards for “Talk to Her.” Charlie (and Donald) Kaufman took the adapted screenplay award for “Adaptation.”

First-time Brit helmer Asif Kapadia also scooped two prizes for “The Warrior.” The pic, which is in Hindi, was chosen as best British film, and Kapadia was named best British newcomer.

“The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers” repeated the BAFTA success last year of its predecessor “The Fellowship of the Ring” in two categories, costume design and special visual effects.

Orange nod to ‘Lord’

It was also named as Orange Film of the Year, an award voted by the public from a shortlist of the year’s top 10 grossing movies, and not an official BAFTA award. The prize is named for the cellphone company that sponsors the whole BAFTA ceremony.

“Road to Perdition” also nabbed two prizes. Conrad Hall was posthumously given the cinematography award, and it was also honored for production design.

The Brazilian movie “City of God” was the surprise winner of the editing category, and “Frida” won for best makeup/hair.

The even spread of the prizes is typical of the BAFTAs, which combines membership voting with specialist juries to ensure that no single film tends to sweep all the categories. The director award, for example, is voted on by a jury of 10 creatives, while the film award is voted on by the entire academy.

Among the evening’s special awards, Saul Zaentz was honored with a BAFTA fellowship, and veteran assistant directors Michael Stevenson and David Tomlin were given BAFTAs for their career achievements.

Sharing the credit

Indeed, Day-Lewis spent most of his acceptance speech not talking about himself, but praising Stevenson. Continuing the modest tone, Kidman said her award was equally for her co-stars Meryl Streep and Julianne Moore: “It’s so lovely to share this with two very special women, and I do — I divide it into three and we have it together.”

Zaentz, Almodovar and Mexican star Gael Garcia Bernal (who was handing out the cinematography prize) all used the BAFTA platform to make anti-war statements.

Zaentz condemned what he called the “outright criminality at the highest level of (America’s) court-elected government,” and evoked the spirit of Martin Luther King to proclaim “we shall overcome.”

Anti-war Almodovar

Almodovar rattled off a prepared speech whose gist was that “cinema and war are very different things” — cinema being about light, he said, and war about darkness — ending with a rallying cry, “We must stop this army of darkness.” He delivered the speech, however, at such speed and in such heavily accented English that it was virtually incomprehensible to most of the audience.

Bernal (who, perhaps not coincidentally, will star in Almodovar’s next film “Bad Education,”) constructed his protest speech rather more wittily: “Last week millions of people voted against the war in Iraq and still we haven’t heard an answer from the governments. Last week, 10 people also voted for best cinematography, and I have got the answer,” he said.

Streep’s comic highlight

A rather more comic highlight of the evening was Meryl Streep accepting Charlie Kaufman’s prize in his absence, and reading out a statement from the writer that she clearly hadn’t had a chance to scan beforehand. Kaufman’s speech, as spoken by Streep, largely consisted of him angsting about whether he could write a good enough speech for Streep to deliver, and worrying that if he wrote a joke, it would fall flat, and then “It will be as if I had spit on Meryl Streep across the ocean and this after she has been kind enough to accept on my behalf.”

Streep then found herself reading Kaufman’s words about how great an actress she is, and then about how she is “maybe one of the most modest, nicest people ever.”

The ceremony took place, as in the past couple of years, at the Odeon Leicester Square in the heart of London’s West End. It was followed by an official dinner at the Grosvenor House Hotel.

And the winners are . . .

FILM

“The Pianist” — Roman Polanski/Robert Benmussa/Alain Sarde

THE MICHAEL BALCON AWARD FOR OUTSTANDING BRITISH CONTRIBUTION TO CINEMA

David Tomblin and Michael Stevenson

ALEXANDER KORDA AWARD (OUTSTANDING BRITISH FILM OF THE YEAR)

“The Warrior” — Bertrand Faivre/Asif Kapadia

CARL FOREMAN AWARD (MOST PROMISING NEWCOMER)

Asif Kapadia — “The Warrior”

DAVID LEAN AWARD FOR ACHIEVEMENT IN DIRECTION

“The Pianist” — Roman Polanski

SCREENPLAY (ORIGINAL)

“Talk To Her” (Hable con Ella) — Pedro Almodóvar

SCREENPLAY (ADAPTED)

“Adaptation” — Charlie Kaufman/Donald Kaufman

ACTRESS

Nicole Kidman — “The Hours”

ACTOR

Daniel Day-Lewis — “Gangs of New York”

SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Catherine Zeta Jones — “Chicago”

SUPPORTING ACTOR

Christopher Walken — “Catch Me If You Can”

MUSIC

“The Hours” — Philip Glass

FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

“Talk To Her” (Hable con Ella)

CINEMATOGRAPHY

“Road to Perdition” — Conrad L Hall

PRODUCTION DESIGN

“Road to Perdition” — Dennis Gassner

COSTUME DESIGN

“The Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers” — Ngila Dickson/Richard Taylor

EDITING

“City Of God” (Cidade Deus) — Daniel Rezende

SOUND

“Chicago” — Michael Minkler/Dominick Tavella/David Lee/Maurice Schell

VISUAL EFFECTS

“The Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers” — Jim Rygiel/Joe Letteri/Randall William Cook/Alex Funke

MAKE UP & HAIR

“Frida” — Judy Chin/Beatrice De Alba/John Jackson/Regina Reyes

SHORT FILM

“My Wrongs 8245-8249 And 117” — Mark Herbert/Chris Morris

SHORT ANIMATION

“Fish Never Sleep” — Gaelle Denis

THE ORANGE FILM OF THE YEAR (VOTED FOR BY THE PUBLIC)

“The Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers”

ACADEMY FELLOWSHIP

Saul Zaentz

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