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A Night At the Opera: The BAFTA Awards

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Ten years ago in Britain, if you’d forecast that Princess Diana would be dead within months and that the aftermath would turn her mother-in-law into a movie star,  you’d probably have been whacked across the head with a sceptre. 

But here we are.  Last night, Queen Elizabeth II, was named best actress by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA).  Accepting the award on Her Majesty’s behalf, Dame Helen Mirren acknowledged the other members of the cast – “my royal family,” singling out the corgis for special attention – “thank you, dogs and bitches all”. She also took the opportunity to acknowledge the other nominees. Among them were Judi Dench and Penelope Cruz, whose disappointment at losing out to an octogenarian head of state may be tempered by the knowledge that the Queen has no plans for Elizabeth II II (this time it’s regal).

As if all this weren’t bizarre enough, Idi Amin, the brutal dictator of Uganda, who everyone thought was dead, turned up to collect the award for best actor.    Age seems to have mellowed the not so great dictator, and he took on a rarely-seen mien of humility. For a moment, he might almost have been that fine character actor, Forest Whitaker. 

Meanwhile, the new James Bond, Daniel Craig, spent the evening poised to leap from his front row seat, clamber up the wings, grab hold of a rope in the rafters, and swing down into the eye of the enormous representation of a BAFTA award on stage, only to re-emerge seconds later at a million miles an hour from a cannon at the back of the theatre, gently parachuting into the arms of Penelope Cruz.  But his name was never called.

Host Jonathan Ross seemed more subdued than usual, perhaps ill at ease in the sumptuous surroundings of the Royal Opera House.  His opening jokes fell flat, and at his very mention of plastic surgery, the smiles froze on the faces of a constellation of stars.  Ross lacks the lighter, more sophisticated touch that Stephen Fry brought to the ceremony in previous years.  Never one to ignore an elephant in a room, Ricky Gervais pointed out:  “at least the Americans have heard of Stephen Fry!”  Gervais, presenting the award for best animated film said he was thinking of making a Truman Capote movie – “you can’t get too many, can you?”

Meanwhile, attention now  turns to the Academy Awards, and the prospect perhaps of another announcement that  Elizabeth II never thought she might live to hear:  “And the Oscar goes to the Queen.”.

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