Sweeping World War I odyssey “1917” won big at Sunday’s Bafta awards, landing the best film prize and best director trophy for Sam Mendes, and putting it in line for potential Oscars glory next weekend.
The movie, which follows two British soldiers on a perilous mission across no man’s land, had already scooped the Golden Globe for best drama, and has 10 Academy Award nominations including for best picture.
Hailed as a groundbreaking piece of cinema, it scooped seven of the nine prizes it was nominated for at Britain’s top film awards, including in cinematography, production design, sound and special visual effects.
“It’s moving for me to get this in my hometown for the first time,” said Mendes, the first British winner of the best director Bafta since Danny Boyle prevailed in 2009 for “Slumdog Millionaire”.
“Thank you to all the people who have gone to see this in the cinemas,” he told the star-studded ceremony at the Royal Albert Hall in London.
At this year’s Baftas, the same five movies filled the best film and best director nominations.
Joining “1917” and Mendes were “Joker” (Todd Phillips); South Korean comedy thriller “Parasite” (Bong Joon-ho); “The Irishman” (Martin Scorsese), and “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” by Quentin Tarantino.
The evening proved particularly anti-climatic for the latter two: Tarantino’s comedy-drama won just one award — Brad Pitt, for best supporting actor — while Scorcese’s crime flick finished empty-handed.
But the evening was perhaps equally disappointing for hit film “Joker”, which led the way with 11 nominations but ended up with just three prizes, including Joaquin Phoenix for best actor.
He beat Hollywood heavyweight Leonardo DiCaprio (“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”) as well as Adam Driver (“Marriage Story”), Taron Egerton (“Rocketman”) and Jonathan Pryce (“The Two Popes”).
Renee Zellweger claimed the best actress award for her portrayal of Judy Garland’s late-life comeback tour in “Judy”, marking a stunning renaissance for her own wide-ranging career.
She saw off stiff competition from a talented field boasting Jessie Buckley (“Wild Rose”), Scarlett Johansson (“Marriage Story”), Saoirse Ronan (“Little Women”) and Charlize Theron (“Bombshell”).
“This is very humbling,” she told the audience of Hollywood royalty.
“Miss Garland, London town, which you have always loved so much, still loves you back. This is for you.”
Meanwhile Laura Dern won the best supporting actress gong for Netflix’s divorce tearjerker film “Marriage Story”.
She beat out her co-star Scarlett Johansson, for her role in “Jojo Rabbit”, as well as Florence Pugh (“Little Women”) and twice-nominated Margot Robbie (“Bombshell” and “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”).
The British Academy of Film and Television Arts, in its 73rd annual movie awards, are often seen as indicative of which way the Oscars might go in Los Angeles, this year on February 9.
This year’s Baftas have faced some criticism for lacking ethnic diversity among the acting categories’ nominees, all 18 of whom were white.
Phoenix took aim at “systemic racism” and “oppression” within the industry in his acceptance speech.
“I think that we send a very clear message to people of colour that you’re not welcome here,” he added.
The British academy said it would review its voting system in time for next year’s awards.
The winners and nominees in most categories are voted for by the 6,500 members, who are industry professionals and creatives from around the world.
In previous years, senior Bafta figures said the awards could only reflect the cinema industry’s output.
“It’s infuriating. We can’t make the industry do something; all we can do is encourage,” said Bafta film committee chairman Marc Samuelson. — AFP