The British Academy handed out the Baftas last night at another lavish, starry ceremony in the Royal Opera House. There were a few surprises among the expected winners - most notably The Skin I Live In taking the foreign-film prize over critical favourite A Separation. Otherwise, The Artist deservingly stomped its way through the competition to take home seven awards, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy was a welcome winner in the British film category, and Meryl Streep saw off her increasingly feisty competitor Viola Davis for Best Actress. While Octavia Spencer maintained her bandwagon winning streak, seeing off competition here from Dame Judi Dench.
Like the Oscars in two weeks, Bafta brought back a venerable host, Stephen Fry, whose wry, brainy humour was a nice change from the usual goofiness. As always, the acceptance speeches were charming, red carpet outfits were glamorous and presenter pairings were sometimes perplexing, and little was particularly memorable. Although Meryl losing her shoe on the way up the steps was amusing, especially as presenter Colin Firth returned it to her foot. On winning Best Adapted Screenplay, Peter Straughan made a lovely, touching comment about his late wife and cowriter Bridget O'Connor, who we'd just seen in the In Memorium montage. Rising Star winner Adam Deacon was hilariously distracted by presenter Christina Hendricks' cleavage. And at least Hugh Jackman and Russell Crowe looked like they were having fun. Was it too much to hope that they might hum a few lines from one of their Les Miserables tunes? But then, Tom Jones had already opened the show with Thunderball.
As for films seen by London critics this week: Damsels in Distress is Whit Stillman's welcome return to the screen after a 13-year gap; This Means War is a guilty pleasure action romance with a surprisingly engaging comical performance from Tom Hardy; the pitch-black horror-comedy Blood Car is seriously deranged; and The Phantom Menace in 3D is still dodgy (and the 3D almost irrelevant) but was great fun to watch on a big screen in a huge cinema patrolled by storm troopers, Darth Maul and Anthony Daniels.