The Anti-Bafta Awards

The Happy Prince with Rupert Everett - winner of The Kubrick Award for being too good to win - Harris anti-Bafta awards 2019

As a BAFTA member, over the past months I’ve received a total of 93 movies (not counting downloads) to watch and vote for – or not, as the case may be.

Aside from the general insanity of watching non-stop films since November, and the strange things it has done to my private life, as we approach the Bafta awards this weekend, I thought it might be good to give my own awards – the Harris anti-Baftas – for categories that the Baftas themselves have strangely overlooked.

The anti-BAFTA Awards for 2019…

Here are the results:

The Kubrick Award for being too good to win

Goes to The Happy Prince, a wonderfully acted portrayal of Oscar Wilde, starring, written and directed by Rupert Everett, who presumably would have stitched the costumes and composed the music too, if he’d had the time.

Runner up: The Children Act for its subtle and complex central performance by Emma Thompson – a rare example of a good book making a good film.

The McGonagall Prize for assuming they didn’t need to bother to pay for a good script…

Is awarded to Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again – whose title perfectly describes the state of mind of producers who simply knew that all they had to do was dump another dose of Abba on the soundtrack and nobody would care about story, plot, characters, interesting dialogue, wit, or any of that kind of stuff.

The Godfather 3 Cup for most disappointing film of the year

Has to be Roma. Mexican maid works hard for rich employers, has to clean up dog shit, gets pregnant, is badly treated by her boyfriend… Who knew!

Maybe no film could have lived up to the tsunami of critical hype but from the boring title sequence (about 5 minutes of staring at a tiled floor) to the rather predictable ending, I wondered just what all those critics saw in it. Then maybe that’s just me.

The Strong And Stable Award for changing political minds

No competition here: Peterloo wins by a mile.

I began watching this movie a firm supporter of the downtrodden masses. The opening shot – an achingly long take of what must be the worst single acting performance of the decade – began to shake my faith. By the mid-point, I was urging the troops to open fire.

It takes some skill to make a film that still seems slow even on fast-forward. Show it to your lefty friends and watch them rush out to join the Tory party.

The Christmas Day Football Match Plate for unexpected humanity

By contrast, Ex Libris, the latest documentary by veteran film-maker Fred Wiseman, restored my belief that human beings still exist in the wild.

Made with 84-year-old Wiseman’s trademark lack of narration, Ex Libris follows the gentle pace of life in New York Public Library, where people really do take time to provide everything from the birthplace of a famous writer and century-old newspapers to job interview advice and discussions on sexual innuendo at Jewish delicatessens. Long but an absolute treat.

The Valium Award for most depressing film about a famous person

This one goes to Kenneth Branagh’s All Is True which manages to turn the final years of our greatest writer into a tale of failure and gloom and the ageing Shakespeare into an archetypal miserable old git.

I managed about ten minutes before I lost the will to live, pun intended, so if anything interesting happened after that, don’t bother telling me. I don’t think I could take the excitement.

Which leads us to…

The Keira Knightley Prize for least convincing portrayal of a writer

… awarded to, well, Keira Knightley whose performance as the great French author Colette runs (to steal from Dorothy Parker) the full gamut of emotions from A to B.

In a year filled with strong portrayals of writers, from The Wife to The Happy Prince (see above) she succeeds in giving us not the slightest sense of why critics at the time acclaimed Colette as France’s greatest woman writer. Some achievement.

Meanwhile, talking of old gits, there’s…

The Donald Trump Vase, for denial of the effects of one’s actions

For which the out and out winner is Robert Redford in his swansong The Old Man and the Gun – portraying the true story of serial bank-robber Forrest Tucker as a kindly old man who never intentionally hurt a fly.

Now, accusing banks of stealing from the poor is one thing, but glossing over the undoubted stress of having to face a loaded revolver is quite another. This movie makes it all look a bit of a jape. Ask the cashiers who had to deal with him if they agree.

It doesn’t make me happy to write this, at the end of Redford’s career, filled with great movies, but this isn’t one of them.

And finally…

The Harris Anti-Bafta Award for Grown-Up Film-Making

This goes to those rare films that actually engaged this year with real life in an adult, interesting and emotionally grown-up way.

Joint runners-up:

Capernaum – a moving story about a refugee child running amok in Beirut, with a tremendous performance from its novice twelve-year-old star.

Puzzle – sweet American indie drama about a put-upon wife and mother who enters a major jigsaw competition.

Shoplifters – wry comedy: a Fagin-like “family” of misfits, scraping a living in Tokyo through low-level theft, find themselves unofficially adopting a neighbourhood girl who’s been abused by her real family.

Dogman – noirish crime drama: an affable but weak-minded dog-groomer in a deprived coastal town in Italy has to learn if he can stand up to bullying by the local criminal thug.

I highly recommend all of them. But this year’s winner is:

Leave No Trace – Debra Granik’s thought-provoking and intelligent coming-of-age story about the teenage daughter of a US veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder who is bringing her up to live in the wild, always just one step ahead of social services.

Tell me your own favourites (and un-favourites) in the comments below.