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‘1917’ and ‘Parasite’ Are Big Winners at the BAFTAs

LONDON — “1917,” Sam Mendes’s visually extravagant World War I drama that takes viewers into the chaos of the trenches was the big winner at the EE British Academy Film Awards on Sunday, taking seven awards including best film.

Mendes was also named best director at the event, better known as the BAFTAs, Britain’s equivalent of the Oscars.

The haul adds to the movie’s wins for best drama and best director at the Golden Globes and will increase hype around the movie in the run-up to the Oscars.

“In the midst of all this hoopla, it’s sometimes easy to forget the actual experience of shooting a movie,” Mendes said, accepting his best director award. “I had a kind of director’s paradise in this film that I think I’ll never, ever have again.”

The sweep for “1917” came despite the film receiving mixed reviews in Britain. Kevin Maher, writing in The Times of London, called it “two hours of amphetamine-rush cinema” and “instantly, an Oscar-night front-runner.”

But some were more dismissive. Robbie Collin, writing in The Daily Telegraph, called it “emotionally inert.”

“I can’t recall the last time I was so staggered by a film’s technique while feeling almost nothing else about it at all,” he wrote.

Bong Joon Ho’s “Parasite” — a thriller about a poor family who insinuate themselves into the lives of a pampered household, and the first Korean film to be nominated for the best picture Oscar — was the night’s other big winner, taking the awards for best film not in the English language and best original screenplay.

Bong, accepting the screenplay prize, said he used to write in coffee shops. “I never imagined I’d be standing here at the Royal Albert Hall,” he added, clearly overjoyed.

Joker,” the movie based on the comic book character, had been tipped to win big at the awards, after it secured 11 nominations in January, the most for any film. In the end, it won only three, with Joaquin Phoenix as best actor for the title role being the biggest.

The run-up to the BAFTAs was dominated by complaints about the lack of diversity among the nominees. No person of color was nominated in the best acting categories, and no woman was shortlisted for best director.

Such complaints have also hit this year’s Golden Globes and Academy Awards, but in the case of the BAFTAs, even Amanda Berry, chief executive of the body that organizes the awards, said she was “very disappointed” by the situation. The body had “hoped we’d see at least one female director,” she told the BBC in January.

The British Academy of Film and Television Arts quickly announced a full and thorough review of its voting procedures, but that did not stop the criticism. Steve McQueen, the British director of “12 Years a Slave” and “Widows,” told The Guardian the awards risked becoming “irrelevant, redundant and of no interest or importance” without change.

The issue wasn’t missing from the award ceremony itself. Joaquin Phoenix said he felt “conflicted” when he accepted the best actor award for “Joker.”

“I think that we send a very clear message to people of color that you’re not welcome here,” he said. “That’s the message we send.”

Phoenix also called out “systemic racism” in the film industry. “It is the obligation of the people that have created and perpetuate and benefit from a system of oppression to be the ones that dismantle it,” Phoenix said. “That’s on us.”

Prince William, the president of BAFTA, referred to it, too, when introducing the event’s final award. “In 2020 and not for the first time in the last few years, we find ourselves talking again about the need to do more to ensure diversity in the sector and in the awards process,” he said. “That simply cannot be right in this day and age,” he added.

Other major winners at the BAFTAs included Renée Zellweger, who won best actress for her portrayal of Judy Garland at the end of her life in “Judy”; Laura Dern, who won best supporting actress for “Marriage Story”; and Brad Pitt, who won best supporting actor for “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood” — all three repeating their successes from the Golden Globes.

Pitt missed the event, but his acceptance speech — which included a reference to Britain’s exit from the European Union on Friday — got one of the evening’s biggest laughs. “Hey Britain, heard you just became single,” he said in a speech, read out by the actress Margot Robbie. “Welcome to the club.”

The Irishman,” Martin Scorsese’s latest epic, failed to win any awards.

The BAFTAs are widely viewed as a bellwether for the Academy Awards, because there is some overlap between the 6,500-strong membership of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, which organizes the BAFTAs, and the members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

This year the two ceremonies are just a week apart, with the Oscars on Feb. 9.

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