'Slumdog' lives it up with seven awards

IN A result that surprised absolutely nobody, Slumdog Millionaire , Danny Boyle's transposition of Oliver Twist to the slums …

IN A result that surprised absolutely nobody, Slumdog Millionaire, Danny Boyle's transposition of Oliver Twistto the slums of Mumbai, grabbed the best film prize at last night's British Academy of Film and Television Arts (Bafta) awards.

Indeed, as events progressed at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, it became clear that there were to be few shocks in any category. Favourites Mickey Rourke, Kate Winslet, Penelope Cruz and the late Heath Ledger all triumphed.

Slumdog Millionairewon seven Baftas in total, but, repeating an apparent discrepancy that happens frequently at this event, it managed to lose the best British film prize to James Marsh's hugely admired documentary Man on Wire. Slumdog'striumphs further underline Boyle's achievement in resurrecting a project that once looked set to be released straight to video.

The acting awards were shared out between four hotly tipped stars from four different films. Rourke, who arrived puffing a cigarette, completed his comeback to mainstream cinema by grabbing the best actor prize for Darren Aronofsky's searing The Wrestler. Winslet, nominated as leading actress for Revolutionary Roadand The Reader, was honoured for her performance in the latter film as a former concentration camp guard. Penelope Cruz won the best supporting actress gong for Woody Allen's Vicky Christina Barcelonaand, in the least astonishing result of the evening, Heath Ledger, profoundly creepy as the Joker in The Dark Knight, reached out from beyond the grave to grab the best supporting actor paperweight.


Brendan Gleeson, nominated against Ledger for his hilarious turn in Martin McDonagh's In Bruges, will, no doubt, have been philosophical about the Australian's triumph, but he will have been delighted to accept for McDonagh, the acclaimed London-Irish playwright, the prize for best original screenplay. A modest success on its British release, McDonagh's film has become a cult DVD hit.

In another success for Irish-related material, Steve McQueen, director of Hunger, a study of Bobby Sands's final days, picked up the Carl Foreman Award for "special achievement by a British director, writer or producer for their first feature".

Since 2002, when the ceremony moved from a quiet corner of April to the last weeks of the awards season, the Baftas have managed to attract a better class of movie star and have become a very accurate predictor of the acting gongs at the Oscars. Many British movie professionals vote for both awards and, with the ballots for the Oscars due in at the end of this week, a Bafta win can potentially sway the undecided.

Last year, all four winners of the acting awards succeeded at the Oscars and, with each of this year's champs nominated for the American awards, the feat could be repeated on February 22nd.

Despite pelting rain and plummeting temperatures, high-profile supernovas such as Sharon Stone, Robert Downey Jr and Meryl Streep turned up to sign autographs. But nobody attracted as much attention as supernovas Angelina Jolie, nominated for Changeling,and Brad Pitt, who was short-listed for both Burn After Readingand The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

"It's a nice change for us," Pitt said, blinking away the raindrops. "We are used to all that sun."

Jolie, somehow still dry and unshaken, glowed in an elegant black dress with a striking mustard detail. Even when losing, true Hollywood royalty knows how to steal the show.

Donald Clarke

Donald Clarke

Donald Clarke, a contributor to The Irish Times, is Chief Film Correspondent and a regular columnist