The Orange British Academy Film Awards represented something rather different this year: a growing appreciation of low-budget and inspiring art house film, at the expense of multi-million dollar epic blockbusters.

The clear winner at London’s Royal Opera House was the intense war drama The Hurt Locker which swept aside Avatar, despite James Cameron’s multi-million dollar creation having smashed all records of Worldwide Box Office takings. While the 3-D sci-fi hit won just two production awards, the low-budget war film, directed by Cameron’s ex-wife Kathryn Bigelow, collected six prizes in total, including best film and best director. The British Academy have certainly challenged the idea of financial success promising success in all other areas.

The Brits triumphed, winning both the revered Best Actor and Best Actress awards. Colin Firth picked up his first ever BAFTA for his career-defining role in Tom Ford’s A Single Man despite, as he admitted in his acceptance speech, having every intention of turning down the part until the man repairing his fridge advised him not to. Carey Mulligan, at just 24 years of age and dressed in a floor-sweeping Vionnet, scooped the award for her schoolgirl role in the British film An Education.

Both Lee Daniel’s Precious and Tarentino’s Inglorious Basterds were acknowledged for their incredible supporting actors.  Mo’Nique was awarded Best Supporting Actress for her harrowing role as an abusive mother and the prize of Best Supporting Actor was deservedly bestowed upon Austrian actor Christoph Waltz.

The ceremony became a royal affair this year, with Prince William making his first ever appearance.  As successor to Lord Richard Attenborough as the British Academy of Film and Television Arts’fifth President, his first formal act was to present actress Vanessa Redgrave with a British Academy Fellowship for her outstanding and exceptional contribution to film. She joins other noteworthy recipients such as Alfred Hitchcock, Steven Spielberg, Anthony Hopkins and Dame Judi Dench.

So far, Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker is leading the directing and film categories of the film awards of 2010, yet her ex-husband’s animation Avatar received the Golden Globe at the beginning of the year.  The next battle will take place on the 7th March for the most prestigious award from the most prominent award ceremony in the world.  Will Bigelow be the first woman to win an Oscar for best director or will Cameron claim this momentous prize? Whatever the outcome, the overall success of The Hurt Locker and other art films at the BAFTAs has greatly demonstrated the heightening appreciation of more serious, non-commercial masterpieces which focus on depth, not dollars.

Jess Bamford

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