Mark Kermode

Mark Kermode

Mark Kermode is one of best known and well respected film critics and he was in London over the weekend at the EE Bafta Awards.

We caught up with him after the show to chat about who won what, the surprises that Bafta sprung and who is a major contender for the Oscars.

- Before we get into the Baftas, 2012 was a great year for film so what were the movies for you that particularly stood out?

I think it was a really good year and if you look at the Best Film contenders at the Baftas it was a really diverse list; you have political thrillers, 3D fantasy films and musicals, so there really was a great spread.

There are also films that I really liked including Berberian Sound Studio; a British film starring Toby Jones, which I thought was fabulous.

There is also a film called A Royal Affair starring Alicia Vikander, she was nominated for the Rising Star Award, and I thought that that film was just wonderful. It she her team up with Mads Mikkelsen and it really was a terrific film.

There is also a film by Gareth Evans, a Welsh director, called The Raid which I thought was really really good. It was a really diverse year.

- One of the early awards to be given out was Outstanding British Film and everyone seemed genuinely thrilled to see Skyfall pick up that award so what did you make of the win?

It was brilliant. I loved Skyfall and I do think that it is the best Bond film and Sam Mendes did a great job with it.

It is a film that is based on characters and story first with action and spectacle working in service of the story. In that category it was up against Les Miserables, which was one of the big contenders at the EE Baftas, and it won.

You could tell for the reaction n the room that everyone was going ‘yes, and about time’ because Bond movies are not thought of as being award’s bait they are thought of being populist and crowd pleasing.

It was really good to see that movie taken seriously and to get that recognition and good for it. I think that Sam Mendes did such a good job with it and it was a really deserving winner.

- This was an incredibly strong category this year, as you have mentioned already, what have you made of British film over the last twelve months?

The interesting question with Bafta is every year people always say ‘how does this reflect on the British film industry?’ And you look, for example, at the Outstanding British Film category and you are right there is really really good stuff in that category; Anna Karenina, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and Seven Psychopaths.

Then you have got the Outstanding debut by a British writer, director or producer and we had Wild Bill, Dexter Fletcher and Danny King were up for that, so there has been a awful lot of good British filmmaking.

The interesting think however is that British filmmaking exists all the way through the international spectrum and many of the movies that you think of as being Hollywood movies are driven by British talent; British filmmakers British directors, British technicians, British actors and British writers. The problem is judging the success of the British film industry on films that look as though they are British.

The great thing on Sunday was you had Les Miserables and Bond and both of them we think of as being quintessentially British; Stephen Fry made a joke about the fact that Les Miserables is driven by Australian talent and is based on a French story and yet we are calling it British.

I think the British film industry is in a pretty good state and I am always baffled by the news reports about what dire straights the film industry is in - it really isn’t.

- The big winner was Argo with Best Film and Best Director for Ben Affleck how are surprised are you at how well it has done on the award's circuit so far?

When Argo was first in the nominations I think people thought of it as the outside and in fact it has turned out to be the dark horse and it has won consistently at the award’s ceremonies.

We are in a very interesting position now as Ben Affleck won last night for Best Director and he cannot win for Best Director at the Oscars because he wasn’t nominated.

The Oscars have a Best Picture list of anything between five and ten films, there are nine on there this year, but the Best Director list is just five nominations and so you are going to get a mismatch between the best films and the best directors.

It is very hard to not look at the Oscars nominations and think that the absence of Ben Affleck for Best Director does stand out because he has won so many other awards - you do feel like he should have been nominated for Best Director.

- You have touched on my next question really as there was genuine shock when he was snubbed overlooked in that category because many of them expected him to be there so what did you make of that?

You are always going to get those disjoints if you have nine Best Film candidates and five Best Director candidates - even at the Baftas there wasn’t a match up as only three of the Best Film nominations matched up with the Best Director nominations.

With hindsight overlooking Ben Affleck at the Oscars does look bad because now everyone thinks that Argo is going to win big at the Oscars so he will be up there for Best Film. But it is impossible not to think that he really should have been in the running for Best Director.

Then again the person that I really think should have been in the running for Best Director is Sam Mendes as I think what he did with the Bond film was brilliant. I would have loved to have seen him nominated and, to me, that is a greater oversight.

- Ben Affleck called the success of Argo his 'second act' what have you made of his transition from actor to incredibly good director?

He has got a track record behind the camera as he has won awards for his screenwriting. The guy has a degree in political science and so he has always been someone who has been quite serious about the craft of filmmaking.

I think what he was referring to was the period in his career - the Bennifer period as it is remembered - where he was making movies like Gigli and Jersey Girl; which were not widely liked. He has always been someone who obviously has a talent for work behind the camera.

The interesting thing he said was George Clooney was the touchstone for him and he was his filmmaking mentor and I remember at the Baftas a couple of years ago when David Putnam was on stage and he said ‘George Clooney was making the kind of movies that he thought you weren’t allowed to make anymore’.

What George Clooney was doing was the kind of thing that Putnam left making movies for because he thought ‘I can’t make those movies anymore’; those mid range, intelligent movies with not a massive budget and not necessarily a massive star but had something to say.

And I think that that is where Ben Affleck comes into it. You look at Argo and it is a film that is made by someone who has a love of seventies cinema right down to the fact that we start with the Warner seventies logo at the beginning.

- Daniel Day Lewis was a red hot favourite for the Best Actor Award so what is it about his performance that is so special? Can you see anyone beating him to the Oscar?

At the Baftas I thought that there was a possibility, and only a possibility, that Hugh Jackman had a chance and I do think that he is terrific in Les Miserables.

As it turned out the bookies were completely right - in fact the bookies called it pretty much all the way down the line except for Emmanuelle Riva in the Best Actress category.

Daniel Day-Lewis is an exceptional actor and what was so funny about his acceptance speech was he joked about his own reputation for method acting saying ‘I have been in character as myself for the last fifty years’ - it was nice to see him have that kind of sense of humour about it.

I don’t understand his acting method, I think very few do, but whatever he does he immerses himself in a role completely and who know how it works but the results are up there on screen.

- As you said the biggest surprise of the night was Emmanuelle Riva winning Best Actress for Amour so was that a shock for you?

I think it was a surprise as all the bookies had been saying that it was a title fight between Jennifer Lawrence and Jessica Chastain.

When you get the reaction shot of people when they haven’t won and they have to do that strange grin and have to look pleased but I think that all the other nominees were genuinely pleased - if you are going to lose to anyone then losing to Emmanuelle Riva.

She was nominated some decades ago for Hiroshima mon amour and I think people thought ‘if I am going to lose to anyone, that’s fine’.

- Were there any other surprises for you last night?

Generally it worked the way that we thought it was going to work out, which was there was going to be a very wide spread of wins; basically all the significant films were going to win at least one significant award.

Apart from Zero Dark Thirty, which didn’t have a particularly good night, the awards were very well spread out amongst all of the main titles. Personally I like it when that happens as some years you can get one juggernaut success and that can make the award ceremonies less interesting.

The award that is always impossible to predict is the EE Rising Star as it is voted for by the public. I was involved in the selection group that came up with the shortlist of nominees and it is a terrific list that we were all very proud of.

There were some really really good people on that list all of whom are very accomplished performers and are on the cusp of stardom. Juno Temple that won and I think that she is a great win.

She is very distinctive and she is clearly a very fine actress and can hold herself in Killer Joe, in which she is acting opposite Matthew McConaughey, in a very dark and very strange and twisted film. She is very much what that award was about and she is a very good winner.

She was up against terrific opposition including Alicia Vikander who is terrific in A Royal Affair and Elizabeth Olsen who is fantastic in Martha Marcy May Marlene.

Then you have Andrea Riseborough who has got a terrific body of work behind her and who is respected in both theatre and television and film.

And then Suraj Sharma who appeared out of nowhere and had this incredibly commanding performance in Life of Pi in which he is acting, a lot of the time, alongside CGI tigers and that is really hard.

I think it was a really strong field and I am glad Juno Temple won but I would have been happy to see anyone of them win.

- There are now less than two weeks to the Oscars so who are you tipping to win - it is one of the most open in recent years?

I think that the Oscars will probably fall in the same way as the Baftas in the sense that there will not be a single outright winner. The only thing that I will say is that I have a 100% failure rate with tipping the Oscars - it is uncanny.

If I am going to say that there is any dead cert then Anne Hathaway is going to win best Supporting Actress and I think it is pretty certain now that we are going to see Daniel Day-Lewis win for Best Actor.

Beyond that it could go either way but all the bookies are now saying that Argo is the big Best Film contender.

It was interesting that when the nominations came out everyone said that Argo was out of the running because Ben Affleck is not nominated for Best Director. I think now that is not true and you may well see Argo picking up Best Picture.

- Finally what movies are you looking forward to in 2013? And what films are you not that excited about?

I am always looking forward to the film that I know nothing about and the film that I least expect. I do try as much as possible not to read a bunch of stuff about films before I see them because there is a great pleasure of seeing films completely unannounced.

I not a big fan of film festivals but one of the best things about somewhere like Cannes is you get to see stuff that you know nothing about other than the title and the start time and that is a real privilege.

If I look back at the films that stood out for me last year I would never have said ‘oh I am looking forward to Berberian Sound Studio or Sightseeers’ but I didn’t know about those films and these were the films that surprised me.

That is what I am looking forward to this year - the films that I don’t know anything about and the films that come from left of centre and catch me off guard.

You can check out the full list of Bafta winners

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