The 71st British Academy Film Awards were eye-grabbing, both in its selection of winners and the
unwarranted disruption by pro-Time’s Up feminists which ultimately verged on ridicule. This is not to say that Time’s Up has become a farce, but rather that this event should, much like the Academy Awards, laud the artistic value of international cinema. While I respect the unquenchable
thirst for achieving equality and ridding the motion picture industry of harassment, I do believe that if future award ceremonies, such as the upcoming Oscars, continue to be sabotaged in the name of
equality, the whole essence of the empowering message behind Time’s Up and #MeToo will lose its
elucidation and instead become a representation of exaggerated hostility.
First of all, let’s look at this year’s highlights. Guillermo del Toro’s darkly surreal romantic drama The
Shape of Water received the greatest number of nominations, with twelve, followed by Darkest Hour,
which gave cinemagoers Gary Oldman’s most illustrious performance of his career so far, and Three
Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri, with nine each. The latter took home the award for Best Film while del Toro cemented his position among the auteurs with a Best Director award. Oldman unsurprisingly won Best Actor for his performance as Winston Churchill while Frances McDormand revitalised her somewhat stagnant career with an award for Best Actress in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Other winners included Martin McDonagh for Best Original Screenplay for Three Billboards and James Ivory for Best Adapted Screenplay for Call Me by Your Name.
However, a lightning of controversy struck the ceremony due to the lack of female representation, with chief reference to Lady Bird being omitted from the lists of nominees for multiple awards. Lady Bird is a well-made film about the turbulence of adolescence and it superbly captures that experience, but it must be asked: does this necessarily make it an award-worthy film? I do believe that what elevates the film beyond its mundane story are the breathtaking performances of Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf, portraying rebellious daughter and overprotective mother, respectively. In other words, what the film lacks in its originality it makes up for in its execution. Of this there is no doubt, yet it doesn’t bring anything new to the coming-of-age genre, following an overly-done plot device of conflicting parent and child, unlike Call Me by Your Name which explores maturation through the forbidden love of its two male protagonists. Indeed, Darkest Hour is unoriginal in its idea, in that it is a biographical film, but the set design, costumes and performances are
so well-crafted that it teleports the viewer back in time to the tumultuous year of 1940 and the
impending threat of a German invasion of Britain.
This begs the question: are we to have representation of female-produced films just for the sake of promoting an equality of the sexes? The danger of succumbing to what seems like a ‘political-correctness-gone-mad’ pressure is that it will take away the essential purpose of award ceremonies: to commend art. A film like Call Me by Your Name is a case in point. Upon receiving its nominations, it could have been very easy to view it as an Oscar-bait picture, due to its plot and characters which would have fit very nicely within the current wave of battling sexual intolerance and harassment. However, what does make it a film worthy of all industry awards is its honest depiction of the hardships faced by star-crossed lovers, as well as the fact that its brilliant writing and cinematography do not convey a love story between two homosexual men, but rather between two
human beings. It is this uniqueness that, in my opinion, allows Call Me by Your Name to surpass Lady Bird, while showing how a work of art can simultaneously challenge viewers’ taken-for- granted understandings of sexuality.
The Lady Bird controversy coincided with what has been labelled by the press as the “Time’s Up
boycott”, with a group of women wearing black ‘Time’s Up Theresa T-Shirts’. It was mainly an anti-
domestic violence protest and a call on the Prime Minister to work harder to end abuse. I do not dispute their intentions or sympathy for the Time’s Up movement. I do, however, question the timing of such a protest and whether, at that point in time, it was necessary. It seemed ostentatious and felt like a boycott for the sake of displaying solidarity or to ‘stick it to the man’, as it were. In fact, it was a display of jocularity. I do wholeheartedly wish for diseases like Harvey Weinstein to be in remission, however this does not excuse the overbearing antagonism of this gender crusade.