‘The Power of the Dog’ Wins Best Film at Wide-Open BAFTAs

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LONDON — “The Power of the Dog,” Jane Campion’s tense Western about two clashing brothers on a Montana ranch, starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Jesse Plemons, was the big winner at the EE British Academy Film Awards in London on Sunday night.

It was named best picture at the awards, commonly known as the BAFTAs, beating the likes of Denis Villeneuve’s sci-fi epic “Dune,” Kenneth Branagh’s “Belfast,” the black-and-white movie based on his childhood in Northern Ireland, and Adam McKay’s “Don’t Look Up,” the divisive climate change satire starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence and Meryl Streep.

Campion also won best director — the third woman to take the prize in the award’s history — increasing her momentum ahead of this year’s Academy Awards.

She was not present to pick up her award in London. On Saturday she had been in Los Angeles at the Directors Guild of America Awards, where she also won the highest prize. At that award ceremony, Campion garnered attention when asked by Variety about disparaging comments that the actor Sam Elliott made about her movie, including questioning the “allusions to homosexuality” in the film.

“He’s not a cowboy, he’s an actor,” Campion told Variety, adding, “The West is a mythic space and there’s a lot of room on the range. And I think it’s a little bit sexist.”

The BAFTAs were most notable this year for their range of winners, with no one movie sweeping the board, even with “The Power of the Dog” taking the two main prizes. Will Smith won best actor for his role as Richard Williams, the father of the tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams, in “King Richard,” while best actress went to the British actress Joanna Scanlan for her role in “After Love,” a low-budget movie about a white Muslim convert who uncovers her husband’s secret past.

That movie has been little seen in Britain, let alone elsewhere, but Scanlan beat stars including Lady Gaga (“House of Gucci”) and Alana Haim (“Licorice Pizza”), both of whom were in the audience. “Come on!” Scanlan said, accepting her prize, adding, “Some stories have surprise endings.”

Hosted by Rebel Wilson, this year’s BAFTAs — Britain’s equivalent of the Academy Awards — marked a return to a glamorous in-person ceremony at London’s Royal Albert Hall, after a mostly virtual event last year.

“How good is it that award shows are back in person?” Wilson said in an opening monologue adding, “Actors, you can stop doing those wellness podcasts.”

Denis Villeneuve’s sci-fi epic “Dune” had secured a leading 11 nominations in February, but only ended up with five awards, mainly in technical categories including special visual effects, cinematography and sound.

Other winners included Ariana DeBose, who won best supporting actress for her role as Anita in “West Side Story,” surpassing the likes of Aunjanue Ellis (“King Richard”), Jessie Buckley (“The Lost Daughter”), Ruth Negga (“Passing”), Ann Dowd (“Mass”) and Caitriona Balfe (“Belfast”). Troy Kotsur won best supporting actor for his role in “CODA,” the heartwarming movie about a boisterous largely deaf family in Massachusetts.

Kotsur, who beat actors including Jesse Plemons and Kodi Smit-McPhee (“The Power of the Dog”), used sign language to accept his prize, and made a pitch to the producers of the James Bond franchise, asking, “Have you considered a deaf James Bond?”

Drive My Car,” the acclaimed Japanese drama about a theater director struggling to cope with the death of his wife, was named best film not in the English language. Ryusuke Hamaguchi, the movie’s director, seemed overwhelmed during his acceptance speech. “Well, that got rid of my jet lag,” he said through a translator.

His win was a sign that movies “go beyond language, they go beyond borders,” he added.

The BAFTAs are normally seen as a bellwether for the Oscars, given the overlap between the voting bodies of the two events. The Oscars are scheduled for March 27.

The appearance of a lesser-known winner in the best actress category at this year’s event may have something to do with sweeping changes to the awards voting process that BAFTA introduced over the past two years to improve the diversity of nominees. Those included requiring voters to watch a wide selection of movies before they could vote.

Some BAFTA voters fear those changes could put the award show’s future at risk. Scott Feinberg, writing in The Hollywood Reporter in February, called the changes “an overcorrection, however well-intended,” and went on to say that “the organization is signaling to the world that it doesn’t trust its own members to make wise and fair decisions.”

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