Ricky Gervais and Christopher Guest both agreed that Guest is funnier than Gevais, Tom Hanks trashed IMDb in front of its founder, and another batch of shiny trophies was handed out at Friday night’s Britannia Awards, one more kudos-fest as awards season revs up.
The Britannia Awards are an enterprise from BAFTA-Los Angeles, the Hollywood arm of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts. Coming about four months before BAFTA’s big awards, the EE British Academy Film Awards, they are part career-achievement salute, part campaign stop.
This year’s honorees were Gervais, Jodie Foster, Samuel L. Jackson, Felicity Jones, Ang Lee and Ewan McGregor, some of whom have dogs in this year’s awards fight (Jones’ “A Monster Calls,” Lee’s “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk,” McGregor’s “American Pastoral”) and some of whom don’t.
But they all showed up at the International Ballroom of the Beverly Hilton, which will be the site of dozens of awards events between now and February, for what is surely the show with the most sponsor-heavy title of all: the AMD British Academy Britannia Awards Presented by Jaguar, Land Rover and American Airlines, to be precise.
Also attending, Jennifer Lawrence, who presented the award to Foster; Hanks, who lauded Jones; Jake Gyllenhaal, who gave the trophy to Lee; Brie Larson, who did it for Jackson; Gugu Mbatha Raw, who saluted McGregor; and Guest, who did the honors for Gervais.
As you might expect, the Guest/Gervais combo was the most entertaining of the night. After saying that he was honored to be there to present Gervais with the Charlie Chaplin Britannia Award for Excellence in Comedy, Guest added, “It would be a greater honor if he were presenting me with the award. And it would probably make more sense.”
A pause. “But rigged or not, you could argue that he deserves this award … I think it’s safe to say that if it were not for his many personality flaws, he’d be a great person to admire.”
Gervais, for his part, veered wildly between mocking the award and insisting that he was kidding. After mentioning people who win awards and then say they haven’t prepared a speech, he said, “I knew I’d win and I didn’t prepare a speech. That shows you the contempt I have for this award, and this town …
“But I do appreciate this, because what I’m taking from this is that you and everybody in show business is telling me that I’m better than Charlie Chaplin.”
In what was practically the only straight moment of the speech, he did manage to thank Guest, who he says was was the only real mentor he ever had, and a man whose comedy he aspires to match.
Hanks was a close second in the amusing-speech category, with a long and energetic oration that ended up comparing Jones, his co-star in “Inferno,” to Botticelli’s Venus.
Before that, though, he mentioned looking up Jones in the IMDb, only to be taken aback by a smattering of applause when he mentioned the online database.
“You’re applauding the IMDb?” he asked, incredulously. “The algorithm that reduces all the magic of filmmaking into a collection of bullet points?”
His IMDb trash-talking continued for several minutes — and for the record, the mock rant went over particularly well at the second-tier table occupied by the service’s founder, Col Needham, who later posted on his Facebook page, “Whatever we are paying Tom Hanks to be an IMDb spokesperson ($0 BTW) it is not enough.”
The untelevised Britannia Awards show was hosted by British comedian and rapper Doc Brown, who said he was the go-to guy “when Idris Elba is busy, and BAFTA still needs to keep the diversity quotient up … When it comes to black British celebrities, after Idris there’s a big drop off.”
It opened with Lawrence presenting the Stanley Kubrick Britannia Award for Excellence in Film to Foster. When she worked with Foster on “The Beaver,” Lawrence said, Foster told her that one day she would look at her acting choices and realize that they all reflected something about what was going on in her life.
Later, she said, she did just that — and “the one thing I found about all my characters is that they are all white trash with too much responsibility.”
Foster, for her part, thanked Lawrence for following in her footsteps “as the clumsiest actor in Hollywood,” and then more sincerely thanked her two sons and her wife Alex, before concluding, “I make movies, and it’s done with love.”
Gyllenhaal spoke of the making of “Brokeback Mountain” with Lee directing. After Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger shot their torrid sex scene, he said that the normally placid Lee had a “s—-eating grin” on his face. “I said, ‘Was that good?'” remembered Gyllenhaal. “And he just said, ‘Soooooo gay!“
Lee then explained his placid demeanor on “Brokeback.” “I was, like, half asleep when I directed that movie,” he said. “After ‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’ and ‘The Hulk,’ I was so wrecked, I couldn’t stand.”
McGregor, who received the Britannia Humanitarian Award, spoke passionately of his work with UNICEF on behalf of child refugees.
And Jackson explained just how fortuitous it was that he managed to go from the theater to film when he did. “I reached the point where I was doing plays, and I wanted to see the plays that I was in,” he said. “But I wanted to see them with me in them.”
In the audience, meanwhile, were BAFTA-LA members, some Academy voters, studio folks and a smattering of contenders who’d come to dip their toes into awards season, including “Fences” co-star Jovan Adepo and “Florence Foster Jenkins” supporting actor Simon Helberg, taking time away from “The Big Bang Theory.”
Many in attendance will be back in their tuxes and gowns quite soon, notably for the Academy’s Governors Awards on Nov. 12.
This may be part of the season for honorary kudos and negotiated awards — but the campaigns are well underway, and those are serious business.