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BAFTAs: Now just an Extension of Hollywood?

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As the lavish Hollywood Oscar awards show approaches, a long time ago in a London far far away the annual BAFTA Award ceremony was a rather simple event held as dinner at the Grosvenor House Hotel on London's Park Lane

Attendees would sit at floral adorned tables and the press at an area off to the side of the ballroom floor without any flowers.

The awards would be presented after dinner. With the speeches made, after all was said and done the press would be allowed into the dining area to mingle with the celebrities. For me it proved a good way to line up later interviews.

Oh yes, there was one other thing that separated the BAFTAs from Hollywood's mega Oscar show...the awards were made solely on merit, not on big bucks hype. In this way small indy films had a chance to win gold.

Now, the awards have gone Hollywood, being held in the Royal Opera House. There isn't a dinner anymore. Those have been replaced by the contemporary star-studded after-party routine.

At this year's BAFTA show Director Peter Greenaway was awarded the special Michael Balcon honour for his body of lavish, yet highly artistic and even avante garde films.

Yet, only a few Americans in Hollywood, New York or various US film schools have ever heard of him or his work. If they're not the type of movies that go down well in the Mid West, or will break box office records in big cities, it's straight to video or Netflix.

In any case, while Greenaway was honoured, there were few low budget indy productions nominated this year. The major nominees were of mainstream cinema. And there was the somewhat controversial and debatable best supporting actress win by Hollywood's current golden girl Jennifer Lawrence.

Lawrence won for her role in the Oscar nominated American Hustle. This film and Silver Linings Playbook, for which Lawrence won last year's best lead actress award, were highlighted by powerful ensemble actor lineups. Yet I personally didn't feel either role she played was award worthy against stronger films with smaller casts.

In this year's BAFTAs Lawrence's performance, which was fine but not really that special, beat out a superb performance from Sally Hawkins in Blue Jasmine and Lupita Nyongo's heart wrenching role in 12 Years a Slave. There have been some negative populist complaints about the Lawrence gong.

It brought home the reality that the BAFTA's were becoming more and more like the Academy Awards, where big bucks Hollywood hype over -rules artistic merit.

As I pointed out in a recent blog on this site, the BAFTA's had become one segment of the annual Hollywood award season aimed at one thing: Making loads and loads more money, not just from films, but from TV adverts on the award shows, the BBC UK excepted.http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/dan-ehrlich/golden-globes-oscars-super-bowl_b_4590726.html

Outside the UK, the BAFTA's are shown on commercial TV, including BBC America, which is loaded with adverts.

Luckily, the main choices this year were easy to predict, the Lawrence award being the exception. The visual spectacle of Gravity and the human drama of 12 Years a Slave beat American Hustle and The Wolf of Wall Street by virtue of subject matter.

But, as great as 12 Years may be, its takes a lot of hype to get the masses in to see depressing films about human suffering. Which is another reason why award nominations and wins are bestowed...they guarantee bigger viewerships.

You see while the BAFTAs are suppose to be mainly about celebrating British films, there really is no such thing anymore. Films today are largely international, tied together by major studio distributors and being listed in the stock market. Their success is no longer based on word of mouth, but on massive media promotion much of which is hype generated by award shows such as the BAFTAs.

Just as the days of the low key awards dinners are gone, so possibly are film awards based solely on merit as the BAFTAs gradually succumb to market forces and American hustle.