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'Aviator' soars at British Film Awards

"The Aviator" soared Saturday at the British Academy Film Awards, taking four prizes including best film. Mike Leigh's "Vera Drake" won three at a glamorous ceremony that is considered an important pre-Oscars bellwether.
/ Source: The Associated Press

"The Aviator" soared Saturday at the British Academy Film Awards, taking four prizes including best film. Mike Leigh's "Vera Drake" won three at a glamorous ceremony that is considered an important pre-Oscars bellwether.

Leigh was named best director, beating "The Aviator" director Martin Scorcese.

Scorcese's film -- which has 11 nominations for the Feb. 27 Academy Awards -- had led the field with 14 nominations. But members of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts scattered the prizes widely.

While Scorcese and "Aviator" star Leonardo DiCaprio went home empty-handed, the film won a best supporting actress award for Cate Blanchett, as well as prizes for production design and best hair and makeup.

Imelda Staunton won best actress for her wrenching performance as a 1950s Cockney housewife who performs illegal abortions in "Vera Drake." The film also took the costume design prize.

Jamie Foxx was named best actor for his uncanny depiction of singer Ray Charles in "Ray"; the film also won the award for best sound. British star Clive Owen was named best supporting actor for "Closer."

Essential Pre-Oscars stopThe British awards, known as BAFTAs, have become an essential pre-Oscars stop since they were moved in 2000 from April to a February date, preceding the Academy Awards.

A clutch of Hollywood stars -- including DiCaprio, Keanu Reeves, Richard Gere, Goldie Hawn, Kurt Russell and model Claudia Schiffer -- braved the rain and cold to walk up the red carpet in London's Leicester Square, watched by hundreds of movie fans.

The Che Guevara road movie "The Motorcycle Diaries" won two awards -- best foreign-language film and best music. Another double winner was fractured romantic comedy "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind," which took BAFTAs for editing and for Charlie Kaufman's tricksy original screenplay.

The prize for best adapted screenplay went to Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor for the wine-tasting comedy "Sideways."

"My Summer of Love," Pawel Pawliowski's bittersweet tale of romance between two teenage girls, was named best British film. Writer/director Amma Asante won the award for achievement on a first British feature for "A Way of Life."

'Harry Potter' honoredApocalyptic eco-thriller "The Day After Tomorrow" -- panned by critics for its implausible plot and perfunctory characters -- was rewarded for its impressive visual effects. Michael Mann thriller "Collateral" won for best cinematography.

The short film award went to Kelly Broad and Hattie Dalton for "The Banker," while Andrew Gregory and Sejong Park took the short animation prize for "Birthday Boy."

The Orange Film of the Year prize -- the only award decided by the public -- went to "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban."

The academy presented its highest accolade, a fellowship, to James Bond composer John Barry. Veteran script supervisor Angela Allen was honored for outstanding British contribution to cinema.

The awards -- officially the Orange British Academy Film Awards -- are sponsored by mobile phone company Orange.