Susie Rushton: That's enough fake humility

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The Independent Online

Save us, please, from statuette season. If you really love cinema, and don't want to feel sour and resentful every time you go to the movies, my advice is: don't watch any of the awards ceremonies that beam out from our televisions at this time of year. There is nothing less edifying than watching actors and actresses "being themselves". Particularly in an age when the gap between the super-rich and the rest of us yawns ever wider.

At Sunday's Baftas the screen-acting community got together to pat itself on the back for being rich, successful and gleaming of tooth – while also finding time to have a good moan about the abolition of the UK Film Council, as if this pampered class were at the sharp end of public-sector cuts.

Helena Bonham Carter set the tone in a breathy, American drawl-inflected three-and-a-half-minute speech. "It's my privilege to keep on working in this oversubscribed profession," she gushed, after thanking those oft-neglected toilers, the British Royal Family, "And there are so many talented, talented people out there who never get recognition, so I'm incredibly lucky to get parts, and to make a living by getting dressed up and pretending to be somebody else for the day – and then getting paid lots of money." Thanks for reminding us, Helena.

That she has been lucky is true: not lucky to have won the best roles, but to have been born into privilege and wealth, into a feather bed of security that most young people with ambitions to break into the unpredictable acting profession do not have.

Among many gilded names, HBC counts Herbert Asquith, plus a Rothschild and Ian Fleming among her relatives; she was schooled at Westminster and is mates with Nick Clegg. She and Tim Burton spent New Year with friends David and Sam Cameron. Not so much lucky, then, as part of the elite. Though they don't want to remind us of it, most of the British actors on stage on Sunday night are a privileged lot: public-school products Tilda Swinton and Andrew Garfield; Badminton girl Rosamund Pike; son of a Contess Christopher Lee, another ardent supporter of Cameron. To judge by the Bafta nominees – save for Hampshire comp boy Colin Firth, the only actor, as it happens, who made a speech on Sunday with any grace or humour – the British cinema industry is not quite a meritocracy.

If actors' disingenuous complaints about cuts and their fake humility about "getting lucky" doesn't put the viewer off, then the horror of their unscripted performances might do it. Adrift without an autocue and left to extemporise, Rosamund Pike imploded like a broken doll, almost unable to perform her single task of reading the list of nominees without giving away the name of the winner. Idiotic, burbling, embarrassing: this is what a professional actor sounds like without a script to give her words and a director to tell her how to move.

Neither were any of the losing nominees able to "act" their way out of discomfort as the camera zoomed in on their crumpling faces. Meanwhile child stars of the Harry Potter franchise, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint, both so enriched by their roles that they never need work again, barely managed to emote a smile as they took to the stage with JK Rowling.

Over in Hollywood, the organisers of this year's Academy Awards are taking steps to ensure actors are at least succinct when they face the viewers without the benefit of a film crew, CGI and some world-class editing. Each of the 191 nominees has been sent a DVD with tips on how to keep their speeches under 45 seconds. Oscars presenter Tom Hanks instructs them to keep thanks "short, sharp and shiny," and that reading out a "telephone directory" list of agents, dog-walkers and dead grannies "only shows us your bald spot."

Self-knowledge, in an actor! Now that is a rare quality to be applauded.

You've done your profession proud, Wayne

The sports pages have carried some extraordinary pictures of Wayne Rooney's acrobatic goal in the Manchester derby at Old Trafford on Saturday.

Defying gravity, meatily-built Roo managed to upturn his body and score with both feet high in the air, striking a pose that most capoeira artists would struggle to replicate.

It might look like too much hard work to some of them, but if millionaire footballers made this sort of effort on a more regular basis, perhaps we might not snigger when they describe themselves as athletes (despite the odd boozy night and pack of Malboro Red).

It might even make the games more entertaining than the tiresome norm. Whatever. It is supposed to be the beautiful game. So, y'know, carry on making an effort.

Why have the signoras taken so long to act?

Women of Italy have been marching in protest at Silvio Berlusconi, calling for his resignation. Berlusconi has been in and out of high office (among other things) since 1994. That's 17 years of alleged freestyle extra-marital bonking, promoting beauty queens, romancing underage girls, unembarrassed public leering, partying with escorts, diverting state money to help a struggling "actress" of his acquaintance, bragging that Italy had "the most beautiful secretaries in the world".

Presumably with the support of a large number of female Italian voters, this man has been allowed to make his entire country appear seriously backward and disrespectful of 51 per cent of its population. Signoras, what took you so long?