Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Oscar 2012: BAFTA Nominations

Think that the Oscar campaigning only occurs in L.A. and New York? There’s usually one trans-Atlantic trip required in the season and that’s to London for the annual British Academy of Film and Television, or BAFTA, Awards.

Long thought of as an afterthought to the more prestigious Oscars, the BAFTAs took on new life once they moved their awards ceremony to late February starting in 2001, and with the truncated Oscar schedule in 2004, they moved it up to a scant two weeks before the actual Oscar ceremony. The effect was felt immediately, as the BAFTAs became an important, if not always accurate, indicator of how the Academy might vote and may influence last-minute voters. Most interestingly, the BAFTAs correctly forecast in the last few years some surprise Oscar winners, including Marion Cotillard, Tilda Swinton and Cate Blanchett, and allowed them to pull away from the pack of other frontrunners. This is why the BAFTAs have, in the last decade, proven to be an influential, if not always reliable indicator of who wins the Academy Awards.

The BAFTAs tend to favour homegrown product. This is why films that did not receive much love from the Academy, such as Girl with a Pearl Earring and Cold Mountain, tend to fare better at these awards. Having said that, there is often a strong overlap between what the Academy eventually nominates and the BAFTAs.

You can access the full list of nominees on the BAFTA website and on the Hollywood Reporter’s list.  Here are some of the major nominees:

11 nominations including Best Film
Best Film: The Artist, The Descendants, Drive, The Help, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Best British Film: My Week with Marilyn, Senna, Shame, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, We Need to Talk About Kevin

Best Director: Michel Hazanavicius (The Artist), Nicholas Winding Refn (Drive), Martin Scorsese (Hugo), Tomas Alfredson (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy), Lynne Ramsay (We Need to Talk About Kevin)

Best Actor: George Clooney (The Descendants), Jean Dujardin (The Artist), Michael Fassbender (Shame), Gary Oldman (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy), Brad Pitt (Moneyball)

Best Actress: Berenice Bejo (The Artist), Viola Davis (The Help), Meryl Streep (The Iron Lady), Tilda Swinton (We Need to Talk About Kevin), Michelle Williams (My Week with Marilyn)

Best Supporting Actor: Kenneth Branagh (My Week with Marilyn), Jim Broadbent (The Iron Lady), Jonah Hill (Moneyball), Phillip Seymour Hoffman (The Ides of March), Christopher Plummer (Beginners)

Best Supporting Actress: Jessica Chastain (The Help), Judi Dench (My Week with Marilyn), Melissa McCarthy (Bridesmaids), Carey Mulligan (Drive), Octavia Spencer (The Help)

Best Original Screenplay: The Artist, Bridesmaids, The Guard, The Iron Lady, Midnight in Paris

Best Adapted Screenplay: The Descendants, The Help, The Ides of March, Moneyball, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

The Brits are talking about Kevin
Overall, the nominations haven’t substantively changed the status quo, as the likes of The Artist (with a leading 12 nominations), The Descendants and Moneyball still put them front-and-center in the Oscar race. However, it did give certain British films an opportunity to earn more love than they might have at the Academy. Chief among these are three films starring Best Actress nominees that bagged multiple citations: My Week with Marilyn, We Need to Talk About Kevin, and The Iron Lady. None of these are in the conversation for the Best Picture Oscar, but their presence indicates that these projects are indeed strong female-centered vehicles. It should also be noted that the BAFTAs also tend to honour their own, and each major category often produces a left-field nominee who just happens to be British. This year, they include names that haven’t figured into this year’s Oscar race yet, such as Judi Dench, Lynne Ramsay, and Abi Morgan for her otherwise much-criticized script for The Iron Lady. Similar beneficiaries include Senna, The Guard and Coriolanus.

Surprise! Multiple noms for The Iron Lady, including
Streep (left) and Broadbent (right)
It should be mentioned, however, that the number of nominations (11) received by Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, which was critically praised in the United States but has received scant awards attention, just put Gary Oldman back in the race for Best Actor. At this point I’m calling the four locks for Best Actor Oscar noms as Clooney, Dujardin, Pitt and Fassbender, but that tough-to-call fifth slot may not go to Leonardo DiCaprio or Owen Wilson, and instead go to Oldman. This is pure speculation, but it’s part of the fun in the Oscar game.

George Clooney really is a popular guy. Not only did they nominate him for Best Actor, where he’s the frontrunner, they even threw him an Adapted Screenplay nomination for The Ides of March. I’m beginning to think that he might actually be a multiple Oscar nominee this year, although he already has half a dozen nominations in the past. Also proving its popularity is The Help. Normally, films that are very specific to the American cultural experience and its history don’t necessarily translate well internationally, but the flotilla of mentions for this surging film means that it has plenty of momentum to carry it forward.

There are also a number of left-field nominations. There was considerable praise for Drive and the Critics Choice Awards had it shortlisted for several prizes, but the Golden Globes did not. Its mentions here just put it back in the conversation for Oscar nominations. And the Brits tend to be more immune to category fraud, as evidenced by Best Supporting Actress potential Berenice Bejo’s unexpected citation in Best Actress, given that she’s essentially the co-lead in The Artist and not just a featured player. This tends to speak to the BAFTAs not always following everyone else’s lead. There’s also the inclusion of Carey Mulligan, but for the more popular Drive and not for Shame.

There’s sure to be much discussion of omissions. Although there’s a lot of love for Drive, its two much-ballyhooed male stars Ryan Gosling and Albert Brooks were shut out, and in Brooks’s case it must be particularly hurtful that he won’t be able to get a chance to pick up more major precursor prizes before Oscar, since Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Jim Broadbent took up two spots unexpectedly in the Best Supporting Actor race. Scanning the list, Martin Scorsese’s revered Hugo picked up a stunning nine nominations, but without a Best Film nod. Its omission while Drive got into the final five is a bit of a head-scratcher, considering Scorsese’s work might have had more across-the-board support. Also walking off with a grab-bag of below-the-line nods without making it to the big races is Steven Spielberg’s War Horse, a shock considering that the source material is one of the most revered plays in British history, from one of the most celebrated British children’s books, and recipient of excellent reviews and business in the U.K. Oh, and Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life was completely snubbed, even for cinematography. With such fierce competition, it wouldn’t be fair to carp that the BAFTAs giveth and taketh away, but some of the finalists and omissions make for compelling analysis.

Quite possibly my faovurite nomination this morning is a Supporting Actress nod for Melissa McCarthy’s work in Bridesmaids, which the Golden Globes overlooked. Shows you that sometimes even the most exquisite poop jokes, when delivered properly, really are universal.

The BAFTA awards take place on Sunday, February 12, 2012.