Members of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts have been giving awards for decades but usually after the Academy Awards were presented. Several years ago, in an attempt to be relevant, the British Academy decided to start giving its awards in advance of Hollywood's big night. The BAFTAs are now seen as something of a bellwether for Oscar nominations.
This year brought another major change came which was meant to bring BAFTA closer to Oscar. As this article in Variety reports, "The entire membership of 6,500 voters, including the 1,480 based in the U.S.," will vote on the winners "instead of the prize being decided by a hand-picked jury of London insiders."
The change has led to a certain amount of schizophrenia in this year's list of nominees announced yesterday.
The Artist, the silent movie about silent movies, leads the BAFTA pack with 12 nominations including Best Picture and one for, of all things, Best Sound. The Artist is considered a top contender for Oscar glory.
A British film, a new adaptation of John Le Carre's Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy comes second with 11 nominations. My guess is that at Oscar time it won't fare quite as well.
Another homegrown British film, My Week with Marilyn, is nominated in several major categories including Best Actress for Michelle Williams' preformance as Marilyn Monroe. I've seen the film and cannot understand why it has been recognized, other than a need to root, root, root for the home team.
Although having root, root, rooted it is not surprising to see Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill get Bafta nominations for their work on the baseball pic, Moneyball, along with screenwriters Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin. The film came and went over the heads of most Brits - although we ex-pats enjoyed it enormously. But it could be an example of British ex-pats toiling poolside in LA showing they have gone native by voting for a baseball film.
The Moneyball kudos underlines the split nature of Britain's film awards. The industry workers who vote for them are torn between a legitimate desire to recognize the cultural differences in the British and American cinema. At the same time they are so closely connected to Hollywood, so desperately in need for the finance that comes from America, that the awards must not seem too insular - like France's Cesar's.
Very few films are clear cross-cultural slam dunks in awards' season, like last year's The King's Speech, or Meryl Streep's performance in The Iron Lady, this year.
The voters are also as swayed by hype as their American counterparts, sad to say. Brits pride themselves on their B/S detectors when it comes Hollywood ... but at awards time it deserts them.
One of the best British films of the year was pretty much overlooked by BAFTA voters in part because it hasn't had anything like the hype of Tinker, Tailor or My Week with Marilyn.
The film is Coriolanus, adapted from Shakespeare's play and directed by and starring Ralph Fiennes. I would say it is a Welles-ian feat except that, mercifully, Fiennes hasn't turned himself into a blimp of self-loathing as Orson Welles did.
Fiennes has taken this play about a brilliant Roman commander who cannot make the transition to civilian political leader and reimagined it in the context of the Bosnian War as a study of the psychology of fascist dictators. It works on every level and Fiennes gives a performance that surpasses his Oscar-nominated role in Schindler's List.
Fiennes was given a consolation prize with a nomination for Outstanding Debut by a director, writer or producer. But the voters really swung and missed by a country mile (to carry on the baseball theme) by failing to nominate his performance, adaptation and direction.
The film goes on general release this week in the UK and America. See it and let me know whether you agree.
Anyway, I was pleased to see Alexander Payne's The Descendants get major recognition, although wildly disappointed that Shailene Woodley, who plays George Clooney's daughter in the film did not get a nomination for Best Supporting Actress. If you can find a better depiction of contemporary adolescence, please let me know below what it is.