The British love their tea, wot? And the British Academy of Film and Television Arts have left all sorts of tea leaves for awards pundits to analyze from today's BAFTA Movie Awards. Even though BAFTA never matches up exactly with AMPAS, we might do well to heed their winners more closely this year, as they could bear more significance in the Oscar race than ever before.
Why is BAFTA significant? It's not so much the membership overlap between them and AMPAS (although that factor is appreciable), but a procedural change the organization made to mirror the Academy's voting practices. In the past, the entire BAFTA membership was invited to determine all the nominees, while only the specific chapters (or branches) could determine the final winners in their associated categories. This often lead to some baffling snubs (Tree of Life's Cinematography snub, anyone?) and peculiar winners (remember In Bruges winning Original Screenplay?).
But this year they turned the tables. Now only the individual chapters determine the nominees on which the whole body will vote, much like the Academy's system. It may give us a more accurate idea of who truly has a leg up in those tight races. Unfortunately, it also clouds up some categories that I thought were somewhat settled.
The big winner this year was Argo, taking the top award for Best Film along with Best director for Ben Affleck and Best Editing for William Goldenberg. But surprisingly, it did win best Adapted Screenplay as it's favoured to do at the Oscars. That went instead to David O. Russell for Silver Linings Playbook, one of the only three categories in which the film was nominated. Could it be him, rather than Tony Kushner, who's in spoiler position to win over Terrio in two weeks time? Maybe there is no spoiler. That category could go any which way. Hell, Beasts could win it (please, oh please)!
Over in the Original Screenplay category (another tight Oscar race), Quentin Tarantino reprised his Golden Globe win, besting stiff competition including Michael Haneke for Amour, which many considered the favourite to win with the Brits. Of all the Original Screenplay contenders, his certainly comes off as the most "writerly", what with its affected dialogue and distinct characterizations. But neither Django Unchained nor Amour are eligible for next weekend's WGA Award, which will likely go the way of Mark Boal and Zero Dark Thirty. It all just adds further mystery to what is already a perplexing category.
Django wasn't the only film to win a pair. Amour won two well deserved honours for Foreign Film and Best Actress for Emmanuelle Riva (the afternoon's big highlight for me). Could she do it again at the Oscars? It seems a distinct possibility but I don't think I'll chance it in my predictions. The Academy obviously loved Silver Linings Playbook more than BAFTA, and there's the matter of how widely seen Amour is in America as compared to Europe where it premiered.
These tea leaves seem to be causing more confusion than elucidation, but there are some fields where my predictions have been emboldened by BAFTAs corroboration. Lots of the craft categories have gone the direction that they are expected to go at the Oscars, including a pair for Life of Pi (VFX and Cinematography), Anna Karenina for Costume Design, and Les Miserables for Makeup and Sound. The latter also pulled off a mini-upset by stealing Production Design from under Anna Karenina's nose late in the show. Such a split in the Design categories would not be typical at the Oscars, where I still predict Anna Karenina will rightfully take both, but Les Mis seems firmly in spoiler position.
Finally, Skyfall nabbed a pair of awards for Best British Film (beating out Best Film nominee Les Mis!), and surprisingly, Best Score for Thomas Newman! I hardly expect him to repeat that feat at the Oscars, but how sweet it would be!