Sunday, February 16, 2014

BAFTA winners do little to clarify Oscar race

With the Winter Olympics pushing the Oscar voting window back a couple of weeks, all eyes this were on the British Academy of Film and Television Awards (BAFTAs) to indicate any late-breaking momentum for this contender or that during this crucial final phase of the season. However, it seems that the Brits are about as indecisive as American awards groups have been this year, as they too ended up splitting their decision between the leading runners in the race.

In eerily similar fashion to the way the Golden Globes went down, Steve McQueen's 12 Years a Slave managed to claim the Best Film prize at the BAFTAs, but only after it had been nearly shut out all night long. Losing categories in which it is believed to be the Oscar favourite (Supporting Actress and Adapted Screenplay) must have been cause for excruciating nervousness, but then it reared its head at the last minute with a victory for lead actor Chiwetel Ejiofor (in the absence of Oscar frontrunner Matthew McConaughey) and ultimately Best Picture.
But Alfonso Cuaron's Gravity led the total trophy haul with six, including Best British Film. Ironically, many would argue that the actual Best Film winner 12 Years a Slave is more British than the Mexican director's U.S.-financed space adventure. Keeping its own Oscar fires stoked with three wins was David O. Russell's American Hustle.

Check out the winners below for more commentary on individual categories, and how the winners here might affect the Oscar outcome.

Best Film: 12 Years a Slave
Since the BAFTA voters had the option (albeit a controversial one) to honour Gravity in the Best British Film category but not 12 Years a Slave, perhaps the latter's last minute victory here should be taken with a grain of salt. Or, it could be that there are actually enough people who are actively splitting their Best Picture/Best Director votes in an attempt to honour both. Since Cuaron is clearly the guy to vote for in Director, it makes sense that these hypothetical vote splitters would then opt for 12 Years a Slave in the top category. Will AMPAS follow suit?

Best British Film: Gravity
Lots of griping out there about how this hardly represents "British" film, but it was an opportunity for BAFTA to honour both frontrunners, so there ya go.

Best Director: Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity
I think we have to consider Cuaron a lock regardless of whether or not Gravity takes Best Picture.

Best Actor: Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave
Since McConaughey was not nominated, there was plenty of speculation that Leonardo DiCaprio would step in as The Wolf of Wall Street's one potential win, but Ejiofor is the hometown favourite, and frankly, I'm much happier with this. As much as I love McConaughey's work in Dallas Buyers Club, it broke my heart to see Ejiofor sitting on the sidelines all season long for a performance that would have dominated any standard year. At least he can put one major prize on his mantle.

Best Actress: Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
I think the whole Woody Allen/Dylan Farrow "effect" has been blown out of proportion in the microcosm of awards punditry. No scandal can keep Cate from winning her second Oscar this year.

Best Supporting Actor: Barkhad Abdi, Captain Phillips
As it was in Lead Actor, Dallas Buyers Club is curiously absent, leaving the door wide open for any of the other non-chosen ones to claim at least one consolatory piece of hardware from this season. The recipient was Barkhad Abdi. Can't help but be happy for this guy. Great story. Let's hope it helps him to continue finding work and building a successful career.

Best Supporting Actress: Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle
Uh oh, this is trouble. Nyong'o and Lawrence have now split the four major precursors right down the middle: Globe and BAFTA for Lawrence, Critics Choice and SAG for Nyong'o. It bears mentioning that the four SAG winners almost never align 4/4 with the Oscars. Someone is in danger, and it looks like Nyong'o might be the most vulnerable. We just have to hope that the fact Lawrence won her Oscar last year will help guide the Academy to the correct decision. She lost last year's BAFTA to Riva, so that might explain their willingness to award her this time. But that won't make this category any less nerve-wracking.

Best Original Screenplay: American Hustle
Her did not register at all with this group, failing to be nominated even for Spike Jonze's brilliant script, so American Hustle was always the default winner. I still feel that could be its only victory on Oscar night as well, but perhaps they actually do go with Lawrence in Supporting Actress so they can spread the love to Her here.

Best Adapted Screenplay: Philomena
If there was an upset possibility in this category, Philomena was it. And it was. I'm still not sure 12 Years a Slave loses this on Oscar night, as it represents the one trophy it should be guaranteed so as not be shut out. I shudder to think of that happening.

Best Animated Feature: Frozen
The Wind Rises wasn't even eligible, but it probably wouldn't have made a difference if it was.

Best Documentary: The Act of Killing
The only BAFTA nominee that is also in running for the Oscar, and apparently a huge hit across the pond. I'm not convinced its unusual form will play as well with the Academy, who may prefer a more comfortable option like 20 Feet from Stardom.

Best Foreign Language Film: The Great Beauty
Oh God, I hope this doesn't win. With voting now open to the entire Academy membership, heavily buzzed titles that have been recently released own a distinct advantage. I'd hate to think that there are enough voters who will pick this sight unseen just because they heard it had won a Golden Globe and a BAFTA. I personally think the film is awful, but hopefully enough voters will actually watch their screeners and see that they have better options.

Best Cinematography: Gravity

Best Editing: Rush
Here's an oddity. Rush was completely shafted by AMPAS (a fate its accomplished craftsmen did not deserve), so it's somewhat satisfying to see Dan Hanley and Mike Hill earn some recognition for their invigorating editing. That said, I was hoping they'd spring for Captain Phillips, just so that I'd feel less anxious about predicting it for the Oscar.

Best Production Design: The Great Gatsby
Last year's win for Lincoln is looking more and more like a fluke. Most people go for in-your-face design elements, but I still wouldn't count out 12 Years a Slave.

Best Costume Design: The Great Gatsby
Tempted to say it's a lock, but American Hustle still lingers.

Best Music: Gravity
Looks like a winner, but I'd be so happy to see the Academy give it to Arcade Fire. That would be far and away the coolest thing they do this year.

Best Sound: Gravity
BAFTA lazily lumps both sound fields together, not that it would make a difference. Gravity clearly takes both prizes at the Oscars.

Best Visual Effects: Gravity

Best Makeup and Hair: American Hustle
I don't know if this past weekend should be one of celebration or one of misery for the American Hustle makeup and hair teams. Their victory with the Makeup and Hairstylists Guild last night and now the BAFTA suggest that they would have an Oscar in the bag if only the idiosyncratic makeup branch had actually nominated them.

Best British Short: Room 8

Best British Animated Short: Sleeping with the Fishes

Carl Foreman Award: Kieran Evans, Kelly + Victor

Rising Star Award: Will Poulter

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