BAFTAs boost ‘Gravity’ in Oscars race as ’12 Years a Slave’ stalls

While “Gravity” won a leading six awards at Sunday’s BAFTAs, including Best British Film. its fiercest Oscar rival — “12 Years a Slave” — claimed the Best Picture prize. However, “12 Years a Slave” won just one other award — Best Actor (Chiwetel Ejiofor) — out of 10 bids.

It had been expected to prevail in at least five races, including both supporting acting categories as well as adapted screenplay. Had it taken these prizes and perhaps one or two more like an upset in Best Director, it would have solidified its status as the presumptive Best Picture winner at the Oscars. 

RELATED: Complete list of BAFTA winners

That “12 Years a Slave” couldn’t win awards that seemed like certainties is troublesome, and even more so given that Oscar voting began on Friday and runs till next Tuesday (Feb. 25). 

 Sure, the last five films to take home the top BAFTA went on to triumph at the Oscars too. However,  the winner of the BAFTA is decided by a purely popular vote (i.e., in a field of five nominees, it is possible to win with just 20% + 1 vote) while the academy uses a preferential ballot which rewards the film that is able to build the broadest consensus and is the highest ranked on 50% + 1 ballots.

And with only two wins out of 10 nominations, “12 Years a Slave” was certainly not the film around which BAFTA voters rallied this year. Rather, that was “Gravity” which went six for 11. Another Oscar hopeful — “American Hustle” — won three awards while “The Great Gatsby” took two. 

But don’t BAFTA voters always spread the awards around?

They did that last year when “Lincoln” won just one of its 10 BAFTA nominations — Best Actor for Daniel Day-Lewis. “Lincoln” lost Best Picture to “Argo,” which claimed just three awards in all. The big winner was “Les Miserables” which took home four trophies while a quartet of films — “Amour,” Django Unchained,” Life of Pi” and “Skyfall” — each won a pair of prizes.

RELATED: ‘Gravity’ wins six BAFTAs, ’12 Years a Slave’ takes just two

However, in each of the previous three years, the film that won Best Picture at both BAFTA and the Oscars was the big winner of the night at the BAFTAs. 

In 2011, “The Artist” won seven awards while “Hugo” and “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” took two apiece. 

In 2010, “The King’s Speech” won seven as well, with “The Social Network” claiming three and “Inception” two. 

And in 2009, “The Hurt Locker” won six while “Avatar,” “Up” and “The Young Victoria” each won a pair. 

And we saw that sweep effect this year, with “Gravity” taking six, including a surprise win for  Best British Film. So, why did it not win Best Picture too? 

That “Gravity” was in contention for both while “12 Years a Slave” was not allowed voters a way to reward both films with a best picture prize. The homegrown award has come to be seen as a pretty nice consolation prize. Indeed, since the British academy reintroduced Best British Film in 1992, separate from the top prize for Best Picture, only one movie — “The King’s Speech” (2010) — has won both. 

This year, we were predicting that “Philomena would win Best British Film. While it lost that race to “Gravity,” it edged out “12 Years a Slave” for the Adapted Screenplay prize. Yes, “Philomena” scribes Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope have won BAFTAs on the TV side. However, for Oscar frontrunner John Ridley to lose this race must make us question the depth of support for “12 Years a Slave” with the academy.

Remember, upwards of 600 academy members are also BAFTA voters. That they also snubbed both of the supporting performances in “12 Years a Slave” was another shock.  

Michael Fassbender was predicted to prevail easily in the supporting actor race. After all, each of his first two collaborations with “12 Years” helmer Steve McQueen — “Hunger”  (2009); “Shame”  (2012) — had contended for Best British Film with the former losing to “Man on Wire” and the latter to “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.” Fassbender had reaped respective bids for Rising Star (losing to Noel Clarke) and Best Actor (Jean Dujardin won here for “The Artist” before repeating at the Oscars.)

Lupita Nyongo lost to Jennifer Lawrence (“American Hustle“) whose last victory had been at Globes. It was not thought that her star power would be able to overcome the momentum for Nyongo, who claimed the SAG and Critics’ Choice awards. But perhaps that was just BAFTA voters making up for giving Best Actress last year to Emmanuelle Riva (“Amour”) over Lawrence who went on to win the Oscar for “Silver Linings Playbook.” 

Who do you think is going to win Best Picture at the Oscars? Vote below using our easy drag-and-drop menu. Come back and change your predictions as often as you like till Oscar night, March 2. 

15 thoughts on “BAFTAs boost ‘Gravity’ in Oscars race as ’12 Years a Slave’ stalls

  1. funny that you’re saying 12 Years A Slave’s chances of winning the Best Picture Oscar were hurt…by winning Best Picture at the BAFTAs. I’d love to see Gravity win Best Picture, but I think 12 Years will win with only a few other wins. Nyong’o and Adapted Screenplay will probably be its only other wins.

  2. I was the first to say that Academy voters wouldn’t be affected by so-called “white/liberal guilt” this year (due to Hollywood’s support of President Obama), but I think I was wrong. I think 12 Years a Slave will take Best Picture (even though I want Gravity to take it) despite hemorrhaging in nearly every other category. This seems to be quite an injustice, IMO. I hope I’m wrong, because Gravity deserves it more.

  3. It’s really hard to say, considering 12 years a slave has a British director and main actor, it is more likely to win BAFTA best picture, that doesn’t mean gravity doesn’t have a chance at the Oscar, it clearly has enough love by winning DGA and PGA. The fact that Gravity was able to win 6 awards at BAFTA including best British picture does show support.

  4. I find the headline to this piece troubling… 12 Years a Slave did win Film at BAFTA, saying it ‘stalls’ seems like a stretch. Some objectiveness would be nice here.

  5. 12 Years is hardly stalling. Paul Sheehan has been trying to undermine 12 Years’ ability to win the Oscar for a while now. At the end of the day, 12 Years won the biggest prize of the night. Lupita has won virtually every other major Oscar precursor except the BAFTA and the Globe. And 12 Years has won a crapload of writing prizes. It’s still the frontrunner for the Oscar, for Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Supporting Actress, and (most importantly) Best Picture.

  6. GRAVITY is a monumental technical achievement in filmmaking. 12 YEARS A SLAVE is a monumental storytelling achievement in filmmaking. And the awards so far (most of them) have reflected that. Unfortunately for 12 YEARS, which I do think is the better film by far, there are far less awards for “storytelling,” and far more awards that spread the wealth around to the technical aspects of film. GRAVITY will certainly win the most awards on Oscar night, but 12 YEARS will take the big prize, as it rightfully should. I would hardly call losing Best Supporting Actress and Best Screenplay at the BAFTAs “stalling.” It still won the biggest award of the night…

  7. Paul has been biased against 12 Years all season long. I don’t see how Gravity got boosted when it lost the big prize. Bafta wanted to make up to Jlaw for last year and award hometown favorite Steve Coogan. This year unlike the past there are just too many strong contenders so they have to spread the wealth. 12 Years is keeping pace with the BP campaign at the Oscars. Not stalling.

  8. I do find it interesting that 12 Years didn’t win nearly as many as was expected. Adapted screenplay really took me by surprise. This is such an odd year. I know many people think everything on Oscar night is already decided, but I think we are in for a few shockers Oscar night just as we had tonight at the BAFTAs.

  9. Paul Sheehan is obviously a 12 Years hater. How can its besr pic win somehow be bad news for 12 years? Just another full of shit pundit.

  10. Wow, some hate for the writer here, despite being spot on with his analysis. If 12YAS were stronger, it would be collecting many more awards, as it’s very rare for a movie to win next to nothing, yet somehow be acclaimed Best Picture.

    It would get my vote, but I’m not an Academy member. I predict an upset win for Gravity, though would it really be much of an upset. Surely the best directed movie is most likely the “best movie”, and nearly everyone agrees Cuaron has that one in the bag.

  11. Paul’s been looking or alternatives to 12 Years ever since the awards race began, changing from American Hustle to Gravity, arguing that Dern/Hill/Roberts have better chances at winning than Ejiofor/Fassbender/Lupita and generally discrediting the film as a directorial achievement. The reality is that BAFTA confirmed the likelihood of a split (albeit without the preferential ballot), while at BAFTA the danger of Jennifer winning twice was absent, making Lupita still the marginal frontrunner.

  12. They were saying the same shit last year, when Argo lost Best Screenplay to SLP… It means nothing. BP is the important one, and it was so easy to just give that one to Gravity as well,

    after giving it BD… but they didn’t!

    “Bafta wanted to make up to Jlaw for last year and award hometown favorite Steve Coogan.”

    Exactly. Besides, I never really bought into this whole “12 Years is British so it will sweep BAFTA” narrative. They had two other “British” projects to award as well (since they thought Gravity was British), plus AH, which they obviously also loved (plus Captain Phillips etc.), so they decided to spread the wealth and give each of them at least two (while Gravity also winning loads of technical awards was inevitable, as it had no real competition for most of them – it even lost some of the ones it could have won, like Editing and Production Design).

    “I dont see an avenue for 12 years BP.”

    Doesn’t mean there isn’t one… Yours is one opinion out of millions out there. Most think 12 Years is the favorite. The facts support that prediction.

  13. What’s so interesting about these posts is that besides each having their own view/speculation/or humble opinions, I agree with the writer that it’s not a slam dunk for BP for 12 YAS. With Oscar voting just beginning and with the BAFTAS just recently awarded prizes many Academy members will have their work cut out for them when choosing their popular favorites and awarding what they feel was the BP for 2013. I think they most exciting aspect of this year’s race is the fact it’s not a done deal with a few of the categories including BP and will make for a more exciting Oscar telecast for many of us. If i were an odds maker and risk taker I would bet on Gravity to win BP because of the overall groundswell of it’s technical achievements and Best Director. Yet, 12 YAS is most definitely a worthy opponent in terms of storytelling and emotional payoff for its subject matter. If 12YAS doesn’t win it will only be because of its subject matter or that not enough academy members even saw it. It’s also not a huge box office hit as Gravity. I really think when the envelope is revealed that either one won’t be an upset just that a consensus among the two pictures will be evident and clear.

  14. Paul has been anti 12 YEARS since day one. This conspiracy against it “stalling” is ridiculous. Best Picture is the biggest honor and award there is at all of these ceremonies and 12 YEARS has won a shitload of them. Including the BAFTA. I’d call that pulling ahead in this GRAVITY/12 YAS horse race. It’s going to win the Oscar, and rightfully so.

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