Currently, “The Revenant” sits top of the Gold Derby odds chart to take home the Best Picture prize at this Sunday’s BAFTA Awards. Besides “The Revenant,” the other BAFTA Best Picture nominees are: The Big Short,” “Bridge of Spies,” “Carol,” and “Spotlight.” Of these, “The Big Short,” “The Revenant” and “Spotlight” are considered the front-runners at the Academy Awards. So, it would seem to be safe to assume that the big BAFTA winner will also be one of those three.
But how correct is that?
Let’s find out, gang, by looking at the two key factors that distinguish the majority of the recent BAFTA Best Picture winners from the also-rans as well as a new factor that could come into play this year.
Factor 1: Emotion
BAFTA voters have a type, which is clear if one looks back over their last 10 Best Picture winners: “Boyhood,” “12 Years A Slave,” “Argo,” “The Artist,” “The King’s Speech,” “The Hurt Locker,” “Slumdog Millionaire,” “Atonement,” “The Queen” and “Brokeback Mountain.”
Now it seems to me that each of these films have something in common. But before I tell you, I would be remiss if I did not clarify that the tastes of BAFTA voters can be very different to those of the academy. Indeed, the two academies have agreed only six times in the last decade.
You see, Oscar voters will award their biggest prize to a film for vastly different reasons then their British counterparts. The academy loves an achievement, it loves spectacle, it loves clever plots. The four films of the past decade that Oscar and BAFTA didn’t agree on were:
2005: the intertwining stories of “Crash” won at the Oscars over “Brokeback Mountain”;
2006: the twisty-turny plot of “The Departed” triumphed over “The Queen”;
2007: “No Country For Old Men”’s interwoven chase narrative edged out “Atonement”; and
2014: the cinematic spectacle of the ‘one-take’ trick which made “Birdman” famous beat out “Boyhood.”
BAFTA went with the latter film in each of those years because they love emotion. All of their most recent Best Picture winners were emotion-filled. “Boyhood” is about growing up and change, focusing on how hard that is for parent and child alike (if you’re anything like me, then, you’d have balled your eyes out); “The King’s Speech” is about a troubled man overcoming an illness of sorts; “Atonement” contains false imprisonment, ill-fated love and a nasty little bitch; and “Brokeback Mountain” is utterly heart-wrenching as two people are denied love and are trapped in unhappy lives as they secretly long for each other.
So, which of this year’s five nominees is the most emotional?
“The Big Short”: Offers little emotion but for Steve Carell and Christian Bale having brief moments of introspection. Too much comedy to be classed as a truly emotional film.
“Bridge Of Spies”: An man under-pressure trying to serve his country, while a spy, who we actually like, is imprisoned. Not that emotional, though.
“Carol”: Much like “Brokeback Mountain,” with forbidden lovers who are trapped and society united against them. Very emotional.
“Spotlight”: Despite it’s subject, it’s not that emotional. It’s more about the journalists than the victims. Mark Ruffalo, as a lead journo and a couple of the victims do have their moments
“The Revenant”: Again, although it’s story that could be very emotional (a man’s son is murdered, he is left for dead, seeks his revenge), it’s not really about that. Rather, it is about the scale of the production, the cinematography, the visual spectacle and the directorial achievement. This feels much more like an academy film then a BAFTA one.
So, based on this factor alone, “Carol” is the film that fits in the BAFTA collection of winners. But that’s not the only reason why.
Factor 2: Acting
Of those last 10 BAFTA Best Picture winners, nine of them reaped two or more acting nominations (“The Hurt Locker” was the exception). Compare that to the Oscars where only four of the last 10 Best Picture winners coud boast of two or more acting bids.
BAFTA cares more about acting than the academy does when it comes to the winner of the top prize. Not once did the actors branch of the academy give any of the above 14 films more nominations than their British brethren had. Either BAFTA and Oscar agreed on the amount of acting nominations, or BAFTA gave more.
Perhaps BAFTA’S evidenced love of acting goes hand-in-hand with their love for emotion. Each of those nine BAFTA Best Picture-winning films with two or more acting nominations has a strong, powerful lead performance that controls the film’s emotional story, while supporting players add to that.
And even when the two groups agree on Best Picture winners, BAFTA still gives more credence to the casts of those films.
For example, they nominated Ben Affleck for Best Actor for “Argo” as well as Alan Arkin for Best Supporting Actor; only Arkin contended at the Oscars. (wow, bad year for Affleck at the Oscars, right? Snubbed for actor and director!).
BAFTA bestowed three acting wins on “The King’s Speech,” (lead Colin Firth and supporting players Geoffrey Rush and Helena Bonham-Carter) while the academy only rewarded Firth (though the others were, at least, nominated).
And with “Slumdog Millionaire,” well, BAFTA gave it two acting nominations (Best Actor for Dev Patel and Best Supporting Actress for Freida Pinto) while the academy snubbed it in the acting categories.
Of this year’s Best Picture nominees, only “Carol” has two of its cast in contention (lead Cate Blanchett and supporting actress Rooney Mara). The other four have just one apiece. “The Big Short,” “Bridge of Spies” and “Spotlight” each have a nominee for Best Supporting Actor (Christian Bale, Mark Rylance and Mark Ruffalo respectively) while “The Revenant” star Leonardo DiCaprio is up for Best Actor.
Factor 3: Diversity
As you may have noticed (you can’t get away from it, let’s be honest), there is a lot of talk about diversity in the film industry, or the lack of. It’s becoming an increasingly important topic of conversation (rightly so!) and we have seen this year that awards groups have started to take this on board (apart from the academy perhaps, but that’s a whole different article in itself).
The Golden Globes awarded Best Director and Best Picture to Mexican-born Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu and his film “The Revenant” while the Screen Actors Guild bestowed two awards on Oscar-snubbed Idris Elba for his film (“Beasts of No Nation”) and television (“Luther”) work.
Perhaps BAFTA voters will want to do the same. While the Best Picture race lacks any racial diversity, they can have a say on another form of diversity. “Carol” is the only female-led film among the five Best Picture nominees.
The other four films acting nominations are went to white males. Both of “Carol”’s acting bids are for women. Add to that the fact that the film is about two women falling in love and it’s checking a lot of those diversity boxes.
“Carol” is the most emotional, the most nominated for acting and the most diverse of the BAFTA Best Picture nominees. In this ridiculous, exhilarating, frustrating, confusing awards season, wouldn’t such an upset fit right in?
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Photo: “Carol” (The Weinstein Company)