2018 BAFTAS: Will Best British Film curse strike down ‘Darkest Hour’ or ‘Three Billboards’?

Darkest Hour” and “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” each reaped nine nominations for the 2018 BAFTA Awards. Among these are bids for Best British Film. While that nomination for the former makes sense given the subject matter and pedigree of Joe Wright‘s biopic about prime minister Winston Churchill, the latter doesn’t appear to be British. However, while the film is set in the American heartland, it was written and directed by an Englishman, Martin McDonagh, and that qualified it for consideration in this category.

Both films also number among the five in contention for Best Picture, alongside the American-made “The Shape of Water” and the international co-productions “Call Me By Your Name” and “Dunkirk.” Fans of either of “Darkest Hour” or “Three Billboards” should be rooting for one of their rivals in the Best British Film race — “The Death of Stalin,” “God’s Own Country,” “Lady Macbeth” or “Paddington 2” — to win on Feb. 18.

Since the British academy reintroduced Best British Film in 1992, separate from the top award for Best Picture, only one movie — “The King’s Speech” (2010) — has won both races. It went on to take Best Picture at the Oscars too.

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Over the last quarter century, seven other British films have been named Best Picture at the BAFTAs: “Howards End” (1992); “Four Weddings and a Funeral” (1994); “Sense and Sensibility” (1995, tied with “The Usual Suspects”); “The Full Monty” (1997); “The Queen” (2006); “Atonement” (2007); and “Slumdog Millionaire” (2008).

While the first three of these were snubbed for Best British Film, the last four lost that race to “Nil By Mouth,” “The Last King of Scotland,” “This Is England” and “Man on Wire” respectively. This septet all reaped Best Picture bids at the Oscars, with only “Slumdog Millionaire” winning there as well.

Since 1992, there has been at least one British nominee for the Best Picture BAFTA every year. The British films that failed to win this open race used to win the closed one as a consolation prize: “The Crying Game” (1992); “Shadowlands” (1993); “The Madness of King George” (1995); “Secrets and Lies” (1996): “Elizabeth” (1998); “East Is East” (1999); and “Billy Elliot” (2000).

But that has changed as of late, first with “Cold Mountain” (2003), and then “Vera Drake” (2004),”The Constant Gardener” (2005), “An Education” (2009) and “Les Miserables” (2012) losing both bids. However, “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” did prevail in the home-grown category in 2011 as did “Gravity” in 2013, “The Theory of Everything” in 2014 and “I, Daniel Blake” last year.

PREDICT the BAFTA Awards now; change them until February 18

From 1947 to 1967, the BAFTAs named two top pictures — Best Picture and Best British Film. Domestic fare was eligible to compete in the wide-open category as well and at least one British film a year contended. In 1948, the Best Picture champ was the British made “Hamlet” which also took the top Oscar; however, it lost Best British Film to “The Fallen Idol.” It took till 1952 before a British entry –“The Sound Barrier” — won both prizes. Seven more films managed to pull off that double dipping: “Richard III” (1955); “The Bridge on the River Kwai” (1957; also Best Picture Oscar); “Room at the Top” (1958); “Lawrence of Arabia” (1962; also Best Picture Oscar); “Tom Jones” (1963; also Best Picture Oscar); “Dr. Strangelove” (1965, same four films in both races); and “A Man for All Seasons” (1967; also 1966 Best Picture Oscar).

From 1968 to 1991, BAFTA eliminated the award for Best British Film. However, at least one British production contended for Best Picture every year but 1979. In that 24-year span, seven British films were named Best Picture: “Sunday Bloody Sunday”(1971); “Chariots of Fire” (1981, also Best Picture Oscar); “Gandhi” (1982, also Best Picture Oscar); “Educating Rita” (1983); “The Killing Fields” (1984); “A Room With A View” (1986); and “The Commitments” (1991). Perhaps because that last film, a light-hearted romp about a budding band in Dublin, beat two Best Picture Oscar champs — “Dances With Wolves” and “The Silence of the Lambs” — BAFTA reintroduced the Best British Film award the following year.

Be sure to make your BAFTA predictions so that studio executives and top name stars can see how their films are faring in our odds. Don’t be afraid to jump in now since you can keep changing your predictions until just before winners are announced on February 18. And join in the fierce debate over the 2018 BAFTAs taking place right now with Hollywood insiders in our film forums. Read more Gold Derby entertainment news.

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