BAFTAs promise preview of Oscars

Since the British Academy Film Awards shifted to take place in the middle of Oscar balloting, they have increased in importance on the kudos calendar. The BAFTAs are the only one of the precursors prizes to have a similar make up of voters drawn from all branches of the film world. That makes them even more helpful in predicting the eventual line-ups at the Academy Awards.

Although this added attention and accompanying Hollywood glitz and glamour have turned the BAFTAs into an A-list event, the voters still have their own opinions and their winners can differ dramatically from the Oscar champs. The most recent BAFTA Best Picture champs have been “The Aviator,” “Brokeback Mountain,” “The Queen,” “Atonement,” “Slumdog Millionaire” and “The Hurt Locker” with only the latter two of those going on to prevail at the Oscars.
On Jan. 7, BAFTA will publish longlists with the 15 films or names still in the running for nominations in the various categories. These are derived from the top five choices of the respective branches as well as the next 10 vote getters from the whole membership.  However, leading on the longlists is no guarantee of success. Both “Memoirs from a Geisha” and “Casino Royale” topped these preliminary ballots but did not end up with Best Picture bids. The BAFTA nominations will be announced on Jan. 18 with the awards presented on Feb. 13.
This year’s eligibility period requires a theatrical release in the U.K. by Feb. 11. That means “Animal Kingdom,” “Country Strong” “Fair Game,” “Frankie & Alice,” “Mother & Child” and “Solitary Man” are not in the running at BAFTA while last year’s Oscar winning  “The Blind Side” is in contention.
“The King’s Speech” is likely to rack up the most mentions on the longlists and may gain the most nominations as well, including a Best Picture bid. And with BAFTA still having only five Best Picture nominees, expect a very tight race between “127 Hours,” “Another Year,” “Black Swan,” “The Fighter,” “Inception,” “The Kids are All Right,” “The Social Network,” “Toy Story 3”  and “True Grit” for the other four slots.
Best Actor should see a repeat win by Colin Firth for “The King’s Speech” after he prevailed last year for “A Single Man.” This would make Firth the first back-to back Best Actor champ since the category was combined into a single award in 1968. Jesse Eisenberg (“The Social Network”) and James Franco (“127 Hours”) are likely to be nominated as well leaving two spaces up for grabs.

BAFTA voters often ignore the FYC adverts and place actors in different categories so Jim Broadbent (“Another Year”) could well end up in the lead race. Leonardo DiCaprio who should make the longlist for both “Inception” and “Shutter Island.” Jeff Bridges (“True Grit”), Javier Bardem (“Biutiful”), Ryan Gosling (“Blue Valentine”) and Mark Wahlberg (“The Fighter”) will be jockeying for attention for their late releases.
Best Actress should be a three-way fight for the trophy among former champ Annette Bening (“The Kids Are All Right”), Natalie Portman (“Black Swan”) and Lesley Manville (“Another Year”). However, Manville might be dropped down to supporting by voters. Other contenders for a nomination should be Sally Hawkins (“Made in Dagenham”), Jennifer Lawrence (“Winter’s Bone”), Julianne Moore (“The Kids Are All Right”), last year’s winner Carey Mulligan (“Never Let Me Go”), Noomi Rapace (“The Girl With A Dragon Tattoo”), Tilda Swinton (“I Am Love”) and Michelle Williams (“Blue Valentine”) .
Supporting Actor will likely be dominated by British actors with Christian Bale (“The Fighter”), Broadbent and Andrew Garfield (“The Social Network”) among the frontrunners. The longlist could also include multiple mentions for actors in the British films “Another Year,” “The King’s Speech” and “Made in Dagenham.” Other names that will probably make the longlist include Pierce Brosnan (“The Ghost Writer”), Tom Hardy (“Inception”), Jeremy Renner (“The Town”), Sam Rockwell (“Conviction”) and Mark Ruffalo (“The Kids Are All Right”).
Supporting Actress could well see Helena Bonham Carter listed for both “The King’s Speech” and “Alice in Wonderland.” Her main competition will depend on how much “The Fighter” is seen and liked; if it is then expect Amy Adams and Melissa Leo to be nominated. Among the other contenders — Marion Cotillard (“Inception”), Mila Kunis (“Black Swan”), Miranda Richardson (“Made in Dagenham”), Hailee Steinfeld (“True Grit”), Ruth Sheen (“Another Year”) and Olivia Williams (“The Ghost Writer”).
The nominations for Best Foreign Language Film will be announced at the same time as the longlists and should include “Biutiful,” “Carlos,” “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” and “Of Gods and Men” with “The Concert,” “I am Love,” last year’s Oscar winner “The Secret in Their Eyes” and “Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives” also in contention.
After the nominations are announced the whole membership will vote on Best Picture, the four acting categories and Best Foreign Language Film while all the other categories will be voted on by expert panels from the respective branches. This division explains why, unlike at the Oscars, the Best Director prize often goes to someone who did not helm the Best Picture winner.  Directing nominees are likely to be drawn from Darren Aronofsky (“Black Swan”), Danny Boyle (‘127 Hours”), David Fincher (“The Social Network”), Tom Hooper (“The King’s Speech”), Mike Leigh (“Another Year”) and Christopher Nolan (“Inception) with long shot bids by Lisa Cholodenko (“The Kids Are All Right”), Roman Polanski (“The Ghost Writer”) and Peter Weir (“The Way Back”).

Image: BAFTA awards (British Academy of Film & Television)

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