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. 

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