Best Actress has been an unexciting race this year because Julianne Moore has been the projected winner since her shining reviews for Still Alice emerged from the Toronto Film Festival in September. Moore has never won an Academy Award, despite four nominations and twenty years of respected and lauded work. Her path to victory this year has been smooth and unchallenged, as she has won all of the major precursor awards: Critics Choice, Golden Globe, and Screen Actors Guild. But Moore may have her most difficult competition with winning the final Oscar-prerequisite, the British Academy Award.
This year’s acting races for the Academy Awards are mostly sewn up. J.K. Simmons for Whiplash, Patricia Arquette for Boyhood, Moore for Still Alice, and since winning the SAG, Eddie Redmayne for The Theory of Everything (pending his expected BAFTA win).
The BAFTAs are a good tool for foreshadowing winners at the Oscars, yet many do not realize that only 3 times in the past 25 years have the same four acting champions from BAFTA duplicated their success at the Oscars. (Those years were 2011, 2007, and 2006.) So if Redmayne, Moore, Simmons, and Arquette are the likely Oscar winners, then will any of them miss the BAFTA? Arquette and Simmons are unstoppable, and Redmayne is extremely safe to the win the BAFTA. If Moore’s film was not such a small production and had more momentum going for it than just her performance, it would be easier to see why the BAFTA may feel compelled to reward her.
Most of Moore’s narrative this season has hinged on the idea that she is painfully overdue to win, and playing a woman with early-on-set Alzheimer’s disease would satisfy voters’ need to recognize her. The performance itself is devastating, so it would be a deserved win but that does not matter as much as the “overdue” factor in her case. The woman has paid her dues and it is finally “her time.” My question is: will the BAFTAs feel the same urge to keep the flow of the season unanimously in Moore’s favor?
When Kate Winslet and Helen Mirren were considered overdue in their respective winning years, both were victorious at the BAFTAs before the Oscars. But yet, they are both British actresses and were nominated for roles that would easily appeal to British voters.
I am not saying the BAFTAs only look to reward British actors, but recent history has shown UK actresses and foreign language performances have upset the American actress/role in this category’s frontrunner position:
1. Marion Cotillard, relatively unknown then, won the BAFTA for a breakout performance in La Vie en Rose over veteran actress Julie Christie in Away from Her after Christie collected the same awards Moore has already nabbed for Still Alice.
2. Emmanuelle Riva in Amour took the BAFTA from the 2012 favorites, Jennifer Lawrence in Silver Linings Playbook and Jessica Chastain in Zero Dark Thirty.
3. Carey Mulligan’s work in the British film An Education won her the BAFTA, even though Meryl Streep for Julie and Julia and Sandra Bullock for The Blind Side were the two battling performers in 2009. (Bullock was not nominated for the BAFTA, but Streep was.)
The BAFTAs nominated two British actresses in their Lead Actress category this year, Rosamund Pike for Gone Girl and Felicity Jones for The Theory of Everything. Both women have narratives to upset Moore’s streak of winning this season.
Jones is a fetching English rose who has been everywhere promoting her richly rewarded film this season. The Theory of Everything was adored by the British Academy, so much so that James Marsh made it into Best Director. Her film received a whooping ten nominations, so she could benefit from the ample amount of good will towards the film. Though the story is about Stephen Hawking, Jones is more active and dominant during the second half of the film after her co-star, Eddie Redmayne, becomes immobile and unable to speak. But there’s major problem with Jones spoiling Moore’s sweep: Next to the other nominees, her role looks lighter, easier, and less challenging. How many voters will remember the impact of her performance more than the roaring sucker punches of acting from Moore, Pike, and Witherspoon?
The other British nominee is Pike who flourishes in the role of a lifetime in Gone Girl. The BAFTAs could decide to pick her for several reasons. 1) Gone Girl was an enormous financial success. It was the 12th highest grossing movie of last year in the United Kingdom. 2) Her startling character is likely to be the most remembered role of the nominees. 3) She physical transforms her body on the screen. If the voters fail to see the deep complexities behind her entire performance, they will surely notice Pike’s multiple weight-losses and weight-gains within the 150-minute movie. 4) Despite being more popular in the UK, Pike was relatively unknown to American audiences before this movie, and yet was sought out by David Fincher and trusted to lead a huge Hollywood production.
She may not have a British role, but it’s almost like a Cinderella story of sorts: an obscure English actor is cast in a Fincher film and becomes an overnight sensation with audiences around the world. It has also been demonstrated that Pike’s performance is the most popular performance—with the exception of Moore—in the race. She won twelve critics association awards for Gone Girl, more than anyone in the race this year. Her support in the UK has also established by her win from the London Critics Circle.
Reese Witherspoon and Amy Adams round out the list of nominees, but neither have what it takes to really pull through here. Witherspoon’s nomination was her reward and validates her BAFTA win for Walk the Line in 2005. Maybe it would be a closer race if she would have been able to create more traction in the past few months, but Wild never took off enough for her to be a threat. Amy Adams was not even Oscar-nominated for Big Eyes, and most of the non-Oscar-nominees who win BAFTAs are in the supporting categories, like Thandie Netwon for Crash and Sigourney Weaver for The Ice Storm.
Moore is the safest nominee to predict considering she had three previous BAFTA nominations without a win and her steamrolling success through every other major award show, but Jones and Pike do stand a chance to steal the trophy from under her frontrunner nose.