The last punctuation mark for this year’s Oscars will be the BAFTAS, coming at you next Sunday. In a season that has shifted around many times, we have one more pit stop to make before the Oscar voters have their ballots in hand. And that is the British Academy of Film and Television Arts Awards, or the BAFTAs. Here’s the thing: since we have an somewhat extended seasonm the BAFTAs might have greater influence than they have had in previous years where the winners they chose were not the films that ended up winning over here. But remember, we figured out that extended seasons are every four years, when the Olympics happen. So what happened at BAFTAs four years ago? That was when 12 Years a Slave and Gravity split at the Globes, at the PGAs, at the BAFTAs, and eventually at the Oscars. I’ll never forget running up to Steve Pond at the Spirit Awards having cracked the code where I knew 12 Years would win — because it was an agreed upon split early on, like The Graduate and In the Heat of the Night. It was like that To Serve Man cookbook — I ran up to Steve and I said “Steve! Steve! It’s a cookbook!” No, I did tell him I knew why 12 Years was gonna win. And of course, it did. The Oscars were the next day: there probably wasn’t much chance Gravity would have won Best Picture anyway. ‘Twas the nature of the awards and the preferential ballot that year.
Four years before that was the Hurt Locker year, when Kathryn Bigelow and The Hurt Locker won at BAFTA and then repeated at the Oscars. That was the first year of the preferential ballot. This year, 2018, is only the third time we’ve had our extended season to make room for the WinterOlympics. And already strange things are happening. Strange things indeed. One of those things is that neither Get Out nor Lady Bird are even nominated for the BAFTA for Best Picture. The other strange thing is that our stats champ, the movie that should be the frontrunner, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, has been slammed over here with a “controversy,” which is translated as some critics object to the treatment of racism in the film. It won in Toronto, it won the Globe, it won at SAG, and at BAFTA it is nominated for both Best Picture and Best British Film. They like it. They really like it. But that doesn’t mean it’s going to win. It’s just a strange thing is all, the whole thing is strange. Some person — actual person or publicist, who knows — put up some art targeting Three Billboards here in LA in hopes of hurting its Oscar chances. That goes viral and you know the rest of the story.
The BAFTAs may tell us that they still love Three Billboards enough to award it mightily. If so, and it wins big there, I am not sure what happens at the Oscars. But if they go for something else in a big way, like Dunkirk or The Shape of Water — again, we’re at a loss because Get Out does not figure in here. I suppose we could always say we were watching the original screenplay category — ONCE AGAIN — to see who prevails, since all of the same folks nominated there are nominated for the Oscar except The Big Sick, which was replaced by I, Tonya.
You have Winston Churchill two ways, the battle of Dunkirk two ways. Both Dunkirk and Darkest Hour were widely seen and widely beloved by the Brits. Will they like one and not the other? Will they divide their wins or will another movie rise up to beat both? Why I think people who don’t live here love Three Billboards so much is that the rest of the world views us as a kind of circus in a bubble here in America. Three Billboards is a film by someone who thinks that if we could just all learn to listen to each other, to help each other we might not be so utterly divided. Here in America we dig our heels in. We are in a permanent war over things that matter to us. But outsiders probably see it as a bit … absurd.
BAFTAs screenplay category is a hit and a miss for Oscar. Sometimes it hits, sometimes it misses. They did award McDonagh for In Bruges when it was nominated. But again, this category is wide open as any other. The question we’ll all want to know is what movie do these voters put their weight behind? We’ll also be looking for the Mark Rylance of it all: acting wins that might hint to an upset to come.
We’ll be posting our predictions later in the week but wanted to run a poll — which film do you think will get the biggest boost from the BAFTAS in terms of specific wins or overall wins?