BAFTA Predictions by Daniel Kenealy
Those crazy Brits (I‚Äôm aloud to say it, I am one) ‚Ä¶
This Sunday the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) will present their film awards for 2008. Sasha has recently written a predictions piece and I thought I would join in, adding a British perspective to the mix. It is perennial, by now, to call the British Academy somewhat quirky and they do like to differ. Just take a look at the Best Picture/Director winners from the past few years:
2007 ‚Äì ‚ÄòAtonement‚Äô / Coen brothers for ‚ÄòNo Country‚Äô
2006 ‚Äì ‚ÄòThe Queen‚Äô / Paul Greengrass for ‚ÄòUnited 93‚Äô
2005 ‚Äì ‚ÄòBrokeback Mountain‚Äô / Ang Lee for ‚ÄòBrokeback‚Äô
2004 ‚Äì ‚ÄòThe Aviator‚Äô / Mike Leigh for ‚ÄòVera Drake‚Äô
2003 ‚Äì ‚ÄòThe Return of the King‚Äô / Peter Weir for ‚ÄòMaster & Commander‚Äô
2002 ‚Äì ‚ÄòThe Pianist‚Äô / Roman Polanski for ‚ÄòThe Pianist‚Äô
2001 ‚Äì ‚ÄòFellowship of the Ring‚Äô / Peter Jackson for ‚ÄòFellowship‚Äô
2000 ‚Äì ‚ÄòGladiator‚Äô / Ang Lee for ‚ÄòCrouching Tiger‚Äô
1999 ‚Äì ‚ÄòAmerican Beauty‚Äô / Pedro Almodovar for ‚ÄòAll About My Mother‚Äô*
* in 1999 the awards were moved pre-Oscar for the first time.
They are somewhat strange. Consider: in 1999 ‚ÄòAmerican Beauty‚Äô possessed unstoppable momentum but the Brits strangely withheld the directing award from one of their own (Sam Mendes). Similarly for Ridley Scott the next year. They seemed to provide a signpost for the Oscar-night success of ‚ÄòThe Pianist‚Äô in 2002 but were all over the place in 2006 honouring British films left, right and centre with prizes for ‚ÄòThe Queen‚Äô (Film), ‚ÄòUnited 93‚Äô (Director) and ‚ÄòThe Last King of Scotland‚Äô (British Film). It just seems oh so strange yet oh so compelling. What will they do this year?
If last year is anything to go by then these awards are certainly aligning more closely with the Academy Awards. BAFTA were the only institution to correctly forecast all four acting winners last year and the win for ‚ÄòAtonement‚Äô was always what one might call ‚Äòa British thing‚Äô. Ultimately there is little science to this and the general rule seems to be that when a British film, performer or director can be honoured seemingly legitimately (i.e. ‚ÄòAtonement‚Äô) then they will honour them. This is especially so if they are getting the shaft elsewhere. But the caveat is, at times, they are happy to ignore British talent so long as the talent in question is collecting awards everywhere else (for example Sam Mendes). They do seem to have their favourites too. Peter Weir has had considerable success with BAFTA for example, as did Woody Allen in the 1980s. But, ultimately, it‚Äôs a real crap shoot.
One of the most interesting elements of Sunday‚Äôs broadcast ‚Äì and American readers may not be aware of this ‚Äì is the behaviour of the host, Jonathan Ross, a particularly outspoken chat-show host. Following a lewd phone call to an actor from the old BBC comedy series ‚ÄòFawlty Towers‚Äô Ross was suspended by the BBC and was reinstated just a fortnight ago. BAFTA‚Äôs chairman David Parfitt (an Oscar winner for ‚ÄòShakespeare in Love‚Äô) has dismissed fears that Ross‚Äô behaviour will cross the line into unacceptable when hosting the show. Parfitt stated: ‚ÄòI think what people don‚Äôt realise is that there are different Jonathans ‚Ä¶ He loves film and he is really serious about film.‚Äô The one prank that we do know about is a plan to sneak a particular word into the broadcast. Ross has invited the public, through the website Twitter, to suggest unlikely words. So eagle-eyed (or perhaps ‚Äìeared) viewers should watch out for that one, especially if the show itself veers towards the boring.
As for the likely results well BAFTA, as I‚Äôve already said, like to walk a fine line between predictable and unfathomable although I feel that this year the balance shall tip in the favour of predictable. There are surely few who doubt that ‚ÄòSlumdog Millionaire‚Äô will collect the Best Film prize. But how much of a sweep can the film manage to generate? My guess is not a particularly impressive one given the voting patterns and the rules of BAFTA. It is also important to note that BAFTA present the Alexander Korda award to an outstanding British film each year and typically, even when a British film collects the top award, a different British film wins in this secondary character. This is, of course, illogical. How can one British film be judged the overall best of the year whilst another collects the narrower prize of outstanding British film? There is no logic but BAFTA‚Äôs pattern is to use the lesser award to recognize a smaller film that has been relatively neglected. So either a commercial offering that failed to attract industry awards (e.g. ‚ÄòThe Last King of Scotland‚Äô, ‚ÄòBilly Elliot‚Äô, ‚ÄòEast is East‚Äô and so forth) or less commercial films that they wish to salute (e.g. ‚ÄòThis is England‚Äô, ‚ÄòTouching the Void, ‚ÄòThe Warrior‚Äô and so forth).
Just take a look at the British film winners since 1999:
1999 ‚Äì ‚ÄòEast is East‚Äô was the only British film nominated for Best Film and thus logically won this category.
2000 ‚Äì ‚ÄòBilly Elliot‚Äô in the same position as ‚ÄòEast is East‚Äô.
2001 ‚Äì ‚ÄòGosford Park‚Äô. No British films nominated for Best Film and BAFTA selected the film with the most overall traction
2002 ‚Äì ‚ÄòThe Warrior‚Äô won despite ‚ÄòThe Hours‚Äô being a Best Film nominee.
2003 ‚Äì ‚ÄòTouching the Void‚Äô won despite ‚ÄòCold Mountain‚Äô being a Best Film nominee.
2004 ‚Äì ‚ÄòMy Summer of Love‚Äô won despite ‚ÄòVera Drake‚Äô being nominated for Best Film.
2005 ‚Äì ‚ÄòWallace & Grommit‚Äô won despite ‚ÄòThe Constant Gardener‚Äô being nominated for Best Film.
2006 ‚Äì ‚ÄòThe Last King of Scotland‚Äô won (and was nominated also for Best Film) despite ‚ÄòThe Queen‚Äô winning Best Film.
2007 ‚Äì ‚ÄòThis is England‚Äô won despite ‚ÄòAtonement‚Äô winning Best Film.
My point is simple: don‚Äôt look for logic here. This year I do not imagine ‚ÄòSlumdog‚Äô winning Outstanding British Film. Equally, the commercial success of ‚ÄòMamma Mia!‚Äô will probably exclude it. ‚ÄòIn Bruges‚Äô and ‚ÄòMan on Wire‚Äô are both contenders but the favourite has to be ‚ÄòHunger‚Äô given the general momentum it has in the British awards circuit at the moment. Steve McQueen ‚Äì the film‚Äôs writer/director ‚Äì is the toast of the British circuit and the film has been successful lately at the Evening Standard awards. It also topped the Sight & Sound poll of the best films of 2008 and deals with a sensitive and still somewhat salient political story.
What of the other categories? Well, here‚Äôs my run down:
DAVID LEAN AWARD FOR ACHIEVEMENT IN DIRECTING
Sasha is right to draw attention to the greater tendency of BAFTA (as opposed to Oscar) to split Film and Director. Will it happen this year? I‚Äôm positive that it will not. Danny Boyle is something of a national treasure and he has finally made a film that BAFTA voters feel they can honour him for. If a split occurs I think David Fincher would be the most likely to benefit. The voters may respect the technical expertise that he brought to ‚ÄòBenjamin Button‚Äô but I think a discussion of this might be a tad irrelevant. I predict Boyle.
FILM NOT IN THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE
Just close your eyes and pick one. A small committee decides this and they can often surprise. ‚ÄòWaltz with Bashir‚Äô is very current and the saliency of the piece could resonate but I have a feeling this goes to ‚ÄòGomorrah‚Äô.
Don‚Äôt be too surprised if, in their attempt to spread the wealth, ‚ÄòWaltz with Bashir‚Äô loses in the above category only to win here. But I hope and predict that ‚ÄòWall-E‚Äô will take this.
A very competitive category indeed. My suspicion is that the real competition is between the witty fast paced and off the wall dialogue of ‚ÄòIn Bruges‚Äô and the critically acclaimed script for ‚ÄòMilk‚Äô. ‚ÄòChangeling‚Äô is something of an anomaly, the nomination came from nowhere and the films popularity and acclaim in the UK far outstrips that in the US. ‚ÄòBurn After Reading‚Äô is the Coens‚Äô and they are ever-popular but I feel their victory last year is fresh in everybody‚Äôs minds. That being said the movie did well in the long-lists here and that might be a sign of some significant support. And ‚ÄòI‚Äôve Loved You So Long‚Äô whilst an admirable inclusion is probably in fifth place here.
It has to be Simon Beaufoy and ‚ÄòSlumdog‚Äô right? Well, not necessarily. If the movie slips up in a big category it might be here as the writing categories are often where BAFTA opts to spread the wealth to the poor unfortunates who are left scrambling around in the wake of the frontrunner. Should they opt for that pattern this year I expect the two most obviously literary pieces (‚ÄòThe Reader‚Äô and ‚ÄòRevolutionary Road‚Äô) to be the likely beneficiaries. I am opting for David Hare whose script seems quintessentially ‚ÄòBritish‚Äô.
As Sasha correctly pointed out BAFTA do seem to be loved-up on ‚ÄòMilk‚Äô and Sean Penn does not yet have a ‚Äòmask‚Äô to his name. But what of Mickey Rourke who has some traction across the Atlantic having collected a London Film Critics award just a few days ago? He could easily steal this. I maintain this race is the same two-man race as the Globes and SAG were and as Oscar is. Despite Patel‚Äôs British-ness I really do not think he can compete in terms of quality or impact with the frontrunners. Langella seems destined to fall through the cracks everywhere this season. I‚Äôm predicting Sean Penn.
Despite the popularity of ‚ÄòChangeling‚Äô this remains Kate versus Kate versus Meryl. Might Winslet split her own vote? It‚Äôs certainly possible although I suspect her performance in ‚ÄòThe Reader‚Äô will attract more votes given the coverage she has received for it and the respective responses to the two films by BAFTA. There is a bit of a history of double-acting nominees at BAFTA but it doesn‚Äôt tell us much. Sean Penn lost twice to Bill Murray in 2003 but in the same year Scarlett Johansson did not cancel herself out. It seems to be Kate‚Äôs year and whilst she has won a BAFTA before it was way back in 1995 for ‚ÄòSense and Sensibility‚Äô. I think she‚Äôll pip Meryl to it this year.
This article is getting long so let me just say ‚Ä¶ Heath Ledger.
Another tough call and I hope, given the lack of consensus (Kate has screwed up the precursors) that they don‚Äôt opt for Freida Pinto to back ‚ÄòSlumdog‚Äô. I doubt Tilda Swinton gets a second BAFTA and I think Amy Adams is overshadowed by her co-stars in ‚ÄòDoubt‚Äô (I find it strange that Viola Davis was not nominated). Between Cruz and Tomei it‚Äôs a tough call. ‚ÄòThe Wrestler‚Äô is generating some momentum in the UK circuit but I think superstar Cruz will nab this making a second consecutive year when BAFTA-Oscar match four-for-four in the acting categories.
ANTHONY ASQUITH AWARD FOR FILM MUSIC
Music tastes at BAFTA are tough to pin down but they seem to take into account more than just the orchestrals. I would be surprised in ‚ÄòMamma Mia!‚Äô or ‚ÄòThe Dark Knight‚Äô prevailed given the formers reliance on song and the latters less obvious musical content. Between the others ‚ÄòSlumdog‚Äô has the most exotic and I would argue the most ‚Äòapparent‚Äô music but music is also central to ‚ÄòWall-E‚Äô and ‚ÄòBenjamin Button‚Äô runs the range from wartime music to romantic music. Ultimately though I think the combination of exotic music and music that animates the entire film gives this to A.H. Rahman.
‚ÄòBenjamin Button‚Äô is the prettiest film and often cinematography awards are handed out on the basis of what is being filmed rather than how it is being filmed. It‚Äôs a serious challenger. ‚ÄòThe Dark Knight‚Äô may suffer for its contemporary setting (less beautiful) and night-time/interior work. ‚ÄòSlumdog‚Äô illuminated and captured the slums brilliantly and vibrantly and I have a feeling the vets Chris Menges and Roger Deakins will be potent challengers for their very delicate and very precise framing and lighting. But I have to have one left field prediction so here it is: Tom Stern gets a token win for the beautiful and clearly popular ‚ÄòChangeling‚Äô.
Six nominations this year and I think it‚Äôs a race between ‚ÄòSlumdog‚Äô which possessed a blistering pace thanks in large part to its editing and ‚ÄòThe Dark Knight‚Äô which appeals to those who equate action with good editing. I think ‚ÄòSlumdog‚Äô gets in and deservedly so.
‚ÄòBenjamin Button‚Äô is the Oscar favourite and I think the production design spanning so many decades gives it an advantage over its principal rivals, namely ‚ÄòChangeling‚Äô (hey, they loved it and it evokes the 1920s brilliantly) and ‚ÄòRevolutionary Road‚Äô. I pick ‚ÄòBen Button‚Äô.
I feel that ‚ÄòChangeling‚Äô has to win something and it could be here. ‚ÄòBenjamin Button‚Äôs costumes are less an independent character in the movie than its production design is. ‚ÄòThe Duchess‚Äô has the most opulent costumes and, although the film wasn‚Äôt a huge success with BAFTA, opulence might just do the trick.
Will they favour that British institution, 007? Maybe. But more likely are ‚ÄòThe Dark Knight‚Äô, ‚ÄòWall-E‚Äô or ‚ÄòSlumdog‚Äô. Given that the prize is for the overall sound (design, mixing, editing, effects) I am going to predict ‚ÄòWall-E‚Äô because sounds was just so central to that movie.
SPECIAL VISUAL EFFECTS
‚ÄòIron Man‚Äô has the most traditional computer effects and it is a lot of fun. 007 and Batman rely a little more on miniatures and modelling which is not, per se, a bad thing but maybe voters prefer the former. If CGI is what they want the intricacies of ‚ÄòBenjamin Button‚Äô might be hard to ignore. I suspect it will win this.
MAKE UP AND HAIR
Again, the makeup is such a part of ‚ÄòBenjamin Button‚Äô it is hard to predict a rival to triumph here. Yes The Joker is iconic and yes ‚ÄòThe Duchess‚Äô featured intricate hair design but the makeup was so central in BB, I‚Äôm predicting it.
CARL FOREMAN AWARD FOR NEWCOMER
I hope it‚Äôs Steve McQueen but they can often go with the really obscure here if one person is getting all of the accolades.
ORANGE RISING STAR AWARD
I don‚Äôt care if I get this wrong, it‚Äôs a public vote and I dearly hope ‚ÄòArrested Development‚Äô fans pull this off for Michael Cera. It‚Äôll never happen but I‚Äôm predicting it anyway.
Film ‚Äì ‚ÄòSlumdog Millionaire‚Äô
Director ‚Äì Danny Boyle for ‚ÄòSlumdog Millionaire‚Äô
Original Screenplay ‚Äì Dustin Lance Black for ‚ÄòMilk‚Äô
Adapted Screenplay ‚Äì David Hare for ‚ÄòThe Reader‚Äô
Film Not in the English Language ‚Äì ‚ÄòGomorrah‚Äô
Animated Film ‚Äì ‚ÄòWall-E‚Äô
Leading Actor ‚Äì Sean Penn for ‚ÄòMilk‚Äô
Leading Actress ‚Äì Kate Winslet for ‚ÄòThe Reader‚Äô
Supporting Actor ‚Äì Heath Ledger for ‚ÄòThe Dark Knight‚Äô
Supporting Actress ‚Äì Penelope Cruz for ‚ÄòVicky Cristina Barcelona‚Äô
Music ‚Äì ‚ÄòSlumdog Millionaire‚Äô
Cinematography ‚Äì ‚ÄòChangeling‚Äô
Editing ‚Äì ‚ÄòSlumdog Millionaire‚Äô
Production Design ‚Äì ‚ÄòThe Curious Case of Benjamin Button‚Äô
Costume Design ‚Äì ‚ÄòThe Duchess‚Äô
Sound ‚Äì ‚ÄòWall-E‚Äô
Special Visual Effects ‚Äì ‚ÄòThe Curious Case of Benjamin Button‚Äô
Makeup and Hair ‚Äì ‚ÄòThe Curious Case of Benjamin Button‚Äô
Short Animation ‚Äì ‚ÄòWallace & Grommit‚Äô
Short Film ‚Äì ‚ÄòLove You More‚Äô (a way to recognize Anthony Minghella too)
Outstanding British Film ‚Äì ‚ÄòHunger‚Äô
Carl Foreman Award ‚Äì Steve McQueen
Orange Rising Star Award ‚Äì Michael Cera
Slumdog Millionaire – 4
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button – 3
Milk – 2
The Reader – 2
Wall-E – 2