It was around the year 2000 that the BAFTA moved its ceremony to take place before the Oscars. They changed their date again in 2004 when the Oscars changed its date, moving it up a month (and thereby screwing themselves, in my view). From my perspective the BAFTA has gone from being one of those awards shows that only give the prizes to people who show up, to being wild and unpredictable, to being one of the best indicators of the awards there is. How did this happen? And why?
I don’t know if I can answer those questions. I know that their telecast is more entertaining than the Oscars, and always has been. It’s shorter, funnier, more inspired in terms of the actual awards given out; can you imagine if the Oscars gave out an award for Best Debut Filmmaker? Then again, the Oscars are like McDonald’s; they work because they change comes slowly and they stick to what is unhealthy works.
The BAFTA as serious predictor thing started back when The Pianist did so well there and went on to very nearly sweep the Oscars in an upset. It was key that it did well at the BAFTAs because that, in effect, wiped clean any residual controversy off of Roman Polanski.
When the BAFTA correctly predicted Marion Cotillard and Tilda Swinton to win Oscars last year it really was time to sit up and take notice. What else did they get right that year? Foreign Language to The Lives of Others, Daniel Day Lewis (everyone else did too), Diablo Cody for Screenplay, Bourne Ultimatum for Sound and Editing, Best Visual Effects, Animated Film, Makeup. They missed Picture, Adapted Screenplay, however, which was a big one: the Coens.
The year before the BAFTA accurately predicted: Forest Whitaker, Helen Mirren, Jennifer Hudson and Alan Arkin (though Eddie Murphy wasn’t nominated). But additionally, Original Screenplay for Little Miss Sunshine (Fox Searchlight trifecta with Slumdog this year), Happy Feet for animated over Cars. So it wasn’t so large a number of correct predictions but the ones it did predict, like Happy Feet and Alan Arkin were worth noting. They did again miss Adapted Screenplay and of course, Picture.
The year before that, Brokeback Mountain won their top prize, and both lead actors matched with Oscar, both supporting actors did not. Both screenplay categories matched with Oscar. They also got Cinematography and Costumes for Memoirs, as did Oscar.
My lists aren’t 100% thorough but they’re close enough. The idea here is that, with each year recently, the BAFTAs have become closer and closer to how Oscar votes. Now let’s look at why. There are a couple of reasons I can think of. The first is that when the Oscar branches nominate a film or a person their specialized professionals do it. But when it comes time to pick winners, the entire voting body does it. So you have actors choosing cinematography, animators choosing score and editing. Naturally, their winners would look more like how the general public might vote. The BAFTA are a cross-section, a cut above the Golden Globes but close enough to the middle to match AMPAS. They don’t appear to be wowed by critics and they seem to acknowledge box office success; they aren’t afraid to look too mainstream by picking someone popular.
Another reason I think they succeed is that they don’t really want to match Oscar so they pick what they like. And it just so happens that what they like tends to match what AMPAS likes. Part of that could be the large amount of Brits in the Academy (but that has to be a fairly bogus theory ultimately). There is the same sort of demographic prejudice that goes on – white people, mostly male, often British win. Last night when Steve McQueen took the stage for Hunger it was startling to see anyone of color (yes, Penelope Cruz also won, A.R. Rahman) at the podium. His speech was brief (“you have to work twice as hard”). It is still a very white, very male scene on these stages.
How about you, readers? What are you broke down theories as to why the BAFTAs are suddenly the most influential precurser?