Tonight I’ll be blogging throughout the BBC broadcast of the BAFTAs ceremony, between 9 and 11pm (I’m going to ignore live updates online as watching the show should be more exciting).
Below are my predictions about which names are sealed inside those incredibly gold envelopes (hopefully I won’t be proved totally wrong later!) In an act of complete wishful thinking I’m also going to list who I’d give the awards to if it was up to me. Sadly I haven’t managed to see all the films nominated, but I think I’ve done pretty well. In each category titles in bold represent the films I’ve seen, as a disclaimer of where my judgements are coming from or why I might seem to be ignoring great work.
I’ll be updating this until the show starts so keep your eyes peeled!
Nominees: 12 Years a Slave, American Hustle, Captain Phillips, Gravity, Philomena
Prediction: 12 Years a Slave
My choice: Gravity
To be honest, I don’t think Gravity was the best film of the year, or even of the nominees here (see below), but it is certainly worthy of awards recognition considering three of the films I was most impressed with, Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine, Alexander Payne’s Nebraska and Jean-Marc Vallée’s Dallas Buyers Club have not received Best Film nominations (Dallas Buyers Club has outrageously been snubbed altogether).
I’m a big fan of low key, character driven dramas, a description which clearly doesn’t cover Gravity. But though it was critiqued for weak characterisation I think this has been exaggerated, and accept that well-developed characters are not crucial to every kind of film; Gravity is a masterclass in pushing the boundaries of technology in aiding creativity (again) and produces a storyline which despite the ridiculous piling on of disaster after disaster, doesn’t allow you to avert your eyes for a second. Through excellent sound design it also manages to infect the audience with Dr Ryan Stone’s (Sandra Bullock) panic in order to further ratchet up the suspense, so I’d be pleased to see it awarded in the sound category too.
OUTSTANDING BRITISH FILM
Nominees: Gravity, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, Philomena, Rush, Saving Mr Banks, The Selfish Giant
My choice: Philomena
If Gravity doesn’t win Best Film tonight I can see the academy awarding it in this category instead, which would be a deserved success for David Heyman, surely one of Britain’s best producers (he produced every Harry Potter film). If Gravity does win Best Film then I wouldn’t be surprised to see Saving Mr Banks pick up best British film, though personally I think that would be blowing its merits out of proportion. Although admittedly I cried watching it. But that’s another story.
Philomena is my pick not only because it’s a far more British affair than Gravity. The academy use finance as their main criterion though to be fair Gravity’s director, writers and producer are all British, but I’m choosing to reinterpret the category how I like because this post is MY BAFTAs. Philomena is one of the most emotively powerful and affecting films I saw all year. Unlike The Monuments Men which I saw yesterday, Philomena aptly balances the devastation of its narrative with a (very British) wry wit in the developing friendship between Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan) and Philomena (Judi Dench). And you get to see Dench say clitoris.
Philomena’s power lies in its ability to make the viewer, like Sixsmith, phenomenally angry on Philomena’s behalf, and then makes you realise that her strength lies in her capacity to forgive the nuns (something I was much less inclined to do). During the climactic scene at Rosscrea, once Sixsmith and Philomena had uncovered the nun’s repugnant deception I was all for Sixsmith going in all guns blazing just as he wanted to do. But it is Philomena who cuts through Sister Hildegarde’s (Barbara Jefford in a role that will have you shivering in fear) defensiveness by using the only language she can understand. By telling Sister Hildegarde that she forgives her, Philomena puts the wrongness of the nuns’ actions into the religious context of sin. This is the only way Sister Hildegarde can accept that she’s done something wrong.
I’m a fan of Ron Howard’s work and despite my lack of interest in sports the trailers for Rush looked great – probably combining a sky-high level of technical achievement in filmmaking with characterisation superior to that of Gravity. Perhaps if I’d seen it I’d be making a different choice in this category.
Nominees: Steve McQueen for 12 Years a Slave, David O. Russell for American Hustle (rhyme not intended), Paul Greengrass for Captain Philips, Alfonso Cuaron for Gravity
Prediction: Well, I’m a bit stumped. I would not be surprised to see Steve McQueen or Alfonso Cuaron take this. Although David O. Russell brought together a host of great performances in American Hustle (I think the film would be a shoo-in if the BAFTAs had an ensemble cast category), I think he might have more chance of winning the director’s statuette at the Oscars.
My choice: Steve McQueen
I think I’ll be heaping plenty of awards on Cuaron and the Gravity team in my fantasy BAFTAs, so McQueen can have this one as I’m astounded by what he achieved in just his 3rd film! I just hope enough people realise that despite the film’s focus on Solomon Northup there are millions of slave narratives (published or otherwise) just as tragic – the point isn’t how terrible slavery was for this one man, but how horrific it was for every victim. Peter Bradshaw was receptive to this in his review: ‘Northup is an educated, refined man, a man with a wife and children, a free man; his being in slavery is a grotesque mistake, a terrible injustice. We can see it only too clearly. But McQueen is making us see the point is that they are all free – or should be. They are all dignified human beings with families. Northup’s sensational situation is only an amplification and distillation of the whole crime’. McQueen boils the indescribable horror of slavery down into a microcosmic story, featuring archetypal figures including the cruel slaveowner (Michael Fassbender), the abolitionist/sympathiser (Brad Pitt), yet it never feels clichéd. And even this microcosm is rightfully difficult for viewers to confront.
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Nominees: Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell for American Hustle, Woody Allen for Blue Jasmine, Alfonso and Jonas Cuaron for Gravity, Joel and Ethan Coen for Inside Llewyn Davis, Bob Nelson for Nebraska
Prediction: It’s all about teamwork – either the Cuarons or the Coens
My choice: Bob Nelson, Nebraska
As I already mentioned, Gravity is a hell of a ride, but dialogue and characters are important to me – my favourite films tend to be those where people complain ‘it isn’t about anything’ – no high concept or fanciful plot, just a slice of everyday life in some part of the world, told with truth and emotional intensity.
I was tempted to pick Blue Jasmine. Woody Allen continues to wow, and I think Blue Jasmine is his best work in years; despite Vicky Cristina Barcelona and Midnight in Paris being hailed as his ‘return to form’ Blue Jasmine tops them both.
But Nebraska. June Squibb gets the best role written for a female actress over 50 in I don’t know how long. Kate is shameless and she knows it. The subtle hilarity of the stolen air-conditioning unit is flawless, yet Nebraska also pulls you apart with its depiction of senility and the lengths a child will got to for a beloved parent. Nebraska is just as memorable for its funny moments (such as the false teeth incident) and upsetting scenes (Woody’s return to his childhood home) as brasher films are for their visual flair or stunning effects. I’m sure Nebraska will mean a lot to people of diverse ages; it is a story to grow old with.
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Nominees: John Ridley for 12 Years a Slave, Richard LaGravenese for Behind The Candelabra, Billy Ray for Captain Phillips, Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope for Philomena, Terence Winter for The Wolf of Wall Street
Prediction: Captain Philips
My choice: Philomena
Best Adapted Screenplay is perhaps the category in which decisions are most meaningless if you have no knowledge of the source material. I read Martin Sixsmith’s The Lost Child of Philomena Lee (the book the film is based on) over Christmas and was surprised by the fact that, as its title suggests, the focus is much more on the life of Philomena’s son Antony/David. In fact, Sixsmith’s work of investigative journalism/narrative reconstruction only tells the story of Philomena’s search, dramatised in the film, between the lines. He writes of some of his difficulties in gaining access to materials, but the relationship between Sixsmith and Philomena presented in the film is not a part of the book’s story. So, in a choice which I acknowledge to be ridiculously biased, I choose Philomena for Best Adapted Screenplay on the basis that it is also a work of astounding originality; it uses Sixsmith’s meticulous research but goes beyond.
(If you read the book you might be surprised to find a far less positive account of Philomena’s son than that given in the film – it seems his character was rather cleaned up for the screen version).
Nominees: Bruce Dern for Nebraska, Chiwetel Ejiofor for 12 Years a Slave, Christian Bale for American Hustle, Leonardo DiCaprio for The Wolf of Wall Street, Tom Hanks for Captain Phillips
Prediction: There’s been a lot of hype suggesting that this might be DiCaprio’s year, but can anyone compete with helming a slavery epic in your first feature leading role? Chiwetel Ejiofor
My choice: Bruce Dern
Fairly controversial, I know. To me Ejiofor looks like a man performing, albeit impressively. Dern looks like a confused old man.
As for the others, I’m generally not a fan of DiCaprio, and based on trailers alone his Jordan Belfort looks like another variation on Django Unchained’s Calvin Candie or Gatsby in Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation of last year. Of course these are three very different characters, but each involves refinement, opulence and varying levels of cruelty. Though the vulnerability of his Gatsby makes this performance the finest of the three.
I do wish Matthew McConaughey had been nominated for Dallas Buyers Club, but there’s always the Oscars.
Nominees: Amy Adams for American Hustle, Cate Blanchett for Blue Jasmine, Emma Thompson for Saving Mr Banks, Judi Dench for Philomena, Sandra Bullock for Gravity
Prediction: Cate Blanchett
My choice: This is a ridiculous category, and one that forces me to choose between some of my favourite actresses, when Adams and Blanchett have arguably given the performances of their careers. Bullock has and will be better and I believe Amy Adams still has more to give (though American Hustle was a long deserved starring role for her, as she’s been shining in smaller parts for years). Dench and Thompson are great but the world already knew that (kudos to BAFTA for ignoring Meryl Streep for once, August: Osage County wasn’t her best work). I’m going to go with the decision the academy will probably make, it’s Cate Blanchett.
Barkhad Abdi for Captain Phillips, Bradley Cooper for American Hustle, Daniel Brühl for Rush, Matt Damon for Behind the Candelabra, Michael Fassbender for 12 Years a Slave
My choice: I think Cooper was far better in last year’s Silver Linings Playbook, so I wouldn’t give him another award quite yet. So I guess it has to be Fassbender, who was impressively repulsive as slavemaster Epps, but has done better work before in McQueen’s Shame.
Jennifer Lawrence for American Hustle, Julia Roberts for August: Osage County, Lupita Nyong’o for 12 Years a Slave, Oprah Winfrey for The Butler, Sally Hawkins for Blue Jasmine
Prediction: Although Lupita Nyong’o is also nominated for the audience-voted EE rising star award (after 12 Years looks like she’s risen to me!) I don’t think the academy will overlook the strength of her performance as Patsey. I’d say it rivals Ejiofor’s leading turn as Solomon. (I promise I’m not being controversial just for the sake of it).
My choice: If you’ve read my post about the SAG awards this year then this will come across as, and is, a little hypocritical. IT HAS TO BE JENNIFER LAWRENCE! How Christian Bale managed to get a nomination acting alongside her is beyond me.