The BAFTA nominations are in!
Awards season is one of my favourite times of the year, even though I take a pretty cynical view of the awarding bodies. Still, I like to think, probably because they’re British, that the BAFTAs are different. But they’re not really, are they? This year’s list could almost have been written in the voters’ sleep, or, resisting such dramatic hyperbole, it could have been penned a year ago following Alejandro González Iñárritu’s success with Birdman, and Eddie Redmayne’s win for The Theory of Everything. In other words, once you’re an awards darling, you stay one. Just look at the numbers; in 21 categories, each placing 5 movies, the academy have nominated just 37 different films.* If you detract best foreign film, outstanding British debut and best animation, the number decreases significantly.
What disappoints me most is that the voters seemingly didn’t have the guts to nominate any of the several excellent films in the outstanding British film category for the top award, best film. In my view, Ex Machina and Brooklyn are deserving of such consideration, but I’m pleased to see they did amass several nominations each.
There are many more films which I believe have a strong claim to the outstanding British film award but have been overlooked, while The Danish Girl and The Lobster are receiving overblown appreciation. The latter, though for the most part bitingly entertaining for its satire, overstays its welcome and fails to reach the promise of its premise. If it were up to me, you might instead see X + Y, Shaun the Sheep and Bypass nominated here.
Though I’ve seen several superior films over the last year, I am downright shocked by the complete lack of recognition for Sarah Gavron’s Suffragette, particularly in the production and costume design categories, and the neglect of Carey Mulligan and Anne-Marie Duff, whose performances I found most impressive among the talented cast. Thankfully, the existence of the outstanding debut by British writer, director or producer award has made room for recognition of Debbie Tucker Green’s Second Coming, as well as Alex Garland’s graduation to directing.
Though I haven’t yet seen all of the films nominated, my pick for best original screenplay is currently a toss-up between Garland’s Ex Machina, one of my favourite films of the whole year (I could have watched it again straight after the credits rolled), and Pixar’s Inside Out. Though my opinion of Inside Out as a whole is rather lukewarm (it actually put me to sleep), it’s script packs in sensitivity, originality, comedy and insight while avoiding any tonal jarring.
The best film category, I feel, has overinflated the merits of The Big Short and Bridge of Spies. I expect both of these films will also do well at the Oscars, with The Big Short’s ensemble cast and in-your-face histrionics perhaps pleasing the same crowd who went crazy for Birdman last year. While Spielberg’s effort is undeniably highly accomplished, for me it lacked the emotional impact of Brooklyn, Carol and many others nowhere to be seen in the nominations, and is inferior in its thriller elements to Ex Machina, Mad Max: Fury Road, and even The Martian.
It’s a shame not to see Lenny Abrahamson’s Room in the running for best film, probably in part because I liked it so much more than his previous film, Frank. The best adapted screenplay category, however, rightly includes Emma Donaghue’s adaptation of her source novel. In other years perhaps it would be a shoo-in, but this is a bloody tough category. While The Big Short is a jumbled, overcooked mess that surely hasn’t crystallised the details of Michael Lewis’ non-fiction account of the financial crash quite enough, Brooklyn is an admirably faithful adaptation that captures the feel of the places it represents, as well as both the strength and vulnerability of its heroine. Saoirse Ronan fully deserves her best actress nomination. Carol, though it dramatically recalibrates the perspective of the novel, detracting emphasis on and insight into Therese and her point of view, at least does this confidently and consistently.
Another category in which the contenders are very strong is best actress, though it should be even stronger; the tension of Ex Machina is dependent on the layers and subtlety of Alicia Vikander’s performance, surely a leading rather than supporting role. Rooney Mara’s part in Carol, too, is much more substantial than the best supporting actress nomination would have you believe.
Though I think Cate Blanchett was better in Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine, for which she raked in an Oscar, BAFTA and Golden Globe, I wouldn’t be surprised to see her awarded best actress again for Carol. My imaginary award, though I was also deeply moved by both Ronan in Brooklyn and Vikander in The Danish Girl, goes to Brie Larson without a second thought. The fact that she’s nominated here seems to me to demonstrate that her rising star nomination is coming too late.
Of the pictures nominated for best animated film, Shaun the Sheep is my clear favourite. When it was released on Valentine’s Day the Aardman film made the perfect counter-programming to Fifty Shades of Grey, and with its combination of physical slapstick and subtle linguistic humour, is perfectly pitched for both adults and children. Similarly, Tom Moore’s Song of the Sea is an under-seen gem, one of the year’s best animations and family-friendly films, and certainly superior to both Minions and Inside Out. Song of the Sea outranks Inside Out for the very elements the Pixar film has been praised for, including its understanding of children, valuation of family and advocation of experiencing both positive and negative feelings.
I don’t have much to complain about in the technical categories, though if anyone in the academy had deigned to see it, The Dressmaker could have been nominated in the best costume design category, and deservedly so. Like The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw I am slightly baffled by the level of praise George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road has received. However, it is a riotous subversive thrill ride that I’d love to see awarded for best production design, above the more obvious choices of period dramas Carol and Bridge of Spies.
*21 categories excluding 2 shorts categories and the BAFTA rising star award.
Next up: I’ll be debating the Academy Award nominations following their announcement this Thursday, 14th January, on www.oneroomwithaview.com.