What the BAFTA nominations say about 2015 films

“They nominated WHAT?!” sorts through the BAFTA nominations announced Friday morning, his reaction is somewhere between incredulity and contentment

“We gave each other the most breath-taking of gifts”, Carol tells Therese in a moving scene in Todd Haynes Carol. Maybe she was looking towards the future, and talking about those nine BAFTA nominations?

Image: The Weinstein Company/Film4/Killer Films

Image: The Weinstein Company/Film4/Killer Films

Although most people celebrated the beginning of a year last week, for the most obsessive of film fans a new year doesn’t begin until February 29, the day after the winners of the 2015 Academy Awards are announced. Until then, the first few months of 2016 are like a weird blank space between the two years. And, it’s all because of award season which officially entered their critical stage in December when the SAG and Golden Globe nominations were announced in the penultimate week of the year. This morning the British Academy delivered their nominations, often seen as one of the film certifications as to who may be heading towards Oscar love – the actual nominations are announced just next Thursday on the 14th.

And, what a year it’s been. Money making blockbusters, boundary pushing films (in form and sexuality), surprising hits and moving female focused hits. Where are we now?

Announced at 7:35 am, the BAFTA awards for the year 2015 in film saw Carol and Bridges of Spies earning the most nominations, at nine-a-piece, two films which couldn’t be as different even though they both take place in the fifties (the former in a austere, immaculate New York and the latter in a clear-eyed Brooklyn and a dark USSR). It’s only natural, though, 2015 has been a year of disparity in film and although awards will never be the most accurate barometer of our personal response to films, they do offer some interesting cultural context. And what’s the cultural context? The “best” of the year had little room for the British…

Let’s take a look at some of the top categories.

The Best Films of The Year?
In recent years, call it postnationalism or just Oscar obsession, the BAFTA has been called out for being less British focused and interested in joining the Oscar predictive game. In fairness to the BAFTAs, this isn’t exactly accurate. From its first iteration in 1947 the awards have been interested in films from Hollywood and elsewhere. The first award for Best Film was the very American The Best Years of Our Lives and it trumps the Academy Awards by at least having multiple non-English Language winners – the first La Ronde in 1951. Still, they’ve been less inclined of late to give nominations for Best Picture to outliers like Shadowlands, or Shirley Valentine, or Strictly Nominated (yes, Film of the Year nominee in 1992) So, Best British Film is where the “less popular”, British produced, films come home to roost. And this year, not a single of the British Film nominations managed to find a spot in the Best Film category. If only the BAFTA would have had more faith in a small British production like Brooklyn or 45 Years, moving and affecting pieces we gave five stars to at Nouse.

What the recent weeks of nominations have revealed is that The Big Short (opening in two weeks on January 22 in UK) has turned into the film no one was thinking about that seems poised to take the top prize away from what was seen as the presumed frontrunner Spotlight (in UK cinemas January 29). It’s not award season if some surprise doesn’t turn up.

The Big Short
Bridge of Spies
The Revenant

45 Years
The Danish Girl
Ex Machina
The Lobster

All about the women….
One of the more interesting aspects of the BAFTAs over the past few years have been their insistence on refusing to nominate actors where they were campaigned. If you’re the least bit awards focused you would know about the scourge of award season – category fraud – which sees performers hopping categories at a chance to maximise awards. BAFTA has ignored supporting campaigns for actors in the last like Kate Winslet (in both The Reader and Finding Neverland) and Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit). This year in the actress categories, BAFTA both stuck their trends while ignoring them.

Image: Film4/Universal Studios

Image: Film4/Universal Studios

The current supporting actress frontrunners – Alicia Vikander in The Danish Girl and Rooney Mara in Carol both play roles which could be easily seen as lead performances. BAFTA opted for keeping Rooney in supporting with Vikander in lead, and threw a curve in the game by nominating Vikander for her supporting work in Ex Machina. Oscar prognosticators waited with bated breath to see if the BAFTA would give excellent Briton Charlotte Rampling a leg up for her devastating work in 45 Years, but the BAFTA could only say “There’s nothing like a dame…” rewarding Dame Maggie Smith with eighteenth nomination (she’s already won five).

I’d imagine this morning at Downton Abbey Maggie’s abodegoing something like this:

You’ve another BAFTA nomination, Dame Maggie?

Ugh, again? Oh, send them a thank you note, I’ve got a draft somewhere.

Cate Blanchett Carol
Brie Larson Room
Saoirse Ronan Brooklyn
Maggie Smith The Lady in the Van
Alicia Vikander The Danish Girl

Jennifer Jason Leigh The Hateful Eight
Rooney Mara Carol
Alicia Vikander Ex Machina
Julie Walters Brooklyn
Kate Winslet Steve Jobs

May the best man win!
The excellent Sicario didn’t manage a Film nomination but Benecio Del Toro earns a well earned mention – even if I’d quibble on the category placement. Meanwile, the question of which Spotlight man will earn an Oscar nominations seems to be settling on Mark Ruffalo… I can’t say I mind. Things seem to be falling in place as Bryan Cranston sails through nomination after nomination for the film everyone ought to have forgotten – the hopelessly medicore Trumbo – out on February 5 in the UK. It’s odd that BAFTA’s ignored Helen Mirren in the actress field for her work here, but still remembered Cranston. Sign of a weak Best Actor year or just true love for Cranston’s work here? He’s joined by a superior batch of younger actors. Eddie Redmayne will be happy to sit this one out – he won it just last year. On one hand it could be the battle of the 90s American heartthrobs Leo vs Matt, but could the Irish Germn Fassbender take it in a walk?

Bryan Cranston Trumbo
Matt Damon The Martian
Leonardo DiCaprio The Revenant
Eddie Redmayne The Danish Girl
Michael Fassbender Steve Job

Christian Bale The Big Short
Benicio Del Toro Sicario
Idris Elba Beasts of No Nation
Mark Ruffalo Spotlight
Mark Rylance Bridge of Spies

Awards prognosticators are currently in their offices pulling their hair out pondering on unexpected things like…. why Ridley Scott for director in The Martian but not in picture? How about Mad Max: Fury Road earning staggering seven nominations but curiously none in the top categories? Where’s Carter Burwell for his lush Phillip Glass inspired Carol score? Can Julie Walters sly, sliver of a turn in Brooklyn can reach to Oscar and countless other things? And did Sufragette really earn not a single nomination?

Image: 20th Century Fox/Walt Disney Studios

Image: 20th Century Fox/Walt Disney Studios

The full list of nominations can be seen over at the BAFTA’s website here. For me, the most surprising thing is Bridge of Spies leading the nominations alongisde Carol. The quite charm of film thrills in part, but it doesn’t dig particularly deep and hasn’t done particularly excellent thus far in awards over in the U.S. where you’d more expect its nostalgic charm to work. Oh, the BAFTAs, always one for the oddities. But, at least we’ll always have the gorgeous Carol and The Revenant….

Who are you rooting for? Leo braving the wild with The Revenant or Cate or Rooney braving homophobic New York in Carol? Which soon to be released film are you annoyed you haven’t seen yet Spotlight or The Hateful Eight? Any surprising ommissions?

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