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Rich pickings

This year’s crop of UK films are so strong a number of home-grown titles could dominate all the major Bafta categories. Allan Hunter profiles the leading local contenders

A Dangerous Method

Director David Cronenberg
Producers Jeremy Thomas, Marco Mehlitz, Martin Katz
Writer Christopher Hampton
UK distributor Lionsgate
UK release date February 10, 2012

Despite his status as one of the great world film-makers, David Cronenberg has never been nominated for a Bafta director award. His only recognition to date is a shared Alexander Korda nomination for best British film for Eastern Promises (2007). That seems unlikely to change with his exploration of the relationship between psychiatrist Carl Jung and his mentor Sigmund Freud. The awards heat for Michael Fassbender has been generated by Shame rather than his performance as Jung. Co-star Keira Knightley is a past Bafta actress nominee for Atonement (2007) while screenwriter Christopher Hampton is a past winner for Dangerous Liaisons (1988).

 

Attack The Block

Director/writer Joe Cornish
Producers Nira Park, James Wilson
UK distributor StudioCanal
UK release date May 13, 2011

Imagine a potential Ridley Scott blockbuster had been hijacked by the social concerns of a Ken Loach film and you have the measure of Attack The Block, an inventive, widely admired feature debut from comedy writer-director Joe Cornish. Actor and one of Screen’s UK Stars of Tomorrow John Boyega was nominated as most promising newcomer at the British Independent Film Awards (BIFAs) where Cornish was a nominee for the Douglas Hickox award for best debut director. Cornish has also received a screenplay nomination from the Writers’ Guild Of Great Britain which should all help to build momentum.

 

The Awakening

Director/writer Nick Murphy
Producers David Thompson, Joanie Blaikie
UK distributor StudioCanal
UK release date November 11, 2011

The critical response to ghost story The Awakening has tended to coalesce around the lead performance from Rebecca Hall. Her intense performance as a woman dedicated to unmasking hoax psychics in 1920 England has earned widespread praise and a BIFA best actress nomination. She was a nominee for Bafta’s rising star award in 2009. There has been less consensus on the debut feature of writer-director Nick Murphy and the modest box-office returns will probably tell against it.

 

Coriolanus

Director Ralph Fiennes
Producers Gabrielle Tana, Ralph Fiennes, John Logan, Julia Taylor-Stanley
Writer John Logan
UK distributor Lionsgate
UK release date January 20, 2012

Ralph Fiennes has played the banished, vengeful Roman general of Shakespeare’s Coriolanus on stage in London and New York, which may be a fairly unique preparation for a directorial debut. He sets the screen version in contemporary central Europe and surrounds himself with a stellar supporting cast. Fiennes has a strong Bafta track record having won best supporting actor for Schindler’s List (1993) and received three best actor nominations. Coriolanus earned him a BIFA nomination along with the best supporting actress BIFA for Vanessa Redgrave — who received the 2010 Bafta Fellowship but has never won a Bafta.

 

The Debt

Director John Madden
Producers Matthew Vaughn, Kris Thykier, Eitan Evans, Eduardo Rossoff
Writers Matthew Vaughn, Jane Goldman, Peter Straughan
UK distributor Walt Disney
UK release date September 30, 2011

Long delayed after its debut at Toronto in 2010, The Debt risks looking like old news to Bafta voters tempted by the excitement of more current releases. The tense spy thriller received a generally positive critical response but not enough to place it firmly on the awards radar. John Madden was a Bafta director nominee for Shakespeare In Love (1998) and both Helen Mirren and Tom Wilkinson are past winners. But the film’s significance may stand as another eye-catching credit for Jessica Chastain in an annus mirabilis guaranteed to make her a strong contender for the Bafta rising star award.

 

The Deep Blue Sea

Director Terence Davies
Producers Sean O’Connor, Kate Ogborn
Writer Terence Davies
UK distributor Artificial Eye
UK release date November 25, 2011

Routinely hailed as one of the UK’s greatest living film-makers, Terence Davies has received surprisingly little attention from Bafta voters over the years. A Korda nomination for The House Of Mirth (2000) remains his only brush with Bafta kudos. Davies’ adaptation of the Terence Rattigan play The Deep Blue Sea marks his first dramatic feature in a decade and has been winning praise for the lead performance of Rachel Weisz as the vulnerable, self-destructive Hester and for the beautifully modulated supporting work from Simon Russell Beale as her cuckolded husband. Weisz was a Bafta best actress nominee for The Constant Gardener (2005).

 

The Eagle

Director Kevin Macdonald
Producer Duncan Kenworthy
Writer Jeremy Brock
UK distributor Universal Pictures International
UK release date March 25, 2011 

Director Kevin Macdonald has shared in two Korda award wins for Touching The Void (2003) and The Last King Of Scotland (2006). Producer Duncan Kenworthy is a Bafta stalwart with multiple nominations to his credit and a best film win for Four Weddings And A Funeral (1994). The adaptation of Rosemary Sutcliff’s 1954 children’s classic The Eagle Of The Ninth may have been a labour of love for both producer and director, but the lack of widespread critical support for the film and a UK release date back in March would seem to work against either of them adding to their Bafta renown this year.

 

The Guard

Director/writer John Michael McDonagh
Producers Chris Clark, John Michael McDonagh, Flora Fernandez-Marengo, Ed Guiney, Andrew Lowe
UK distributor StudioCanal
UK release date August 19, 2011

John Michael McDonagh provides Brendan Gleeson with a dream role in Reprisal Films’ raucous comedy The Guard. Gleeson’s small-town Irish policeman is shameless in his lack of political correctness but has the true grit of John Wayne when the bullets start flying. The Guard might bring Gleeson a best actor nomination, following his best supporting actor nod for In Bruges (2008), directed by McDonagh’s brother Martin. The summer release may seem a little distant to Bafta voters but Gleeson was a best actor nominee in the more recent BIFA awards.

 

Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows: PART 2

Director David Yates
Producers David Barron, David Heyman, JK Rowling
Writer Steve Kloves
UK distributor Warner Bros
UK release date July 15, 2011

A global box-office tally in excess of $1.3bn makes the final Harry Potter film difficult to ignore. Bafta voters revealed an initial enthusiasm for the franchise with both Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone (2001) and Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban (2004) nominated for the Korda award and Robbie Coltrane nominated for best supporting actor for Philosopher’s Stone. Nominations have been harder to come by in recent years though Bafta voters might be tempted to celebrate a staggering contribution to British cinema over the past decade now the series has come to an end. Alan Rickman probably has the strongest chance of recognition in the acting categories.

 

The Inbetweeners Movie

Director Ben Palmer
Producer Christopher Young
Writers Iain Morris, Damon Beesley
UK distributor Entertainment Film Distributors
UK release date August 17, 2011

On the surface a raucous, bad taste comedy about misfit teenage boys and their sexual inadequacies is not the obvious material for Bafta glory. In its favour, The Inbetweeners Movie has been a staggering commercial success, earning more than $74m at the UK box office. The weekly comedy series that inspired the movie has received several nominations from the television side of Bafta for the writers and for lead actors Simon Bird and James Buckley. Producer Christopher Young is a previous Korda nominee for Festival (2005) but the question remains of whether this has the balls to compete with Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy or Shame.

 

The Iron Lady

Director Phyllida Lloyd
Producer Damian Jones
Writer Abi Morgan
UK distributor Fox/Pathé
UK release date January 6, 2012

Meryl Streep playing former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher should be catnip for Bafta voters. Streep has been nominated 13 times for the Bafta over her 30-year career but has only won best actress once for The French Lieutenant’s Woman (1981). Jim Broadbent, who plays Denis Thatcher, is also a multiple Bafta nominee and winner of best supporting actor for Moulin Rouge (2001). The UK media have provided acres of free publicity for The Iron Lady which should make it difficult to ignore and Streep’s previous collaboration with director Phyllida Lloyd onMamma Mia! The Movie was nominated for the Korda award.

 

Jane Eyre

Director Cary Fukunaga
Producer Alison Owen, Paul Trijbits
Writer Moira Buffini
UK distributor Universal Pictures International
UK release date September 9, 2011

A new version of Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre would seem tailor-made to appeal to Bafta voters, who are fond of period drama and literary adaptations. Moira Buffini’s screenplay has won admirers but critical and commercial response to the film has been muted and even the presence of previous Bafta winners Judi Dench and Jamie Bell in the cast will do little to counteract that impression. Michael Fassbender contributes a brooding Heathcliff but clearly has better prospects of Bafta recognition for his performance in Steve McQueen’s Shame.

 

Kill List

Director Ben Wheatley
Producers Claire Jones, Andy Starke
Writers Ben Wheatley, Amy Jump
UK distributor StudioCanal
UK release date September 2, 2011

Ben Wheatley’s jet-black thriller Kill List confirmed the promise he had shown with his debut feature Down Terrace (2009). His ability to weave stories that cross genres and defy expectations has earned him a growing reputation that resulted in six BIFA nominations for Kill List, with Michael Smiley winning in the best supporting actor category. While the film may be a little too hardcore to gain sufficient traction among Bafta voters, it should not be discounted as a potential nominee in what is shaping up to be a hotly contested Alexander Korda category.

 

My Week With Marilyn

Director Simon Curtis
Producers David Parfitt, Harvey Weinstein
Writer Adrian Hodges
UK distributor Entertainment Film Distributors
UK release date November 25, 2011

Michelle Williams appears to have achieved the impossible with her beguiling performance as screen goddess Marilyn Monroe in My Week With Marilyn which must make her a potential Bafta best actress nominee. She was previously a Bafta best supporting actress nominee for Brokeback Mountain (2005). Marilyn co-star Kenneth Branagh, who plays Laurence Olivier, is a Bafta best director winner for Henry V (1989). The true story of Monroe’s visit to the UK to shoot The Prince And The Showgirl might also have an in-built appeal for Bafta insiders.

 

One Day

Director Lone Scherfig
Producer Nina Jacobson
Writer David Nicholls
UK distributor Universal Pictures International
UK release date August 24, 2011

Two years ago Lone Scherfig’s An Education was a Bafta favourite, earning eight nominations including recognition in the Korda category and a best director nomination. Her follow up, romantic drama One Day, has not achieved the same level of popularity and may struggle against more formidable Bafta competition. It is surprising that star Anne Hathaway has never previously been a Bafta nominee. The UK media’s merciless focus on Hathaway’s attempts to master a convincing British accent as the lovelorn Emma may have dented her chances of changing that situation on this occasion.

 

Oranges And Sunshine

Director Jim Loach
Producers Camilla Bray, Iain Canning, Emile Sherman
Writer Rona Munro
UK distributor Icon Film Distribution
UK release date April 1, 2011

Jim Loach proved talent was in the DNA of the Loach family with his impressive first feature, Oranges And Sunshine, exposing tales of the thousands of children taken from UK families and transported to Australia. Loach could be a candidate for the Carl Foreman award and the film might win favour among the titles vying for Korda recognition. But once again the April 2011 release means it will have to campaign twice as hard to register on the radar of Bafta voters. Emily Watson received warm personal notices for her luminous performance as social worker Margaret Humphreys. She has three Bafta best actress nominations to her credit but has never won the award.

 

Shame

Director Steve McQueen
Producers Iain Canning, Emile Sherman
Writers Steve McQueen, Abi Morgan
UK distributor Momentum Pictures
UK release date January 13, 2012

Shame is one of the most talked about films of this awards season. Steve McQueen’s intense saga of a self-destructive sex addict has won rave reviews for the fearless performance of Michael Fassbender. McQueen won the Carl Foreman award for his directorial debut Hunger (2008) which was also nominated for the Korda award. Fassbender was a Rising Star nominee in 2009 but has never been nominated as an actor. His profile has never been higher and the seven BIFA nominations for Shame, including director and actor — which Fassbender won — along with the UK release date in January should keep the film fresh in Bafta voters’ minds.

 

Submarine

Director/writer Richard Ayoade
Producers Mary Burke, Mark Herbert, Andy Stebbing
UK distributor StudioCanal
UK release date March 18, 2011

Comedy actor Richard Ayoade revealed considerable cinematic flair and effortless charm with his feature directorial debut Submarine, based on the quirky, coming-of-age novel by Joe Dunthorne. But it risks seeming a long way from its world premiere at Toronto in September 2010 and a spring 2011 UK cinema release. That has not stopped the BIFAs acknowledging its achievements with five nominations and a win in the best screenplay category for Ayoade, who was also in contention for the Douglas Hickox award.

 

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Director Tomas Alfredson
Producers Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Robyn Slovo
Writers Bridget O’Connor, Peter Straughan
UK distributor StudioCanal
UK release date September 16, 2011

Tinker Tailor ticks all the right boxes for Bafta voters. It is a classy literary adaptation with a stalwart British ensemble that has earned critical acclaim and box-office success. Gary Oldman’s triumph in matching Alec Guinness’ performance as enigmatic spymaster George Smiley should impress older voters while director Tomas Alfredson and cast members including Tom Hardy and Benedict Cumberbatch add lustre for younger voters. Best actor contender Oldman was nominated for Prick Up Your Ears (1987) and won the Korda award for his sole directorial venture Nil By Mouth (1997). Expect to see Peter Straughan and his late wife and writing partner Bridget O’Connor nominated in the adapted screenplay category.

 

Tyrannosaur

Director/writer Paddy Considine
Producers Diarmid Scrimshaw
UK distributor StudioCanal
UK release date 7 October, 2011

Actor Paddy Considine’s powerful feature directorial debut has been generating waves of attention ever since a prize-winning debut in the World Cinema section at Sundance earlier this year. Particular attention has been focused on the heartrending quality of the performances from Olivia Colman as a woman suffering merciless abuse at the hands of her husband, and from Peter Mullan as a tormented, grief-stricken man struggling to restrain his anger and regain control of his life. Considine’s unflinching approach made the film a tough sell for audiences though it has received three BIFA awards — best film, the Douglas Hickox award for debut director and best actress — and must be considered a strong title for a Korda nomination.

 

War Horse

Director Steven Spielberg
Producers Steven Spielberg, Kathleen Kennedy
Writers Lee Hall, Richard Curtis
UK distributor Walt Disney
UK release date January 13, 2012

Any Steven Spielberg film has to be considered a serious awards contender and War Horse may have particular resonance for Bafta voters as it is based on a Michael Morpurgo novel subsequently transformed into an acclaimed UK stage production. The heartwarming tale of the bond between a boy and a horse during the First World War sounds like classic Spielberg territory. As well as being a Bafta fellow, Spielberg has seven Bafta film nominations to his credit, plus wins for best director and best film for Schindler’s List (1993).

 

W.E.

Director Madonna
Producers Madonna, Kris Thykier
Writers Madonna, Alek Keshishian
UK distributor StudioCanal
UK release date January 20, 2012

Bafta voters have a fondness for tales of the British monarchy that has heaped success on the likes of Mrs Brown (1997), The Queen (2006) and The King’s Speech (2010). It remains to be seen whether that can extend to Madonna’s less conventional take on the romance between King Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson. A muted critical response has failed to establish the film as a prime awards season contender despite an impressive performance from UK star Andrea Riseborough and the fabulous fashion parade and detailed production design that could catch the eye in technical categories.

 

We Need To Talk About Kevin

Director Lynne Ramsay
Producers Luc Roeg, Jennifer Fox, Robert Salerno
Writers Lynne Ramsay, Rory Kinnear
UK distributor Artificial Eye
UK release date October 21, 2011

Lynne Ramsay’s long-awaited return was warmly received at Cannes and rapturously reviewed on its UK release in October. Her inventive adaptation of the Lionel Shriver bestseller (co-written with Rory Kinnear) confirms her skill as a visual storyteller with cinematographer Seamus McGarvey also a strong candidate for recognition. Ramsay picked up the best director prize at the BIFAs. Her debut feature Ratcatcher (1999) was a Korda nominee. Star Tilda Swinton won a best supporting actress Bafta for Michael Clayton (2007) and was nominated in the same category for Burn After Reading (2008) but has never previously been a best-actress nominee.

 

Weekend

Director/writer Andrew Haigh
Producer Tristan Goligher
UK distributor Peccadillo Pictures
UK release date November 4, 2011

Andrew Haigh’s second feature has been quietly stealing hearts and building momentum since winning the audience award at SXSW in March. Further awards and festival appearances have followed for a film hailed as a breakthrough in gay cinema with a universal emotional appeal. Word of mouth has worked to its advantage on a cannily expanding UK theatrical release, making Weekend the little indie sleeper to watch — if distributor Peccadillo has the resources to support its profile through awards season. Two BIFA wins for best achievement in production and most promising newcomer for Tom Cullen should help to sustain the buzz.

 

The Woman In Black

Director James Watkins
Producers Richard Jackson, Simon Oakes, Brian Oliver
Writer Jane Goldman
UK distributor Momentum Pictures
UK release date February 10, 2012

The Woman In Black may suffer from being a relatively late entry in the awards stakes without the benefit of a high-profile festival launch pad, the chance to build substantial critical buzz or establish a commanding commercial presence. The adaptation of the bestselling Susan Hill chiller is directed by James Watkins, a BIFA nominee for his acclaimed feature debut Eden Lake (2008). Neither Daniel Radcliffe nor Janet McTeer have any previous Bafta nominations to their credit, adding to the sense this will face an uphill battle for recognition though belated attention should not rule it out as a possible Korda candidate.

 

Wuthering Heights

Director Andrea Arnold
Producers Robert Bernstein, Douglas Rae, Kevin Loader
Writers Andrea Arnold, Olivia Hetreed
UK distributor Artificial Eye
UK release date November 11, 2011

Andrea Arnold has an enviable track record with Bafta, winning the Carl Foreman award for her debut feature Red Road (2006) and the Alexander Korda prize for her follow-up Fish Tank (2009). Her boldly experimental version of Wuthering Heights eschews the traditional trappings of literary adaptations in favour of gritty realism and brutal honesty about the passion that unites and unhinges Heathcliff and his Cathy. The film has been a festival fixture from its Venice debut to Toronto and London and attracted critical support, but the question remains whether Bafta voters are willing to embrace such a radical re-interpretation of a classic.

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