Bafta has become a master of reinvention. In just a few years, it has elevated the UK's prime awards show into a global attraction. Anyone looking for evidence of its importance as a bellwether for the Oscars should note that eight of this year's major winners went on to repeat their victory at the Oscars - and that includes all the acting prizes.
It is hardly surprising the campaigning seems more intense than ever for the awards on February 10, 2008. Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass participated in a Bafta Q&A session for The Bourne Ultimatum in August, Joe Wright and the Atonement team started their campaigning shortly afterwards and October's London Film Festival has brought a slew of Bafta events with visiting film-makers from Sean Penn and Emile Hirsch (Into The Wild), to Bafta favourite Ang Lee (Lust, Caution).
2007 was another year of transition for Bafta as it moved the awards to the more spacious location of the Covent Garden Opera House, extended the prizes to include a best animated feature award and lost the services of host Stephen Fry to be replaced by UK TV host Jonathan Ross.
'The 2007 awards were a real success and we will certainly be returning to the Opera House in February,' says Finola Dwyer, chair of the Bafta Film Committee. 'The ratings for the television show were up by about a million (in the UK) and we are always looking at ways to involve the public more and to keep the awards fresh and unmissable.'
Phone company Orange, meanwhile, has extended its sponsorship of the film awards for another two years.
There are no plans to increase the number of awards in 2008 but subtle changes to voting procedures that make more use of chapters and less of juries will be felt again; a chapter has been established with a specific interest in the best foreign language film.
Bafta has always faced a challenge trying to reconcile its international status with the often vocal demand that it support UK talent. 2007 proved that challenge could be met with a hefty number of nominations for The Queen and Casino Royale and wins for The Last King Of Scotland and Red Road.
Atonement is clearly the strongest UK contender this year. It is the kind of impeccable literary adaptation that Bafta voters admire and is filled by cast and crew members with a solid Bafta track record including director Joe Wright and actors James McAvoy and Vanessa Redgrave. Elizabeth: The Golden Age is an equally strong contender. It will be interesting to see how far the critically acclaimed Control is able to travel. Newcomer Sam Riley should be able to harbour legitimate hopes of a best actor nomination.
Bafta contenders range from Julian Schnabel's Cannes prize-winner The Diving Bell And The Butterfly to Ang Lee's Lust, Caution, Sean Penn's Into The Wild, Andrew Dominik's The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford and it seems inconceivable that Palme d'Or winner 4 Months, 3 Weeks And Two Days will not be a foreign-language competitor or that Ratatouille will not be the animation front-runner. That is before anyone has had a glimpse of The Golden Compass, Charlie Wilson's War or Sweeney Todd.
'It has been such a fantastic year for film,' says Dwyer. 'It's going to make the competition for nominations and awards all the more intense.'