Screen editor Matt Mueller on the deserved recognition for British filmmaking in this year’s Bafta nominations – despite not securing a single entry in the Best Film category.
Not everyone approves of Bafta hiving off UK films into their own category, as if without that helping hand they’d be unable to compete against the big boys (i.e. Hollywood) on their own merits.
But I love it for shining a deserved spotlight on the breadth of film-making creativity in the UK, and this year’s nominees in particular deliver forceful evidence that we continue to make some of the very best films anywhere in the world.
45 Years, Amy, Brooklyn, Ex Machina, The Lobster, The Danish Girl… the writing, directing, acting and craft work that has gone into each of these films is superlative and uniquely creative. This year’s Outstanding British Film category is particularly strong, with every entry standing head and shoulders alongside any of the Best Film candidates.
I’m particularly thrilled that Amy has made the cut - recognition that Asif Kapadia’s superb documentary was one of the most powerful cinematic journeys of 2015.
It’s a shame that not a single UK film has been recognised in the Best Film category, but it doesn’t diminish another outstanding year for the British industry. And this is without several strong contenders receiving any recognition – Macbeth, Suffragette and Legend were all shut out.
I’m not surprised that Spectre failed to repeat Skyfall’s feat of eight nominations, although a little surprised to see it totally blanked; Bafta voters must feel like they’ve already paid homage to the Daniel Craig era.
Other takeaways from today’s nominations: Mad Max: Fury Road’s Stateside momentum with critics groups failed to register with Bafta voters, who restricted their nods for George Miller’s dystopian fantasy to the technical categories. Ditto with Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
On the flip side, The Big Short has arrived late to the party but is making a significant impact. Adam McKay’s forensic takedown of the 2008 financial crisis, told with an acidic comic touch, joins Spotlight as ensemble-cast campaigning films whose strong current relevance has struck a powerful chord with voters.
They were also impressed by the breathtaking film-making that fuelled The Revenant, Steven Spielberg’s peerless storytelling skills in Bridge Of Spies, and the immaculate quality and control at the heart of Carol, producer Liz Karlsen’s long-time passion project.
Ridley Scott has received his first Best Director nomination since Gladiator in 2000 (and only his third overall), but the lack of a Best Film nomination for The Martian will hurt his chances of winning. I’m not so surprised that Danny Boyle didn’t make the cut, with Bafta voters acknowledging that Steve Jobs is more about Aaron Sorkin’s screenplay.
I’m thoroughly delighted that Pixar’s enduring storytelling brilliance has been recognised with a screenplay nod for Inside Out.
The performance categories again show what a potent force UK actors are, in spite of one very hefty snub. How on earth did Charlotte Rampling fail to make the cut for best actress for 45 Years?
It is a strong category this year, and I suppose voters decided that if they were going to recognise one veteran British actress this year, it would be the ever popular Maggie Smith for The Lady In The Van (which failed to secure any other nods). I feel for Rampling; how amazing would it be if Oscar voters rectified this slight next week?
This is feeling like the year when Leonardo DiCaprio will finally get his due, with his grimly determined performance in The Revenant his strongest shot at one of the big prizes. I’d wager on Michael Fassbender being his primary challenger, although the lack of overall affection for Steve Jobs will harm the Irish actor’s chances.
Tom Hardy was overlooked for his Krays twins turn in Legend but Matt Damon pushed through with his comedic turn in The Martian, which adds a shot in the arm to his Oscar hopes. Tom Hanks, on the other hand, has suffered a reversal of fortune in not getting the nod for Bridge Of Spies. His co-star Mark Rylance, though, should put a smile on his face by winning the best supporting category.
Suffragette’s shutout wasn’t entirely surprising given the film’s very mixed reception, but I’m a bit amazed it didn’t receive a single acting nomination. I thought Carey Mulligan or Anne-Marie Duff would score with British voters. Mulligan went 0-for-2 this year, also missing out with her even better performance in Far From A Madding Crowd.
Of the late arrivals to the awards-season party, The Big Short has fared the best and will surely rocket into being a major Oscar contender. The Hateful Eight scored with Bafta voters for Tarantino’s screenplay and Jennifer Jason Leigh - the only categories it will likely land Oscar nominations for as well - but David O’Russell’s Joy has singularly failed to impress. Even Jennifer Lawrence’s sparky central turn was overlooked.
One encouraging aspect is how two UK films that came out early in 2015 (Amy in July and Ex Machina way back in January) managed to burn brightly all year long and remain in hearts and minds. I’m thrilled to see these two diverse and excellent films capturing the attention of Bafta voters in such a significant way.
Matt Mueller is editor of Screen International