Leon Forde profiles a selection of the UK films likely to score at the Orange British Academy Film Awards in London on February 21.
SELECTED BRITISH FILMS
BRIGHT STAR (UK-Aus)
Jan Chapman Productions, Bright Star Films, Pathé, Screen Australia, BBC Films, UKFC, New South Wales Film & TV Office, Hopscotch International.
UK DISTRIBUTOR Warner Bros Pictures UK for Pathé.
JANE CAMPION SAYS “Reading a biography of Keats, I got to the part where he met Fanny and I fell in love with their story. I was drawn to the pain and beauty of their love affair.”
WHAT SCREEN SAID “Beautifully crafted in every department from the composure of the camerawork to the precision of the costume and production design, Bright Star is a film to savour.” Allan Hunter.
THE LOWDOWN The story of the intense affair between poet John Keats and his neighbour Fanny Brawne. Rising stars Ben Whishaw and Australia’s Abbie Cornish play the tragic lovers in a period adaptation which impressed at Cannes, where it screened in Competition.
WHAT ARE ITS CHANCES? Heralded as a return to form for Campion, it is her first film since 2003’s In The Cut. Its performances, craftsmanship, emotional impact and literary roots make this a strong Bafta contender. That Bright Star was among the first screeners received by voters can only help.
Tiggy Films, Pathé Renn, MMC Studios, Aramid Ent, Bill Kenwright, Filmstiftung NRW, UKFC, Pathé.
UK DISTRIBUTOR Warner Bros Pictures UK for Pathé.
STEPHEN FREARS SAYS “[Author] Colette was a very clever woman and [writer] Christopher Hampton’s a very clever man. It was always oblique - people don’t express themselves simply. I like all that stuff.”
WHAT SCREEN SAID “Frears’ sumptuously mounted film of Colette’s novel Chéri is for the most part an entertaining drama boasting a host of deliciously poised performances.” Mike Goodridge.
THE LOWDOWN Frears reunites with his Dangerous Liaisons star Michelle Pfeiffer and screenwriter Hampton in this adaptation of the Colette novel.
Pfeiffer plays the beautiful ageing courtesan Lea, who falls in love with the younger Chéri, played by Rupert Friend.
WHAT ARE ITS CHANCES? Dangerous Liaisons scored Baftas for Pfeiffer in the supporting actress category and Hampton for adapted screenplay in 1989.
While Frears has been Bafta-nominated four times, he has yet to lift a trophy at the film awards (although he has won two television Baftas). Chéri is just the kind of glossy literary adaptation that could garner nominations, but the question remains: has the film, which premiered at Berlin this year and was released in the UK in May, stayed fresh enough in voters’ minds?
Recorded Picture Company, BBC Films, UKFC.
UK DISTRIBUTOR Icon Film Distribution.
JON AMIEL SAYS “We wanted to make an intense visual and emotional journey through the heart of darkness of this man.”
WHAT SCREEN SAID “Released on the bicentenary of Charles Darwin’s birth and the 150th anniversary of On The Origin Of Species, Creation opts to view thenaturalist through a domestic prism: struggling to bridge a gulf of faith with his wife while preparing to publish the theories which will rock the religious establishment.” Fionnuala Halligan.
THE LOWDOWN Jeremy Thomas produces and Jon Amiel (The Core, Entrapment) directs this beautifully made film about the revolutionary scientist. Paul Bettany plays Darwin, grieving for his lost child and struggling in his relationship with his religious wife Emma as he works on his explosive tome. Jennifer Connelly, Bettany’s real-life partner, plays Emma.
WHAT ARE ITS CHANCES? Toronto-opener Creation is a moving period piece which could earn awards attention for Bettany and Connelly. Bettany was a Bafta nominee in the supporting actor category in 2003 for Master And Commander: The Far Side Of The World while Connelly won Bafta’s supporting actress award for A Beautiful Mind in 2001.
Left Bank Pictures, Columbia Pictures, BBC Films, Screen Yorkshire.
UK DISTRIBUTOR Sony Pictures.
TOM HOOPER SAYS “It’s not really a film about sport, it’s more a film about man’s pursuit of power and emotional and professional jealousy.”
WHAT SCREEN SAID “Offering just enough football to satisfy the fans in the stands, The Damned United is also a pleasingly high-quality British drama with some terrific performances that should easily entertain those who come to the game without knowing what a 50/50 challenge is.” Fionnuala Halligan.
THE LOWDOWN Michael Sheen brings legendary English football manager Brian Clough to life in a film that vividly recreates an era in which professional sportsmen could expect ashtrays in the dressing room. Adapted by Peter Morgan from David Peace’s cult novel, the film follows Clough’s ill-fated tenure as boss of Leeds United in 1974.
WHAT ARE ITS CHANCES? Morgan has been well rewarded by Bafta in recent years, with two wins for The Last King Of Scotland in the adapted screenplay and Alexander Korda categories in 2006. He has also picked up nominations for his work on Frost/Nixon and The Queen, and won a mask at the TV awards for The Deal. Sheen has one previous Bafta film nomination and could garner another with his committed performance as ‘Old Big ‘Ead’. Timothy Spall may also attract votes for his supporting turn as Clough’s long-suffering assistant.
Wildgaze Films, Finola Dwyer Productions, BBC Films, Endgame Entertainment.
UK DISTRIBUTOR E1 Entertainment.
LONE SCHERFIG SAYS “I want it to look real so the audience feels that the film recognises its audience. I always work with the audience in mind. I’m their representative to a certain extent.”
WHAT SCREEN SAID “Danish director Lone Scherfig gives 1960s London that mix of wariness and opportunity that was felt when Britain finally emerged from its long crawl out of the shadow of the Second World War.” David D’Arcy.
THE LOWDOWN Based on the memoir by journalist Lynn Barber, An Education tells the story of a young girl’s coming of age in London before the 1960s started to swing. Carey Mulligan is 16-year-old schoolgirl Jenny who falls for charismatic older man David, played by Peter Sarsgaard. The film was written by bestselling author Nick Hornby and directed by Denmark’s Scherfig.
WHAT ARE ITS CHANCES? Since its world premiere at Sundance, where it picked up the dramatic World Cinema audience and cinematography awards, An Education has been building traction as a serious awards contender in all categories. Voters may particularly wish to recognise the breakout achievement of Mulligan, whose sensitive portrayal of Jenny has put her star very much on the ascendant.
Kees Kasander, BBC Films, UK Film Council, Limelight.
UK DISTRIBUTOR Artificial Eye.
ANDREA ARNOLD SAYS “I wanted to shoot in order, so that the story would reveal itself to everyone as we went along… Not knowing the future meant that every moment had to be explored for just what it was and nothing more.”
WHAT SCREEN SAID “Andrea Arnold confidently navigates the pitfalls of the ‘difficult’ second feature with Fish Tank, which confirms her status as a torchbearer for the social-realist traditions of Ken Loach and the Dardenne brothers.” Allan Hunter.
THE LOWDOWN The story of a 15-year-old girl on an Essex council estate whose life is turned on its head when her mother brings home a mysterious stranger.
Newcomer Katie Jarvis is the feisty star, Kierston Wareing is her mother and Michael Fassbender is her boyfriend.
WHAT ARE ITS CHANCES? Arnold is no stranger to major awards: her short film Wasp picked up an Oscar in 2005 and her debut feature Red Road won the jury prize at Cannes in 2006, the Carl Foreman award at the 2006 Baftas and five Scottish Baftas.
Fish Tank has already picked up the jury prize at Cannes and has scored three European Film Awards nominations and eight Bifa nominations.
Anonymous Content, Passenger, Prescience Media, IM Global, Omni Films, Twilight, Entertainment Corp UK DISTRIBUTOR Momentum Pictures.
MALCOLM VENVILLE SAYS “The influences are complex. There are a lot of layers of reference to European and American cinema, to Hitchcock, to Bertolucci’s Last Tango in Paris, and I wanted to make it look more complex than just a kitchen-sink drama.”
WHAT SCREEN SAID “44 Inch Chest has moments of brilliance - hallucinatory sequences later on give it a creepy air of dread - and there’s a potential narrative hook in a strategically missing wife.” Fionnuala Halligan.
THE LOWDOWN From the writers of Sexy Beast, 44 Inch Chest stars Ray Winstone as a cuckolded husband who must decide what to do with his wife’s lover after his friends kidnap him and lock him in a wardrobe.
WHAT ARE ITS CHANCES? Voters may be attracted by the strong performances at the centre of 44 Inch Chest: Winstone is as magnetic as ever as the unstable husband, while John Hurt is a riot as the foul-mouthed Old Man Peanut. Like Sexy Beast - nominated in the Alexander Korda category in 2000 - the script is edgy, funny and packed with imaginative swearing.
Talkback Thames, Magic Light Pictures, BBC Films, UKFC, Screen East Content Investment Fund, Quickfire Films.
UK DISTRIBUTOR Momentum Pictures.
STEPHEN POLIAKOFF SAYS “In the space of a handful of weeks in 1939, British society was completely transformed. A golden summer dominated by some of the greatest parties the aristocracy had ever held turned into an autumn where the survival of democracy was hanging by a thread.”
WHAT SCREEN SAID “Poliakoff injects some interesting ideas into the mix and is clearly keen to satirise the concerns of an elite who are determined to hold on to everything they fear losing in a conflict that would break down the barriers of class and gender.” Allan Hunter.
THE LOWDOWN Respected dramatist Poliakoff returns to the big screen for the first time in a decade with a Hitchcockian suspense thriller set in England on the brink of the Second World War. Romola Garai plays the heroine in a cast which includes Bill Nighy, Julie Christie, David Tennant and Christopher Lee.
WHAT ARE ITS CHANCES? Bafta voters can get excited about handsome Second World War dramas, as with Atonement’s 14 nominations in 2007. With some mixed reviews, Glorious 39 is unlikely to have the same showing, though it is plush, and with Poliakoff - who won the Dennis Potter award at the 2001 TV Baftas - and a strong British cast, there is much here for voters to admire.
Infinity Features Entertainment, Poo Poo Pictures, Davis Films.
UK DISTRIBUTOR Lionsgate UK.
TERRY GILLIAM SAYS “It’s about the struggle of creative people… artists. They try to inspire others, encourage them to open their eyes, to appreciate the truth of the world, but most are not successful - that’s the reality.”
WHAT SCREEN SAID “Terry Gilliam has always seemed like the last apostle of unfettered fantasy in an age insistent on prosaic reality. The Imaginarium Of Doctor Parnassus is a typically staunch defence of the transformative power of the imagination and its ability to change the world.” Allan Hunter.
THE LOWDOWN Gilliam’s fantasy adventure tells the story of Dr Parnassus and his travelling theatre troupe, who must face the devil as he comes to collect the doctor’s daughter on her 16th birthday. The death of star Heath Ledger during production meant the central role is shared on-screen by Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell and Jude Law.
WHAT ARE ITS CHANCES? Gilliam may have received a Bafta Fellowship and a standing ovation at last year’s ceremony, but the director had been previously ignored at the film awards, aside from a 1983 nomination for best short film. Parnassus has been Gilliam’s most acclaimed film for some time, and may achieve some recognition from a voter base that awarded the late Ledger the Bafta for best supporting actor for The Dark Knight in 2008.
MARV Partners, Prescience, UKFC, Framestore.
UK DISTRIBUTOR Lionsgate UK.
DANIEL BARBER SAYS “It is a great role for Michael Caine. He is in 90% of the film. There are not many leading roles for men of 76.”WHAT SCREEN SAID “Caine is the consummate professional and gives a performance devoid of vanity as he plays the elderly Harry Brown.” Allan Hunter.
THE LOWDOWN Caine gets tough in this vigilante drama set on the mean streets of ‘Broken Britain’. Caine is the titular Harry Brown, an ageing widower and ex-serviceman who decides to seek vengeance after a friend is murdered by a gang of thugs.
WHAT ARE ITS CHANCES? Michael Caine is acting royalty in his home territory, with a distinguished Bafta track record that includes seven nominations, one win — for Educating Rita in 1983 - and an Academy Fellowship. Reviews of Harry Brown in the UK have focused on Caine’s outstanding performance in the lead role, and he seems to be the most likely element of the film to score recognition. First-time director Barber could nab a Carl Foreman nomination, while the film’s strong debut at the UK box office should also keep it in the minds of voters.
BBC Films, UK Film Council, Aramid Entertainment.
UK DISTRIBUTOR Optimum Releasing.
ARMANDO IANNUCCI SAYS “One of the reasons why we have this partly improvised style is because the whole story of these politicians is about people making things up as they go along.”
WHAT SCREEN SAID “Expanded from Armando Iannucci’s critically lauded BBC TV series The Thick Of It, In The Loop’s virtuoso script fills the corridors of power with the worst schemers that ambition can assemble.” David D’Arcy.
THE LOWDOWN Razor-sharp satirist Iannucci makes the jump to the big screen with a biting political satire that spoofs the interplay between bureaucrats on both sides of the Atlantic in the run-up to a fictional war in the Middle East. Peter Capaldi is the gloriously foul-mouthed spin doctor Malcolm Tucker, Tom Hollander is hapless minister Simon Foster, James Gandolfini plays General Miller and Steve Coogan is a pestering constituent.
WHAT ARE ITS CHANCES? Iannucci’s work is widely admired in the UK and his successful transition to features could attract attention, particularly in the Carl Foreman category. That is assuming the film has remained in voters’ minds: it premiered at Sundance in January and was released in the UK last April.
LOOKING FOR ERIC (UK-FR)
Canto Bros, Sixteen Films, Why Not Productions, Wild Bunch.
UK DISTRIBUTOR Icon Film Distribution.
KEN LOACH SAYS “It’s a film against individualism - we’re stronger as a gang than we are on our own. You can be pretentious about this but it is about the solidarity of friends, which is epitomised in a crowd of football supporters.”
WHAT SCREEN SAID “Audaciously dropping the French former footballer [Eric Cantona] into a dramatic scenario involving a depressed Manchester postman, his off-the-rails gun-toting stepson, longed-for ex-wife and bantering salt-of-the-earth colleagues, Loach crams a few films into this unique title and manages to pull them into one crowd-pleaser by the end.” Fionnuala Halligan.
THE LOWDOWN Loach moves into feel-good territory with this tale of a depressed postman whose life is given direction by his imaginary encounters with legendary footballer Cantona. Steve Evets plays the postman; Cantona plays himself.
WHAT ARE ITS CHANCES? Despite six nominations and a Bafta Fellowship, surprisingly Loach has yet to win a Bafta. A notably lighter concoction than many of the director’s previous films, Looking For Eric may attract votes for Loach and for Evets, who already has a best actor nomination at the European Film Awards.
UK DISTRIBUTOR CinemaNX.
RICHARD LINKLATER SAYS “Christian [McKay, who plays Welles] came in and we hung out for a couple of days. After that, I didn’t even need to look at the footage. I just knew the kind of guy he was and thought the film gods were making a very special offering, as they sometimes do.”
WHAT SCREEN SAID “If you are going to make a film about Orson Welles, then you need an actor who can provide a brilliant impersonation of this colossus of the New York stage. They have found such an actor in McKay, who gives a superlative performance.” Allan Hunter.
THE LOWDOWN Linklater’s period piece is set against the staging of the young Welles’ legendary production of Julius Caesar at the Mercury Theatre in New York. Previously unknown UK actor McKay shines as the director, Zac Efron is the student given a lucky break, and Claire Danes plays the woman he falls for.
WHAT ARE ITS CHANCES McKay delivers a dazzling, muscular performance and seems the likeliest element of Me & Orson Welles to score Bafta attention; two Q&A screenings for Bafta voters will only have helped his cause.
Liberty Films, Xingu, Limelight.
UK DISTRIBUTOR Sony Pictures.
DUNCAN JONES SAYS “We wanted the base and its vehicles to have the same ‘grit and big boot’ feel as the old sci-fi we missed, as opposed to the more contemporary (but wimpier) iPod-style glass and touch-screen design most sci-fi seems to go for these days.”
WHAT SCREEN SAID “A conceptually fascinating exploration of identity, Duncan Jones’ Moon is a frequently engrossing science-fiction story given a particular tension and seriousness by its moral inquiry into what it means to be fully human and alive.” Patrick Z McGavin.
THE LOWDOWN Jones makes his feature debut with this beguiling sci-fi. Sam Rockwell is the lone human on a lunar mining plant in the near future whose only direct communication is with the computer that safeguards his mission, voiced by Kevin Spacey.
WHAT ARE ITS CHANCES? Superbly acted and crafted, the ambition of Moon could find favour with Bafta voters, particularly for Jones in the Carl Foreman category. The film has been picking up prizes on the festival circuit following its premiere at Sundance at the start of the year, including best new British feature at this year’s Edinburgh International Film Festival.
Ecosse Films, Film4, UKFC, North West Vision & Media, Lipsync Prods, Aver Media.
UK DISTRIBUTION Icon Film Distribution.
SAM TAYLOR-WOOD SAYS “I felt I could understand where John Lennon came from because of his creative mind and the occasional moments I border on thinking I might be mad, because my mind never stops.”
WHAT SCREEN SAID “Sam Taylor-Wood’s handsome feature debut offers a new insight into the early life of John Lennon; in her eyes, the unexpectedly sparkling suburbs of post-war Liverpool come to rich life.” Fionnuala Halligan.
THE LOWDOWN British artist Taylor-Wood makes her feature debut with a depiction of the young life of John Lennon, played by rising star Aaron Johnson. Set in the mid-1950s, the film follows the future Beatle as he discovers rock ‘n’ roll and tries to navigate relationships with the key women in his life, his Aunt Mimi (Kristin Scott Thomas) and his mother Julia (Anne-Marie Duff).
WHAT ARE ITS CHANCES Taylor-Wood’s debut short Love You More received a Bafta nomination last year and Nowhere Boy could attract attention for Taylor-Wood in the Carl Foreman category, which was won by artist Steve McQueen last year for Hunger. Scott Thomas previously won a best supporting actress Bafta in 1994 for Four Weddings And A Funeral. Screenwriter Matt Greenhalgh won the Carl Foreman Award in 2007 for Control.
Between The Eyes, BBC Films, Film London Microwave.
UK DISTRIBUTOR Metrodome Distribution.
ERAN CREEVY SAYS “It was a hugely ambitious undertaking. We were shooting, on average, five pages a day. Our biggest enemy was the weather - we had rain, sun, wind, sleet, hailstones and back to sun again, all in the same day.”
WHAT SCREEN SAID “Like its protagonists, it may look strapped for cash but there’s not much in the script, direction, acting or editing to betray its low-budget origins.” Fionnuala Halligan.
THE LOWDOWN Set in the fictional London suburb of Dudlowe, Shifty follows 24 hours in the life of a likeable small-time drug dealer. Riz Ahmed plays Shifty, while Daniel Mays is his childhood friend, back in town after a mysterious four-year absence.
WHAT ARE ITS CHANCES? Shot in 18 days for $164,000 (£100,000) through Film London’s Microwave scheme, Shifty transcends its resources to herald the arrival of writer-director Creevy, and highlights rising stars Ahmed and Mays. Bafta may want to reward the film-makers with a Carl Foreman nomination.
THE YOUNG VICTORIA (UK-US)
UK DISTRIBUTOR Momentum Pictures.
JEAN-MARC VALLEE SAYS “I’m moved by beautiful stories and this is one - of the young girl who became the Queen of England at 18 years old. It touched me.”
WHAT SCREEN SAID “A lovingly detailed, lavishly recreated British period production with all the right cast giving all the right performances, The Young Victoria is a charming if dramatically inert retelling of the sweet romance between the UK’s longest-reigning monarch and Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Goethe.” Fionnuala Halligan.
THE LOWDOWN An exquisitely mounted depiction of the young Queen Victoria’s ascension to the throne and the turbulent early years of her reign. Emily Blunt portrays the monarch and Rupert Friend plays her Prince Albert. Directed by Vallée and scripted by Julian Fellowes, the film was originally the idea of Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York, who has a producer’s credit alongside Graham King, Martin Scorsese and Tim Headington. A strong supporting cast includes Paul Bettany, Miranda Richardson, Jim Broadbent, Mark Strong and Harriet Walter.
WHAT ARE ITS CHANCES? Bafta voters have something of a predilection for handsomely crafted period pieces, and Vallée’s The Young Victoria is certainly a lavish affair. Blunt was previously nominated in the supporting actress category for The Devil Wears Prada in 2006, while Fellowes was previously nominated in the original screenplay and Carl Foreman categories for Gosford Park in 2001.
DJ Films, New Boots and Panties, Prescience, Lipsync Prods, UKFC.
UK DISTRIBUTION Entertainment Film Distributors.
MAT WHITECROSS SAYS “Ian Dury was so many different characters rolled into one. The clash between his public and private life was interesting to me.”
WHAT SCREEN SAID “Andy Serkis is compelling as Ian Dury, the ‘housewife’s favourite’ of the punk movement.” Fionnuala Halligan.
THE LOWDOWN Serkis shines as the
late British singer-songwriter Ian Dury, who overcame disability to become a pioneer of the punk movement. Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll focuses on Dury’s rise to prominence and his relationship with his son, played by Bill Milner.
WHAT ARE ITS CHANCES? Serkis is fully committed as the complex Dury, nailing the singer’s physicality and his distinctive vocal style. Bafta voters may feel the time is right to bestow on the likeable Serkis his first nomination at the film awards. Whitecross was nominated at the Bafta TV awards for The RoadTo Guantanamo, which he co-directed with Michael Winterbottom.