bafta talking points 2

Source: 20th Century Fox / Netflix / eOne / Wikimedia Commons

‘The Favourite’, Alfonso Cuarón, ‘Stan & Ollie’, Sandy Powell

Screen staff analyse the shocks, surprises and interesting talking points from this morning’s Bafta nominations.

The Favourite is the, er, favourite

Yorgos Lanthimos’ period comedy is the film to beat with 12 nominations. This is equal to The Shape Of Water last year that was itself the most for a single film since the 14 nominations for The King’s Speech in 2011. In the major categories, The Favourite has a real chance of winning best British film and best actress for Olivia Colman, although best film and best supporting actress are arguably more open. It has also been nominated for original screenplay, cinematography, production design, costume design, make up & hair, and editing. Interestingly, both The Favourite and The Shape Of Water are Fox Searchlight films. It is not clear if a Disney-owned Searchlight will exist to do the triple in 2020.

Cuaron breaks Bafta record and scores Netflix’s first best film nomination

Alfonso Cuaron’s Spanish-language homage to his childhood is the first foreign-language film to be nominated for best film at the Baftas since Amelie in 2001. It is also Netflix’s first nomination for a best film Bafta. Of ROMA’s seven nominations, six were for Cuaron personally, the highest any individual has received from Bafta for the same film. The nominations are for best film, foreign-language film, director, original screenplay, editor and cinematographer. The seventh ROMA nomination is for Eugenio Caballero and Bárbara Enríquez for production design.

Bradley Cooper scores five nominations for A Star Is Born

Just behind Cuaron’s record-breaking individual nomination haul is Bradley Cooper who has garnered five nominations for A Star Is Born – for best film, director, actor, adapted screenplay and composer. Cooper is now equal second with George Clooney for the most individual nominations in a single year. Clooney scored five for Syriana and Good Night And Good Luck in 2005.

No women directors in either best film or best director categories

A depressingly familiar talking point Bafta rightly attributes to the huge structural challenges facing the entire film industry/most of society. However, given the broad spread of Bafta’s approximately 6,500 voting members, it is possible to surmise a fair amount of those not working directly in the film industry (Bafta members who work in the TV, craft and games industries in the UK are eligible to vote in the main film categories including best film) might have preferred to pick up a mainstream feel-good film such as best film nominee Green Book over the festive screener season ahead of a more chewy arthouse title such as Debra Granik’s Leave No Trace of which they might have heard less. Lynne Ramsay is nominated in the best British category for You Were Never Really Here, a likely inclusion via that category’s dedicated jury. (See British film talking point below). Marc Samuelson, chair of the Bafta film committee, has said Bafta is open to considering introducing some kind of ‘unconscious bias’ training for its voters, as the British Independent Film Awards did in 2018. “Everything is always up for review,” he told Screen just after the nominations. 

Women directors nominated in foreign-language, doc categories

Two of the five nominated documentaries are directed by women: Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi (with Jimmy Chin) for Free Solo and Julie Cohen and Betsy West for RBG. Nadine Labaki has snagged a foreign-language nomination for her Cannes title Capernaum, while writer-director & Screen Star of Tomorrow 2017 Leanne Welham (with producer Sophie Harman) has been nominated for outstanding British debut for Pili, her film about a woman struggling to feed her two children in rural Tanzania while keeping her HIV-positive status a secret. 

Poor showing in screenplay categories for women writers

Just two women were nominated in the adapted and original screenplay categories: Deborah Davis (with Tony McNamara) for The Favourite and Nicole Holofcener (with Jeff Whitty) for Can You Ever Forgive Me? The screenplay categories are typically male-dominated. Only seven women in total have been nominated across both screenplay categories in the last five years between 2014 and 2018. Only four of those have come from individual nominations: Gillian Flynn in 2015, Phyllis Nagy and Emma Donoghue in 2016, Greta Gerwig in 2018. 

Viola Davis heads surprises in the acting categories

If Beale Street Could Talk’s Regina King is the most notable absence of the actors. King has appeared regularly throughout the awards season to date, winning multiple critics’ awards as well as the Golden Globe, but misses out here with Margot Robbie making an unexpected appearance in the supporting actress category for Mary Queen Of Scots. The UK’s Emily Blunt (Mary Poppins Returns) and Rosamund Pike (A Private War) are both absent from the best actress list, as is 2003 best actress winner Nicole Kidman for Destroyer. Instead Viola Davis has been nominated for Widows, the only Bafta nomination for Steve McQueen’s Chicago-set thriller. Davis was previously nominated in 2012 for The Help and won the supporting actress Bafta for Fences.

Cold War hots up

As a minority UK co-production with Poland and France, and directed by a filmmaker who has worked extensively in the UK, Pawel Pawlikowski’s Cold War has Bafta appeal to burn. Although the film missed out entirely at the Golden Globes, Cold War previously won four European Film Awards in December, as well as best director for Pawlikowski at Cannes. It has secured nominations here for foreign-language film as well as best director, best screenplay for Pawlikowski and Janusz Glowacki, and cinematography for Lukasz Zal.

Director category takes on international accent

Both Pawlikowski and Cuaron have been nominated for best director making this the first time two films with dialogue predominantly not in the English language have been represented in the category since 1989. In that year, Gabriel Axel for Babette’s Feast, Bernardo Bertolucci for The Last Emperor and eventual winner Louis Malle for Au Revoir Les Enfants made up three of the four nominations. 

Surprise film shut-outs

Neither Bart Layton’s UK-US thriller American Animals and Sebastian Lelio’s UK-produced Disobedience, received a single nod. Both titles garnered multiple nominations and won awards at the recent Bifas. Further titles with significant UK involvement to be completely shut out include Mike Leigh’s Peterloo, Andrew Haigh’s Lean On Pete and Wash Westmoreland’s Colette. 

Mary Queen Of Scots also picked up just one nod in the main categories, for Margot Robbie in supporting actress, with Irish co-star Saoirse Ronan and debut UK director Josie Rourke both missing out. It did secure nominations in costume design (Alexandra Byrne) and make up & hair (Jenny Shircore).

Widows’ solitary nomination, for leading actress Viola Davis, means director Steve McQueen isn’t up for a Bafta for the first time in his feature film career. Elsewhere, Aardman’s Early Man was squeezed out of the animated film category, which only has three slots (they went to Incredibles 2, Isle Of Dogs and Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse).

Beyond UK titles, Black Panther arguably underperformed with just one solitary nod in the special visual effects category. But it can expect to receive a lot more love when the Oscar nominations are announced on Jan 22. (Voting closes on Monday January 14).

The two British film categories

This best British film category is the arguably the most interesting category for the local industry and it is worth repeating how it is judged. In the first round of voting, a chapter of Bafta voters - any voter who commits to seeing all the eligible titles - will vote for the top 15 films. The top three are automatically nominated. A jury of around 14 non-conflicted members, led by the chair of BAFTA’s film committee, presently Marc Samuelson, goes on to select the final three films from the remaining 12 films. The whole chapter then votes for the winner.

Of the nominees this year, an educated guess would put the top three as The Favourite, Bohemian Rhapsody and Stan & Ollie, and the jury nominations as Michael Pearce’s Beast, Ian Bonhôte, Peter Ettedgui’s documentary McQueen and Lynne Ramsay’s You Were Never Really Here

The outstanding debut for a British writer, director or producer category is entirely voted on by a jury, including the winner. Interestingly, McQueen, although eligible, didn’t make this line-up, nor did Three Identical Strangers although it has been nominated for best documentary. Both Idris Elba’s Yardie and Rupert Everett’s The Happy Prince are examples of local films that connected with UK audiences but were overlooked here. 

UK talent in the major categories

Last year was a banner year for films with significant UK involvement receiving nominations, with three of five titles in the best film race fitting that bill (Dunkirk, Darkest Hour and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri). This year reverts back to a more typical line-up, with just one best film nominee boasting majority UK input, albeit a strong contender in the shape of The Favourite

None of the director nominees this year are from the UK though Cold War’s Paweł Pawlikowski has lived in the country for most of his career – last year US-based, UK-born Christopher Nolan and Martin McDonagh (who is UK-Irish) both received nods. In the writing categories, The Favourite’s Deborah Davis is the only UK representative in 2019. 

In the Bafta acting categories this year, six of the 20 nominees are from the UK. That’s slightly down on last year when the number was eight of 20. 

Public funders

In the realm of public funders, Film4 clocked 21 Bafta nominations, the company’s biggest haul for five years. A total of 12 of those were for The Favourite, which is the leading film this year, while four came for Cold War. A further two were given to Beast, and one apiece to You Were Never Really Here and Widows

The BFI secured 10 nominations. Four of those were for its involvement in Cold War, two for Beast, and one for You Were Never Really Here (all alongside Film4). It received further nods in the Outstanding Debut category for Apostasy writer-director Daniel Kokotajlo and Ray & Liz filmmakers Richard Billingham and Jacqui Davies, and a solitary nod for short film The Field

BBC Films received four nominations, three for Stan & Ollie (Outstanding British Film, Leading Actor, and Make Up and Hair), and one in the Outstanding Debut category for Apostasy writer-director Daniel Kokotajlo (with the BFI).

Home-grown love extends to Steve Coogan

Local sentiment may not have done any good overall in the major categories for Emily Blunt, Mary Poppins Returns, Fantastic Beasts, American Animals, Widows and Mary Queen Of Scots, but Bafta voters opted for the UK’s Steve Coogan in the best actor category for Stan & Ollie, ahead of both his US co-star John C Reilly and others such as Ryan Gosling for First Man, John David Washington for BlacKkKlansman and Ethan Hawke for First ReformedAll of those who missed out are strong contenders in this category for the Oscars.

The power of Powell

Sandy Powell leads the charge for UK talent in the craft categories. Powell has secured two nominations for best costume design - this year for The Favourite and Mary Poppins Returns – for a remarkable third time. Powell has previously won the award in 2010 and 1998. She was nominated twice in the latter, and then again in 2016.

Mark Coulier is another Brit to snag two nominations this year – in make up & hair for both Bohemian Rhapsody (with Jan Sewell) and Stan & Ollie (with Jeremy Woodhead).

Bohemian Rhapsody, a US-UK production that shot in the UK with a majority UK crew, scored further nods in cinematography, editing, costume design and sound. UK craftspeople were rewarded with nominations for films not nominated elsewhere such as the visual effects nod for Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes Of Grindelwald.

However, all nominees in both the original music and cinematography selections hail from outside the UK, with ROMA’s Adam Gough (alongside Alfonso Cuarón) the only UK name in the editing category.