Oscars: BAFTA Weighs In, Time to Throw Out the Playbooks

BAFTA_Winners.jpg-largeThis sh** just got real.  The Academy Awards (or Oscars) are exactly two weeks away and this race is completely wide open in so many ways.  With ballots officially in voters hands since Friday, tens of thousands of eyes were on the BAFTA awards in order to pin point the Oscar winners in various categories.  As many continue to believe, the BAFTA community split their top two prizes of Best Film and Best Director between Steve McQueen‘s 12 Years a Slave and Alfonso Cuarón‘s Gravity.  Cuarón continues to reap the season with Director citations from various critics and guilds while McQueen’s slavery epic took the big prize of the night.

This continues to remain one of the most wide open Oscars ever covered with so little “locked” up categories.  If you’re asking me what categories you can put your million dollar estate on at this point, I’d only feel comfortable telling you Supporting Actor for Jared Leto and Visual Effects for Gravity.  Beyond that, we have such few answers to some painfully real questions.  Are the Oscars going to make history this year rewarding the first black filmmaker with Best Director or will they make history by rewarding Cuarón, who will be their first Hispanic director cited?  The Academy could become completely conventional and move towards three-time Best Director nominee David O. Russell, who’s film American Hustle isn’t as dead in the water as we thought based on the awards given out on Sunday.

12 Years a Slave picked up only two awards for the entire night including Best Film and Best Lead Actor for Chiwetel Ejiofor.  Worth noting that Matthew McConaughey was not nominated for his work in Dallas Buyers Club, which helped his cause quite a bit.  There have been some readers and pundits asking the question if 12 Years a Slave is the type of film that could win one or two awards on Oscar night and one of them would be Best Picture.  Ten weeks ago I would have laughed in anyone’s face that presented that notion to me but with Jennifer Lawrence winning Best Supporting Actress over favorite Lupita Nyong’o and the below-the-line categories looking more wrapped up for films like Gravity and The Great Gatsby, it’s completely possible.  A question I have is which award will 12 Years a Slave pick up along with Best Picture?  If Adapted Screenplay is falling by the wayside and it’s too hard for it to overtake films in Production Design, Editing, and Costume Design, does McQueen’s film become the new Mutiny on the Bounty or Grand Hotel?

Harvey Weinstein must be semi-pleased with the performance of his film Philomena at the BAFTA awards.  The film picked up a win for Adapted Screenplay for scribes Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope, though the film lost Best British Film to Gravity, as many expected that to be a place it would have picked up its awards tally.

BAFTA_AbdiIn other surprises, Barkhad Abdi, the only acting representation for Paul GreengrassCaptain Phillips at the Oscars, won Best Supporting Actor over formidable contenders Michael Fassbender and Daniel Bruhl.  Jared Leto was not nominated by the Brits.  I’m very happy for the first time actor winning a major award this year.  After losing virtually everything to Leto, it’s good that he had the opportunity to stand on a big stage and thank some of his peers and family.

As stated earlier, Jennifer Lawrence won her first BAFTA prize for her work in Russell’s American Hustle over expected winner Lupita Nyong’o.  Since 2000, BAFTA has only not awarded the eventual Oscar winner for Supporting Actress three times.  They went with Julie Walters (Billy Elliot), Thandie Newton (Crash), and Helena Bonham Carter (The King’s Speech), when Oscar chose differently.  That’s worrisome to the Lupita campaign, especially after winning Critics Choice and SAG awards. An astute observation by Mark Johnson has pointed out this has also now become “Viola Davis vs. Meryl Streep Part 2.”  Lawrence and Nyong’o have mirrored the exact wins that Davis and Streep garnered when they were campaigning for The Help and The Iron Lady.  There are obvious differences between the two races.  The Iron Lady wasn’t nominated for Best Picture, and there isn’t a groundswell of support for Lawrence to win another Academy Award, the way Streep had.  Lawrence’s film also Original Screenplay without the presence of Spike Jonze’s Her and Jean-Marc Vallee’s Dallas Buyers Club.

Best Documentary Feature went to The Act of Killing by Joshua Oppenheimer, without the presence of any of the other Oscar nominees.  Frozen won Animated Feature in a field of three nominees.

Gravity won six awards in total, a number that keeps looking like the most likely for it to achieve on Oscar night, if in fact it loses Best Picture.  Are Academy voters going to consciously vote differently between Picture and Director or is Gravity just going to pick up the top prize along with everything else?  It’s always foolish to predict the split but it’s possible that this could be the first time where we can consciously do it (on a consensus level) and probably be correct.  If not, then this will be a lesson for many around the Oscar prognosticating world.

The Oscar Predictions pages have been updated accordingly to reflect some of the thoughts at this point.  Beginning Friday, our annual WILL WIN/SHOULD WIN series where the staff begins to reveal our final Oscar thoughts.  The official Oscar Predictions will be updated on February 28th.  It’s going to be a head-scratcher.

Discuss your thoughts in the comments.
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