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BAFTA Awards: The Brits Spread the Love, But Will the Academy Do the Same?

Variety logo Variety 2/12/2017 Kristopher Tapley
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Ever since the British Academy of Film and Television Arts shifted its voting procedure to mirror the American Academy’s — i.e., the separate branches determine nominations in each category while the entire membership chooses winners throughout — the annual BAFTA Awards have become slightly more instructive where predicting the Oscars is concerned.

Particularly in toss-up below-the-line categories, the winners across the pond can give an indication of what might happen on these shores — “Whiplash” winning best film editing, for instance, or “The Grand Budapest Hotel” winning best original score. Mark Rylance’s supporting actor Oscar victory last year was also presaged in the U.K.

It’s not an exact science. But it’s the first true window of the year into how a broad group of film artists perceives the season’s contenders in various categories. So while BAFTA’s crossover membership with the American Academy is minimal, it’s worth noting their choices when trying to gauge what could happen over here.

So, for those expecting anything approaching a sweep for “La La Land” at the Oscars this year, the immediate quest is: Did the Brits just douse those flames?

With Damien Chazelle’s musical gobbling up a record-tying 14 nominations from the American Academy, many have been left wondering how close it could also come to the record for wins (11). For a while it frankly seemed like there wasn’t much competition in a number of categories, but we could have more of a race on our hands in those fields than we thought.

BAFTA voters notably spread things around in the crafts this year: editing for “Hacksaw Ridge,” sound for “Arrival,” costumes for “Jackie,” production design for “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.” Though “La La Land” ultimately won score and cinematography, it appeared to be slowed down at every other turn, until it came to the major categories, where it predictably won best film, best director and best actress (Emma Stone).

In all, the British Academy awarded 14 different films Sunday, a stunningly liberal display. Only “La La Land,” “Lion” and “Manchester by the Sea” walked away with multiple honors. Will the American Academy be so generous? Or have they fallen head-over-heels in love with a movie they’ll be all too happy to check off in just about every category?

We’ll know soon enough. Final balloting begins tomorrow.

A few other BAFTA notes:

– Screen Actors Guild winner Denzel Washington (“Fences”) was not nominated today, paving the way for “Manchester by the Sea” star Casey Affleck. That category will be a nail-biter until the envelope is opened, it seems.

– Dev Patel’s supporting actor win for “Lion” over SAG winner Mahershala Ali (“Moonlight”) might be a shocker to some, but remember that “Lion” just opened in the U.K. and there has been a ton of press as of late. “Moonlight,” meanwhile, doesn’t open until next week. Patel is also a London guy, more of a lead in his film, and there isn’t the same urgency to reward a movie such as “Moonlight” across the pond as there is here. None of that is to take away from Patel’s win, however. He’s fantastic in the movie and clearly someone to keep an eye on for the upset on these shores.

– The BAFTA animated category was full of three Disney movies and then “Kubo and the Two Strings.” It’s entirely possible Disney support splintered off and allowed an easier track for the Laika film, and there could be some danger of that here as well, given that “Zootopia” and “Moana” are both nominated. But the presence of art house films like “The Red Turtle” and “My Life as a Zucchini” keeps things interesting at the Oscars. I still anticipate a “Zootopia” victory, but this was a nice feather in Laika’s cap.

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