The BAFTAs: The Artist brushes off the competition

The Artist swept the BAFTAs on Sunday night, taking seven awards including best film, actor and director. The Iron Lady, Hugo, Senna and Tinker, Tailor also took two awards each while Martin Scorsese was awarded a BAFTA fellowship, the British Academy’s highest honour. Nonetheless, the evening belonged undeniably to Michael Hazanavicius’ silent movie, adding another set of statuettes to his burgeoning trophy cabinet.

The Artist has swept both the critics and the awards this year. Backed by the influential Weinstein brothers the film had already won big at the Golden Globes, SGA and DGA awards before this latest haul. Aside from the best film, best director and best actor prizes, the movie also bagged prizes for its screenplay, make-up, cinematography and music.

Yet while it is undoubtedly an excellent and deserving winner, the predictability of victory has rather dulled this year’s awards season and caused a number of other strong productions to be overlooked. Thank heavens, then, for the only real shock of the evening, a win for Senna in the best editing category. Asif Kapadia’s real footage based account of Ayrton Senna’s life and times was acclaimed on release but has been largely forgotten in the last few months. A dual win today (it was also named best documentary) was not only a pleasant surprise but might just reignite some interest.

The Iron Lady, Tinker, Tailor and Hugo will arguably be more disappointed with their showings, although both The Descendants and Drive failed to win anything despite high billing. George Clooney will certainly be cursing his luck that a silent, independent French film should overshadow his starring turn as a Hawaiian property developer.

Despite this, the most predictable win of the entire night was probably Christopher Plummer’s for best supporting actor in Beginners. Plummer has virtually swept the board in his category, and Sunday was no exception. He plays a 75 year-old who finally comes out as gay and starts a new life before falling prey to cancer. The role has been widely acclaimed and, aged 82 but with few major awards, he appears to be making up for lost time.

The Skin I Live In also surprisingly edged A Separation in the contest to be named best foreign language film. Pedro Almodovar is one of the most decorated, and eccentric, living directors but the beaten Iranian piece is seen by many as one of the year’s outstanding productions.


Baftas: Tinker Tailor and The Artist look set to clean up

With the Golden Globes officially over, the focus of awards season shifts, temporarily, to our side of the Atlantic. The nominations for the British Academy of Film and Television Awards 2012 have been announced, and the ceremony itself will take place on February 12th. As if this wasn’t enough, the winners of the London Critics’ Circle Film Awards were announced on Thursday 19th January. As the Oscar speculation builds, let’s take a look these recent developments.

Having walked away with an impressive collection of accolades from last week’s Golden Globes, the team behind The Artist are likely to leave the Baftas with similar booty. A tale of dignity and fragility with all the 1920s Americana of an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel, The Artist looks set to make a storm on February 12th. Having collected 12 nominations as well as Director and Actor of the Year awards from the Critics’ Circle, I wouldn’t be surprised.

This is by no means a one-horse-race, however, contrary to what Steven Spielberg may have hoped. The Best Film category includes Tomas Alfredson’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and Nicolas Refn’s Drive which have been rewarded for their striking imagery and calculated performances with 11 and 4 nominations respectively.

By contrast, The Descendants sees George Clooney as head of a dysfunctional family, à la Little Miss Sunshine without the laughs. Despite resounding success at the Globes, this scrapes the barrel with only 3 nominations. The Help, our final contender for Best Film, is a warm-hearted glance into the world of civil rights through the microcosm of the American household, set to the tune of 5 nominations – on par with Spielberg’s War Horse.

The nostalgia of The Artist and The Help is a continuing theme, and My Week with Marilyn has received six nominations including one for leading actress Michelle Williams. Similarly, Woody Allen has received a nomination for Best Original Screenplay for the charmingly nostalgic Midnight in Paris which sees Owen Wilson clinking glasses with the likes of Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Other somewhat older stars have also successfully established their place at this year’s ceremony. Meryl Streep is nominated in the best leading actress category for The Iron Lady, and Martin Scorsese will enter the Royal Opera House with ten nominations between two films, Hugo and George Harrison: Living in the Material World.

The 32nd Critics’ Circle Film Awards are testament to the abundance of British talent this year. Most notably, Lynne Ramsay’s We Need to Talk about Kevin took British Film of the Year, and Olivia Coleman, not recognised with a Bafta nomination, was awarded British Actress of the Year for her work in The Iron Lady and Tyrannosaur. Michael Fassbender’s performances in A Dangerous Method and Shame earned him the British Actor of the Year spot, and Andrew Haigh won Break-through British Film-maker for his intimate romance, Weekend.

It seems that this has been a year of inventive sentimentalism, though this is truer of the Bafta than the Critics Circle, who have leant towards grittier stories. Regardless of speculation concerning trends and precedents, however, only time will tell as to whose nominations will materialise into Bafta success: the net has been cast widely, the decisions will not be easy.

By Francis Blagburn


Awards Season: Let the two months of back patting commence!

Awards. They exist in all aspects of life, from academia to sports. And films are no exception. We’re deep into awards season now, and won’t be out of it until March. The awards may be numerous, but one thing is certain: winning one certainly doesn’t hurt your box office receipts. All term we will be reporting on the awards season, analysing the big winners and losers. But who determines which films win? What does it actually mean when the poster boasts “winner of 4 Golden Globes”?

The first major date is Sunday 17th January, the date of the Golden Globes. These TV and film awards are voted on and decided by the 93 members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, a collective of Hollywood-based foreign journalists (who must only publish 4 articles a year to maintain membership). The reason for their popularity is that they provide one of the few formal opportunities for stars in these two different media to socialise, and combined with the lavish budget it is generally considered a good party for everyone involved. However, their merit as awards can be questioned; because of the few voters it’s been suggested that films can win some categories with as little as 5 or 6 votes, and there has been more than a couple corruption scandals. Most recently, it was claimed last year that Sony had bribed voters with all-expenses paid trips to Las Vegas, receiving a nomination for critical disappointment The Touristas best musical/comedy in return.

Various industry awards take place towards the tail-end of January, including those by the Producers Guild of America, Directors Guild of America andScreen Actors Guild. These awards tend to focus on the interests of each particular guild, and often provide an accurate barometer for the more prestigious awards ceremonies. For example, in 62 years there has only been six occasions when the DGA’s best director has not gone on to win an Academy Award.

The British Academy of Film and Television Awards take place on 12th February, one of the few major awards ceremonies that do not take place in America. They are voted on by over 6,000 members, and voting takes place in three stages; initially a first vote draws up a longlist of nominees (available now on the BAFTA website), while the second vote narrows down the field to present the final nominations. After this, the final vote takes place for the awards. All the academy members can vote on the awards for Best Film, Best Film not in the English language and the four performance roles (Best Actor, Actress and Supporting). The technical categories are decided by chapters made up of at least 80 experts in that field, and are then opened up to the entire membership or decided by a jury. Finally there is a super jury made up of industry experts who vote on Best British Film, and a Rising Star award voted by the general public.

Finally the Academy Awards round off proceedings on the 26th February, decided by over 6,000 members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Criticised and revered in equal measure, they remain the most prestigious awards in the industry.