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Prizefighter: What the BAFTAs mean for the Oscar race

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Wilson Webb

Just six days before Oscar nominations are announced, one of the most wide-open awards seasons in years is slowly coming into focus. But there’s still plenty of conflicting indicators. Earlier this week, the typically reliable Producers Guild dealt a blow to Carol, leaving Todd Haynes 1950s lesbian drama off its list of 10 best picture nominees. But on Friday, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts showered love upon Carol with nine nominations, including one for best picture. Bridge of Spies also got a boost with nine nominations, while The Revenant nabbed eight. Meanwhile, well-received blockbusters The Martian and Mad Max: Fury Road — both of which got PGA nods — were left off BAFTA’s list of five best picture nominees. 

So what does it all mean?

About 500 BAFTA members are also members of the Academy, but their choices aren’t always the best barometer of how the Academy votes. Last year, BAFTA went for Boyhood while the Academy chose Birdman. The prior year, they chose Jennifer Lawrence over Lupita Nyong’o and picked Chewitel Ejiofor for Best Actor. And in 2013, they honored Ben Affleck for best director, a category where our Academy rather infamously failed to recognize the Argo filmmaker. 

Still, when it comes to nominees, BAFTA best picture selections often go on to land Oscar nominations too. (In part, that’s because BAFTA still nominates only five films; as opposed to Oscar’s recently expanded field.) This year, it’s hard to imagine the Academy ignoring any of the BAFTA choices, which is great news for The Big Short, Bridge of Spies, Carol, The Revenant, and Spotlight. (Still, that PGA snub of Carol could linger…) 

In the acting category, Alicia Vikander showed surprising strength, duplicating her dual Golden Globes nominations from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association: best actress for her work in The Danish Girl and supporting actress for Ex Machina. I only hope the Academy follows suit, rewarding Vikander for her lead performance work, rather than relegating her to the supporting category that Focus seemed to prefer. 

And though the BAFTAs passed over both blockbuster genre films in the best picture race — and snubbed George Miller in the directing category — neither film was ignored. Miller’s post-apocalyptic fever dream was nominated for seven BATFAs and The Martian landed six nods, including ones for director Ridley Scott and actor Matt Damon. It’s still easy to imagine Academy races that feature both films and both directors. We will know more about that latter category on Tuesday when the Directors Guild announces its nominees. 

What do the BAFTAs say about Brooklyn, which earned six nominations? The British film is clearly the frontrunner to win Best British Film, and it had an especially strong showing in the acting categories with slots given to both Saoirse Ronan in the lead actress category and Julie Walters in supporting. Whether or not that translates to Oscar love remains to be seen, though Ronan is likely to get the nod. A best picture nom is also likely considering the Nick Hornby-scripted drama was recognized by the PGA. 

Spotlight feels like the tricky film this year. While the Tom McCarthy-directed drama — and presumed Oscar frontrunner — landed a best picture BAFTA nod, it totaled only three nominations. McCarthy was left off the director list (the Brits opted for Adam McKay, whose Big Short seems to be surging) and Michael Keaton was ignored for his performance. On the plus side, Mark Ruffalo was recognized, something that didn’t happen with the HFPA’s choices. 

While we may not have a true dominating movie this year, the BAFTAs are giving us a bit more clarity. Of course, all our questions and doubts will be solved on Jan. 14. Until then, go see some movies.

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