BAFTA Nominees – A Closer Look

As we approach the Golden Globes tonight, what better time to take a closer look at some of the nominees for the BAFTAs, which take place on Sunday 8th February. Okay okay, it’s a daft time to look at them. Still, here we go.

Best Foreign Film
This is a really strong category, with all five films looking like a really strong contender for the top prize. I was really impressed by Two Days, One Night , and Andrey Zvyagintsev’s Leviathan was much celebrated following the focus created at the BFI London Film Festival (where it took the Best Film prize). However, for me the best foreign film of 2014 should go to The Lunchbox. Starring Irrfan Khan (Life of Pi, Slumdog Millionaire, The Amazing Spider-man and Nimrat Kaur (who you may recognise from Homeland), Ritesh Batra’s film was a really accomplished romantic drama that also dealt with aspects of loneliness, whilst capturing beautifully the claustrophobic life of the average Mumbai worker, in particular the dabbawalas delivering the lunchboxes from wife to husband. It didn’t really have a cutting edge political message for the modern viewers, but sometimes you just want to see an excellent film that lifts your spirits. This certainly does that, despite not following a path that we’ve come to expect from most European and American films in the same genre.

Rising Star Award
This is an interesting one. There has always been a level of scepticism attached to it because the winner is voted for by the public rater than industry experts (indeed you can vote for yourself here as long as you reside in the UK). The past results largely prove that the public have known what they’re talking about – James McAvoy, Tom Hardy, Eva Green and Shia LeBeouf have all bagged this in the past. However, results like the 2012 prize going to Kidulthood star Adam Deacon really undermine its relevance (he was up against Thor and Loki, along with Eddie Redmayne and Chris O’Dowd). This year’s front runners for me are Jack O’Connell, star of two excellent films in ’71 and Unbroken, and Margot Robbie, who we saw a lot of in The Wolf of Wall Street. There are three other excellent nominees in Miles Telller (Whiplash), Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Belle) and Shailene Woodley (The Fault in Our Stars), but you have to remember that this is largely a popularity contest for the public to vote on, and a way to get people engaged with the awards. It’s also voted for by British people, and therefore it will more than likely be our boy Jack O’Connell happy on the night. This is good news, because his performances in Starred Up and ’71 were exceptional.

British Short Film and British Short Animation
There is a slight frustration with these two categories. Currently, there is a thriving short film industry globally as people make use of the easy distribution tools available to them via online media and streaming possibilities. So BAFTA have dedicated categories for short films and animated short films, which is great. Unfortunately not one of them is available to watch online. Trailers are there for most, but now is the time I’d be really keen to make my own mind up about what is nominated so I can form an opinion ahead of the ceremony. That’s the thing about fans of cinema – we really prefer to make or own mind up rather than be told what is great. I’m fortunate to have seen several of the heavily nominated films already, with only The Theory of Everything and Boyhood being missed. As a result, I can look at the top categories and agree or disagree with the result on the night. This lack of connection to the short film categories makes me frustrated as I’d love to be more engaged with these two categories. Last year they had a BAFTA shorts tour, and I hope they do the same again this time around, ahead of the big night.

Animated Film
Probably should go to The Lego Movie, which was brilliantly animated and hilarious from start to finish, but I’d tip The Boxtrolls to take it home. It was grotesque and surreal and full of wonderful voice acting, and I think the level of artistry and uniqueness involved may edge out the overall superior Lego Movie.

Documentary
As good as both 20 Feet from Stardom and 20,000 Days on Earth were, this has to go to Edward Snowden documentary Citizenfour.

What Missed Out
I was disappointed that Lilting all but missed out completely, with director Hong Khaou the only nominee in the Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer. The category will probably be awarded to Gregory Burke and Yann Demange for ’71 (which will be more than deserving anyway).

I was pleased to see Interstellar not have much joy, though I fear this won’t be the case when we get to the Oscar nominations on Thursday.

People talk of disappointment for Mr Turner, which completely missed out despite Timothy Spall getting a Cannes award for Best Actor. A surprise, especially as it is a British film.

I was personally disappointed Giovanni’s Island wasn’t in the Animated Film category, but it wasn’t a surprise. Big Hero 6 is unlikely to win and is probably only there to garner interest, but Giovanni’s Island had a really strong message and was one of my films of the year.

The BAFTA Awards take place on the evening of Sunday 8th February at London’s Royal Opera House and will be hosted by Stephen Fry.

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