The beleaguered 73rd British Academy Film Awards are tomorrow, so let’s run down those nominees.
I have now been paying active attention to the BAFTAs for an entire decade, which I guess means that I have lost all right to complain about how successively worse their nomination slates are getting year after year. After all, fool me once, shame on me, but fool me ten times in a row and I’m basically just asking for it. You’ll be glad to hear that my usual mini-essay rants against the total lack of diversity in the nominees, the complete lack of disinterest in actually interesting and provocative British cinema despite these being the British Film Awards, and the continuing blatant loophole fuckery where a few of the biggest-name nominees don’t officially open until after the ceremony are nowhere in sight this year. Admittedly, that’s because I already got all of those particular rants out of my system the day that these abysmal nominations were dropped, but point stands. I’ll do what idiots on Twitter keep yelling at fellow #BAFTAsSoWhiteAndMale folks to do which is stop bringing “politics” into this rundown and look at them only as a meritocracy, as White Santa Claus intended!
So, welcome to the seventh official rundown of the BAFTA Film nominations! The ceremony is tomorrow, tape-delayed yet again cos it’s massively outdrawn year-on-year by new Call the Midwife (which I didn’t realise is now on its ninth series because I guess I live in a hole somewhere), and hosted by Britain’s adopted Irish child Graham Norton. It’s a bad scene all round, folks. Regardless, I’ve been doing this for so long that perhaps there are people who rely upon me for their office betting pools, and I’m not even being facetious with that comment – I genuinely have a 42-15 record in guessing these things, which is actually really sad when I think about it for too long, although I don’t know whether it’s myself or the BAFTAs that come off looking sadder. Plus, the world’s on actual fire and Contagion has been made relevant yet again; constants like this are what keep folks sane. So, let’s go ahead and run through the major categories of an awards show which tried to bait Cynthia Erivo into performing an opening number despite literally nominating zero people of colour OOPS I GOT POLITICS IN THE TROPHY SHOW AGAIN!
Best Animated Film
Nominees: A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon, Frozen II, Klaus, Toy Story 4
Who Should Win: Farmageddon was my #9 movie of 2019, yes, and I still love that pure piece of British genius with all my heart, yes, and I would love for Aardman to be showered in statuettes and money for all of time so they can do whatever the hell they want, yes… But I am also that pillock who didn’t get around to seeing Klaus until the new year, long after I had sealed both of my 2019 lists, and, out of an extremely strong field lacking a single dud or even average work, I gotta give the edge to the newbie over the returning veterans. You can point out every single one of the very obvious influences – How the Grinch Stole Christmas, The Emperor’s New Groove, Romeo & Juliet, Paperman, The Addams Family, and that’s just scratching the surface – but Klaus manages to distil all of them into a unique blend that feels wholly of its own and works any time of the year. It excites me, which is always a trump card, and I hope all this deserved attention gives Sergio Pablos Animation Studios the cache required to realise their wildest dreams.
Who Will Win: I got pleasantly burnt real bad last year when I wrongly assumed that “The Disney/Pixar Award” – derisively referred to as such because, at both BAFTAs and the Oscars, those two companies usually have a stranglehold on the trophy – would shun the buzz-building upstart Into the Spider-Verse for Incredibles II and, honestly, I think such an upset might happen again. Klaus swept the Annies (for what little that’s worth), Frozen II was notoriously shut out of this category at the Oscars, and neither it nor Toy Story 4 could best Missing Link at the Golden Globes (where Klaus wasn’t nominated), not to mention the Disney affiliates potentially splitting the vote and Farmageddon not doing so great at the UK box office. I think Klaus has a real shot! Here’s hoping the unofficial Good Place Christmas Special pulls it off!
Other Notes: As mentioned, rock solid list without a less-than-very-good entry amongst them. Since the category is a forever-fluctuating “between three and five” deal – long story, don’t ask, it involves POLITICS – I think the only way it could have been made perfect is for there to have been a fifth nominee. There was a quietly bumper crop to choose from in 2019: Laika’s charming adventure throwback Missing Link, Warner Bros.’ unfairly under-appreciated LEGO Movie 2, TRIGGER and XFLAG’s gloriously deranged Promare, and especially Jérémy Clapin’s daring and surprisingly powerful I Lost My Body which has been growing even more on me in the month since viewing. In fact, drop Frozen II to add Promare & I Lost My Body and you get a nominee slate that encompasses the vast majority of animation styles! It’s an exciting time to be an animation fan!
Right, that’s the unconditional praise all used up. Here’s everything else.
Outstanding British Film
Nominees: 1917, Bait, For Sama, Rocketman, Sorry We Missed You, The Two Popes
Who Should Win: For Sama, on account of it being the only nominee of this sorry list I actually found “great” instead of “fine or worse.” That sounds like damning with faint praise but Waad Al-Kateab and Edward Watts’ documentary about Al-Kateab’s time in Syria during the uprising and later dictatorship-and-Russian siege of its capital Aleppo, where she and her husband reported on the devastation and operated a makeshift hospital for those caught in the crossfire despite the risks to themselves and their infant daughter, is genuinely powerful and wrenching viewing by any metric. It also, and this is important, courses with a vitality and urgency most actual British cinema considers anathema, balancing an intimate female portrait with an accusatory finger towards the world stage at large for failing to adequately act in the face of such horrific war crimes. As a British industry, we need more films with this kind of urgency and genuine import.
Who Will Win: 1917 cos it’s the only one up for Best Film. Duh. This “half the nominees are decided by write-in ballots, half the nominees are decided by a specialised jury, everyone votes on the winner” thing always results in a nominee list you can cleave in two, and a winner who is reliably the token British name in the Best Film race. So, yeah, 1917 in a walk.
Other Notes: Christ, what a miserable year for British cinema, as I have repeatedly complained about everywhere. Guess I’m supposed to just overlook the flagrant bullshit of Two Popes getting a nomination – a film directed by a Brazilian, written by a New Zealander, solely funded by American studios, and set nowhere near Britain – because at least Yesterday wasn’t nominated? The worst part is that I can’t turf all bar For Sama because I really don’t have enough suggestions for snubs. So, bin Popes, Loach (Sorry We Missed You), and the dismally mediocre Rocketman. Keep Sama, Bait (which I appreciate for grappling with our current British social climate even if I didn’t think the film was great), and I guess 1917 for the technical showmanship.
Farmageddon deserves a slot here since it is both a fucking great movie and an unmistakably British one which embodies the best of our supposed core values (unity and tolerance and empathy). Brian Welsh’s Beats is one of the most searingly vital British dramas to come along in years, its trenchant insights into working class malaise and governmental authoritarianism saying more than any of Loach’s tiresome polemics. As for the sixth slot… these are “decidedly middling but at least represent the country and its diverse swathe of talent” picks. Gurinder Chadha’s Blinded by the Light is a mess with a poor lead performance but has winning charm and always relevant things to say about race and anti-immigrant sentiments. Joanna Hogg’s The Souvenir, although it never clicked for me and runs for two hours yet doesn’t have an ending, was the most acclaimed film of last year, topping Sight & Sound’s (nonsensically organised) Best of 2019 consensus poll, so the total snub by BAFTA is bizarre. I imagine this Sophie’s Choice of qualified token nominations could’ve been avoided had I managed to see Shola Amoo’s The Last Tree by now, a film I’ve heard exceptional things about, but alas. Poor list and poor year for the industry all round, frankly.
Best Original Screenplay
Nominees: Booksmart (Susanna Fogel, Emily Halpern, Sarah Haskins and Katie Silberman), Knives Out (Rian Johnson), Marriage Story (Noah Baumbach), Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood (Quentin Tarantino), Parasite (Bong Joon-ho and Han Jin-won)
Who Should Win: Ooh, this is a surprising doozy that comes down to whether I prefer the objectively better and more thematically enriching screenplay over the one which has a hotline directly to my personality. Booksmart’s screenplay is wickedly witty, gut-bustingly hysterical, exceedingly well characterised even in the most minor of background characters, bursting with heart, and managing to feel attuned to teenage lives now even whilst still operating in heightened escapist movie fantasy land. But Joon-ho and Jin-won’s screenplay for Parasite is perhaps Joon-ho’s finest ever and definitely the most refined in his Capitalism Trilogy, which started with Snowpiercer and was bridged by Okja, with his empathetic eye bringing about a nuanced and highly-complex examination of class division which makes lesser wannabes *coughcoughJokercough* look like daytime soap operas by comparison. Culminating in an outstanding tragic gut-punch yet somehow not negating the fun beforehand, I gotta give the edge to Parasite.
Who Will Win: Smart money would say that Tarantino becomes a three-time BAFTA winner thanks to Once Upon a Time, but I’m a touch hesitant to go all the way in entirely because of the “becomes a three-time BAFTA winner” thing – not to mention the question mark of whether that turn in the finale would lose more voters than it wins. But, then, who else could it be but Tarantino? Parasite probably has the best shot since, despite cleaning up at Thursday’s London Critics’ Circle Awards, I’m guessing the film is getting shut out for everything other than Best Film Not in the English Language, but consolation prizes are rare at BAFTA; they don’t care about optics, as we’ve already discussed NO BAD CALLUM. Baumbach has surprisingly never been nominated before now but same deal about consolation prizes and LCCA not translating. And Booksmart and Knives Out are comedies so they’ve got no hope regardless of their brilliance and Knives’ flashy structural tricks. Let’s not overthink this, then, and just say Tarantino.
Other Notes: Question: why are we all still giving oxygen towards Baumbach when Alex Ross Perry exists, doing his schtick far better cos Perry actually knows how to write multi-dimensional characters and balance a darkly-comedic tone with legitimate wit? Her Smell went straight-to-VOD in the UK so was likely ineligible but nevertheless should’ve sent Marriage Story’s abysmal screenplay into the goddamned sea where the latter belongs. I’d honestly also ditch Tarantino because, yeah, I’m still not fully sold on the ending. That opens up one last slot for two possible contenders to duke it out over: Ari Aster’s sensational portrait of anxious grief Midsommar, and The Safdie Brothers & Ronald Bronstein’s phenomenally abrasive sketch of self-involved addiction Uncut Gems. Both of those films owe a lot of their power to the manner in which they’re realised on-screen, but their base screenplays and the details therein are the vital groundwork and still work when you strip away the visual and audible aids.
Best Adapted Screenplay
Nominees: Joker (Todd Phillips and Scott Silver), Jojo Rabbit (Taika Waititi), Little Women (Greta Gerwig), The Irishman (Steven Zallian), The Two Popes (Anthony McCarten)
Who Should Win: Give it to Gerwig, you fucking cowards!
Who Will Win: This appears to be a dogfight between Little Women and Jojo Rabbit, something I didn’t realise was the case until I started doing the research that goes into these pieces. I genuinely thought this would be the time when complete hack Anthony McCarten finally got his inevitable trophy, having been nominated for the first time via his dismally boring work on Two Popes, but I guess Popes being nominated at all is a win for Netflix – although not for anyone unlucky enough to be suckered into actually watching that shite. Between the two frontrunners, then, I’m gonna give the edge to Waititi’s Jojo which is a toothless tonal mess and disappointingly conventionally safe from a filmmaker whose name was made on big gonzo swings… but is surface-level edgy enough that its win can be read as a victory for daring auteur visionaries with radical messages like Nazism, and stay with me on this, being a bad thing.
Other Notes: Keep Gerwig, have Zallian on retainer – I think he does fantastic work with such sprawling and complicated material, but there were just a few other screenplays I liked more – drop Waititi, and fire Joker & Popes directly into the sun. To my mind, the biggest oversight on this particular trip to Snubsville is Lorene Scafaria’s exceptional screenplay for Hustlers; if this Awards Season was so determined to adhere to the “Actual Scorsese vs. Scorsese Homage” narrative, why did they insist on plugging in the shit one for “Homage” rather than the one which actually outdoes the man himself? Closely following behind, and technically “Adapted” since it was first realised as a segment on NPR’s This American Life, is Lulu Wang’s sensitive yet complexly told culture-clash dysphoria dramedy The Farewell. To once again circle around to Joker, it wasn’t even the best DC film released in 2019; if any comic book movie deserved its slot, then Henry Gayden’s bold work on the screenplay for Shazam! should’ve been in contention. Lastly, for some British flavour, allow me to once again ride for Kieran Hurley and Brian Welsh’s outstanding job adapting the former’s play, Beats, since I was seemingly the only person who saw that movie. Or, hell, why not go for The Personal History of David Copperfield since that was apparently eligible for awards despite being a 2020 film around the globe (it was nominated for Best Casting)?
Best Supporting Actor
Nominees: Tom Hanks as Fred Rogers (A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood), Anthony Hopkins as Pope Benedict XVI (The Two Popes), Al Pacino as Jimmy Hoffa (The Irishman), Joe Pesci as Russell Bufalino (The Irishman), Brad Pitt as Cliff Booth (Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood)
Who Should Win: Pesci all day. To come back after almost two entire decades of not acting and turn in the performance of your life, one that’s at turns paternally warm and bone-chillingly cold with such understated sage unfuckwithable-ness that you’re arguably more terrifying here than you were as a loudmouthed livewire in Goodfellas? To do that and in the process also steal the entire film out from the best De Niro and Pacino performances in equally as long a stretch of time as you’ve been retired for? That takes both immense balls and immense talent which should be duly recompensed.
Who Will Win: It’s Brad Pitt’s time. He’s been nominated three times for acting over the years – twice in separate categories in 2009, believe it or not – yet has never won and all four of this year’s acting prizes have the distinct feel of handing out overdue trophies to beloved industry figures who are inexplicably yet to be knighted with the big gold one. Pitt’s only real competition is Pesci except that Netflix pushed both Pesci and Pacino with equal weight which has led to them splitting the votes and clearing the path for Pitt to finally take home a big one. Not how I would’ve done it, but also I’m not gonna be too upset because his Hollywood turn is my favourite Brad Pitt performance ever… no, it’s not entirely because he takes his shirt off to do some menial cable repair work in a situation I may or may not have had fantasies of ever since, hush.
Other Notes: I don’t wish to be mean, but is this category now the sole reserve of depressed White men undergoing existential crises as they’re shuffled into the retirement home? What is this, the WWE? Make some new stars, knight some up-and-comers! Prime example: even though he’s on-screen way longer than Lucas Hedges, Honey Boy’s Noah Jupe was pushed under Supporting and he put in The male performance of last year as young Otis. Speaking of new stars, I had no idea who Jack Dylan Grazer was prior to his winningly prickly turn as Freddy Freeman in Shazam! but after watching I immediately invested big time in his stock; that kid should go places. Of the two Beats stars, Lorn Macdonald’s abused and misunderstood Spanner is probably the one who most fits under Supporting. And as for that old spectre of diversity, but by no means token nominations, take your pick from: Sterling K. Brown’s devastating paternal turn in Waves, Wesley Snipes and Keegan-Michael Key’s uproarious and deceptively deep turns in Dolemite is My Name, or Taika Waititi’s surprisingly effective send-up of Hitler in Jojo Rabbit (one of the few truly great parts of that movie). All of those are way more deserving than Anthony Hopkins sleepwalking through his schtick… but he did some of it in a non-English language(!) Whoa(!) What a revolutionary trailblazer(!)
Best Supporting Actress
Nominees: Laura Dern as Nora Fanshaw (Marriage Story), Scarlett Johannsson as Rosie Betzler (Jojo Rabbit), Florence Pugh as Amy March (Little Women), Margot Robbie as Kayla Popisill (Bombshell), Margot Robbie as Sharon Tate (Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood)
Who Should Win: Is it objectively ridiculous that we are expected to buy Florence Pugh for half of Little Women as a 13 year-old even before she’s featured in a scene surrounded by actual 13 year-olds? Maybe, but are you going to tell Florence Pugh what she can and can’t play after the 2019 she had? Like, I know that it’s early and there is every chance she could Jennifer Lawrence/Alicia Vikander herself in the years to come, but I really do think she’s in prime position to set herself up as one of the finest performers of her generation. She’s got the range, the gravitas, the charisma, the It that makes people mega-stars, and clearly an eye for more meaty left-field roles to balance alongside mainstream franchise work. No wonder Black Widow is likely about setting her up to be the new Scarlett Johannsson; I fully expect her to be headlining her own revelatory Under the Skin equivalent in five years’ time, but hopefully without putting her foot in it when it comes to playing Asians and trans-folk.
Who Will Win: Five years ago, J.K. Simmons went on a well-deserved Awards Tour in the Best Supporting Actor category for his towering work in Whiplash, a streak which was just as much for his storied and underappreciated career up to then as it was for his work in the nominated movie. Two years ago, Allison Janney had the female equivalent bestowed upon her for I, Tonya. This year, it’s apparently Laura Dern’s turn. The crucial difference separating Dern from her antecedents, however, is that Simmons and Janney were both still fantastic in their nominated movies whereas Dern is horrible in Marriage Story. She’s supposed to be, as a vicious amoral faux-feminist divorce attorney designed to be a hate-sink, but Dern, much like Baumbach’s insipid writing of the character, goes way too far and instead comes out as a shrill Snidely Whiplash cartoon character impossible to take seriously. Hateable because she is a profound irritation to watch, not because she’s Wormtongue-ing Nicole. Believe me, just typing these words is causing me pain because I love Laura Dern, but she is wretched in this. When she wins, I’m gonna give her the Alicia Vikander treatment in 2016 and insist it was for her much better performance in an actually good movie that also came out that year – Marmee in Little Women, ironically enough.
Other Notes: Look, BAFTA, I too love Margot Robbie. I think she is a very talented actress who is always really good even in unwatchable garbage and somebody who has been actively attempting to funnel her growing Hollywood clout into providing genuine doors and safe spaces into the industry for women of all colours. But are you trying to Jennifer Lawrence her to the film community?! Cos shit like this is how you Jennifer Lawrence people to the film community! It also, along with two nominations for Johannsson (who’s also in running for Best Actress), makes your futile protestations that “it’s the industry’s fault, there just aren’t enough POC performances out there” look even more fucking tone-deaf and stupid OOPS I WENT POLITICAL AGAIN THIS IS A MERITOCRACY MAYBE ROBBIE REALLY WAS JUST BETTER TWICE THAN EVERY POC IN MOVIES ACROSS 2019!
Here, I’ll show you how easily you could’ve avoided this mess: turf out everyone except Pugh and start again. Jennifer Lopez should be here for Hustlers, that is just indisputable facts and the only reason she isn’t (much like at the Oscars) has to be spite which is unbecoming of a supposed meritocracy NO BAD CALLUM. Zhao Shuzhen should also be here for The Farewell, no excuses; do you all hate your grandmas or something?! De’Vine Joy Randolph exploded onto the scene in Dolemite is My Name with a performance so lovable she almost stole the movie from Eddie goddamned Murphy! Lastly, whichever out of Booksmart’s Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever qualifies for Supporting takes the fifth slot whilst the other takes the fifth slot for Lead Actress. And since I’d nominate Pugh in Best Actress for Midsommar instead, you can even find room to slot in either Taylor Russell for Waves, Cho Yeo-jeong for Parasite or, to go really outside the box, Vanessa Kirby for Hobbs & Shaw as a reminder of how important yet undervalued believable physicality and swagger can be to a performance.
Nominees: Leonardo DiCaprio as Rick Dalton (Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood), Adam Driver as Charlie Barber (Marriage Story), Taron Egerton as Elton John (Rocketman), Joaquin Phoenix as Arthur Fleck (Joker), Jonathan Pryce as Pope Francis (The Two Popes)
Who Should Win: HOW DOES THIS KEEP HAPPENING?! I think I have only had two years in my entire history of covering these awards where the Best Actor category has featured more than one person I felt passionately excited to see win something, 2014 and 2018 with the latter working from a whopping two excellent deserving nominees out of five. Jesus Christ, this definitely can’t just be my latent misandry talking by this point. I guess I wouldn’t be upset if DiCaprio was finally honoured for being very good in a very good movie, rather than when he was being honoured for that dark and gritty Jackass reboot Fox insisted on calling The Revenant, but I really do not care about any of these performances. They’re all just so beige. They’re fine.
Who Will Win: I get the feeling that, much like with DiCaprio in 2016 & Gary Oldman in 2018, the deck here has been stacked to ensure that Joaquin Phoenix finally, nearly two decades after he was first nominated for Gladiator, gets his Oscar and BAFTA. He is fine in Joker, the best part of the film easily, but it’s basically a Greatest Hits showcase of all his Joaquin Phoenix tics, there are several points where he is practically bursting blood vessels showing you his ACTING, and he was so much better in Lynn Ramsay’s thematically and theatrically similar You Were Never Really Here. None of that is going to stop him from taking home that mildly-terrifying face statuette on Sunday night, however, as “play The Joker” joins “mentally and/or physically disabled protagonist” and “soulless impression of a famous historical figure” on the Hollywood Cheat Sheet to Winning an Oscar. Can’t wait for this to be the subject of a re-written “full retard” monologue in the Tropic Thunder remake two decades from now. “You went full Leto. Never go full Leto!”
Other Notes: Adam Sandler’s going to inflict Jack & Jill 2 upon the world now, so thanks a lot for snubbing the performance of his life in Uncut Gems, guys. Cristian Ortega for Beats, Antonio Banderas for Pain and Glory, Eddie Murphy for Dolemite is My Name, Song Kang-ho for Parasite. All five of those listed names make for a 100x better line-up than the one we actually have and I picked those off the top of my head. That’s not even including Robert De Niro in The Irishman, Liam Neeson in Ordinary Love, Keanu Reeves in John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum (yes really), or Jason Schwartzmann in Klaus and Tom Hanks in Toy Story 4 because voice acting is just as worthy a performance medium as whole-body-visual acting. See more films, goddammit.
Nominees: Jesse Buckley as Rose-Lynn Harlan (Wild Rose), Scarlett Johannsson as Nicole Barber (Marriage Story), Saoirse Ronan as Jo March (Little Women), Charlize Theron as Megyn Kelly (Bombshell), Renée Zellweger as Judy Garland (Judy)
Who Should Win: Saoirse Ronan is the same age as me and is already one of the greatest living actresses on this planet. I, meanwhile, manage to get out of bed before 10:30am a grand total of one (1) times a week, at best. Some people get all the luck.
Who Will Win: From practically the second that Zellweger chose to come back to acting and be good at it in the otherwise terrible Bridget Jones threequel from 2016, the industry, both studio and critical, has been preparing for any excuse to cap off her triumphant comeback story with plaques and trophies ready-carved just for her. This has been set in stone even before Judy premiered to “eh, but Zellweger is phenomenal” notices back at Toronto in August and it will take an actual miracle for someone else to unseat her tomorrow night.
Other Notes: The decade is only one month old, but I have a good feeling that Lupita Nyong’o being shut out for her virtuoso dual performance in Us by the major awards bodies will go down as one of its greatest film-related crimes. Zellweger is very good but doesn’t crack my list, Theron is 90% uncanny make-up work (which is the only place Bombshell has any right to be nominated in), Johannsson doesn’t get much to do cos Baumbach dumps her from the movie at first opportunity, and Buckley is Zellweger operating in a slightly weaker film. So junk everybody except Ronan, add Nyong’o, whichever of Feldstein & Dever from Booksmart qualifies for Lead Actress, make this Florence Pugh’s nomination for her sensational scarring work on Midsommar, and fill that fifth slot with Awkwafina for The Farewell HOW IN THE FUCK DID YOU NOT NOMINATE AWKWAFINA YOU RACIST ASSHOLES?! Or you can pick none of those five and instead go for Elisabeth Moss in Her Smell, Ali Wong in Always Be My Maybe, Constance Wu in Hustlers, Ana de Armas in Knives Out, and Cynthia Erivo in Harriet. Either of these alternate line-ups may have also resulted in Erivo returning your calls to perform, too! Win-win!
Nominees: Bong Joon-ho (Parasite), Sam Mendes (1917), Todd Phillips (Joker), Martin Scorsese (The Irishman), Quentin Tarantino (Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood)
Who Should Win: I’m honestly not sure if there is any other director (besides Park Chan-wook) still working who is as adept as Bong Joon-ho at blending disparate genres and styles together into wholly unique concoctions which move with unified purpose and have a properly nail-biting level of tension powering them forward. Joon-ho has been killing it for two decades and I’m so glad he’s finally getting the recognition that he deserves. He’s not going to win, mind, but at least he’s being nominated.
Who Will Win: It is going to be weird as fuck when the Aldi-brand Christopher Nolan that is Sam Mendes wins his second Oscar and first BAFTA for Best Director before the non-imitation real thing gets one, but, yeah, this is Mendes and 1917’s to lose. The biggest road block I can think of is that, in 2015, Alejandro González Iñárritu also pulling the faux-one-take thing for Birdman ended up losing out, although that was admittedly due to Richard Linklater’s stubborn commitment to a terrible idea in Boyhood. Meanwhile, Nolan’s truly intense work with Dunkirk in 2018 was just no match for *checks notes* Martin McDonagh’s hot mess direction of Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri? …shit, maybe I am going to have to get used to saying “BAFTA Award winner Todd Phillips.” Even typing that sentence caused my entire being to dry-heave involuntarily. Mendes.
Other notes: I shall begrudgingly give Mendes props for the raw technical achievement of pulling 1917 off, but that still doesn’t change the fact that I spent the entire film wishing I was watching Dunkirk instead. As for the list… bin everybody except Joon-ho. Yes, really. Even Scorsese who, much as he did exceptionally with The Irishman and especially that final hour, ended up being out-Scorsese-d by Lorene Scafaria with Hustlers. Let’s add some oestrogen to this boy’s club with Scafaria, Gerwig for Little Women (inexplicably having been snubbed for this honour by BAFTA twice now), and either Lulu Wang for The Farewell or Olivia Wilde for Booksmart. As for slot #5: take your pick from Ari Aster for Midsommar, The Safdie Brothers for Uncut Gems, or Chad Stahelski for John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum – that knife shop scene alone should’ve put him in contention by any director’s guild worth their salt, frankly.
Nominees: 1917, Joker, Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood, Parasite, The Irishman
Who Should Win: I need a little more time to decide whether it would crack my own personal Best Picture nominee slate (coming on Thursday), but Parasite is very much the film out of this line-up which most deserves Best Picture. It’s the most formally daring out of the slate, sticking out like a sore thumb by being the only film not enslaved to the past in some capacity and instead fixated on the Now. It’s the most thematically enriching of the crop. It’s the most technically, emotionally, and narratively accomplished. It’s the most challenging, the most fun, the most exciting and, for those who are all about the lie of the meritocracy, the best out of this slate. Parasite should win, although I will admittedly only be disappointed with the winner if the entire BAFTA committee get collective lobotomies and give the trophy to fucking Joker. …please don’t give it to fucking Joker. Not even for the bantz. Especially not for the bantz.
Who Will Win: At the Oscars, it comes down to a three-way dogfight between 1917, Hollywood and Parasite with the deciding factor being whether Academy members can overcome that one-inch subtitle barrier, since the latter doesn’t have Roma’s problem of also being a Netflix movie. At the BAFTAs, though, this is sewn up for 1917. Homefield advantage, already a minted Awards Season frontrunner so it winning wouldn’t exactly be a huge upset, those who love the film really love the film, it’s currently a monster hit in this country, and it’s exactly the kind of non-threatening and backwards-looking movie which has defined the British film industry for much of the past decade. Parasite could upset, cos Roma did win over Green Book last year, but I will be gobsmacked if anything other than 1917 is taking home that trophy.
Other Notes: It’s strange that I can still find myself largely dissatisfied by this list even though I technically have a solid three-fifths of it to properly root for. In any case: Midsommar, The Farewell, Booksmart, Hustlers, and Little Women would be my five because, and I don’t know if you’re aware of this, stories about angsty men being angsty are boring the fuck out of me and women/women-centric stories absolutely killed it throughout 2019. But that honestly still feels too limiting, for me. If BAFTA are going to keep riding on the coattails of the Academy Awards, I wish they would steal the “more than five Best Picture nominees” aspect rather than the “depressingly White and male” bit.
Callie Petch is on Award Tour with Muhammad, their man.