Posted Feb 11 2017
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BAFTA Watch - LastWord Calls The BAFTAs 2017

And we’re back! Yes, it’s that time again – the voting for this year’s BAFTA Film Awards ceases to be as of 6pm tonight, Wednesday Feb 8. Some of us here at Last Word Towers are card carrying members (as some of you may recall from previous years) so not only have we voted, we’ve been keeping an eye and an ear out around numerous screenings over the last several months, and of course whilst propping up the bar at BAFTA HQ in the heart of London’s glittering West End, to see what the lowdown is on what to expect come this Sunday’s ceremonial ripping open of the envelopes. (And, of course, Stephen Fry.)

What follows is (as ever) not necessarily a reflection on how we voted – we tend to go with the heart more than the head – but what we believe is most likely to occur. Check back here on Sunday and see if we got it right.

BEST PICTURE – Now way back when we caught it for the first time last October, we confidently predicted that La La Land was already the winner of the Best Picture, Oscar-wise, not so much because it was actually the best picture, but because (and this is crucial) it was the best picture for right here, right now. It’s mix of optimism, tinged with a Technicolor dose of bittersweet reality seemed to reflect the times around us as much as it seemed an antidote from them.

However, we weren’t convinced the Brits would feel the same. BAFTA voters have never been good at going for what some saw as a “slight” picture. Maybe La La was simply too easy, not significant enough.

But as the months have passed the film has weaved its magic and wormed its ways squarely into the zeitgeist, bringing the hordes at 195 Piccadilly under its spell and ensuring, though it may be thousands of miles across the sea from down town La La Land itself, BAFTA has taken Damien Chazelle’s movie to its heart and La La is as much of a foregone conclusion here as it has been everywhere else.

When screenings were announced shortly after the nominations, despite all voting members having had their DVD screener of the film since well before Christmas, and numerous opportunities to see the film along the way, the BAFTA Sunday evening screening of La La sold out in seconds. And we strongly suspect that many of those weren’t seeing the film for the first time. (At least one of us knows – he tried to go again and couldn’t get in.)

Reaction around BAFTA to both Moonlight and Manchester By The Sea has generally been quiet (especially to Manchester) so we don’t see either of these staging a last minute surge. The only real challenger is the much admired and respected I, Daniel Blake – but that’s why they have the next award.

OUTSTANDING BRITISH FILM – In many ways the fact that this separate category exists is to be able to spread the love around. Hollywood A-listers would soon stop showing up – and BAFTA are smart enough to know this – if the big awards every year went to low budget “worthy” Brit films. This category allows the Academy to redress that balance and this year Ken Loach’s latest is a clear winner. Notes on Blindness and Under The Shadow have shots elsewhere – as does Fantastic Beasts in the tech awards. But Loach’s film was a major event in the UK, becoming the 80 year old director’s highest grossing film ever and sparking debates in the House of Commons and beyond. Plus, it’s very simply a terrific and incredibly powerful, moving drama, leavened with just enough humour and humanity to avoid the polemical. It’s an easy win here, although love and affection for Loach himself could play a part in our next award.

BEST DIRECTOR – Although both Arrival and Nocturnal Animals were liked, the fight here is between the US and the UK, and there’s two ways it can go. The first way is the more likely – the La La love is all around and Damien Chazelle justly receives his latest prize.

That said, there is an awful lot of love in the room for Ken Loach. The man is not getting any younger, and not only did he come out of retirement to make what proved to be his most successful film, it was also his best since Kes, all the way back when. Plus, his movie moved out of the art house and into the arena of public debate. So some may well be viewing this as a career award or even possibly a swansong – how long can the great man keep going? It all really depends on just how much the voters have been swept up by La La Land.

Ultimately, we think the answer to that is “a lot,” the Outstanding British nod pays enough tribute to Ken, and Chazelle gets to practice his Oscar warm up speech.

LEADING ACTOR -  OK, so they didn’t nominate Denzel (so white of them) so that’s one issue we don’t have to have acknowledge here. With the La La juggernaut moving forever forward,  Ryan Gosling has a shot, but just about everyone we’ve talked to pretty much agrees that it’s Emma movie – he does a fine, selfless job supporting her, but he isn’t the best thing in La La Land. There’s only one hometown boy in the running so Andrew Garfield is in with a definite shot. But Hacksaw failed to land in Best Picture or Director, so that doesn’t help him. And (up until the SAGs at least) Casey was looking like the clear choice. Manchester hasn’t had the impact or love over here that is has garnered in the States. We here at Last Word personally were anything but blown away – both by the film and Affleck’s performance. We went back for a second viewing just to see if we were way off base, and whilst the film was more rewarding on a second viewing, it was still more “meh” than “mega.” That said, putting all personal feeling aside, we can see Casey taking this one home.

LEADING ACTRESS – Emma Stone, Emma Stone. Emma Stone. Don’t bother showing up ladies…if your name’s not Emma Stone.

SUPPORTING ACTOR – Now it gets tough. Yes, there was a bit of a #BAFTAsowhite backlash following the nominations, so that has to play a factor into the possibility of Merhershala Ali winning here – rightly or wrongly, it’s still a great performance. Plus, it’s likely to be the only gong going to Moonlight.

And we’re pretty sure that despite being better than he usually is, Aaron Taylor Johnson is the outsider in this one. Which, with Jeff Bridges barely making the conversation, brings it down to the two Brit boys. Hugh Grant is long overdue and Florence Foster Jenkins is just about the best he’s ever been. Plus, he would undoubtedly deliver a memorable and witty acceptance speech.

But everyone – just everyone – loves Dev Patel. And Lion has proved to be a very popular and respected film amongst voters and we see them choosing to honour Dev with this particular golden face. (Which of course also manages to address the whole hashtag issue.)

SUPPORTING ACTRESS - Up until a few weeks ago, this was a done deal and that deal was newcomer Hayley Squires. Anyone who saw her food bank scene in I, Daniel Blake had already handed her the statuette.

But then Viola Davis swept into town one Sunday afternoon and delivered a rousing “Life In Pictures” on stage talk to a hugely responsive audience at BAFTA HQ and rapidly changed her place in the running. Fences has been quietly received (witness its lack of nominations), but Davis’ talk was funny, honest, pulled no punches and won everyone over in what was a jam-packed room.

So it’s a tough call, but – we’re going with Squires, with a caveat that if Davis nips in and nabs it, it’ll be for her showing up at BAFTA as much as for her movie.

(You can listen to her A Life In Pictures at this link - http://guru.bafta.org/viola-davis-a-life-in-pictures)

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY – This is where we see La La Land confirming its dominance. I, Daniel Blake could’ve been a contender but there’s a general feeling that Loach’s films are far too collaborative in their realisation than to lay it all at the feet of one person. So sorry Paul Laverty, it’s not you. If Manchester was more liked, we could see Lonergan in with a shot here, but Affleck will snag the film’s only face. And whilst Chazelle’s screenplay may not be the edgiest piece of writing this year, it perfectly fits the movie he made, with winning characters and moments that last. Plus, by now, BAFTA wants everyone to know that they have indeed gone ga ga for La La – so add to this EDITING and, naturally enough, ORIGINAL MUSIC.

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY – This is where Arrival’s strong showing of nine noms comes into it own with Eric Heisserer taking this. And we’re pretty confident that Arrival picks up CINEMATOGRPAHY and SOUND as well – if only to give La La Land a break in proceedings.

We also see La La Land missing out in COSTUME DEISGN with the veteran Coleen Atwood adding yet another face to her mantle with Fantastic Beasts.

And we’re also hoping (though less sure) that FBAWTFT (as we all called it!) picks up PRODUCTION DESIGN simply because not only is Stuart Craig’s work always inventively breath taking, but he’s such a nice man and he hardly seems to win anything. Which isn’t fair!

And just to prove what a fair bunch BAFTA is, having already awarded one science fiction film, they will opt to acknowledge Rogue One for HAIR AND MAKE UP and SPECIAL VISUAL EFFECTS, if only for bringing Peter Cushing back to life (that’s the latter category – not Hair & Make Up.)

ANIMATED FILM – One thing we can guarantee – it won’t be Zootopia walking away with the award. That’s because it’s known as Zootropolis in the UK and it’s more than likely going to win. Kubo has a lot of fans, but Zootropolis caught on early with its mix of smarts and satire, and its underlying themes of diversity and tolerance continue to strike a chord. Plus, factor in all those members with children who have had this on heavy rotation sine November when it arrived as one of the season’s first screeners.

FILM NOT IN THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE meanwhile is a battle between the funny, and the distinctly not funny. Curiously Son Of Saul was amongst the screeners sent out last year but, due to a delay in the film’s release, has only qualified this year – where screeners were sent once more. Its power is undeniable but maybe it’s been around just a touch too long to still be on people’s minds? And maybe the much more up to the minute – and much lighter – Toni Erdmann will steal its thunder? That said, from those we’ve been chatting to, there’s an in-built resistance to sitting down and slipping a three hour German comedy into the old machine, so this could go either way.

Personally, we’re thinking Son of Saul is too strong to ignore (although we’d be happy to see Julieta walk away with it, unlikely as that is.)

Which brings us to the Notes On Blindness problem. The problem being – is it just going to win DOCUMENATRY or will it do the double and also pick up OUSTANDING DEBUT BY A BRITISH WRITER, DIRECTOR OR PRODUCER?

We’re pretty sure it’s got the former in the bag; in the latter, we’d be pleased to see The Girl With All The Gifts take it, but there was no campaign or screeners, so we’re thinking Notes On Blindness does indeed do the double.

Which, finally, leads us to the final award – the EE RISING STAR AWARD. Very simply this one, voted for by the general public, goes to the person with either the biggest fan base or who has been in the biggest movie. There’s a slight possibility that Ruth Negga will have some support from the Marvel fan boys and girls for Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. – but, let’s be honest, they won’t have seen Loving. Meanwhile all of them and many, many more saw Civil War, so congrats in advance to Tom Holland.

Oh, and as of today’s announcement, we’re pretty sure Mel Brooks is getting this year’s Fellowship. Now that will be a clip reel!

 

So, there you have it. We’ve called it – and we’re pretty darn sure we’re right!

Now all that remains is to tune in on Sunday night and see if the rest of our fellow BAFTA voters also got it right this time. (There is of course the very real chance that La La Land wins all 11 of its noms – at which point, feel free to ignore the above.)

Either way, come back on Sunday (we’re once again kind of live-blogging the whole thing) and see how we did.

 

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