By Martin Grove, ZAMM.com
British best: The British Academy handed out its BAFTA awards Sunday and they are likely to impact our own very tight Oscar race.
The three Best Picture frontrunners in the Oscar race also dominated the 67th annual BAFTA's--Gravity with 11 nominations and six wins (including director), American Hustle with 10 noms and three wins (including supporting actress) and 12 Years a Slave with 10 nods and only two wins--(but big ones for best picture and actor).
Although Gravity lost to Slave in BAFTA's best picture race, the sci-fi thriller's strong showing at the Royal Opera House in London's Covent Garden is likely to boost its Oscar prospects.
Conversely, even though Slave took home the evening's biggest prize, it didn't make the kind of solid impact that would have given it instant home-stretch Oscar momentum. That leaves the Oscar derby right where it was with anything still possible.
There's a crossover membership between the two movie academies of roughly 20 percent of the approximately 6,500 BAFTA voting members. About 5,000 BAFTA members are in the U.K. and about 1,500 live in the U.S. Many of the crossover members are thought to be actors and it's actors who make up our Academy's biggest voting branch. That could give an Oscar boost to BAFTA's acting winners--Chiwetel Ejiofor (Slave), Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine), Barkhad Abdi (Captain Phillips) and Jennifer Lawrence (Hustle).
Besides the likelihood that those British Academy members who also vote for the Oscars will make the same choices they did for the BAFTA's, there's also a potential influence on Academy voters who watched the BAFTA's on BBC America--presided over for the ninth time by the very popular writer-comedian Stephen Fry--and saw the winners deliver their acceptance speeches. Winners who look like winners enhance their chances of winning Oscars.
There is, however, no certainty that BAFTA wins means Oscar success and analyses of how these awards have correlated over the past few decades don't really show BAFTA as the greatest bellwether for Oscar.
Nonetheless, that was exactly what did happen last year when BAFTA and Oscar voters agreed in 14 key categories: (1) Best Picture (Argo), (2) Foreign Language Film (Amour), (3) Documentary (Searching for Sugar Man), (4) Animated Film (Brave), (5) Original Screenplay (Django Unchained), (6) Best Actor (Daniel Day-Lewis for Lincoln).
Also, (7) Supporting Actor (Christoph Waltz for Django Unchained), (8) Supporting Actress (Anne Hathaway for Les Miserables), (9) Cinematography (Life of Pi), (10) Editing (Argo), (11) Costume Design (Anna Karenina), (12) Make Up & Hair (Les Mis), (13) Sound (Les Mis) and (14) Special Visual Effects (Life of Pi).
There were no match-ups last year for: (1) Best Actress--BAFTA voted for 85 year old Emmanuelle Riva for Amour while Oscar voters chose 23 year old Jennifer Lawrence for Silver Linings Playbook; (2) Director--BAFTA applauded Ben Affleck for Argo while Academy members, who didn't even nominate actor-turned-director Affleck, voted for Ang Lee for Life of Pi; (3) Adapted Screenplay--BAFTA went for Playbook while Oscar chose Argo; (4) Production Design--BAFTA picked Les Mis while Oscar went for Lincoln; and (5) Original Music--BAFTA celebrated Skyfall while Oscar preferred Pi.
Will history repeat itself? Here's a look at BAFTA's picks for best picture, director, lead actor and actress and supporting actor and actress and some thoughts about what could happen in the Oscar race.
BAFTA nominates five films for best picture unlike Oscar, whose preferential voting system can generate up to 10 noms. All five BAFTA nominees are among the nine titles competing in Oscar's Best Picture race: 12 Years a Slave, American Hustle, Captain Phillips, Gravity and Philomena.
Slave's victory came after a disappointing night that saw it win only one other BAFTA--best actor for Chiwetel Ejiofor. BAFTA voters said no to Slave for director, adapted screenplay, supporting actor, supporting actress, original music, cinematography, editing and production design.
Heading down the Oscar homestretch, Slave has the advantage of its BAFTA win, but can't point to broad support from BAFTA voters.
Four of BAFTA's five directing nominees are also Oscar nominated: Steve McQueen (Slave), David O. Russell (Hustle), Alfonso Curaron (Gravity) and Martin Scorsese (The Wolf of Wall Street). BAFTA's fifth nod went to Paul Greengrass (Phillips) while Oscar voters nominated Alexander Payne (Nebraska).
Curaron's BAFTA win coming on the heels of his victory with the Directors Guild of America (DGA) positions him strongly to win the best directing Oscar.
BEST LEAD ACTOR
Here, too, four of BAFTA's five nominees for lead actor are also up for Oscar consideration: Bruce Dern (Nebraska), Chiwetel Ejiofor (Slave), Christian Bale (Hustle) and Leonardo DiCaprio (Wolf). The fifth BAFTA nom went to Tom Hanks (Phillips) while Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club) received Oscar's fifth nod.
Ejiofor's victory positions him as the strongest competitor to McConaughey, who won the all-important Screen Actors Guild (SAG) award but wasn't a BAFTA nominee.
BEST LEAD ACTRESS
The same BAFTA-Oscar pattern is found in the lead actress race, as well, with four nominees competing in both contests: Amy Adams (Hustle), Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine), Judy Dench (Philomena) and Sandra Bullock (Gravity). BAFTA's fifth nominee was Emma Thompson (Saving Mr. Banks) while Oscar voters nominated Meryl Streep (August: Osage County).
Blanchett's BAFTA win was expected and should maintain her frontrunner status in the Oscar race. It also should help eliminate any concerns that Blanchett could suffer from recent unproven and long denied accusations involving Jasmine writer-director Woody Allen.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
There's less crossover in the supporting actor category with only three nominees up for both BAFTA and Oscar consideration: Barkhad Abdi (Phillips), Bradley Cooper (Hustle) and Michael Fassbender (Slave). BAFTA's other two nods went to: Daniel Bruhl (Rush) and Matt Damon (Behind the Candelabra, a theatrical release in the U.K. but an HBO Original pay TV presentation in the U.S.). Meanwhile, Oscar's fourth and fifth noms went to: Jonah Hill (Wolf) and Jared Leto (Dallas).
Abdi's success in London sets him up as stronger competition for Leto, who has the big advantage of having won in SAG's supporting actor race.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
The supporting actress race includes four crossovers between BAFTA and Oscar: Jennifer Lawrence (Hustle), Julia Roberts (Osage), Lupita Nyong'o (Slave) and Sally Hawkins (Jasmine). The fifth BAFTA nom went to Oprah Winfrey (Lee Daniels' The Butler) while Oscar's fifth nod was for June Squibb (Nebraska).
Lawrence's triumph at the BAFTA's revived her Oscar prospects just as the race is heating up. Nyong'o, her strongest competitor, would have benefited in a big way had she won the BAFTA.
Bottom line: There are no guarantees that BAFTA success means Oscar gold, but it's still better to win.