Breathing a sigh of relief once again Fox Searchlight’s 12 Years A Slave pulled out another squeaker at the BAFTA Awards just as it did at the Golden Globes, Critics Choice Awards and the Producers Guild (where it tied Gravity). Going into the BAFTAs with ten nominations and favored status, as it was directed by Brit Steve McQueen and starred Brit Chiwetel Ejiofor, it looked like a total shutout losing award after award and going 0 for 7 (including surprising losses for Adapted Screenplay, Supporting Actress and Supporting Actor) but finally getting on the board with Ejiofor’s Best Actor win and then pulling off Best Film shortly after in a ceremony that reflected the kinds of splits we have seen all season. At the Globes you may recall it went 0 for 6 before nabbing Best Drama Picture at the end of the evening. Somehow McQueen winds up on stage at the end of all these shows making an acceptance speech and that’s what counts.
Related: BAFTA Awards: ‘12 Years A Slave’ Wins Best Film But ‘Gravity’ Carries Most Weight With Six Total Nods; Chiwetel Ejiofor & Cate Blanchett Take Actor Wins; ‘American Hustle’ Scores 3 Including For Jennifer Lawrence
This is an unusual year to say the least and the BAFTA win for 12 Years A Slave where it helps the most gives it bragging rights as Oscar voting is getting underway this weekend. But these kinds of narrow victories might be a little tension-headache inducing for Searchlight as it now heads to the Oscars in the tightest race in years. Slave was expected to do much better here than it did overall. The results indicate voting was all over the map. BAFTA is important as there may be as many as 500 members that it shares in common with the motion picture Academy. The outcome really did nothing to add more clarity or certainty in a see-sawing Best Picture Oscar race with Gravity’s six BAFTA wins including Best Director for Alfonso Cuaron and Outstanding British Film keeping it in strong contention. Perhaps BAFTA voters thought they could offer up their own PGA-style split by giving these two films their own producing prize? Who knows? Here’s the good news for Slave . The BAFTA Best Film winner has gone on to win the Oscar for Best Picture for the past five years a row. However in the four previous years before that streak it failed to match Oscar’s top winner, so into which camp will Slave fall? Again, who knows? Makes things exciting though.
BAFTA did offer up a few surprises along the way as well in other categories. An absent Jennifer Lawrence won Best Supporting Actress for American Hustle repeating her Globe win at a time when Slave’s SAG and CCMA winner Lupita Nyong’o seemed to be gaining all the momentum, but Nyong’o was stopped here twice. She also lost the Rising Star Award to Will Poulter, the kid from We’re The Millers. Ouch! It seems to me the BAFTA win puts this race back into play. Potential Oscar spoiler 84 year old June Squibb of Nebraska wasn’t nominated here by the way. Hustle did well overall taking Original Screenplay and Make Up & Hair too to nicely rebound from its key Guild shutouts. It still has a long way to go to jump ahead of Slave and Gravity but the Academy’s preferential voting system could help it, and I am hearing some good buzz from voters. It should be noted that Spike Jonze’s Her which took Original Screenplay over Hustle at the Globes, CCMA and WGA was not in contention at BAFTA but will be at the Oscars. The same is true for Ejiofor’s Best Actor win and Captain Phillips’ Barkhad Abdi’s upset Supporting Actor BAFTA wins as Globe, CCMA and SAG winners Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto were not invited to this particular party. Dallas Buyers Club (which just finally opened in England) got no nominations despite being eligible. That’s likely due to the film’s invisible profile in the country. BAFTA was a great opportunity for McConaughey’s chief Best Actor rival Leonardo DiCaprio to grab a winning headline at this key moment but the Brits stayed with one of their own in Ejiofor who finally got on the board with a major award. DiCaprio’s Wolf Of Wall Street was not a Best Film nominee and was completely passed by in the four categories in which it did compete.
Another surprise was the victory of Philomena over John Ridley’s 12 Years A Slave as Best Adapted Screenplay. British favored sons Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope are previous BAFTA winners on the TV side so perhaps their emergence here with Philomena’s only win out of four nods could not be classified as the kind of big surprise it would be if they can repeat this feat at the Oscars against Slave or WGA winner Captain Phillips (which had the advantage of not having to compete with either as they weren’t eligible at WGA).
No surprise at all was the Best Actress win for Cate Blanchett who has this race locked. The Great Beauty in Foreign Film and Frozen for Animated Feature can chalk up another impressive win, after several in other contests. I also would imagine we will likely see Catherine Martin’s BAFTA wins for Production Design and Costume Design for The Great Gatsby repeated on March 2nd too. And though we won’t see Rush‘s surprise win for Best Film Editing at the Oscars (due to the Ron Howard movie’s completely unfair shutout in the nominations) it was very nice to see the Formula 1 racing drama get something major this season.
As the last major stop before the Oscars two weeks from today, BAFTA hasn’t solved anything except to keep the big question open: Who is going to come out on top? No one can really say with any certainty.
Awards Columnist Pete Hammond - tip him here.