Awards Season Is Under Way

We’re probably going to become a bit awards obsessed on the site over the next few months, which is no bad thing if you like that sort of thing, which I do.

For the season to be glamorous kicked off today with the announcement of the BIFA nominations, that’s the British Independent Film Awards, a body which has worked hard over the last few years to exert an influence.

I must say that in most years, by the end of Venice, Toronto, the New York and London Film Festivals, most people have got a pretty good idea of what films and stars will be the major players in the red carpet road up to the Oscars on Feb 28. But not right now.

So BIFAs early calendar slot can give fledgling contenders a shot in the arm. The Lobster, which began hauling awards back at Cannes, got 7 noms today to lead the pack. It’s not a film I like very much and I’d be surprised if it won big or even nonmed big anywhere else much, but its arch relationship satire found favour with the hipster-ish indie bods here – I must, however, declare an interest as a big fan of Lee Magiday, who was nominated as Producer of the Year, the only category in which I think the film has a chance of actually winning.

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45 Years

More significant in terms of seasonal traction will be the six nominations for Andrew Haigh’s 45 Years which will surely feature as a BAFTA and Critics’ favourite with possible Oscar berths for Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay.

Macbeth also got 6 noms, which I think is a bit much. Only Sean Harris’s brilliant MacDuff deserves a win. I was happier with the 5 nods for Asif Kapadia’s fine mosaic doc Amy and the lovingly crafted Brooklyn, for which Saoirse Ronan must be a favourite in this particular realm. Nick Hornby’s screenplay is pretty useful, too.

It was good to see a film such as Alex Garland’s Ex Machina get 5 nods too, such recognition reminding us of one of the niftier, more playfully experimental and thoughtful British films of the year. Turning those into wins will be tough – effects and production design, maybe its best shot.

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Suffragette

Suffragette probably had the toughest time of the lot and will need some careful campaigning and repositioning if it’s to carry on the fight. It got 4 nominations, all in acting categories (Carey Mulligan – who won something in Hollywood the other night at some awards ceremony no-one had really heard of before – Helena Bonham Carter, Anne-Marie Duff and Brendan Gleeson – who’s nominated alongside his son Domnhall in the Supporting Actor category, which I’ll assume is a first at the BIFAs at least? Henry and Jane Fonda did it at the Oscars for On Golden Pond and Diane Ladd and Laura Dern in Rambling Rose, for the same film, but not in the same category).

Anyway – awards season is great for such statistical quirks and we like it thus – back to Suffragette. Carey is likely its best bet, although I thought she was better in Far From The Madding Crowd earlier in the year and I did like Helena very much, but more crucially, the film can reasonably claim to have been snubbed, yes, snubbed in the craft and directing categories – nothing for Abi Morgan’s screenplay or Sarah Gavron’s direction? If these nominations contained any shocks, I think it was here. Shocks and disappointments, politically at least –  so much for women breaking through in the indie sphere…

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High-Rise

Mind you, Ben Wheatley’s High-Rise got 4 noms too – a film so messily awful and smug I couldn’t bring myself to review it out of the LFF because it’s just not helpful. But there, I’ve said it now, because some people clearly think it deserved recognition, so dampening hype could ultimately do it a favour. There are good touches in it, but ambition totally got the better of its director.

Perhaps the most significant category of all is the strangest: Best International Independent Film. BIFA doesn’t have a separate foreign language category, so this is where Carol, the beautiful Todd Haynes film, and Room, the terrific drama from Irish director Lenny Abrahamson, found favour. (Carol is obviously not deemed British, despite Stephen Woolley and Liz Karlsen producing with Film4 backing – and surely Sandy Powell’s costumes should have got recognised in the Craft category?).

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Girlhood

I suspect we’ll see a lot more of these two in the awards season. I was delighted to see Celine Sciamma’s Girlhood get a mention here, because I love it, but the real one to take note of in there is Son of Saul, the astounding concentration camp drama out of Hungary, still the best, most original  and probably most important (if important is a factor for awards which it often isn’t) work I’ve seen all year.

So, to spot anything that can burst out of the pack from this early domestic jockeying, I think we’re looking at Amy, Carol, Room and 45 Years. I’d have thought the twinkly Lady in the Van would be in there somewhere, but it’s more of a BAFTA and Oscar vehicle I reckon and still has plenty of time to crank into first gear.

For the full list of BIFA nominations, see here.

The Moet BIFAs are on December 6.