BAFTA’s Actor Voters Are Missing Their Mark

Don’t you wish the BAFTA nominations would be just that little bit more original?

I get they want to be part of the awards-season race, but there is surely room to be more creative – even, indeed, to lead the way –  in further supporting British and World film alongside Hollywood Oscar contenders.

Having Outstanding Brit categories and one Foreign Film berth merely leaves the main body of the event open to Hollywood star name domination.

Image from the movie Moonlight


Of course, taking this year and the revelation of yesterday’s (Feb 10) nominations as example, films such as La La Land and Moonlight and even Manchester By The Sea may well be among the best works around at the moment, but they’re surely not the only great things to have happened over the last 12 months?

Where I feel strongly that there is huge room for improvement is in the representation in the acting categories. A certain laziness at the moment seems to preclude thinking outside the box in favour of cosying up to Hollywood far too much, perhaps in order to get the biggest stars on the BAFTA red carpet.

In particular, while the Supporting Actor categories have an appealing mix, I can’t help feeling the nominees in Lead Actor and Actress categories could have been far more thoughtfully chosen by BAFTA voters.

The five picks for Lead Actor is a deadly dull line-up.

Image from the movie Nocturnal Animals

Jake Gyllenhaal, Nocturnal Animals

Yes, it contains Casey Affleck and Ryan Gosling, both of whom carry their pictures admirably and are the two most likely to duke it out for the win, in London and in LA. But Jake Gyllenhaal (who’s always good), for Nocturnal Animals? Come on – he’s hardly the most interesting thing about that movie. And Viggo Mortensen for Captain Fantastic? No way is that exercise in vanity a performance worthy of awards recognition. Andrew Garfield I have general leading man issues with and always find him too weedy to carry a movie – I only really liked him in 99 Homes, when he was bullied by Michael Shannon.

An image from the movie A Tale of Tales

Toby Jones, A Tale of Tales

The point is, there are plenty of strong performances in other fascinating movies, British ones and foreign, that could have swollen the BAFTA scene and spread the love more: Mathieu Almaric in The Blue Room, Stephen Graham in Orthodox, Mark Rylance in The BFG, Vincent Cassel in Mon Roi, Logan Lerman in Indignation, Vincent Lindon in The Measure of a Man, David Oyelowo in A United Kingdom or Queen of Katwe, Ulrich Thomsen in The Commune, Toby Jones in A Tale of Tales, Tim Roth in Chronic, Don Cheadle in Miles Ahead, Alfredo Castro in The Club, Russell Tovey in The Pass

Any of these would have hinted at the wider reaches of the actors’ craft as well as focusing on the wider stretch of a thriving world cinema culture.

image from under the shadow

Narges Rashid, Under the Shadow

Similarly with the actresses, you wish the big names had been tested by lesser-known but deserving performers such as: Berenice Bejo in After Love, Emmanuelle Bercot in Mon Roi, Patricia Clarkson in Learning to Drive, Cecile de France in Summertime, Kate Dickie in Couple in a Hole, Trine Dyrholm in The Commune, Catherine Frot in Marguerite, Sandra Huller in Toni Erdmann, Isabelle Huppert in Things To Come, Joanna Lumley in Ab Fab: The Movie, Narges Rashid in Under the Shadow, Emma Suarez or Adriana Ugarte in Julieta, Tika Sumpter in Southside With You, or Jodie Whittaker in Adult Life Skills.

I’m not saying all of these deserve noms (and I’m sure I’ve overlooked some fine work from, say, Asia, too), but put just a couple of these actors in the mix and you’ve got an instantly more appealing batch that widens the pool and ushers in some originality that would show BAFTA’s unique position as a hub of world film, not just a Hollywood stepping stone.

If the UK has the best actors, as we often like to think, then it is the actor members of BAFTA who need to step up and start considering the wider demands and duties of what their colleagues do in the name of their art.

Featured image (left to right): David Oyelowo in A United Kingdom, Adriana Ugarte in Juileta, Stephen Graham in Orthodox and Cecile de France in Summertime.

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