Time for a bold suggestion: why don’t the BAFTAs make like the Oscars and just pit 10 good films against each other?
That way we wouldn’t end up with the apartheid of this year, when no British film is deemed worthy or strong enough to mix it with the Hollywood big boys.
That’s clearly a ridiculous situation, the ghettoisation of British film into its own category, when 45 Years is just as good as Spotlight, or when Brooklyn is just as immaculate as Bridge of Spies, when Inside Out is more original, funnier and brighter than all of them and Timbuktu more relevant and brilliant than any.
Maybe we can see Carol as a British film, backed as it is, a bit, by Film 4 and produced by Stephen Woolley and, mostly, Elizabeth Karlsen, with Sandy Powell’s outstanding costumes. In which case, why isn’t Carol in the Outstanding British film category too?
It does make the BAFTAs look a bit silly, fawning to Hollywood and the Oscar race, as if they remotely cared about us Brits. They don’t – just look at the blogs of Awards Daily and the like and you’ll see how little traction a BAFTA nod gets you in the overall scheme of Oscar.
So let’s forget about Oscar and just celebrate our own position, privy to the best of all the cinema in the world.
One rant over, another one begins. I don’t like to open with this, but it isn’t a great year. Bridge of Spies mightn’t even get in the Top Ten Steven Spielberg movies, so you can sense some letdown here, though I of course admired the craft and the cinematic moments and the Mark Rylance.
I saw The Big Short last night – it’s about betting against the housing market in the financial crash of 2008 – and is constantly fighting to make this epochal swindle look interesting to the layman viewer, who of course is exactly the person who got swindled in the first place. It’s full of fine actors (Ryan Gosling, Steve Carrell best he’s ever been, Brad Pitt, Christian Bale and more) trying to make phrases like “collateralised debt” and “ISDA” and “credit default swap” sound interesting – i kept thinking of Harrison Ford’s line to George Lucas: “You can type this shit but you sure as hell can’t say it.” They just about manage, but it’s still not a great film for the ages, merely a decent enough one for this year.
Spotlight has it plusses. Call me old-fashioned, but I like seeing working journalists and newspapers (mummy, what’s a newspaper?) and a scandal in the Catholic church uncovered, but it’s hardly got an original or interesting shot in the whole movie – lots of people sitting in rooms and around desks slowly realising stuff – and it’s hardly a revelation that priests and bankers aren’t all they seem.
And the Revenant, well that’s just a ridiculous, posturing bit of machismo cinema, a box set of Bear Grylls shows, even starring a bear. Leonardo Di Caprio will probably win Best Actor for growing a beard and crawling on his belly in the snow, but it’s an endurance test, not in a good way.
And so it leaves Carol, with its nine nominations. I’ve seen this one a lot and I’ve finally decided I love it. It’s perfect. Maybe too perfect, so it leaves a lot of people a bit cold. But I think that’s what it’s about – constraint, restraint, secrets, gestures, a feeling, a moment. It doesn’t quite have a one big climax that really gets you, that blows your head off or gets your tears flowing. Indeed I get the impression that it is actively avoiding such things. It’s very delicate, so the glare of awards season and swaying voters is not really this film’s forte. I hope it manages it, though.
You just knew BAFTA would give The Danish Girl a few nominations, even though (because?) it’s the most irritating fey piece of luvvieness ever. It’s got great costumes and lovely throws on velvet sofas but it is quite insufferable and self-obsessed, like its lead character.
But I’d have liked to have seen the superb Room in there more as easily one of the best pictures around this awards season – which category though? As the Irish keep reminding us, they’re not part of the British film industry, so…
At least a few black faces have been recognised by nominating Debbie Tucker Green’s intriguingly odd drama Second Coming in the Debut category, Idris Elba for Beasts of No Nation and John Boyega, who will surely win the Rising Star award.
But you’d hardly call it a banner year for minorities – Ok, Suffragette wasn’t awesome but it would have been politic and not outrageous to have given it a shout somewhere, rather than a total snub. I can’t see a single Asian nominee outside Ryuichi Sakamoto for The Revenant’s score, although Asif Kapadia might consider himself proudly here and there’s a Middle Eastern inclusion in Naji Abu Nowar’s Theeb. Maybe we’re getting somewhere, slowly, but I do think this is an area where Britain and BAFTA should be leading the way for the Academy to take note.
I can’t believe Charlotte Rampling isn’t nominated for 45 Years – if we can’t vote for her, what chance does she have at the Oscars? – and I’m surprised Emily Blunt didn’t get something for Sicario, though delighted Roger Deakins’ cinematography for it did.
So, what am I pleased about? Oh quite a bit, I promise you: Timbuktu, Force Majeure, Amy, Sandy Powell (though I hope her double nomination for Carol and Cinderella doesn’t split her votes), Benicio del Toro, Mark Rylance, Wild Tales, Brie Larson, Ex-Machina, Saorsie Ronan (my god she’s great in Brooklyn) and, on a personal note, Samuel-613 in the short category, a film I helped green-light as part of the UK Jewish Short Film Fund.
Awards are a funny, serious business. I get passionate about them and the films – you end up almost delivering a pitch for them, more impassioned for a brief second, perhaps, than even the directors had to be in getting the things financed. So when we argue about the films and nominations, we do get excited and thereby validate the whole awards scenario, even while saying things are a bit, you know, so-so.
The process is clearly an absurd one, with politics, timing playing such major roles, but it’s always wonderful to talk about movies, always a thrill to see what we can divine about the world we live in through its reflection and refraction in stories on the big screen.
To see a full list of 2015 BAFTA nominations click here.
Watch me and Zoe Ball, Xan Brooks and Rhianna Dhillon discussing the nominations here.