Did what happened at the BAFTAs predict this year’s Oscar winners? We’re just going to have to wait and see. BAFTA photo from bafta.org. Oscars photo from collider.com.
While each award should be celebrated and each ceremony should be given its time to shine, when it comes to films, awards season is all about the Academy Awards. With every other major award show serving as a way to get one step closer to the big finale, this past weekend’s British Academy Film Awards (BAFTAs) was no exception.
The BAFTAs were held on April 10 and 11 and honored the best British and international films of 2020 and early 2021 that were screened at British cinemas, including major contenders for Oscars. The big winner of the night was, one may say unsurprisingly, “Nomadland” which took home four awards: Best Film, Best Director (Chloé Zhao), Best Actress in a Leading Role (Frances McDormand) and Best Cinematography (Joshua James Richards).
Less than two weeks away from the Oscars, it’s safe to say that “Nomadland” will be winning some awards, and that if any of them are shoe-ins, it should be Best Picture and Best Director. The BAFTAs add to the previously won Golden Globes and Critics’ Choice awards in both categories, which are arguably the other two most important awards of the season.
Zhao could become just the second woman and first woman of color to take home the award for Best Director at the Oscars, and it would certainly cause controversy if she were to lose. The Academy already has a tumultuous history with nominating and awarding people of color (#OscarsSoWhite, anyone?) that going against the trend set so far by other voters would surely just reflect even more negatively against them. This isn’t to say that Zhao should win just because she is a Chinese woman; she should win because time and time again, she has proven to be the best director of the season, and to overlook that at the biggest ceremony of the year would be a disservice.
However, Frances McDormand’s BAFTA win marked her first on the year. No actress in the Best Actress in a Leading Role category over the major award ceremonies has pulled off a repeat win; Andra Day (“The United States vs. Billie Holiday”) won the Golden Globe, Carey Mulligan (“Promising Young Woman”) won the Critics’ Choice and Viola Davis (“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”) took home the Screen Actors Guild award, and now McDormand has added her name to the list of winners. All four of these women have been nominated for the Best Actress Oscar, which would make the fifth nominee, Vanessa Kirby (“Pieces of a Woman”), a bit of a dark horse in the race. However, there is also no frontrunner in this race. Each woman has brought their best game in their respective roles and have been making it hard for voters to choose a clear, consistent winner. This has left Best Actress as the lone unpredictable, and consequently the most exciting, category on April 25.
As for Best Actor in a Leading Role, the BAFTA went to Sir Anthony Hopkins for “The Father,” which, like McDormand, marked his first win of the year. Every other award has gone posthumously to Chadwick Boseman (“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”), who died last summer after a lengthy, secret battle with colon cancer. His wife has consistently given heartfelt, emotional speeches on his behalf and in his honor, and it will be truly shocking if she doesn’t have a final chance to do so at the Oscars. This isn’t to say Hopkins or any of his fellow nominees don’t have a chance or are undeserving, but with the previous awards and the circumstances around Boseman’s death, it only seems right that the Academy would want to honor him in the way they never got the chance to do so when he was alive: an Oscar win. Hopkins is a celebrated British actor and “The Father” is a French-British co-production, so the BAFTAs being based out of London could have helped his case, just as one would suspect the Oscars being based out of Hollywood will help Boseman’s.
Daniel Kaluuya has had a clean sweep with all of his awards to date for his performance as former Black Panther Party leader Frank Hampton in “Judas and the Black Messiah” in the Best Supporting Actor field. Nominated against his co-star Lakeith Stanfield and actors who put on critically acclaimed performances, nothing is guaranteed, but Kaluuya should be ending the night with another win under his belt.
While Jodie Foster was the first Supporting Actress winner of the season taking home the Golden Globe for her role in “The Mauritanian,” Korean actress Youn Yuh-jung (“Minari”) has since dominated, with SAG, Critics Choice and BAFTA wins. Like Zhao, she’s already made history in her previous wins and just by being nominated and will continue to do so if her streak continues. Foster was bypassed for the Oscar nomination, so her greatest competitors may come in Glenn Close (“Hillbilly Elegy”), who holds the record for the most acting nominations without a win, and Olivia Colman (“The Father”) who upset Close for the Best Actress Oscar in 2019 in a year where she was thought to be sure to win. That just goes to show that upsets can happen at any time, especially when they’re least expected.
Obviously, the Oscars involve more than just those six categories, and viewers should be sure to look out for the screenplay and documentary categories, while Pixar’s “Soul” should have Best Animated Feature Film in the bag already. No matter who wins or loses, in a year full of diverse, critically acclaimed films, the ceremony should serve as a celebration of the season first and foremost.
The Academy Awards will be broadcast on Sunday, April 25 on ABC at 8 p.m.