Kill (long-)List: why the BAFTA 2012 film nominations have no Shame

January 6, 2012 by Simon Kinnear in Opinion with 6 Comments

I’m baffled by BAFTA.

Another year, another long-list of BAFTA film nominees which yet again shows up our national cinema sucking up to Hollywood celebrity in a pathetic attempt at reflected glory.

In case you were wondering, the B is for British, and yet AFTA continues to forget that, chasing after the Oscars’ sloppy seconds. Even rebranding itself by holding the awards before the Oscars can’t escape the fact that, in terms of importance, the AFTAs always come after.

Check out the BAFTA 2012 nominees, and take a gander at the barking-mad divide between Best Film and Outstanding British Film, which patronises homegrown talent with a pat on the back and an “oh, didn’t you do well?” Meanwhile, while everybody’s obsessed with trying to second-guess what the Americans will go for (Moneyball? The Descendants? Midnight In Paris?), the BAFTA voters are forced to ghettoise probably the greatest year for British cinema in recent memory.

For my money, many of the British films not nominated for Best Film – especially Shame and Tyrannosaur – could give the Americans a run for their money, and yet I’d wager that the final nominees will be only a Kevin or a Tinker Tailor away from Xeroxing the AMPAS’ selection.

And yet British films live in an awkward no man’s land where cosy, Weinstein-esque biopics like The Iron Lady or My Week With Marilyn are nominated in both categories, while the coruscating, innovative Kill List gets nothing.

No other country has this problem. The French, the Spanish, even the Aussies, all have proud national cinema awards and consign Hollywood movies – rightly – to fight over a single award. Hell, BAFTA’s telly awards manages to do the same; imagine the outcry if it suddenly started awarding everything to Dexter instead of Downton?

So why does the film wing of BAFTA behave like Hollywood’s bitch? There’s an argument that the American studios use all of our actors and craftsmen so, indirectly, we’re supporting our own. That’s true – but there’s a cultural side to things as well. The BAFTAs should have a remit to big up the best homegrown films that audiences might not otherwise find.  Let’s put it this way: no other British awards body, whatever the discipline, would ever nominate something about baseball as being amongst the best in its field.

As an aside, the BAFTAs can’t even get their American choices right. The Tree Of Life has received one measly nomination (admittedly for cinematography, its strongest suit). This is the same The Tree Of Life that won the Palme D’Or and cleaned up on most critics’ end-of-year lists. Oh, and if you think it’s not celebrity enough for BAFTA, its star is Brad Pitt.

As journo Mark Salisbury tweeted this morning, “that’s what happens when you don’t send out screeners.” Which says it all – it’s all one unseemly cattle-market, in which only the noisiest, pushiest bulls get heard.

I say: enough bull. Isn’t it time for BAFTA to become a British Bulldog instead?

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  1. RoJan 10, 2012 at 2:24 pmReply

    Simon, you make a series of excellent points. The BAFTAs seem to be looking for an American tv audience ahead of any industry credibility.
    I'm an Aussie living in the UK and saw 2011 as an incredible year for British film too yet most of the artistic success has been glossed over with American darlings of cinema and oscar-baiting tripe.
    I'm also very proud that our own AACTAs shine a spotlight on our own industry. We already know that hollywood films dominate at the box office so we don't need to have their supposed brilliance rubbed in our faces come award season.

    3 things i noticed from the list upon first inspection:
    I disagree with John Hurt as supporting actor in Tinker Tailor ahead of Tom Hardy's excellent performance;
    Ezra Miller was very good as teenage Kevin, but the two other kids who played him at younger ages were just as important to the role;
    no Michael Shannon in best actor noms.

    One positive – Senna's nomination in best film category. I loved this pic and was disappointed that it wouldn't be nominated in best doco due to it being made of old footage rather than made-to-order.

  2. AnonymousJan 11, 2012 at 1:11 pmReply

    apparently, Kill List (and Weekend, so no idea what other amazing indie films weren't included) were NOT distributed to BAFTA members to watch prior to vote.

    not sure if that's a decision by distributors or BAFTA themselves but it is a shame that they weren't given the opportunity to be selected

  3. Simon KinnearJan 17, 2012 at 10:14 amReply

    Hmmm… The shortlist has been announced, and with depressing inevitability British films are shut out of Best Film (with the token exception of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, which will probably get the "consolation prize" of Outstanding British Film anyway).

    The acting awards are a joke. In a truly British ceremony, Olivia Colman would be a shoo-in for her performance in Tyrannosaur, but no, as soon as the big names show up she has to vacate her seat.

    And the technical awards, too, are dominated by the same big-budget Hollywood studio picks (Hugo, War Horse, etc) that are going to be nominated by the Oscars, too.

    Wasted opportunity. Gah.

  4. David BrantJan 17, 2012 at 12:01 pmReply

    Sorry to note the obvious but are we really saying that bafta members actually need pizza style home deliveries of films to their doors in order to vote for a film…. This is our national society for film and your honestly telling me they couldn't get of their arse to go to a cinema or rent the DVD of "tree of life" which has been on general available release for over 6 months…. Disgusting!

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