BAFTA Nominations 2012 – A Whinge

No wonder she’s depressed: According to BAFTA, We Need to Talk About Kevin isn’t a patch on The Help

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times – 2011/12 was a shit hot year for British film. Think We Need to Talk About Kevin, Kill List, Archipelago, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Tyrannosaur, Shame, Jane Eyre, Senna, Weekend, Submarine, Attack the Block, and the list goes on.

Many of us had hoped to see this dynamism and diversity reflected in the British Academy of Film and Television Arts award nominations. So, when the shortlist was announced today, did this happen? Did. It. Bollocks.

With British films obviously eligible for inclusion in the Best Film category, as well as being considered for the Outstanding British Film gong, it’s a surprise and a disappointment to see only (the excellent) Tinker Tailor competing for the main prize, alongside The Artist, The Descendants, Drive and The Help.

This is particularly galling considering that it has – I think inarguably – been a disappointing year for US cinema, the ignored independents aside (Martha Marcy May Marlene, Meek’s Cutoff, The Tree of Life). When weak fare such as Hugo, War Horse and, god help us, The Help (five noms – really?) are in contention for awards it says it all.

In an ideal world we’d see grand British films like We Need to Talk About Kevin and Shame competing in the Best Film category and then perhaps lower-budget gems such as Weekend, Archipelago and Kill List (all ignored) fill out the Outstanding British Film category. Surely by anyone’s standards My Week with Marilyn – Michelle Williams aside – is a lacklustre choice for the latter.

Should Kill List have been ignored?

Actually, if I’m perfectly honest in my ideal world we would see world cinema in contention throughout – making the ceremony a true reflection of the best films of the year (see my Top 20 for how I personally saw the last cinematic year) but – I know, I know – that’s never going to happen.

So where do we go from here? Firstly, it would be nice to expand the category to allow for ten nominations in the style of the Oscars to (hopefully) showcase a more diverse range of films. Like the Oscars, it might simply encourage voters to usher in more mediocrity but it’s worth a shot. We’re less subtitle-averse than our American cousins – so there might even be the occasional global surprise (about 33% of the films that are released in this country are in a foreign language).

Is Weekend really less awesome than My Week with Marilyn?

I would like to see less pandering to the Americans. US cinema can of course be great but, with major productions slave to marketability, often it’s a little safe. American BAFTA members make up just under a quarter of BAFTA voters but the significant appearance of so-so US films is probably more a reflection of the ‘special relationship’ the British have with American cinema.

The positioning of the nominations means that they also tend to be a reflection of what’s been a hit at American award ceremonies (albeit with a British twist), many of which have their nominations or awards announced first.

Should Submarine have been confined to Outstanding Debut and where are the acting nods for Tyrannosaur?

I could go on quibbling for aeons but, whiny little moans aside, it’s not the worst list we’ve seen. The prominence of The Artist means – regardless of its Hollywood subject matter and convenient lack of language barrier – we are seeing a French film competing in major categories and it is well-deserved recognition. Furthermore, those up for Best Director comprise a Scot, an American, a Dane, a Frenchman and a Swede so there’s an international feel in parts.

Also, three of the five Best Film nominations are admittedly thoroughly distinctive works: The Artist, Tinker Tailor and, the flawed but enjoyably outlandish, Drive (The Descendants is perfectly good but, for me not quite up to the standard of Payne’s previous films).

And anyway, it’s an awards show – it’s supposed to be contentious, right?

Watch the nominations being announced:

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About emmasimmonds

Emma is a film and TV critic whose work has appeared in Time Out, Little White Lies, The Spectator and Popmatters, amongst many others. She is also a contributor to the London and New York volumes of the World Film Locations book series.
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