The BAFTA long lists have been announced. "The WHAT now what list?" I hear awards newbies screaming. Basically the British Oscars have a "semi-finals" round which narrows things down in all categories. Unfortunately it's still (mostly) the same films again. The following films might be nominated for the British Oscar for Best Picture:
- The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, Burn After Reading, Changeling, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Dark Knight, Doubt, Frost/Nixon, In Bruges, I’ve Loved You So Long, Milk, The Reader, Revolutionary Road, Slumdog Millionaire, Wall-E and The Wrestler
The big thorn in my side this awards season --there's always a thorn -- has been the shabby treatment that Rachel Getting Married keeps getting. As much as I love Anne Hathaway's performance I think the film is even better than she is. Somehow other Best Actress vehicles that aren't as strong, as whole movies go, keep getting "Picture" attention. There's room for the messy/uneven/repetitive Changeling (my review), the well acted but ungreat film version of Doubt (some thoughts), the dour weirdly gimmicky performance piece I've Loved You So Long, and Kate Winslet's double.
Some of this is simply a matter of taste.
Every time I scratch my head trying to figure out what the problem is I remember this simple fact: Rachel is not Oscar Bait™. It's not a costume drama, war film, triumph of the underdog tale, biopic or message movie. Five strikes you're out. Kym, your protagonist, doesn't spend a lot of time weeping though she's got plenty to cry about. The movie is way thornier emotionally (no easy answers, no clear direction as to whose side you should be on at any given moment) than the other films in play. Doubt, which is doing a lot better awards wise, pays lip service to being complicated but it's not very frayed at the nerves or challenging in the brain. It wants you to keep guessing but it doesn't actually expect you to process several competing emotions/ideas at once except, blessed be, in its very best scene. You know which one ~ Viola Davis you rule! The plain awards truth is that most awards voters on either side of the Atlantic prefer easy to digest dramas... like, I dunno, Frost/Nixon. It makes this film bitch crazy. I just don't think "Best" should automatically equate with easy.
I think this is why Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind also had trouble getting awards traction in its year. Now, Rachel Getting Married isn't as great as that picture (what is?) but they share quite a few things: extremely difficult moody heroines, a completely contemporary look and worldview (that's a no-no for awardage), the ability to elicit complicated tears and uncomfortable laughs, and their main characters aren't easy to love even in the moments when you most feel like loving them. In other words, not easy.
Rachel Getting Married is heading for the exact same two nominations as Eternal Sunshine (Actress & Original Screenplay) and nothing more. What a shame. But it's good company to be in, I suppose.
In happier news, the BAFTA long lists for performances contain only one instance of category fraud (Philip Seymour Hoffman in Doubt) and that's only marginally a fraudulent categorization so this is really rather miraculous for a modern day awards show. I applaud them. Dev Patel, Kate Winslet, Michael Sheen, etcetera... they're all in the lead races where they belong. So well done, BAFTA. Well done.
...except for that supporting actress list.
I have to share it cause it's just whack-a-doodle... I mean totally padded-cell-throw-away-the-key-nutso. The usual suspects are there of course: Amy Adams and Viola Davis in Doubt, Marisa Tomei in The Wrestler, Penélope Cruz in Vicky Cristina Barcelona
There's another few you can understand even if you think it's really stretching it to say "Best": I like the inclusion of the always grand Emma Thompson in Brideshead Revisited. Kathy Bates has a couple good moments in Revolutionary Road. I'll give them Vera Farmiga in The Boy in Stryped Pajamas (I haven't seen it).
But it keeps getting weirder/worse. Judi Dench in Quantum of Solace (always fun in these movies, sure), Elsa Zylberstein in I've Loved You So Long (she didn't sell me on her characters' bizarre emotional swings... but I realize I'm in the minority) and Tilda Swinton, twice, for Benjamin Button (but they ignored Taraji P Henson?) and Burn After Reading. In neither film does our favorite Alien/Goddess have much to do. I think even Tilda herself would agree this is pushing it. That's a lot of women taking up room.
I lost patience when I began to realize this shocking truth: They have room for 15 performances -- 15! -- and neither of the Rachel Getting Married women are accounted for: No Debra Winger, No Rosemarie DeWitt. BAFTA has always been one to err on the side of being overly patriotic but once you notice this snub (when there's room for 15 people) it's hard not to get angry with them.
- Charlotte Rampling in The Duchess (She can do this role in her sleep. I love Rampling but that's a "no")
- Freida Pinto in Slumdog Millionaire (She did do this performance in her sleep. What is this nomination for... looking pretty? If that's the criteria why don't the shortlists include Mila Kunis in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Scarlett Johanssen in The Spirit, Amanda Seyfried in Mamma Mia!, Rachel Bilson from Jumper? I mean, if it's about being pretty... let's have them all)
- Julie Walters Mamma Mia! (W-H-A-T? If you ask me hers was the second worst performance in the movie and that's more of a Razzie accomplishment, isn't it?)
- Rebecca Hall for Frost/Nixon (for what, looking pretty? Her character flirts and shakes people's hands. That's the role. That's the entire role.)
Sure, maybe "Best" is a foolish notion to begin with. I know that the awards race is mere popularity contest anyway but I don't like to be reminded so boldly that that's all it is. When things get this silly, I always wish they'd just rename their prize "Favorite Actresses This Month in Movies We Really Liked This Year". There. I feel so much better about their shortlist now. All it took was the right (and honest) title.
More BAFTA shortlists sans Nathaniel's vitriol @ Awards Daily