12 January, 2012

My Annual Bafta Annoyance 2012: On Some Other Blog

I am an irregular commenter on Mark Kermode's Kermode Uncut Blog, and I have been shoehorning in little bits of my rant against BAFTA's inclusion of Nominations for films not released in the UK at the time of Nomination, nor in the year under consideration.

Under his VLOG And The Nomination Isn't... Kermode bemoaned the Oscar's long list, particularly the exclusion of the amazing F1 documentary Senna.  This gave me a scintilla of an excuse to bemoan the BAFTA's as on their way to similar destination....
13. At 18:36 25th Nov 2011, Brian - New Forest wrote:

Sadly the way the Oscar's play out is very much a product of the PR machinery of the studios/distributors. You might as well blame Senna's production company for not pushing hard enough, not sending enough screeners and Senna themed trinkets (I thought the Formula 1™ 2011 Game, F1 2011 Dead Men's Curves add on pack that lets you replay play every fatality in F1 history was stretching the boundaries of taste, but those academy voters all have grandkids who love that stuff).

The Oscar's have been a lost cause, well, forever. I have a bone to pick with the Bafta's as they are headed in the same direction. This has mostly been since the Bafta's changed their rules and ceremony dates, in a bid for relevance between the Golden Globes and the Oscars. The rules have been bent to allow films which were eligible for Oscars, but haven't had a proper release in the UK the year before (there's a proviso that allows films "released" in the UK between Jan 1st up to 2 days before the BAFTA ceremony, to be nominated). A "release" constitutes 7 days in a single commercial cinema to paying customers which hardly encompasses the UK market, and as release dates are set in mud, some nominations have been for films that have openned neither small nor wide until after the ceremony (nominated Vicky Christina Barcelona had its date bumped until two weeks after the ceremony). Consequently the BAFTA nominations list consists almost entirely of films just on or about to be on general release, or about to have their DVD releases in the UK market. The fact that this is all orchestrated to chime with the Globes to Oscars buzz robs the BAFTA's of any distinction beyond the urbane wit lent by Mr Fry.

I would challenge all BAFTA members including Dr. K to sort this out, the BAFTA nominations should consist of films that the UK viewing public have had a decent chance to see before the ceremony, not just the members who have to fit in "viewings" or see films for their consideration as they may not have been meant to be seen on the flat screen with the lights on in a cluttered front room awash with pets and disaffected kids. The nominations should be relevant to the artists and the audience (us), not the distributors and the hacks. So please remove the BAFTA's as a pit stop between the Golden Globes and the Oscars, because the longer they sit there the more likely the industry will make them like BOTH, and nobody with any sense wants that.

I even got  a bit of support from a fellow poster:

15. At 18:44 25th Nov 2011, Scurra wrote:

@Brian: Yes, I have sometimes wondered whether it would be smart for Bafta to change tack entirely and have their award ceremony in September. Make the qualifying period July - June instead of the calendar year - after all, it's not as though the year of release matters that much. And it might influence the release dates a little too...

I replied:

35. At 02:21 28th Nov 2011, Brian - New Forest wrote:

@Scurra, I'm not that bothered about BAFTA using the calendar year, it's that they add provisos for films past that year to include films that were out in the States and most likely nominated for Oscars, but which weren't released in the UK in that year. However your suggestion might be a way to shake it up. They should pick 12 months and stick to it.

Sorry if my annual BAFTA annoyance is a bit off topic. [...]

Under Kermode's VLOG Looking Forward he asked us which films we are looking forward to in 2012, which gave me an opportunity to get in a slight dig:

27. At 17:40 30th Dec 2011, Brian - New Forest wrote:

Although I'm looking forward to Prometheus as well, I'd counter the list of good Ridley efforts cited above with:

GI Jane
Matchstick Men
Robin Hood

As the latter was pretty egregious, I'd withhold my expectations.

Also, to pedantically bang my drum to anyone who'd listen (or not as the case may be), I won't be at all surprised to see some of these upcoming films featured in the BAFTA's although they have not been released in this year. BAFTA has a proviso that exists solely so they may nominate films that have been nominated for Oscar's but which haven't been given a proper release to the UK viewing public. All it serves is to lamely suggest relevance for the BAFTA's between the Golden Globes and the Oscar's and a chance for distributors to push UK release dates of nominated films closer to the BAFTA ceremony, as films are eligible for nomination if their scheduled release is up to two days before the awards ceremony itself. (anyone interested in following the progress of my so far tractionless rant may google "my annual bafta annoyance").

Mindless pedantry aside, my heart's true anticipation can only be expressed by a red mop-faced drummer named Animal:

Muppets! MUPPETS! M U P P E T S!

(Given the claims of Fox News of political indoctrination, perhaps this is the real Film Socialisme. Unfortunately, that title had already been used.)

Under Kermode's VLOG Eleven From Eleven, he asks us to suggest which of his top 11 from 2011 he should jetison in favour of including the splendid Drive.  While I earlier posted a comment that he should dump We Need To Talk About Kevin, which had left me cold (#15),  after seeing comments posted complaining about the release date of The Artist in relation to the list, I wrote:
86. At 04:58 9th Jan 2012, Brian - New Forest wrote:

@22, 41, 45-- you've made me change my mind. Dr. K should leave out The Artist, not because it isn't the fine film that so many who have seen it claim it to be (and frankly though I've not seen it, the trailer had me enraptured, will need to suitably adjust expectations before I see it when it comes round our neck of the woods Feb 20th), but for the pedantic reason you cite, it is simply not a 2011 release for the ordinary UK punter.

This is one of the reasons that I try to have a go at the BAFTA's every year for having rules which allow films not released in the calendar year in question. Now I would never level charges of elitism at Dr. K, but BAFTA has graced 9 films to be released theatrically in 2012 with nominations on their longlist (out of 65 films). These are films which the BAFTA members have had a chance to see, but not the UK public (barring festival and "platform" release screenings). These 9 films rack up 56 nominations which is just over 20% of the 279 longlist nominations. 2 of them are released just 2 days before the 12th February Awards Ceremony. 50% of the nominations are for films which will be released on DVD in Q1 2012. Sadly this makes the BAFTA's look like a cynical marketing exercise poised irrelevantly betwixt the Globes and the Oscars. It will be interesting to see how these numbers change when the longlist gets whittled down.

As for the critics end of year lists, well, if it's their own personal list of the films that they have happened to see in that year, then fine, can't argue with that. But by that token why consider release dates at all? Due to caring for a litter of puppies causing cabin fever isolation and temporary exile from the cinema, I caught up on a number of titles I missed from previous years, and I can say that amongst my favourite films I saw in 2011 I'd include Gilliam's Tideland and Davies' Of Time and The City. However, I think there's a reasonable expectation that professional critics lists are meant for their audience, and perhaps should be geared accordingly, not based on their at times rarefied privilege (or pain) to exalt in the great films (as well as endure the endless dross) before the rest of us.

So, depending on which emphasis Dr. K would like to give his list, based on the films he had a chance to see or the films that we had a chance to see, then he could bump The Artist.

Or maybe I'm just being mindlessly pedantic. All in good company here then...

This got some agreement further down in 103 107 114 and 116 in so far as wanting to exclude The Artist from Kermode's top of 2011 list as it didn't have a proper 2011 release (it had a "platform" release in London on 30th Dec 2011).  Given that sort of feeling about something as purely subjective as one critic's top list, it's not a huge jump to suggest that a similar criteria might be applied to a supposedly rigorously arrived at consensus such as the BAFTA's.  Unfortunately, my own sense of pedantry prohibits me from adding The Artist's nominations to my BAFTA statistics as IMDB does give it the UK release date from December, although clearly it's a grey area I hadn't considered before.

What next?  Well we have the final BAFTA nominations coming up, and I have to find a way to carefully word some letters / emails to BAFTA and most probably to Kermode and Mayo's Film Review, so that they get useful attention.



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