27 January, 2012

My Annual Bafta Annoyance 2012: Sods Law

In another pointless effort to further my arbitrary and pedantic campaign against the BAFTA's soft rule that allows films to be nominated before their actual release in the UK when the films under consideration are ostensibly those of the previous year, I've written to the BBC's weekly radio programme that focusses on film reviews, Kermode and Mayo's Film Review.  Mark Kermode is the resident film critic, and proceedings are kept grounded and entertaining for film geek and non-film-geek alike by radio presenter Simon Mayo.  Their double act occasionally leans too much on catch phrases and in jokes, but most of the time they fit in enough consideration of films on release, quality interviews with film makers, and genial banter/bicker to be time well spent (their podcast is amongst the top five BBC weekly podcasts with approx 600 thousand downloads per month).

The letter begins with a strange salutation which is the format used by most correspondents with the show, referring to the co-presenters as a pairing referencing film or other duos, or in this case a recent ongoing bicker from the fact that Kermode has said that Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is not about spies, and Mayo feigns ignorance of the concept of subtext.  In a bid to get the letter some attention from the show's production staff I do make some mention of my extremely tenuous link to Mark Kermode as the letter explains.

Sent: 27 January 2012 15:07
Subject: BAFTA Challenge

Dear Spy vs Not About Spies,

I was disappointed last week to find little discussion of the BAFTA nominations, I assume that with the OSCAR nominations out that this might be relevant this week.  I have had an admittedly pedantic problem with the BAFTA rules which allow films to be nominated which are released after the primary year in question.  As pedantry is no stranger to your fine programmes airwaves, I'd like to raise this query.

I have some trepidation about asking this question as I'd like to stay the right side of the good Doctor as he is one of the founder / organizers of the New Forest Film Festival, for which I'm a volunteer, and whose 2011 Critic of the Year Award I was runner up for (over 18 category) with an entry Mark described as "worryingly good".  I may have already irked him with the bizarre suggestion of a "Battle of the Silent Film bands" for next year's fest (not doing myself any favours reminding 'im now).  Be that as it may, I proceed with the courage of my pedantic conviction.

Can you ask Mark, and indeed any other BAFTA members present, this simple question:

How can BAFTA justify nominating films released in the UK in 2012 for awards primarily for the films of 2011?

To my mind it only serves to
a) allow in films likely to nominated for OSCARs that were released in the US but not the UK in the year in question, this is so that BAFTA can claim relevance in the OSCAR's race between the Globes and the OSCARs.
b) pander to the distributors that can use the BAFTA's to boost films still currently on or imminently release(d).

My chief complaint is that the awards should be nominated and given to films that we the public have had a chance to see before the nominations come out, not merely those the members of BAFTA with the privileges of special screenings and screeener discs.

I have argued this point with some analysis over on my blog : http://vaguestideas.blogspot.com/ (with the tag BAFTA).  To give examples, this year's longlist had 20% of the nominations for films released in the UK in 2012, and 50% were for films on DVD release in the UK in the first quarter of 2012.  The actual nominations have 15% of the nominations for films released in the UK in 2012, and 50% were for films on DVD release in the UK in the first quarter of 2012.

I appreciate that these trends exhibit a chicken/egg causality as the distributors control release dates and are allowed to put forward films for nomination, and that, hopefully, in a future of simultaneous world wide multi format releases this may become moot.

Thanks for any comment my, possibly pointless, pedantry may illicit.

Brian Tarnoff (the second best middle aged amateur Film Critic in the New Forest -- 2011)

PS.  I will be joining the ranks of professional projectionists on February 10th on Mark's home turf in Brockenhurst with a screening of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, when I'm not keeping an eye on the focus, aspect and keystoning, I'll be trying to spot the Tinker and Tailors, as clearly there aren't any spies.

Unfortunately puppies, notes for NFA's Landscape Management Committee, and preparations for a part time job as a projectionist got the better of me.  So the email went out during the first half hour of the show.  I know that it's probably unlikely that the production staff are going to consider anything they don't see before the show, optimally earlier in the week, but I didn't want a whole other week to steal a march on the subject, so I dug in and sent it.

One of the more recent gambits by the producers of the show has beefed up their Facebook presence, they already do a lot on Twitter which I don't follow, and Mark Kermode has a BBC video blog site which I do.  The Facebook page engages with listeners requesting capsule reviews of top films, or the new releases the presenters themselves haven't seen, but also purely spurious threads to find puns with film titles.  So, sods law, within about five minutes of sending out my email a few lines from a comment I'd left about Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris got read out on air:

Midnight in Paris is merely a half decent Woody Allen film elevated by comparison to his last two decades of subpar dross. It's great that he has a little niche carved out for him to make what he wants as he wants as often as he can manage, but he really could have done better with people to say no to Match Point, Melinda and Melinda and Vicky Christina Barcelona, and those were supposedly the good ones....
If you look at some of his work with collaborators, they include some of his best. The trick that helps Midnight in Paris is that he has to use real characters from history rather than the paper thin ones he seems to originate.

Simon Mayo squeezes out half the words, trying on the fly to keep the sense, but drops my point about Woody doing much better work when he has more collaboration.  That's by the by, I didn't think that thread was going to be part of the show, and it seems even more unlikely, that now they've said my name already, that they'll give anything else I've sent them any airtime.  Ahh well.

The worst thing about this is that my sister in law happens to be listening and phones my wife who is luckily working from home today.  "Doesn't your husband have anything better to do than to get his name on a radio programme?" she chides jokingly.  On the strength of the above, I really hope I do.

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