17 January, 2012

My Annual Bafta Annoyance 2012: The Nominations

The BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) Nominations for the 2012 Awards are out today.  I have been expressing dislike of the BAFTA rules which allow films to be nominated outside the year under consideration, often before their actual UK release.  The crux of my problem with this is that it cheats the UK public audience of the enjoyment of making up their own minds about the nominations and awards before they are handed out.

In the past few years my argument has focussed on the untidy language of the exception in the rules which created some contradictory circumstances when nominated films released two days before the award ceremony itself (and in some cases afterwards) could not have fulfilled one other condition that the films must be screened for seven consecutive days to a paying UK audience.  BAFTA have changed the exception and have removed this potential conflict with this simpler but more inclusive proviso:

If a film opens between 1 January and the Friday before the Awards in February then it may be eligible as long as it is screened to Academy voting members before a certain date.

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 Golden Globes and the OSCARs.
b) pander to the distributors that can use the BAFTA's to boost films still currently or imminently on release.

Pretending relevance in the OSCAR's run up is absurd.  For one thing the timing of voting is too close to the parallel longlist runoffs for nominations for one to directly influence the other.  Also, look at just how few of the Hollywood based nominees actually turn up to the BAFTA's, you'll find they're mostly actors, who will normally be happy to have an excuse to pop to London, mecca of the stage.  Some of the actors are doubled for presenter duties during the awards themselves which pays for their jolly whether they win a BAFTA mask themselves or not.

Film UK release Nominations

The Iron Lady 06/01/2012 4

Shame 13/01/2012 2

War Horse 13/01/2012 5

Coriolanus 20/01/2012 1

J. Edgar 20/01/2012 0

The Descendants 27/01/2012 3

Carnage 05/02/2012 0

A Dangerous Method 10/02/2012 0

Young Adult 10/02/2012 0

In my previous analysis of the longlist 20% of the nominations for are 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. This does shift slightly in the actual nominations have 15% of the nominations for films released in the UK in 2012.  Significantly of the longlist movies under consideration, only five released in January 2012 have survived the cut, leaving one January and three due to be released in February on the heap (see 0 nominations above).  This may only be a reflection of the viewing opportunities for the BAFTA voters, as in the past few years films released up to 2 days before the ceremony have been nominated.

Looking at the trends there is a preponderance of nominations in the latter half of the year.  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 they in turn may be second guessing the voters long term memory loss and may stack more promising contenders.  It says little for the perceived (by either distributors or voters) quality of anything released before July.

In the future we may look forward to simultaneous world wide multi format releases.  This is argued by some as the best way to both combat piracy, and to give the audience the widest range of preferred viewing choices, whether they want to trek to their local multiplex or sit in the comfort of their home cinema.   This should render the argument moot, assuming that BAFTA then have the good grace to adjust their eligibility back to the proper calendar year.  If they still let late, on the heels of the ceremony, releases in through their current back door, then the collusion with the distributors which I've merely insinuated would be laid shamefully bare.

On the other hand once the pool of films becomes virtually the same as the OSCARs, how will the BAFTAs distinguish themselves?  Their members represent the British Film industry, which despite its ongoing identity crises, contains a vital amount of talent, knowledge and skills used by Hollywood and the film industry of the world.  Their awards should reflect both their British talent and the British audience.

For the time being, while the point is not yet moot, I will press on.  The BAFTA's can only be improved for the time being if they stop trying to be a "me, too" in the run up to the OSCAR's.  The nominations should reflect the UK release schedule, not the US.  Perhaps a move back to the pre 2000 date of early April for the Awards is in order, it would allow the BAFTA's a more distinctive voice, not muddled between the HFPA and AMPAS.  The members of BAFTA shouldn't need to be reminded that the B in BAFTA is for British.



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