BAFTA narrows its best pic contenders

Final noms to be announced Jan. 19

A correction was made to this article on Jan. 12, 2004.

LONDON — “The Last Samurai,” “Something’s Gotta Give” and “In America” are among Oscar contenders that cannot win the best film prize at this year’s British Academy Film Awards.

All three failed to make the long list of 15 contenders in BAFTA’s best film category, which was published Friday.

Pics that emerged strongly in the first round of BAFTA voting, with 10 or more entries each across all categories, include “Cold Mountain,” “Big Fish,” “Girl With a Pearl Earring,” “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King,” “Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World,” “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl,” “Lost in Translation,” “21 Grams,” “Calendar Girls,” “Kill Bill Vol. 1,” “Seabiscuit” and “Mystic River.”

The BAFTA long lists are voted by all the members. In the second round of voting, which closes Jan. 14, the members will choose five nominees in each category, to be announced Jan. 19.

In the final voting, the members vote on the winners of the best film prize and the four acting awards, but the other sections are decided by specialist juries. The BAFTA ceremony takes place Feb. 15 in London.

Hard to measure

With 15 contenders on each long list, it’s hard to pick front-runners, since pics that figure strongly at this stage do not necessarily show up on the short lists. But the long lists do at least make clear which films have not found favor with BAFTA voters.

“The Last Samurai” may have missed out in the film and director sections, but it received several nods in the acting and technical categories. “In America” figures in the prestigious acting, directing and original screenplay sections. But “Something’s Gotta Give,” which has hardly been screened, made no impact whatsoever.

Another U.S. kudos contender largely absent from the Brit list is “House of Sand and Fog,” while “American Splendor” is nowhere to be seen.

The value of sending out screeners was highlighted by a good showing for “The Station Agent,” which figures on the best film list and several others. Other pics that clearly benefited from their screeners include “Big Fish,” “The Barbarian Invasions” and “21 Grams.”

Small fish overlooked

But smaller British pics, including several that sent out screeners, were largely overlooked. The best film list contains only four Brit pics — three big studio movies, “Love Actually,” “Calendar Girls” and “Cold Mountain,” plus “Girl With a Pearl Earring.”

Some of these British omissions, however, will be rectified in the Brit film category, which is not voted by the membership and therefore does not have a long list. Both the short list and the winners are chosen by a jury.

Several British contenders for American kudos are not eligible for this year’s BAFTAs, because their U.K. release was in 2002. These include “Bend It Like Beckham,” “Dirty Pretty Things” and “The Magdalene Sisters.”

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