‘Speech’ tries to break ground at BAFTA

Pic tries to be first to win Blighty's two top awards

BAFTA never has awarded best film and outstanding British film to the same movie. Even when “Slumdog Millionaire” came as near as possible to a BAFTA sweep with seven wins out of 11 nominations in 2009, it lost out to “Man On Wire” for the British film prize.

This is not a deliberate policy. The British film jury, comprising BAFTA’s film committee plus invited industry grandees, makes its decision before the membership’s best film votes have been counted.

The jury tends instinctively to worthy pics that, for whatever reason, have failed to make an impact in the other categories, often because they lack the necessary transatlantic recognition.

Insiders say “Slumdog” originally tied “Man on Wire” in the British jury vote, requiring a re-vote to break the deadlock.

Can “The King’s Speech” go one better? It certainly represents the kind of outstanding indie achievement the British film award is designed to honor. But, it faces strong competition from “Slumdog” director Danny Boyle’s latest contender “127 Hours,” Mike Leigh’s “Another Year,” Nigel Cole’s “Made in Dagenham” and, perhaps most of all, from the Chris Morris movie “Four Lions,” which is exactly the kind of brave and original film that usually wins this prize.

Leigh, who isn’t a member of BAFTA, has a mixed history with the academy. He has won best British film once, for “Secrets and Lies,” but he was publicly outraged by the failure of his last film, “Happy-Go-Lucky,” to get a single BAFTA nomination. This year’s nod for “Another Year” may be a slight consolation, but the fact it got just one other nomination (for Lesley Manville in supporting actress) won’t placate him much.

More from the BAFTA Awards:
Will ‘King’s Speech’ have last word at BAFTA? | ‘Speech’ tries to break ground at BAFTA | BAFTA debut nominees come with full resumes