Will ‘Speech’ have last word at BAFTA?

Pic tops noms with 14, but history offers no guarantees

The last time a British film got 14 nominations at the BAFTAs, it ended up winning just two awards — although one was for best film.

With hometown advantage and a clear lead in the nominations, “The King’s Speech” looks poised for a coronation at the Royal Opera House on Feb. 13. But “Atonement’s” perf is a reminder that nothing can be taken for granted until the very last envelope has been opened.

BAFTA likes to celebrate British success, but not too much. Academy members pride themselves on being part of a wider international film community with a sophisticated appreciation for the best America and the rest of Europe have to offer.

It’s typical for BAFTA to nominate Noomi Rapace (“The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”) and Javier Bardem (“Biutiful”) for their leading performances in foreign-language films, just as much as for the org to spotlight six Brits — Pete Postlethwaite, Andrew Garfield, Christian Bale, Helena Bonham Carter, Lesley Manville and Miranda Richardson — for their supporting roles.

Yet there’s only one Brit among the 10 leading actors and actresses — Colin Firth in “The King’s Speech,” of course, bidding for back-to-back wins after last year’s triumph with “A Single Man.”

Firth and Bardem face off against “True Grit’s” Jeff Bridges, “The Social Network’s” Jesse Eisenberg and James Franco for “127 Hours.”

In leading actress, Rapace is up against Annette Bening and Julianne Moore from “The Kids Are All Right,” as well as Natalie Portman (“Black Swan”) and Hailee Steinfeld (“True Grit”).

The BAFTA voting system, split between membership, chapter and jury choices, makes it difficult for one film to hog all the prizes.

Although all 6,500 members vote to decide the nominees in most categories, they pick the winner in only six sections — best film, best film not in the English language and the four acting awards.

Director, screenplay and all the craft and technical awards are chosen by the relevant BAFTA chapters; while juries decide the prizes for outstanding British film and outstanding debut by a British writer, director or producer.

That’s one reason why best film and best director are often split. In the past, British helmers have shown some reluctance to honor their fellow countrymen in the director section. This year, three Brits are in the running — Tom Hooper for “The King’s Speech,” Christopher Nolan for “Inception” and previous winner Danny Boyle for “127 Hours.” But they face a strong challenge from David Fincher for “The Social Network” and Darren Aronofsky for “Black Swan,” second in the nominations with 12.

“Black Swan,” “The King’s Speech,” “Inception” and “The Social Network” are also running for best film, along with “True Grit.” The nomination for “True Grit” rather than “127 Hours” was unexpected, given Boyle’s popularity among his industry peers.

The eight nominations for “True Grit” reflect its Oscar showing and represent a significant turnaround from its zero nods at the Golden Globes. But the Coen brothers have always had a strong following in BAFTA circles, even if they could not snare a directing nod this time, having previously won for “No Country for Old Men” and “Fargo.”

The six nominations for “The Social Network,” however, is a relatively scant return for the big winner so far in the U.S. awards season. Particularly notable is the shortage of BAFTA recognition for its below-the-line talent, with just an editing nod to go with its nominations for best film, director, adapted screenplay, actor and supporting actor.

The nine nods for “Inception” come predominantly from the craft and technical categories, with nothing for its actors.

“Alice in Wonderland” also has five craft and technical nominations, with two for “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1.”

This year’s most successful distrib at BAFTA is Momentum Pictures, with 22 nominations from “The King’s Speech,” “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” “The Fighter” and “Another Year.”

The BAFTA voting system makes “Dragon Tattoo” the clear favorite for the foreign film prize. The winner is picked by the whole membership, which has already showed its preference for the Swedish thriller by making it the only foreign-lingo entry on the best film longlist, as well as nominating Rapace and the adapted screenplay.

Despite BAFTA’s innovation of launching a website to download or stream foreign-language films, the influence of DVD screeners in this category remains paramount. The only films nominated were those that sent out DVDs to the foreign chapter.

Previous winners shut out from nominations include Martin Scorsese with “Shutter Island,” Roman Polanski with “The Ghost” (aka “The Ghost Writer” Stateside) and Peter Weir with “The Way Back.”

Aside from “The Kids Are All Right,” U.S. indie pics struggled to make an impact, with nothing for “Winter’s Bone,” “Blue Valentine,” “Get Low” or “Rabbit Hole.” Among Brit pics, “Never Let Me Go,” “Kick-Ass” and “Brighton Rock” also missed out, despite several British Independent Film Award nominations apiece last fall.

2011 BAFTA nominees:

“Black Swan”
“The King’s Speech”
“The Social Network”
“True Grit”

“127 Hours”
“Another Year”
“Four Lions”
“The King’s Speech”
“Made in Dagenham”

Darren Aronofsky, “Black Swan”
Danny Boyle, “127 Hours”
David Fincher, “The Social Network”
Tom Hooper, “The King’s Speech”
Christopher Nolan, “Inception”

Javier Bardem, “Biutiful”
Jeff Bridges, “True Grit”
Jesse Eisenberg, “The Social Network”
Colin Firth, “The King’s Speech”
James Franco, “127 Hours”

Annette Bening, “The Kids Are All Right”
Julianne Moore, “The Kids Are All Right”
Natalie Portman, “Black Swan”
Noomi Rapace, “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”
Hailee Steinfeld, “True Grit”

Christian Bale, “The Fighter”
Andrew Garfield, “The Social Network”
Pete Postlethwaite, “The Town”
Mark Ruffalo, “The Kids Are All Right”n Geoffrey Rush, “The King’s Speech”

Amy Adams, “The Fighter”
Helena Bonham Carter, “The King’s Speech”
Barbara Hershey, “Black Swan”
Lesley Manville, “Another Year”
Miranda Richardson, “Made in Dagenham”

Lisa Cholodenko, Stuart Blumberg, “The Kids Are All Right”
Mark Heyman, Andrés Heinz, John McLaughlin, “Black Swan”
Christopher Nolan, “Inception”
David Seidler, “The King’s Speech”
Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy, Eric Johnson, “The Fighter”

Michael Arndt, “Toy Story 3”
Danny Boyle, Simon Beaufoy, “127 Hours”
Joel Coen, Ethan Coen, “True Grit”
Rasmus Heisterberg, Nikolaj Arcel, “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”
Aaron Sorkin, “The Social Network”

“The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”
“I Am Love”
“Of Gods and Men”
“The Secret in Their Eyes”

“Despicable Me”
“How to Train Your Dragon”
“Toy Story 3”

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