It used to be that the annual BAFTA Awards could make for a quirky, equally industry-authoritative alternative to the Oscars. A ceremony date that fell after the Academy Awards and an inverted voting schematic — whereby the entire membership decided nominations and the various branches determined winners — led to interesting results that weren’t in lockstep with the season.
Films like “Romeo + Juliet” could take down key design categories. Others like “The Usual Suspects” and “Speed” could come out on top in best film editing. Local pride could show through as films such as “The Commitments,” “Four Weddings and a Funeral” and “The Full Monty,” which had little to no hope at the Oscars, could reign as best picture champs.
Things started to change 15 years ago. First came a two-month shift of date from April to just before the Oscars, right in the heat of awards season. The voting scheme kept things interesting for another dozen years but in 2012, BAFTA finally swapped it out for one mirroring the Academy’s, with the branches determining nominees and the whole membership choosing the winners. It became somewhat instructive, particularly to see how a varied, multi-branch membership would collectively view the best in production design, sound, visual effects, etc.
As I’ve written, you could really make the connection last year in a number of tight races. The BAFTA Awards signified, for instance, that Alexandre Desplat’s “Grand Budapest Hotel” score was stronger than the presumably frontrunning “Theory of Everything,” and that “Whiplash” was a strong contender in the editing and sound mixing categories it eventually won at the Oscars.
There are still differences, considerable ones, really. Last year’s best picture victor “Birdman” only secured one BAFTA prize, falling to “Boyhood” in the Brits’ best film and best director races. But more and more, it seems, the result of this ceremony feels a bit like an Oscar cheat sheet.
This year there are some points of nuance to note. For instance, in the supporting acting categories, Mark Rylance (“Bridge of Spies”) and Kate Winslet (“Steve Jobs”) walked away with trophies. But they were not facing Sylvester Stallone (not nominated due to “Creed” taking off very late in the U.K.) or Alicia Vikander’s “Danish Girl” performance (BAFTA-nominated in the lead category). In best visual effects, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” took down films like “Mad Max: Fury Road” and “The Martian,” but “The Revenant” was not nominated as it is with the Academy.
Beyond that, you could easily see a number today’s winners translating in two weeks’ time. Leonardo DiCaprio (“The Revenant”) and Brie Larson (“Room”) for lead acting honors, “The Big Short” and “Spotlight” for screenplay, “The Hateful Eight” for original score, “Mad Max” for film editing, makeup, production design and costume design — all strong repeat possibilities.
It’s worth mentioning, however, that “The Revenant” was not BAFTA-nominated in a couple of those below-the-line categories, so it could still upset “Mad Max’s” trajectory at the Oscars.
Alejandro G. Inarritu’s best director path would appear to be paved now after wins from the Directors Guild and BAFTA. And with “The Revenant” securing the best film prize, things might seem to be clicking into place. But in a season like this, it’s difficult to be too sure. And there again, nuance: “The Revenant” provided an opportunity for the Brits to celebrate Inarritu’s work this year after passing over it last year. There are also the particulars of the preferential ballot to consider, which I won’t bother dredging up yet again.
So depending on how you want to look at it (and bias is a heck of a thing), we either still have a race on our hands, or inevitability is finally setting in. Call it.