Although BAFTA’s 6,500 members vote on English-language pics from around the world – including Hollywood – for the annual film awards, the British academy often recognizes local talent in its choices. That was certainly evident in the strong showing of “The Favourite,” which led the pack with 12 nominations when they were unveiled early Wednesday in London.
But there were some notable omissions on the list. “Bohemian Rhapsody,” about British rock star Freddie Mercury, garnered seven nominations, but not one for best film. Emily Blunt didn’t make the cut for her performance in “Mary Poppins Returns,” which landed noms in the original music, production design and costume design categories. “Mary Queen of Scots” and “Stan & Ollie” also managed to receive only three nods apiece. And Steve McQueen’s heist movie, “Widows,” garnered only one, for Viola Davis as best actress.
Of the 20 acting nominations, six went to Brits, down from last year’s tally of eight.
Other surprises included the lack of any BAFTA love for Aardman’s “Early Man” in the animated film category, which was an all-American affair. Remarkably, it marks the first time that Nick Park has not been nominated for one of his animated films. Mike Leigh’s Amazon film “Peterloo,” about a politically significant massacre of protesters in 19th century England, was another notable homegrown absentee.
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Meanwhile, Netflix fared well with the British academy this year: Alfonso Cuaron’s “Roma” racked up seven nods and “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” one. Both films received a limited theatrical distribution in the U.K. last year, which was on track to record the highest number of theater admissions in 40 years.
While there have been “so many predictions” that movie-going is under threat from Netflix and the like, “there are many arguments that would say the growth of the streamers has enhanced cinema-going,” said Marc Samuelson, the chair of BAFTA’s film committee, noting the healthy U.K. cinema figures for 2018.
He also hailed the “wisdom” of BAFTA voters in singling out British comedian Steve Coogan for best actor in “Stan & Ollie,” and noted a strong documentary category for 2019, which includes Peter Jackson’s “They Shall Not Grow Old,” about World War I; “Free Solo,” which has just crossed the £1 million mark at the U.K. box office; and “Three Identical Strangers,” which was a British co-production.
“Just a few years ago there were way fewer entries and there was a real mix of quality, and now these are amazing films,” Samuelson said. “That’s something that has really come up this year.”
Hollywood tentpoles received just passing recognition. “Black Panther” was largely overlooked with just one visual effects nomination. “Mission: Impossible – Fallout,” “Avengers: Infinity War” and “Ready Player One” also all had a single nomination.
Last year’s female-free best-director category provoked an angry response from within the industry and beyond, and again there were no women on the 2019 list. BAFTA execs said there is an industry-wide problem and that it is making progress, but also admitted there is a way to go.
“We see in the nominations some positive impact,” BAFTA Awards director Emma Baehr said. “Two previous Breakthrough Brits, Letitia Wright and Jessie Buckley, are now Rising Star nominees. If you look at the debut and shorts categories, we see new female talent in directors, writers, and producers coming through there.”