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BAFTA Backs ‘Roma’ as Oscar Race Enters the Final Stretch

The winner of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts’ best film prize has gone on to lose the best picture Oscar each of the last four years: “Boyhood” was felled by “Birdman,” “The Revenant” was routed by “Spotlight,” “La La Land” (infamously) lost to “Moonlight,” and last year, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” bowed to “The Shape of Water.”

What does that mean? First and foremost, it means these are separate voting bodies with separate takes on the year’s films, but it’s notable that the last three or four races have been rather close in the lead-up to the Oscars. The difference-maker, presumably, has been the motion picture academy’s use of the preferential ballot to determine its winner.

So while there is cause for celebration at Netflix with Alfonso Cuaron’s “Roma” having won the BAFTA prize on Sunday, that ought to be tempered a little bit. The math could still work against it if Universal’s “Green Book” — which already won on a preferential ballot at the Producers Guild Awards — performs well across the membership with plenty of number-two and number-three placements on ballots.

(As a quick refresher, the preferential ballot system works like so: Voters rank all the best picture nominees one to eight. The film with the least amount of number-one votes after the first round of tallying is eliminated, and the number-two films on those ballots become number-ones. Those ballots are then redistributed as such and the process continues until one film has 50% plus one of the number-one votes, and that is the best picture winner. If it sounds needlessly complex, that’s because it is.)

Regardless, we appear to have boiled a scattered season down to a two-horse race: “Green Book” versus “Roma.” The Producers Guild and Golden Globe winner versus the Directors Guild and BAFTA winner. And that certainly makes for a tale of two very different post-Oscars Monday mornings … at least in the world of the online commentariat. If you move in Academy circles, you realize quickly that very little of the derision that has met contenders like “Green Book” (and “Bohemian Rhapsody,” for that matter) has trickled out of the world wide web and into reality.

Speaking of which, two stars from those films — both presumptive Oscar frontrunners — won BAFTA awards on Sunday: lead actor Rami Malek for “Bohemian Rhapsody” and supporting actor Mahershala Ali for “Green Book.” It seems like all systems go for both at the Oscars. Olivia Colman, meanwhile, won the lead actress prize for “The Favourite” (which took seven awards to “Roma’s” four, yet still missed in the top category, where most pundits expected it to win), besting “The Wife” star Glenn Close. Though some might be quick to chalk that up to hometown love — not to mention the fact that Colman has been shooting back-to-back seasons of “The Crown” in the United Kingdom for much of the season, while Close didn’t really campaign there — the BAFTA winner still gives a big and bold performance in a film that co-led nominations, while Close delivers something much more subtle in a film that may not have been as widely seen. Both actresses won Golden Globe and Critics’ Choice awards. Close won the SAG-AFTRA prize. It could be a closer race than you think.

BAFTA’s final acting prize went to Rachel Weisz from “The Favourite” in a category that is a complete free-for-all heading into the Oscars. Critics champ Regina King (“If Beale Street Could Talk”) and SAG-AFTRA winner Emily Blunt (“A Quiet Place”) were not nominated by BAFTA, while Blunt was skipped over by the Academy as well. So maybe it’s Weisz versus King in the final push, or maybe longtime Oscar bridesmaid Amy Adams (“Vice”) pulls in enough votes to ride an “overdue” narrative like Close, or, who knows, perhaps surprise nominee Marina de Tavira (“Roma”) benefits from votes splitting all over the place. That’s easily the season’s most exciting race as we move into the final stretch.

What’s always interesting — or at least, in the six years since BAFTA switched its voting scheme to mirror the Academy’s (the whole membership now votes for winners, rather than each branch making respective determinations) — is how the crafts categories shake out. For example, the sound and editing fields at the Oscars have felt a bit up in the air this year. Respective wins for “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “Vice” could help point the way; while BAFTA and AMPAS don’t have huge amount of crossover in their memberships, these are still the only two vast organizations of film professionals voting on basically the same slate of nominees every year. Like minds, etc.

So plug all of that into your calculator and see what you come up with. AMPAS voters receive ballots on Feb. 19. We’re almost home.

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