The British Academy of Film and Television Arts – better known as BAFTA – announced its nominations today, and from the two major headlines one could cull from the announcement, it’s hard to determine which to mention first, since one particular piece of information opens a can of worms that would be difficult to shut.
Okay, let’s start at the top: La La Land leads all comers with 11 nominations. Not a surprise, but its sustained dominance over the field in impressive.
It’s something of a surprise that Arrival tied for second with nine total nominations, although it’s a yawner compared to the film it tied with: Tom Ford’s Nocturnal Animals. Another nomination for Aaron Taylor-Johnson in Supporting Actor, right off the heels of his Golden Globe win. Ford himself scored big, landing nods for both Director and Adapted Screenplay. The film cleaned up in below-the-line categories. And Jake Gyllenhaal scored a Leading Actor nomination, ostensibly replacing a top contender…
…which brings us to that can of worms. Denzel Washington was left off the BAFTA slate, in spite of the fact that his performance has been assumed to be a season-long contender for the Oscar win. In general, Fences was shut down, garnering only a single nomination, for Viola Davis. Now, despite the general consensus that sets in throughout the season among a handful of films across the various awarding bodies, and despite the fact that Fences is among that handful this year, I suppose it’s conceivable that BAFTA just didn’t take to the film.
But it gets uglier when you realize this fact: BAFTA has never nominated Denzel Washington.
Want to dig even deeper? BAFTA has also never nominated Morgan Freeman (tip o’ the hat to Sasha Stone for adding this painful bonus stat to the conversation).
The implications here aren’t pretty. And it doesn’t help much to turn to Moonlight, the most prominent and most awarded film of diversity on this year’s circuit. Barry Jenkins’ film landed four nominations, including Best Picture – but Jenkins himself was not nominated for Best Director. Part of that has to do with the prominence of I, Daniel Blake, a British film that was bound to be celebrated by the British Academy, which scored a Director nomination for Ken Loach. And, of course, there’s the inclusion of Tom Ford. With only five spots, a top contender was bound to get left out…but the fact that Jenkins got left out is curious, to put it as mildly and kindly as possible (which, frankly, is not what the situation deserves).
In case you were wondering, #BAFTAsSoWhite has been circulating in some social media circles.
More conversation is surely to come regarding BAFTA’s sketchy track record when it comes to nominating people of color. But purely in terms of this year’s awards impact, these nominations are further validation of La La Land’s broad and consistent control of the season. The full embrace of Arrival also speaks to its position in the season, which had heretofore been questioned by some pundits. The persistent lingering of Nocturnal Animals makes one wonder if the film will pop up in a few otherwise-unexpected places when the Oscar nominations are announced in two weeks. The film is definitely a below-the-line contender, but nominations for Adapted Screenplay and Supporting Actor are certainly within the realm of possibility.
On the acting front, seeming bubble contenders like Amy Adams and Meryl Streep have galvanized their Oscar nomination prospects by combining their SAG nominations with BAFTA nods. And you know who else can make the same precise claim? Emily Blunt, who was BAFTA-nominated this morning for The Girl on the Train. Easy to dismiss a stray SAG outlier…easy to dismiss a stray BAFTA outlier…but the combo must be recognized and reckoned with.
The BAFTA’s will be handed out on February 12th. The full list of nominees can be found here.