Posted: 02/16/2004


The British Academy Awards

by Jerome de Groot

The BAFTAs: Special Report

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You would have been a bit confused at this year’s BAFTAs had you been to the movies relatively regularly this year. The nomination lists were conservative to the point of absurdity—to the extent that wanting Johnny Depp to win Best Actor wasn’t just because of his brilliance but just to make things a bit more interesting. That said, we can congratulate the British Academy for bravely going with Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson for the Actor and Actress awards—particularly given Johansson’s relatively scandalous duck in the Oscar nominations.

Giving Bill Nighy and Bill Murray awards on the same night smacks of genius. And the granting of an honorary fellowship/ lifetime achievement to John Boorman is offbeat and laudable. And giving The Return of the King the Best Film nod is right in all kinds of ways. But 10 nominations for Cold Mountain, a film that has done middling business and has been poorly received generally? Master and Commander worthy of Best Director (surely Peter Weir’s other films tower over this gawky boys-own fable?)? Giving the Best Screenplay to The Station Agent, a film that isn’t yet released in the UK? Renee Zellwegger as Best Supporting Actress?—gawd bless her, a cracking actress, but really better than Holly Hunter’s amazing turn in 13 (or even Emma Thompson in Love, Actually?). It all smacks of worthiness and doesn’t to me reflect the fizzing state of contemporary cinema.

The London Film Festival last year portrayed the film industry as dynamic and interesting, but the awards given tonight don’t reflect that energised state of affairs. OK, so award ceremonies are invented to annoy, but this one was more notable for its sheer plodding dullness than anything else. In 90 mainstream nominations there were only brief nods for 21 Grams, Kill Bill, Goodbye Lenin! or The Mother, and they sure as hell didn’t win anything. We applaud LOTR, and it is duly and rightly scooping up all the awards it can at the moment. We recognise the British Academy’s right to be safe, but it just seems to me that the films rewarded this evening are good, rather than outstanding, and that the problems inherent in the British film industry—lack of punch, dynamism or risk—are reflected in this year’s uninspiring batch of nominations and winners.

Jerome de Groot is a writer, teacher and filmgoer living in London, England.

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