BAFTA-AwardsIn something of a surprise this morning, Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel emerged with the most BAFTA nominations at a total of 11. The movie had its world premiere in Berlin last year, meaning that on BAFTA night February 8, it will be one year and two days since its debut. It was released in Britain in March 2014 and I hear its screener was one of the first to arrive in British Academy members’ mailboxes at the start of the campaign season. The film was warmly embraced in the UK and went on to earn just under $20M. One voter suggested this morning, “People don’t forget great movies.”

lbj selmaConversely, insiders suggest awareness was low on Selma. In a rather sizable snub, it was left out of the list unveiled today. That film’s screener, I’m told, was one of the last to arrive and the theatrical release is not until February, two days before the BAFTA ceremony.

Other surprises included the lack of an acting nomination for Mr Turner’s Timothy Spall who won the top prize in Cannes last year, while The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies picked up only an effects mention. Angelina Jolie’s Unbroken is a complete no-show and some British pics like Locke and Calvary were also shut out.

image-fd69317b-eede-4cba-9ff3-244828583c76There were few other shocks as the BAFTAs aligned pretty evenly with how the awards season is shaping up elsewhere. Birdman, Boyhood, The Imitation Game and The Theory Of Everything are nominated in the major categories — although Imitation’s Morten Tyldum did not receive a directing nod, swapping out for Whiplash’s Damien Chazelle.

While the past few years have been somewhat heavy on major studio movies — think Warner Bros and Gravity, among others — this year is strongly weighted towards specialty/prestige fare. However, Fox leads among distributors with both Grand Budapest and Birdman hailing from Searchlight, two mentions for Gone Girl and effects nods for a handful of tentpoles.

Apart from the major U.S. nominees — Grand Budapest (11), Birdman (10), Boyhood (5), Whiplash (5), Nightcrawler (4) and Interstellar (4) — there is a big British contingent this year.

The Theory Of Everything 1Among the key British nominees is Working Title’s The Theory Of Everything with 10 nominations including for Best Film, Outstanding British Film, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Original Music, Editing, Costume Design and Make Up & Hair. Eddie Redmayne is nominated for Leading Actor, and Felicity Jones is up for Leading Actress. The movie is off to a huge start in the UK where it opened No. 1 last weekend and producer Eric Fellner tells me it should finish its first week with about £5.5M ($8.3M). “Those are the kind of numbers we saw on Bridget Jones, or Notting Hill, those are mainstream movie numbers, not small film numbers.”

Fellner contends that the preponderance of strong movies, especially in the Outstanding British Film category (71, The Imitation Game, Paddington, Pride, The Theory Of Everything, Under The Skin), is a testament to the current state of the local biz. “It’s an indicator of what our industry is looking like. There are films in different genres, some very specialized and some very commercial. The investment that various governments have put into our industry to ensure that financial incentives continue are really paying off. Not only do we make world class huge mainstream movies for the Americans, we can also create and make our own movies.”

The Imitation GameAlso quite British is The Imitation Game with nods for Best Film, Outstanding British Film, Adapted Screenplay, Editing, Production Design, Costume Design and Sound. Benedict Cumberbatch is nominated for Leading Actor (when Sam Claflin announced the nod this morning, his co-presenter Stephen Fry feigned surprise, “No!” he said in a nod to the hugely popular star) and Keira Knightley is nominated for Supporting Actress. The Weinstein Co acquired domestic on the FilmNation title in a record $7M deal last year in Berlin and Studiocanal released in the UK where it has amassed over $22M in its strong run.

Paddington Ben WhishawStudiocanal also boasts Paddington. The runaway smash from producer David Heyman has made over $47M and is the No. 6 film of the 2014 in Britain. It scored nods in the Outstanding British Film and Adapted Screenplay categories. The Weinstein Co releases Paddington domestically later this month. TWC also has a pair of mentions for Tim Burton’s Big Eyes.

Jake Gyllenhaal and Riz Ahmed in NightcrawlerAmong the other major British nominees is Film4’s Mr Turner with four nods, despite the snub for Spall. Perhaps he switched out for comer Jake Gyllenhaal in Nightcrawler which increasingly factors in this awards season. Its other BAFTA nominations include Editing, Dan Gilroy’s Original Screenplay and Supporting Actress for Rene Russo. Pathé’s Pride has three nods and Studiocanal release ’71 — also a Berlin debut last year — snatched two mentions, for Outstanding British Film and Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer for Yann Demange and Gregory Burke.

'Gone Girl' Looking to Beat 'Annabelle' At Weekend B.O.Aside from Theory‘s Jones, the Leading Actress category is distributed amongst several films that had few other nominations. Amy Adams is up for Big Eyes, which is also mentioned in Production Design. Julianne Moore for Still Alice, Reese Witherspoon for Wild and Rosamund Pike for Gone Girl, round out the field. Gone Girl’s Gillian Flynn is also in the Adapted Screenplay race.

"Foxcatcher" Premiere - Red Carpet - 2014 Toronto International Film FestivalIn the lead actor race with Cumberbatch, Redmayne and Gyllenhaal are Grand Budapest‘s Ralph Fiennes and Birdman’s Michael Keaton. This was a big day for Fox Searchlight which has both Birdman and The Grand Budapest Hotel to be excited about. Alejandro G Inarritu’s drama also received nods in all major categories, and its supporting cast also figures in those races. Along with Edward Norton in the Supporting Actor category are Boyhood’s Ethan Hawke, Whiplash’s JK Simmons, and Foxcatcher’s Mark Ruffalo and Steve Carell. Birdman’s Emma Stone is nominated for Supporting Actress with Pride’s Imelda Staunton, Boyhood’s Patricia Arquette, Knightley and Russo.

Among other studio titles to figure are Warner Bros’ American Sniper in Adapted Screenplay and Sound; and The Lego Movie for Animated Film, along with Disney’s Big Hero 6 and Focus’ The Boxtrolls. Warner also has a nod with The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies in Special Visual Effects, along with its Interstellar, Fox’s Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes and X-Men: Days Of Future Past and Disney’s Guardians Of The Galaxy. That film is also in Make Up & Hair as well as the studio’s Into The Woods.

In the foreign language race are Oscar-shortlisted pics Ida and Leviathan. India’s The Lunchbox, Working Title’s Trash and the Dardenne brothers’ Two Days, One Night also compete. Fellner is particularly “thrilled” about Trash. Although Richard Curtis wrote the script, Stephen Daldry directed and Rooney Mara and Martin Sheen star, it’s really a Brazilian film. Universal has been slowly rolling it out internationally and it hits the UK at the end of the month.