Last night, about two hours into the ASC Awards in Hollywood, I ran into Alfonso Cuarón on his way into the men’s room. He was in a great mood, and we talked about his whirlwind globe-trotting this weekend flying from London to Los Angeles yesterday for ASC and then straight back to London for the BAFTAs today. A few minutes later he surprisingly lost the ASC award for Best Cinematography of a Theatrical Film to rival black-and-white foreign-language nominee Cold War (perhaps cinematographers just didn’t want to give their award to a director?).
He should have just stayed in London and saved himself the trip, because the Brits had something else in mind today by showering four personal BAFTA awards on Cuarón and Roma winning Best Film, Best Foreign Language Film, Best Director , and yes, Best Cinematography. What a difference 5500 miles makes, eh?
Actually, three of those BAFTA awards were no surprise at all, but Best Film was seen as more likely going to the hometown favorite The Favourite — British and leading with a towering 12 nominations — way more than nearest competitors Roma and A Star Is Born, which had seven noms each (the latter only able to cash in on one, for Music). For much of the BAFTA ceremony it looked like that would be how it would play out, with The Favourite taking Outstanding British Film and six others including Actress for Olivia Colman and Supporting Actress for Rachel Weisz. In the end however it was stopped by Roma for the big prize, a significant win for Netflix in their quest to take the Best Picture Oscar in two weeks, and a momentum booster just as Oscar balloting starts on Tuesday.
It may also be a wake up call for those in the Academy and the exhibition community (and they are there) who believe a Roma victory would be the equivalent of letting the wolf into the hen house and throwing away the key in terms of what a Netflix triumph on this level might mean for the industry. Should be verrrrrry interesting when that Best Picture envelope is opened at the Dolby.
I have been predicting Roma Oscar victories for director, cinematography, and Foreign Film, but not necessarily for Picture since the Academy, like the Producers Guild , employs a different method with a preferential ballot only in Best Picture, where voters must rank their favorites starting with No. 1 through No. 5 (there are eight nominees this year, but voters only rank their top five). Green Book won at PGA under this method, and in a search for a consensus choice it could be anybody’s ballgame, unlike BAFTA, which has an entirely different system. At the Oscars, where everyone votes in every category for the finals, a voter might think a foreign-language win for Roma would be akin to a Best Picture win, unlike BAFTA where a small committee chooses the foreign winner, thus Roma won both. No foreign language film has ever won the Best Picture Oscar after also winning Best Foreign Language Film, yet in BAFTA’s existence since 1948 there have been several foreign language winners for Best Film, mostly in the early years.
Roma’s competition might also take comfort in the fact that comparisons between Oscar’s Best Picture choices and those of BAFTA are spotty. The two haven’t agreed on the top prize since 12 Years a Slave won both in 2013. Between 2008-2013 the two groups were in lockstep, agreeing six years in a row, but disagreeing the four years previous from 2004-2007 — that’s why I call it spotty. Overall they have matched 28 times and differed 44 times, but because the dates didn’t always mesh it is a hard comparison to make. Will Roma be able to ride this momentum to break BAFTA’s recent losing streak (Three Billboards, La La Land, The Revenant, Boyhood were the last four BAFTA winners)? We don’t have to wait long to find out.
Even though it took an impressive seven wins, Fox Searchlight came into England to turn the tide for The Favourite and get a dominant win after a couple of recent guild victories for editing and art direction. They wanted Best Film on Sunday in order to get the big ‘Mo, but it wasn’t to be, a bittersweet result but not a knockout by any means. It leads Oscar nominations with Roma, each getting 10, and it is the only film nominated in every key category that usually presages a Best Picture win, at least on paper. Perhaps the early BAFTA win for Outstanding British Film enabled the voters psychologically to split the difference, a choice as mentioned above that will be available to Oscar voters in choosing Roma for Foreign Language Film and something else for Best Picture. Or not.
The clear love and admiration for Roma is evident and undeniable when you consider its various wins with critics groups, a couple of Golden Globes for Cuarón, a big triumph with the same four BAFTA wins at Critics’ Choice Awards, a DGA win, etc. Plus the new increased international makeup of Academy voters may be a key factor in supporting a picture like Roma. Still, the preferential balloting system has produced splits between Best Director and Best Picture in four of the past six years and that could well continue. This is an unpredictable year, but pundits are likely to anoint Roma frontrunner status now, if they hadn’t already. I believe there is still a convincing case to say it is still an open question where ultimately the chips may fall.
What Saturday night took away from Roma at the ASC awards, it got back handsomely Sunday at BAFTA. And so it goes in a year where the precursor ceremonies aren’t aligned. In terms of other BAFTA winners, Bohemian Rhapsody’s Rami Malek for Best Actor, and Green Book’s Mahershala Ali for Supporting Actor appear to have a vice grip on those categories heading into the Oscars. Olivia Colman’s hometown win over Best Actress frontrunner Glenn Close is just not real cause for concern. Close is clearly the frontrunner to win her first Oscar, for The Wife, and has been since she out-speeched Colman at the Golden Globes where both took the respective Drama and Comedy/Musical Actress honors. Supporting Actress is more of a question mark with BAFTA giving Rachel Weisz a boost and showing it is possible that she and Favourite co-star Emma Stone don’t necessarily have to cancel each other out. Critics darling and Globe winner Regina King of If Beale Street Could Talk wasn’t nominated at BAFTA or at SAG, throwing a wrench into the proceedings. It was a smart strategy though, for Annapurna to bring her into London as a presenter anyway. She got her face in front of a lot of Oscar voters in the audience and watching on TV. Going out on an earlier limb I have been predicting Weisz for the Oscar win, and am sticking with it. She got a nice bump today, and Amy Adams of Vice another frustrating loss.
For animated feature, BAFTA represents just the latest win for Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse on an unbeatable roll to Oscar. The Adapted Screenplay win for BlacKkKlansman, its only BAFTA victory, is also likely to repeat at the Oscars as a way to honor Spike Lee. Next weekend’s Writers Guild Awards will probably cement that, unless A Star Is Born can finally pull a win out of its hat that isn’t music-related.
At least BAFTA gave Bradley Cooper a chance to actually get on stage this season. It has been a frustrating one for that one-time frontrunner. At the Oscar nominees luncheon, ASIB producer Bill Gerber had a never-say-die attitude, telling me they believe the preferential Oscar ballot can still land in their favor.
I won’t be one to burst his, or anyone’s, bubble, but Roma just might if the Brits are right.