The Oscar nominations are, in many ways similar to those put forward by BAFTA. What is particularly interesting is the films that have been omitted from the lists.
Where is DENIAL on the Oscars list? It features on the BAFTA list under Best British film in the main categories. Yet it is a superb film – absolutely riveting with very special performances by Rachel Wiesz and Timothy Spall. Wiesz plays Deborah Lipsadt, who writes a book in which she mentions that historian, David Irving (Spall) is very much mistaken in his denial that the holocaust ever took place. When Irving decides to sue her in London’s High Court she has to travel there and employ a lawyer. Luckily she finds a top lawyer in Anthony Julius, a high-class solicitor played by Andrew Scott and a top barrister, Richard Rampton (Tom Wilkinson), who decides not to put her on the stand but to show – as you have to in a British court – that the holocaust actually took place. While all the actors are very strong, an outstanding Weisz gives an understated portrayal of the real life Deborah, which I would have thought to be worthy of an Oscar nomination as Best Actress.
The other main omission, in my view, is I AM DANIEL BLAKE, a powerfully moving film by Ken Loach. Again this appears on the BAFTA lists for Best Film, Best Director and Outstanding British film but not on the Oscars nominations list. This is a most important film by Ken Loach’ who deals with the difficulties of being out of work, with a disability and trying to get benefits. Tremendous performance by Dave Johns as Daniel and, indeed, by all the cast.
The main BAFTA nominations are (with my choice in Italics):
I, Daniel Blake
La La Land
Manchester By the Sea
Outstanding British Film
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
I, Daniel Blake
Notes on Blindness
Under the Shadow
Film Not in the English Language
Son of Saul
Arrival Denis Villeneuve
I, Daniel Blake Ken Loach
La La Land Damien Chazelle
Manchester By The Sea Kenneth Lonergen
Moonlight Barry Jenkins
Andrew Garfield Hacksaw Ridge
Casey Affleck Manchester By the Sea
Jake Gyllenhaal Nocturnal Animals
Ryan Gosling La La Land
Viggo Mortenson Captain Fantastic
Amy Adams Arrival
Emily Blunt The Girl on the Train
Emma Stone La La Land
Meryl Streep Florence Foster Jenkins
Natalie Portman Jackie
Aaron Taylor-Johnson Nocturnal Animals
Dev Patel Lion
Hugh Grant Florence Foster Jenkins
Jeff Bridges Hell or High Water
Mahershala Ali Moonlight
Hayley Squires I, Daniel Blake
Michelle Williams Manchester By The Sea
Naomi Harris Moonlight
Viola Davis Fences
If we look more closely the OSCAR now (and I haven’t had the opportunity to see all the nominated films yet), with my choice in Italics: The nominations for Best Picture are
La La Land
Manchester By The Sea
Hell or High Water
If the voters go down the La La Land road and decide that this was really the best of all on offer then it will win the Best Picture. La La Land is a joyous film and while light it is far from the usual Hollywood rom-com. For a start there are lovely songs and dance interludes which the stars Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone perform with panache. Then there is the story, which doesn’t just end in a gooey fashion. This is a well-made delightfully filmed musical. Damien Chazelle, has written and directed a lovely romantic movie set in Los Angelis, featuring Emma Stone as an actress who can’t find work and Ryan Gosling as a struggling pianist. Chazelle shows it is still possible to make this kind of musical movie. We see a side of Gosling – who plays Sebastian, the musician, who falls in love with Stone’s actress called Mia – that is most unexpected. Ryan sings and dances with dexterity. Stone makes a lovely romantic partner. It will be hard to beat this film.
If not La La Land, then Manchester By the Sea is the top runner on my list. Set in Massachusetts, with not a lot of laughs, it is the story of Lee (played by Casey Affleck) who, although overcome with grief at his past loss, is forced to return to his home town, where his ex-wife (Michelle Williams) still lives, to take care of the teenage son when his brother suddenly dies. Director and writer Kenneth Lonergan has made a movie which comes across as completely truthful in its dealing with past and present tragedy. It is a very moving film which deals with loss, bereavement and coping with the past. There are also excellent performances all round and some of these are nominated in other categories.
Damien Chazelle – La La Land
Barry Jenkins – Moonlight
Kenneth Lonergen – Manchester By The Sea
Denis Villeneuve – Arrival
Mel Gibson – Hacksaw Ridge
Once again La La Land, with director Damien Chazelle as the leading contender here, is placed high but Moonlight has a good chance. It is an excellently directed film full of compassion and understanding for the young boy as it follows him into manhood. Set in Miami in the 1980s, the film follows the story of Chiron who looks and feels different from his classmates. Chiron is troubled by his own feelings until he gradually realises his own sexuality. As Chiron’s mother, Paula (Naomie Harris) is a drug addict and absolutely no help to him, Chiron turns to the local drug lord (a charismatic performance by Mahershala Ali) who, along with his girlfriend, provides emotional support as well personal care. Chiron’s only other boyhood friend is Kevin (Jaden Pinner) and the two eventually come to terms with their sexuality. The adult Chiron is portrayed by Trevante Rhodes and he and his younger versions (played by Alex R. Herbert as the boy and Ashton Saunders as the teenager) act with sensitivity as do the young Kevin and Andre Holland as the older Kevin. It is a beautifully made film.
Also after the furor over all white nomination lists and Awards in 2016 it might just be the time to reward Barry Jenkins with the Best Director Oscar.
Natalie Portman – Jackie
Emma Stone – La La Land
Meryl Streep – Florence Foster Jenkins
Isabelle Huppert – Elle
Ruth Negga – Loving
The film JACKIE has been overlooked in the other main categories but it is good to see Natalie Portman here. A number of my critic colleagues believe that La La Land will walk away with virtually all of the main Awards. However, I think that Natalie Portman as Jackie Kennedy could well succeed. Telling the story of the immediate aftermath of the shooting of John Kennedy, we see his wife Jacqueline being interviewed by a journalist (played by Billy Crudup), who is based on Theodore White who wrote a similar article after the assassination. As Jackie talks to the journalist there are flashbacks to the shooting of the President and how she coped with arranging the funeral. We see her trying to work out how to tell her children, Caroline and John, of the death of their father and seeing Lyndon Johnson sworn in and watching as he and his wife take over the White House. Natalie in the pink suit with blood all over it has the mannerisms and voice of Jackie, if not exactly the right appearance. The film and Portman are well-served by director Pablo Larrain. Natalie Portman gives a good solid Oscar worthy performance.
Casey Affleck – Manchester By The Sea
Andrew Garfield – Hacksaw Ridge
Denzel Washington – Fences
Viggo Mortensen – Captain Fantastic
Ryan Gosling – La La Land
In the main part Casey Affleck shows that he is a very talented actor. Without the flamboyance of Ryan Gosling’s all-singing, all-dancing tour de force, in Manchester by the Sea Affleck gives us a picture of a man dreadfully troubled by his past and his overwhelming grief.
Best Supporting Actress
Viola Davis – Fences
Octavia Spencer – Hidden Figures
Nicole Kidman – Lion
Naomie Harris – Moonlight
Michelle Williams – Manchester By The Sea
The beautifully made film, Moonlight, has a special performance from Naomie Harris as a loving mother who can’t cope with her own drug addiction
Best Supporting Actor
Dev Patel – Lion
Jeff Bridges – Hell Or High Water
Mahershala Ali – Moonlight
Lucas Hedges – Manchester By the Sea
Michael Shannon – Nocturnal Animals
A new name to many of us, Mahershala Ali gives a lovely performance in Moonlight as a drugs lord who supplies Chiron’s mother and yet takes the young boy under his wing and gives him food, advice and help and love.
The BAFTA Awards ceremony will be held on Sunday 12 February at the Royal Albert Hall
The Oscars will be presented in Los Angelis 26 February 2017