By Oliver Lyttelton | www.oliverlyttelton.com February 17, 2014 at 12:05PM
Less than two weeks remain until the Academy Awards, and Sunday night brought the last major ceremony (excluding the Spirit Awards, which plays in a slightly different sandbox) before then: Oscar's cousin from across the Atlantic, the BAFTAs. As you might have seen, "Gravity" won the most trophies, with six BAFTAs including Best Director and Best British Film, but it was "12 Years A Slave" that came away with the big prize of Best Film, while also picking up Best Actor for Chiwetel Ejiofor. The winners, losers, and everyone else in the British film industry are currently struggling to get over their hangovers, but for everyone else, the question lingers — how, if at all, does it affect the Oscar race?
If you're someone who believes that the BAFTAs have little to no effect on Oscar voting, then you're about a decade out of date. Since moving up the ceremony to before the Oscars at the turn of the millennium, the British organization have made a concerted effort to make their ceremony into an influential precursor to the Academy Awards, and the result is something that, while not doing an awful lot to support the British film industry (the days when "The Full Monty" swept the board and "Titanic" won nothing are long gone), has aligned more closely with the Oscar results. Last year, BAFTA and the Academy only differed on five categories — Best Director, Best Actress, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Music and Best Production Design.
There are of course, reasons to be skeptical here. Films with a certain home advantage are always better placed at BAFTA (see "Skyfall" and "Les Miserables" last year, for instance). Delayed UK release dates can sometimes means movies opening in February or later don't register with voters even if they're eligible (see the shut-out of "Dallas Buyers Club" and "Her" this time around). And perhaps most crucially, though the voting systems have become closer, there's still enough differences that things won't automatically line up.
But all that said, BAFTA has become increasingly proficient at showing the way towards certain surprises (see Christoph Waltz in Supporting or "Brave" for Animated Film last year, Meryl Streep over Viola Davis in 2012, Marion Cotillard and Tilda Swinton in 2008, and Alan Arkin in 2007), so it's absolutely worth paying attention to. Not least because, this year, the late date for the Oscar ceremony means that final voting only just opened, so the BAFTA results have a real chance at impacting the final ballots of Academy members.
So, all that said, what are the key things to take away from last night? Here's the five key things we'd take away.
1. "Gravity" will likely repeat at least five of the six wins it took last night.
With the Academy unlikely to introduce a Best British Film category any time soon, it's impossible for "Gravity" to win everything it won in London at the Oscars in two weeks time. But of the five that it's up for with the Academy, there's every reason to think it'll win those too. Visual Effects is obviously in the bag, as too is Cinematography — the film losing either would prove to be a real shocker. It's the easy frontrunner for the Sound awards too, and probably also for Music (though "Her" could yet to be a dark horse in that category). And Alfonso Cuaron's victory in London also re-emphasizes what many have suspected for so long: whoever wins Best Picture (and it's still wide open), Best Director is probably going that way too on Oscar night (Steve McQueen still has a chance, but an increasingly slim one after the DGA also went for Cuaron). "Gravity" could still also win Production Design, maybe Editing, and possibly Best Picture, so whatever happens, it's likely to pick up the most wins on Oscar night.
2. Jennifer Lawrence struck a blow to Lupita Nyong'o last night, but it ain't over yet.
When Jennifer Lawrence picked up Supporting Actress over anointed front-runner Lupita Nyong'o, it was one of the bigger upsets of the night, and many prognosticators are hastily changing their predictions as a result. It certainly demonstrates that it's a two-horse race between the pair, and that Nyong'o, despite her SAG victory, doesn't yet have the prize sewn up. But that's always been the case, and there's a few things that are, for now, making us stick to our guns and predict Nyong'o to pick up the Oscar. For one, Jennifer Lawrence didn't win a BAFTA last year — unlike with the Oscars, she was beaten by "Amour" star Emmanuelle Riva. As such, BAFTA voters wouldn't have had the same reservation that Academy voters might do, in terms of giving a second Oscar in two years to a 23-year old actress (and for a performance that's cut from the same cloth as her turn in "Silver Linings Playbook"). Furthermore, Lawrence wasn't at the ceremony, still knee-deep in the "Hunger Games: Mockingjay" shoot. As such, she wasn't able to give another charmingly ditzy speech — and one of the things that precursor awards are most useful for, as we've said many times before, is letting winners give memorable speeches, that make voters want to reward them. But they're also useful for revealing perceived injustices that need to be righted, and with Lawrence absence, Nyong'o remained the talk of the night (searching Twitter for "Lupita Nyong'o robbed" returned a fair few results). Oscar voters in the anti-"American Hustle" camp, who might have otherwise voted for June Squibb or Sally Hawkins, now have more reason to go for Nyong'o, as they realize that Lawrence is a greater threat than they might otherwise have believed. It's still going to be close, but our gut is with Nyong'o for now.