Awards For Play-It-Safe Times
Journalists ran a popularity check on this year’s British Academy nominations, and found that the films least popular with the public were most popular with film critics; it was ever thus.
What’s different this year is the depth of conservatism expressed by the award wins. A very Home Counties cowboy film to lead the pack. Something for Will Smith (who didn’t turn up). Gongs for the cosily nostalgic ‘Belfast’ and ‘West Side Story’. Even the admittedly still wonderful Dame Shirley Bassey was wheeled out to sing a half-century-old Bond song.
This meant no Stephen Graham, whose role in ‘Boiling Point’ was head and shoulders above anything else this year. No Ruth Negga or Tessa Thompson for the brilliant ‘Passing’. No rank outsiders (anyone else see the superb ‘Compartment No.6’, ‘Benediction’ or ‘The Innocents’?) Instead, big wins for Hollywood royalty, UK grandees and a disturbingly clueless sweep-up of the rest.
I’d suggest we’ve fallen back into the past, but the past was often more adventurous. No wonder the ceremony is barely watched at home. Awards ceremonies were never meritocratic – you only have to look at the appalling omissions of past lists. It seems as if every year new checks and balances are put in place to ensure fairer voting, but this just seems to make any kind of cohesive statement about what British awards should be less and less likely.
Personally I’d guide audiences toward what they could be watching, although in a year when the biggest talking point – 007’s return – got pretty thoroughly ignored, all bets are off from now.