It was a very Bafta list of nominees. If you’re someone who keeps a close eye on the intricacies of awards season – either through professional obligation or some deep-rooted cinephilic sickness – then by now, you’ve probably got a feel for the foibles and idiosyncrasies of the various awards bodies. The Golden Globes, for instance, like to plump for glamour. The Baftas tend to skew toward older, white people. The Oscars, increasingly diverse, are becoming harder to predict.
Today (18 January), the nominations for this year’s Baftas were announced. By and large, these nominees are the same big hitters that will dominate the Oscars this March, the same ones that already dominated the Golden Globes earlier this month. Christopher Nolan’s nuclear physicist biopic Oppenheimer is in pole position, with 13 nominations; Yorgos Lanthimos’s quirked-up fantasy Poor Things follows with 11. There are a lot of worthy picks here – Jonathan Glazer’s unrelenting and innovative holocaust drama The Zone of Interest scoops a richly deserved nine nominations, likewise Martin Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon. In the acting categories, there are a couple of enjoyably left-field, unsung selections: Vivian Oparah, star of Peckham-set romcom Rye Lane, and Teo Yoo, star of culture-clash romance Past Lives. But there are also some glaring snubs.
For all its nominations, Killers of the Flower Moon is conspicuously absent from some of the most deserving categories. There’s no Lily Gladstone, for instance, whose brilliant and subtle Lead Actress turn may be the only thing standing between Emma Stone and her second Oscar. Wherever you fall on the merits of Barbie, there’s no denying it’s well-directed – yet there’s no Greta Gerwig or Scorsese in the Best Director category. Meanwhile, The Holdovers’ Alexander Payne, a filmmaker who was accused of sexual misconduct in 2020, does make the cut. (He has denied the allegations.) Whatever you think of The Holdovers, a very fine and brilliantly acted drama, the optics of snubbing Gerwig for Payne are bad.
It’s pointless getting too worked up over snubs each awards season; that way lies madness. If you were to ask me personally which actors actually deserved to be in the conversation this year, I’d give you names like Glenn Howerton (Blackberry), Kiefer Sutherland (The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial) and Sakura Ando (Monster). But they aren’t, and there’s no value in losing sleep over these sorts of omissions. Awards shows are inherently flawed and subjective; there’s always a mix of factors – campaigning, “narrative”, popularity, and, yes, merit – behind every win. And yet, this year’s Bafta nominations have snubbed a few films – and people – so egregiously that it can’t help but rankle.
Todd Haynes’s luscious and intelligent sex-scandal dramedy May December – one of the year’s very best films – was shut out completely. Malia-set drama How to Have Sex, undoubtedly one of the best British films of the year, got three nods, in Outstanding British Film, Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer, and Casting. But its cast, especially the phenomenal young lead Mia McKenna-Bruce, were nowhere to be seen. (McKenna-Bruce is up for the Rising Star award, announced earlier this month and, perhaps significantly, voted on by members of the public.) If Bafta is supposed to champion the very best of British films, then the limited recognition it extends to How to Have Sex seems like a dereliction of duty.
There’s something fundamentally head-scratching about some of the 2024 Bafta nominations. How could anyone think that Jacob Elordi’s performance as Jack Whitehall in Saltburn was more worthy of a nomination than Mark Ruffalo’s sensational turn as cucked fop Duncan Wedderburn in Poor Things? Or that Jeffrey Wright’s career-best seriocomic performance in American Fiction was somehow inferior to Saltburn’s Barry Keoghan (giving, it should be said, one of his limpest performances in years)? It’s a jarring reminder that people really do walk around harbouring these sort of opinions. This is the gift and tragedy of awards season – seldom does the mind of our fellow man feel so very alien to our own.