A Guide to the 2014 BAFTAs

Michael Prescott
Latest posts by Michael Prescott (see all)

This weekend, on Sunday 16th February 2014, the BAFTA Film Awards are back! Firm fan favourite Stephen Fry will once again host the ceremony (for the 9th time) and the British Oscars – as an outsider might label them – usually go some way to predicting the Academy Award results to follow in a couple of weeks (last year saw Argo, Hathaway, Daniel Day-Lewis and others win at both).

So what can we expect this year at the 67th British Academy Film Awards? Gravity is the most-nominated film (11) and its director Alfonso Cuaron is the most-nominated individual  (5), but it’s the winners that count. Let’s take a look at the likely outcomes for some of the most interesting categories, keeping in mind the upcoming Oscars and also the tendency for a little bit of British bias:

EE Rising Star Award

Last five winners (2013-2009): Juno Temple, Adam Deacon, Tom Hardy, Kristen Stewart, Noel Clarke

This first award is BAFTA-exclusive, with Dane deHaan (The Place Beyond the Pines, Kill Your Darlings), George Mackay (Sunshine on Leith), Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave), Will Poulter (We’re the Millers and previously of Son of Rambow fame) and Lea Seydoux (Blue is the Warmest Colour) all in the mix.

Prediction: My vote undoubtedly goes to Dane DeHaan, although it’s fair to call him a star in his own right these days rather than a kid with potential. But remembering that this one’s voted for by the general public, it seems likely that it’ll go to either Nyong’o for her brilliant turn in Steve McQueen’s slavery drama, or quite possibly home favourite George Mackay. Always a difficult one to call, this award, because the voters usually get it wrong.

For instance, the four previous winners other than Hardy beat off competition from the likes of Michael Fassbender, Michael Cera, Jesse Eisenberg, Carey Mulligan, Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston and Elizabeth Olsen. So basically, you should look out for whoever doesn’t win this one. The general public know nothing.


Best Animated Film

Last five winners: Brave, Rango, Toy Story 3, Up, WALL-E

Prediction: Sorry Monsters University and Despicable Me 2, but if Frozen doesn’t win then we riot. And yet, despite its incredible success, there’s no guarantee that it will. Pixar have won four of the last five here, but it’s a battle between Olaf and the Minions for victory.


Best Film Not in the English Language

Last five winners: Amour, The Skin I Live In, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, A Prophet, I’ve Loved You So Long

The Act of Killing vs. Blue is the Warmest Colour vs. The Great Beauty vs. Metro Manila vs. Wadjda. Wow. One of the most lauded documentaries in years, the Palme d’Or winner, another hugely acclaimed film from Sorrentino, the big winner at the British Independent Film Awards and the first Saudi Arabian film directed by a female.

Prediction: I’m a philistine, so I’m yet to see any of the five. Apologies to Denmark/Norway, France, Italy, the Philippines and Saudi Arabia, but I have heard truly great things about the five films. I think the smart money is on any of the first three, with either Blue or Beauty coming out on top. If pushed, I’d bet on The Great Beauty here.


Best Documentary

Last two winners: Searching for Sugar Man, Senna
(NOTE: The award was inactive between 1990 and 2011)

 The Act of Killing
The Armstrong Lie
Tim’s Vermeer
We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks

Another nod for The Act of Killing, but this is the only one of the five also to be up for the Oscar in this category. The UK’s nominations are far stronger (on paper at least), with two Alex Gibney documentaries (The Armstrong Lie released a few weeks ago, We Steal Secrets being brilliant last year), a supposed gem in the barely-released Tim’s Vermeer and the phenomenon that was Blackfish.

Prediction: Blackfish? We Steal Secrets? The Act of Killing? It’s down to those three realistically, but the strength and support for the latter of the bunch – as shown by its appearances elsewhere – mean that it’ll probably come out on top.


Outstanding British Film

Last five winners: Skyfall, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, The King’s Speech, Fish Tank, Man on Wire

Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
Saving Mr. Banks
The Selfish Giant

Ignoring the UKIP-like dispute over just how British some of these films are (we’ve colonised outer space? Fantastic! The Empire strikes back…), it’s a fascinating list. Recent years have seen a whole host of uninspiring victors, as the last four in particular have ridiculously triumphed over Les Miserables, Seven Psychopaths, Senna, Shame, We Need To Talk About Kevin, 127 Hours, Four Lions, In the Loop and Moon.

Prediction: Look, let’s be honest, Gravity is the absolute stand-out and deserves to win (not just this award, but Best Film too). So let’s just cast it aside for a second and focus on the others, because I’m not convinced that it will. It’ll more likely go to something indisputably British – in tone and style as well as anything else – which also rules out Rush and Mandela.

It’s a tricky one between the remaining three. If the voters stay true to recent form, then it will be something big and brash, i.e. Saving Mr. Banks. If they revert to years gone by with winners such as Fish Tank, then The Selfish Giant stands a huge chance. I’ll hedge my bets and go with Philomena in that case – a best-of-both-worlds scenario with its A-list actors but indie script – and its success elsewhere hints at a win for it someplace.


Best Cinematography

Last five winners: Claudio Miranda (Life of Pi), Guillaume Schiffman (The Artist), Roger Deakins (True Grit), Barry Ackroyd (The Hurt Locker), Anthony Dod Mantle (Slumdog Millionaire)

Sean Bobbitt – 12 Years a Slave
Barry Ackroyd – Captain Phillips
Emmanuel Lubezki – Gravity
Bruno Delbonnel – Inside Llewyn Davis
Phedon Papamichael – Nebraska

As much as it seems like a sure-fire thing for Gravity once more (and deservedly so), there’s a chance that its visual effects will be recognised instead and a more traditional instance of cinematography excellence will be rewarded.

12 Years a Slave has been commended for the natural beauty within the shots, and Captain Phillips isn’t bad either. But if we’re going for a non-Gravity shout then it should be one of the others. Nebraska… Inside Llewyn Davis… Nebraska… Inside Llewyn Davis…

Prediction: Inside Llewyn Davis.


Best Actor in a Supporting Role

Last five winners: Christoph Waltz, Christopher Plummer, Geoffrey Rush, Christoph Waltz, Heath Ledger

Barkhad Abdi – Captain Phillips
Daniel Bruhl – Rush
Bradley Cooper – American Hustle
Matt Damon – Behind the Candelabra
Michael Fassbender – 12 Years a Slave

This is a contender for the strongest category of the lot, and quite possibly the most difficult to call too. Even the weakest (Cooper and Bruhl) did very well in their roles and are really developing as serious actors in recent years. I’m pining for a Behind the Candelabra win at some point, but truthfully it should have gone to Douglas if anyone.

Prediction: Matt Damon, as good as he was, doesn’t compare to the performances from Abdi and Fassbender. I thought both were terrific and each were the best performers in two pretty powerful films, so it’s win-win. I adore Fassbender so it would be lovely to see him win, but overall I don’t mind really. I think it’ll go to Abdi.


Best Actress in a Supporting Role

Last five winners: Anne Hathaway, Octavia Spencer, Helena Bonham Carter, Mo’Nique, Penelope Cruz

Sally Hawkins – Blue Jasmine
Jennifer Lawrence – American Hustle
Lupita Nyong’o – 12 Years a Slave
Julia Roberts – August: Osage County
Oprah Winfrey – The Butler

Winfrey was good, Julia Roberts was better; neither stand a chance. The would-be winners Lawrence, Hawkins and Nyong’o all provide thoroughly different but equally compelling turns. Lawrence is far more of a supporting character than the others (particularly Hawkins), and yet she is a bona fide scene-stealer with heaps of hilarity.

Nyong’o’s feature film debut, just like Abdi’s above (who hadn’t acted at all previously), was a bit of a revelation. But was she better than Sally Hawkins in Blue Jasmine? Woody Allen’s latest seems to be categorised as ‘brilliant Blanchett + other good supporting actors’ in the minds of many, but Hawkins was superb (as she tends to be).

Prediction: Again, this one is so, so close and my heart pines for a Hawkins win, but it’s almost certainly Lawrence vs. Nyong’o. And given her ‘heat’ in Hollywood right now, as it were, it might just be another win for the rather fantastic Lawrence.


Best Actress

Last five winners: Emmanuelle Riva, Meryl Streep, Natalie Portman, Carey Mulligan, Kate Winslet

Amy Adams – American Hustle
Cate Blanchett – Blue Jasmine
Sandra Bullock – Gravity
Judy Dench – Philomena
Emma Thompson – Saving Mr. Banks

Another strong category which goes as follows:

Props to anyone who has to carry the majority of a film alone, but Bullock has been overhyped. Judy Dench is sweet and funny in a rather lovely film, but she shouldn’t be a winner here. Amy Adams is very good (again!) in American Hustle; if you’re matching and quite possibly doing even better than Christian Bale then you’ve got real talent.

Emma Thompson is a British institution like Stephen Fry or Julie Andrews, and therefore she’s required to be adored by law. This happens to be a rule which I’m happy to adhere to. It would be truly wonderful if she could pick up the win, but there’s one simple reason as to why I’m not holding my breath.

Bullock’s the hot favourite and has been for months. Despite Blue Jasmine coming out what feels like an age ago, she’s still got momentum from it. And if we’re honest, it’s completely deserved. Despite the surface bravado, Jasmine is a surprisingly nuanced character and Blanchett works it superbly.

Prediction: Blanchett to win the BAFTA and Academy Award too. The outside shot is either Thompson or Dench, but I’m not sure which (probably Thompson).


Best Actor

Last five winners: Daniel Day-Lewis, Jean Dujardin, Colin Firth, Colin Firth, Mickey Rourke

Christian Bale – American Hustle
Bruce Dern – Nebraska
Leonardo DiCaprio – The Wolf of Wall Street
Chiwetel Ejiofor – 12 Years a Slave
Tom Hanks – Captain Phillips

First thing’s first; the Academy Awards have done a better job of things than BAFTA with this one. Specifically, they didn’t nominate Tom Hanks (who is very good, but not special) and went for Matthew McConaughey instead, who is now the frontrunner for the Oscar.

Ejiofor’s performance is of the same ilk: good, but overrated. Alongside Nyong’o and Fassbender – who have less space to work in – he comes out third. I also find neither of these as layered or subtle as Dern’s, who is quite possibly the pick of the bunch.

But I don’t see it going to him; a nomination is welcome surprise in itself given the type of film and role compared to the others. Bale is impressive and committed, although not quite at his very best. And though I like Leo and the run of films he’s on very much, I’m not sure he’s delivered too many demonstrations of being unbelievably good.

He isn’t quite that in The Wolf of Wall Street, but he’s not far off either. An all-at-once cynical, comedic and yet loathsome turn as stockbroker Jordan Belfort is one of his best displays so far. I hope he wins.

Prediction: But he’s second-favourite, because this will go to Ejiofor.


Best Director

Last five winners: Ben Affleck, Michel Hazanavicius, David Fincher, Kathryn Bigelow, Danny Boyle

Steve McQueen – 12 Years a Slave
David O. Russell – American Hustle
Paul Greengrass – Captain Phillips
Alfonso Cuaron – Gravity
Martin Scorsese – The Wolf of Wall Street

McQueen’s direction is superb when he wants it to be (most notably in Shame) but it’s up-and-down in 12 Years, providing some excellent moments with trademark physicality and evocative use of music, but at times it’s a little flat.

David O. Russell’s American Hustle is many things – some good, some bad – and the same goes for the direction. He’s the weakest of the five. Scorsese is a grandmaster of the trade, but criticisms over the excessive nature of the plot mean that he won’t get this one.

It’s really down to two, and so difficult to call. Captain Phillips was made great by Paul Greengrass who manages to create visceral tension in a manner much like United 93. Alfonso Cuaron should be applauded for doing much the same in space, although there’s much more to both films (and their respective directors) than that.

Prediction: This one, I think, will rightly go to Cuaron. But it’s a close-call between two master technicians.


Best Film

Last five winners: Argo, The Artist, The King’s Speech, The Hurt Locker, Slumdog Millionaire

12 Years a Slave: Surely the most likely of the five: strong performances, a confident and assured director, an important topic tackled tastefully, widespread audience and critical adoration…
American Hustle:
The next big contender (and for the Oscars too) providing competition through humour and style. It’s therefore a very different film to 12 Years; it has far less to say, but it’s got an undoubted wicked streak. Its ensemble stars might just pull it through…
Captain Phillips:
The only film to be nominated for Best Film here but not at the Academy Awards. It’s a far better tale than it should be, largely due to Greengrass and the lead performances. It’s genuinely nerve-wracking and forces you to become absolutely absorbed…
The only real downside for Captain Phillips, as already hinted at, is that Gravity is (to an extent at least) an even more accomplished, impressive version of it. Its leads aren’t as good, but the technical and visual effects, direction, sense of atmosphere, sound and worth as a cinematic experience is unparalleled this year…
The audience-pleasing, British comedy-drama isn’t big enough to take the glory away from one of the others, but it’s pleasing to see it in the mix. A nice mix of humour, charm, sentiment and intellect provide a warm, welcoming experience with Dench and the in-form Coogan who might just get rewarded for the screenplay at least…

This is how I’d rank their chances of winning…
5th Philomena
4th Captain Phillips
3rd Gravity
2nd American Hustle
1st 12 Years a Slave

…although if it were up to me, it would be Gravity all the way.


Additionally, the ceremony will feature the BAFTA Fellowship which will this year be bestowed upon Helen Mirren. It will also include the annual In Memoriam section as we continue to mourn the tragic loss of Philip Seymour Hoffman, as well as other notables such as James Gandolfini and critic Roger Ebert who have passed away in the last year.

The BAFTA Film Awards will be broadcast on BBC One at 9pm on Sunday 16th February 2014.

About Michael Prescott

24-year-old Welsh writer on all things film. Background in Philosophy. Accidentally in Sheffield for 6 years and counting. Addicted to Kevin Spacey. Tweetable: @M_S_Prescott