Oscars voting will begin Tuesday, one of the final steps in a bizarre and unpredictable awards season that has been highlighted (or, uh, lowlighted) by a hosting controversy, the failed thought experiment of a Best Popular Film category, and a Best Picture race that continues to be a crapshoot. But before the members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences mark up their ballots, let’s take stock of Sunday’s BAFTA Awards.
The BAFTAs—the EE British Academy Film Awards, better known as the British equivalent of the Oscars—are one of the Oscars’ most important precursors. It’s run by a prestigious awards body whose membership heavily overlaps the Academy’s. But more importantly: Because the BAFTAs take place just two days before Oscars voting starts, the films, actors, and filmmakers who win at the ceremony also have the benefit of making the most recent impression on (quite impressionable) Academy members. With that in mind, here are three ways this year’s BAFTA Awards might influence the Oscars’ biggest categories. (Check out the full list of BAFTA winners here.)
Roma Is the Cautious Front-runner
Ahead of the BAFTAs, Alfonso Cuarón’s deeply personal film remained one of this year’s biggest wild cards. Roma and its revered director had won big at the Critics Choice Awards and Directors Guild Awards, but its inability to win the Best Picture equivalent at the Golden Globes—thanks to an annoying rule that forbids a foreign-language film from being nominated—threw some of the Oscars momentum toward the likes of Green Book and Bohemian Rhapsody. Even Black Panther emerged as a dark-horse candidate after its strong showing at the Screen Actors Guild Awards. (Where, again, Roma wasn’t in contention.) Add in the fact that Roma is a Netflix film, a designation some Hollywood circles treat with skepticism, as well as a black-and-white foreign-language film, which is not typical Oscars fodder, and you’ve got yourself a shaky Best Picture front-runner.
But the BAFTAs was good for Roma, which tallied four wins—including Best Film, and Best Director and Best Cinematography for Cuarón. Cuarón, in particular, looks like a shoo-in for Best Director after also winning the Directors Guild Awards’ top honors. And Roma is certainly the presumptive favorite to win the Best Picture race—though we shouldn’t use the BAFTAs as an excuse to officially lock it in as the winner. In the past four years, the winner of Best Film at the BAFTAs has not gone on to win Best Picture; BAFTA winner Boyhood lost to Birdman in 2015; The Revenant lost to Spotlight in 2016; La La Land lost to Moonlight in 2017; and last year, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri fell to The Shape of Water.
However, prior to the Boyhood-Birdman split in 2014, the Oscars and the BAFTAs did match Best Film–Best Picture winners for six consecutive years. The streaky nature of the BAFTAs and the Oscars for the shows’ biggest prizes, coupled with Roma being a Netflix property, makes determining a Best Picture winner trickier than usual. But given Roma’s ability to shine at the awards shows in which arcane rules haven’t blocked it from competing, it has to be considered the Best Picture front-runner.
In recent years, the Best Picture race has been defined by dichotomies. Two-movie competitions have emerged, with weighty narratives placed on each film by virtue of their differences. La La Land’s glitzy portrayal of Hollywood competed against Moonlight, a tiny indie film that represented a marginalized community; Three Billboards’ complicated optics on race relations matched up with Get Out’s trenchant exploration of liberal racism (only for both films to lose to the fish-sex movie). But that isn’t the case this year: There’s Roma, and then there are movies marred by controversy with increasingly dwindling hopes, like Green Book and Bohemian Rhapsody; if either of those were to win, it’d become the most contentious Best Picture since Crash. After the Golden Globes, we seemed destined for yet another dichotomy, with Roma representing the future of auteur filmmaking and progressive film distribution, and Green Book representing the backward ideals of the kinds of movies Hollywood used to laud. But in the intervening month, Green Book’s momentum has slowed, and that narrative hasn’t materialized. Going into the Oscars this year, we don’t have an impending showdown; it’s Roma versus the field.
Olivia Colman and Rachel Weisz are Coming for the Acting Favo(u)rites
The thing to know about the BAFTAs, a British ceremony, is that it has an understandable bias toward British films and artists. There are even British-specific categories like Outstanding British Film and Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer to go along with the broader awards. This year, the clear beneficiary of this slant was The Favourite, an off-kilter British period piece—starring many British actors—that went into Sunday with 12 nominations. The Favourite captured seven BAFTAs, more than any other film. You can attribute some of this to the BAFTA bias, but it’s instructive to examine the categories The Favourite won and lost in. The fact it still lost to Roma in Best Film, for example, doesn’t bode well for its marginal Best Picture chances. On the other hand, two of The Favourite’s wins could throw a wrench in the Oscars’ acting categories.
Olivia Colman and Rachel Weisz won for Leading Actress and Supporting Actress, respectively. Colman beat out presumed front-runner Glenn Close (The Wife, a film people may or may not have seen), as well as Lady Gaga (A Star Is Born). Colman probably has the best chance of toppling Close later this month, having also won at the Golden Globes for Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture—Musical or Comedy, a category Close was not competing in. While it can’t necessarily be proved that this affects Oscar voting, the actress’s acceptance speeches have also been a delightful mix of sentimentality and rowdiness. She praised “my bitches” Weisz and costar Emma Stone at the Globes, and followed that up with “we are all going to get so pissed later” at the BAFTAs. (All British slang is delightful.)
Weisz, meanwhile, is in contention in a Best Supporting Actress race that continues to befuddle. The GoldDerby odds still have Regina King (If Beale Street Could Talk) as the front-runner, but the actress wasn’t even nominated at the BAFTAs or the SAG Awards. Had Weisz won at the SAGs, we’d be talking about a legit two-person Best Supporting Actress race, but the win instead went to Emily Blunt for A Quiet Place, who didn’t even get an Oscar nomination. King won the Golden Globe and has garnered momentum from other awards bodies like the National Board of Review and National Society of Film Critics, but Weisz’s BAFTAs win keeps things interesting heading into the Oscars.
Rami Malek Is Running Away From Christian Bale
The BAFTAs are pro-British, and Rami Malek was playing buck-toothed British rock icon Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody; ergo, he was the obvious winner in the Leading Actor category. That aside, the win marks yet another prestigious awards show favoring Malek over his closest competitor in the Best Actor race, Christian Bale (Vice), who won a Golden Globe in a category Malek wasn’t competing in. (We’re so sorry, Bradley Cooper, I hope you had a great time winning the BAFTA’s Best Music award, and are “happy normally”; also, congratulations on your Grammy.)
Post-BAFTAs, Malek remains the Best Actor front-runner—but him winning the Oscar in a couple of weeks is far from a sure thing. The Atlantic’s exposé from January that detailed stories of sexual assault concerning Bohemian Rhapsody’s director, Bryan Singer, continues to hover over the film. It’s the kind of narrative that will almost certainly be on Academy members’ minds, and many believe most of Malek’s statements on Singer have left much to be desired. (Singer was fired from Bohemian Rhapsody before its production wrapped, but is still credited as the film’s sole director because of union regulations.)
Even so, Bohemian Rhapsody was a worldwide box office sensation, everybody loves Queen, and giving Malek an Oscar is the easiest way to recognize the film without directly addressing the Singer of it all. Like Roma, Malek has a few factors working against him, but the actor should feel cautiously optimistic about his odds of winning an Oscar at the end of the month.