This weekend marks the 73rd annual BAFTA Film Awards, which will be handed out at the Royal Albert Hall in London as part of a glittering ceremony. The BAFTAs bring together the brightest stars of Hollywood with some of the UK’s most exciting homegrown talent.
In recent years, the BAFTAs have become a key precursor ceremony to the Oscars and so observers will be watching carefully to see which movies gain momentum and which ones fall away. The deadline for Academy members to submit their Oscar ballots is 4 February — just 48 hours after the BAFTAs — meaning that these will be the awards sitting freshest in many members’ minds when they cast their final votes.
So, with that in mind, here are some predictions for the BAFTAs, including the big winners and some of the things that are likely to happen on the night.
1917 will win big
Despite the presence of both Quentin Tarantino and Martin Scorsese in this year’s race for Best Film, it feels as if the clear frontrunner for the Oscar is now 1917, from its terrific night at the Golden Globes to its slew of guild awards. With this much momentum building behind a genuinely British movie, there seems to be no chance of BAFTA passing up the opportunity to give it the big prize. The same is true of Best Director, where Sam Mendes’ victory on Oscar night now seems almost certain.
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What’s less certain is precisely how many awards 1917 will win. It’s nominated in nine categories and, if it wins in every single one, it will draw level with Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid as the most successful film in BAFTA history. It would be foolish to bet against it.
Acting frontrunners will gain more ground
The four acting Oscars are more or less sewn up at this point, with the same performers seemingly stepping up to collect their gongs at all of the precursor ceremonies. BAFTA success will be a final chance for these frontrunners to extend their leads in the race, and there don’t seem to be too many banana skins along their path.
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Joaquin Phoenix has been picking up awards left, right and centre for Joker, while Renée Zellweger has seemingly been the favourite for Best Actress since the first critics saw Judy in August. Meanwhile, the supporting prizes look likely to go to Brad Pitt for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and Laura Dern for Marriage Story — both movies which are set for major snubs in other categories.
However, there’s just one thing standing in their way...
There will be a surprise British/Irish win
The BAFTAs likes to be close to the Oscars, of course, but they also like to celebrate British talent when the opportunity arises. Recent BAFTA ceremonies are littered with moments in which the awards have thrown in a curveball with an unexpected honour for a Brit. Rachel Weisz won for The Favourite last year, Steve Jobs star Kate Winslet pipped The Danish Girl Oscar-winner Alicia Vikander in 2016 and Dev Patel surprised just about everybody when he picked up Best Supporting Actor for Lion in 2017.
This year, there’s an opportunity for a similar surprise in just about every acting category. Taron Egerton could add a BAFTA to the Golden Globe he won for playing Elton John in Rocketman and fellow Welshman Jonathan Pryce is also competing in that category. Florence Pugh could emerge victorious for Little Women and either member of the Irish duo of Little Women’s Saoirse Ronan and Jessie Buckley — recognised for the terrific Wild Rose — stands a real chance at topping Zellweger for Best Actress.
There’s no way that all of these surprises come off, but one of them at least almost certainly will. Egerton seems the likely pick but, as he’s not even nominated for the equivalent Oscar, this will be where his awards season ends.
Norton will skewer Lumley — and probably Laurence Fox too
Joanna Lumley’s disastrous monologue from last year’s ceremony is now the stuff of BAFTA legend, so there’s no way that incoming host Graham Norton won’t have a word or two to say about it. Norton will likely drop in a sweetly scathing jibe at Lumley when he takes to the stage, otherwise last year’s debacle will feel like an elephant in the room.
Norton also has an irresistible target in the shape of the newest British media shock merchant Laurence Fox. From his Question Time appearance to his comments about Sikh soldiers appearing in 1917, he is staking a claim to replacing Katie Hopkins and Piers Morgan as the offence-courter in chief. He’s an easy target, and Norton won’t ignore him.
A really interesting winner won’t make the televised broadcast
The BAFTA ceremony is one of the few major awards events in the film world not to be broadcast live on television. Instead, the ceremony is edited down into a two-hour package and aired on the BBC later in the evening. This inevitably means that some of the less star-packed categories end up on the cutting room floor, with snippets of their acceptance speeches shown in a montage during the BBC broadcast.
Last year, social media was upset that the team behind Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse had their shock victory over Incredibles 2 cut from the show and relegated to the snippet package. This year, there’s every chance that category will deliver another pleasant surprise, but there’s no way of knowing whether it will make the broadcast.
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It also seems likely that movie legend Roger Deakins will win his fifth BAFTA for Best Cinematography as a result of his ambitious lensing of 1917, but that is also a contender for the chop as his victory for Blade Runner 2049 in 2018 didn’t make the main show. It would be a shame to rob such a beloved figure of a big TV moment.
The EE Rising Star will give the best speech
One of the best awards given out at the BAFTAs each year is the EE Rising Star gong, given to an actor on the rise and voted for by the British public. The last few winners include Black Panther’s Letitia Wright, Get Out star Daniel Kaluuya, Spider-Man himself Tom Holland and Star Wars actor John Boyega. It’s a list of terrific names, but it’s the speeches that really impress.
The last handful of BAFTA ceremonies have seen the winners of the Rising Star Award issue heartfelt and warm speeches, delivering the usual thank-yous while also saying something profound about the industry. Wright referred to her history of depression and how acting saved her, while Kaluuya spoke about the arts funding which allowed him to hone his craft.
When they’re given the spotlight on the big stage, these eloquent young performers have very important things to say. The likely winner of this year’s prize is Awkwafina — star of The Farewell and Jumanji: The Next Level — and she has never shied away from being outspoken about the industry.
The Irishman will go home empty-handed
Six months ago, the suggestion that The Irishman would leave any awards ceremony empty-handed would have been unthinkable. Now, however, Martin Scorsese’s gargantuan gangster epic looks very much like an also-ran in this awards season. It’s nominated 10 times at the BAFTAs, but stands a real chance of trudging out of the doors of the Royal Albert Hall without a single trophy in its grasp.
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Whether it’s the Netflix effect, the intimidating running time or the simple fact that voters didn’t love the movie, something hasn’t clicked for The Irishman’s campaign. BAFTA could well find room to award Thelma Schoonmaker for her editing — she won the prestigious BAFTA Fellowship last year — or Steven Zaillian for his screenplay, but any other victory seems like a remote possibility at best.
Someone will split the room with a Meghan joke
The decision by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex to step away from the frontline of the Royal Family in the face of press intrusion and pressure is still very raw on these shores. Anyone who references it at the BAFTAs, as someone almost certainly will, risks making half of the room very upset indeed.
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The BAFTAs 2020 will take place on Sunday, 2 February, and will be televised on BBC One at 9pm.