I reviewed the BIFA nominees last year, and since we haven’t yet got into the thick of the season, I’m damn sure gonna review them!
Unlike last year, I haven’t seen most of the films in contention–but many of them are among my most anticipated films of the year.
British Independent Film:
- Ex Machina
- 45 Years
- The Lobster
So fucking happy The Lobster got on. I’m so excited for that film.
The only one of these I’ve seen is Ex Machina, and it’s very good (my #9 so far), but 45 Years, The Lobster, and Macbeth are all films I’m damnably excited for, and Amy (a documentary on Amy Winehouse) is by all accounts excellent. So a good–if not perfect–list.
- Alex Garland, Ex Machina
- Andrew Haigh, 45 Years
- Asif Kapadia, Amy
- Justin Kurzel, Macbeth
- Yorgos Lanthimos, The Lobster
So they match Picture 5-for-5, which means a documentary gets a Director nod (which feels weird). I don’t particularly like it when that happens–it feels unimaginative. Especially since I doubt 45 Years is really that notable in the direction department (it feels like more of an acting/writing showcase).
It’s great to see Lanthimos here, though, and Garland did a fine job with his film (he’s my #5, so he’s definitely worthy of a nomination as of this moment).
- Tom Courtenay, 45 Years
- Colin Farrell, The Lobster
- Michael Fassbender, Macbeth
- Tom Hardy, Legend
- Tom Hiddleston, High-Rise
I’m really happy Farrell’s here. I thought he might be a contender, but I wasn’t sure (since such films are often showcases more for their directors). And it’s good to see Hardy here, given that Legend hasn’t been terribly well-received. I’m also glad to see Hiddleston, since I’m really intrigued about High-Rise (though, more on him later).
However, given another nomination later on, it’s apparent that Mr. Holmes was eligible for these awards, making its almost total absence here inexcusable. Ian McKellen is my #2 Best Actor to date, and how they omitted him is beyond my understanding.
- Marion Cotillard, Macbeth
- Carey Mulligan, Suffragette
- Charlotte Rampling, 45 Years
- Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn
- Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl
So there’s Cotillard in Lead. That doesn’t necessarily settle the issue of where she’ll be placed elsewhere, but it does set a precedent.
Mulligan’s presence means Suffragette can’t be counted out (there was a controversy that grew out of a photo shoot which cast a pall over its release–and the reviews have been weaker than expected), Rampling and Ronan receive the first of what will likely be many nominations, and Vikander, like Cotillard, sets a precedent for herself as a Lead in her film. Too bad she wasn’t nominated for Ex Machina (she’s still my #1), but at least she’s here.
- Luke Evans, High-Rise
- Brendan Gleeson, Suffragette
- Domhnall Gleeson, Brooklyn
- Sean Harris, Macbeth
- Ben Whishaw, The Lobster
More Lobster love. Capital.
And more High-Rise love. Not complaining at all.
Both Gleesons are here–Domhnall’s having an especially good year, between this, Ex Machina (he’s my #9 Best Actor), and The Revenant.
They really love Sean Harris, huh? They nominated him last year for ’71 as well (for a performance I wouldn’t have thought to nominate). Here, however, he’s Macduff, which is certainly a powerful role in the right hands.
I really don’t know how they didn’t nominate Oscar Isaac (my #1 right now) for Ex Machina. An online commenter suggested it was because he isn’t British, but that’s a pretty weak excuse, given their appreciation for the film elsewhere.
- Helena Bonham Carter, Suffragette
- Olivia Colman, The Lobster
- Anne-Marie Duff, Suffragette
- Sienna Miller, High-Rise
- Julie Walters, Brooklyn
They doubled up on Suffragette and didn’t nominate Laura Linney for Mr. Holmes. Whatever.
So I guess Colman is the performance to nominate from The Lobster? I thought it might be Rachel Weisz, but maybe not.
The big surprise for me personally is Miller. I’ve said elsewhere that I’ve yet to be truly impressed by one of her performances, but…maybe this is the one?
Walters will probably pop up a fair amount this season. Just a hunch.
- Ex Machina
- 45 Years
- The Lobster
It’s worth nothing that both Brooklyn and High-Rise have three acting nominations and a writing nomination, but got left out of Picture. Makes that Amy nomination look all the stranger. (I get why Macbeth isn’t here, however.)
Ex Machina is an excellent script (my #3 Original script), and I have high hopes for all the rest. I’m annoyed my #1 Adapted script, Mr. Holmes, didn’t make the cut, but given the strength of this category I’m not too put out.
Foreign Independent Film:
- Force Majeure
- Son of Saul
I guess Force Majeure came out a year later in the UK. No matter; it’s an amazing film.
Pretty good list. I assume Carol or Son of Saul wins.
Achievement in Craft:
- Amy – editing
- Brooklyn – casting
- Ex Machina – production design
- Ex Machina – visual effects
- Macbeth – cinematography
Ex Machina is currently only #16 on my Production Design list because I was under the impression Nathan’s house was mostly a Norwegian hotel the producers had redressed. I might have to change that (I’ve provisionally bumped it up to #4). It’s also only #13 on my Visual Effects list, but given the modest budget, it’s worthy of citation.
Macbeth looks gorgeously shot, so that makes sense. I’m assuming Amy and Brooklyn belong here as well.
- Dark Horse: The Incredible True Story of Dream Alliance
- How to Change the World
- A Syrian Love Story
Dark Horse is about a Welsh racehorse. How to Change the World is about Greenpeace. Palio is about a long-established horse race in Siena. A Syrian Love Story is about a family escaping the strife in that country.
But Amy is almost certainly winning this.
Most Promising Newcomer:
- Agyness Dean, Sunset Song
- Mia Goth, The Survivalist
- Abigail Hardingham, Nina Forever
- Milo Parker, Mr. Holmes
- Bel Powley, A Royal Night Out
It’s hard not to root for Parker (my #3 Supporting Actor), but Powley is having a hell of a year with this and in Diary of a Teenage Girl (where she’s my #3 Actress). It’s weird to see Goth here since she was in Nymphomaniac last year (two years ago if you want to get technical).
Douglas Hickox Award for Debut Director:
- Chris & Ben Blaine, Nina Forever
- Colin Hardy, The Hallow
- Paul Katis, Kajaki: The True Story
- John Maclean, Slow West
- Stephen Fingleton, The Survivalist
Aside from Slow West (a Western with Michael Fassbender that I’d like to see), I haven’t heard of any of these.
Nina Forever sounds interesting–a girl dies, her boyfriend tries to move on, and she tries to sabotage his new relationship by coming back as a revenant (as Wikipedia puts it) whenever he and his new girlfriend try to have sex.
The Hallow is a horror film which sounds pretty generic.
Kajaki: The True Story is an Afghan War film which is coming out here under the name Kilo Two Bravo. Reviews have been solid.
And The Survivalist is a post-apocalyptic drama, apparently well done but very bleak.
Producer of the Year:
- James Gay-Rees, Amy
- Tristan Goligher, 45 Years
- Paul Katis & Andrew De Lotbiniere, Kajaki: The True Story
- Ceci Dempsey, Ed Guiney, Yorgos Lanthimos & Lee Magiday, The Lobster
- David A. Hughes & David Moores, The Violators
The Violators is a teenage drama set in the “overspill” of Cheshire, FYI.
- Burn Burn Burn
- Orion: The Man Who Would Be King
- The Return
I like that these titles, arranged alphabetically, are also in order from weirdest to least weird.
The descriptions as given on BIFA’s website:
- Aaaaaaaah!: Alpha Male, Smith and his Beta, Keith, make a move to take over a local community. They hook up with restless Female, Denise, igniting a deadly feud in which emotions run high and deep-seated grudges re-surface amongst the tribe. Are we not men? Or are we simply beasts? Shot entirely in a language of grunts and gibberish, Steve Oram’s debut feature is a celluloid primal scream – an anarchic, hilarious,disturbing and touching look at the human condition.
- Burn Burn Burn: Following the death of their friend, two girls in their twenties embark on a road trip to spread his ashes. Seph and Alex take turns driving. Dan is in the glove compartment, in tupperware, decreasing in volume as the trip progresses.
- Orion: The Man Who Would Be King: 1977. The world was stunned by the news of Elvis Presley’s untimely passing. Some went so far as to believe that somehow he had faked his death. For Sun Records that fantasy became an opportunity in the form of Orion, a mysterious masked performer with the voice of The King. Resonant in its themes of identity, fate, and the cruelty of fame, Orion is a stylish mystery story that exposes the incredible life of an unknown singer plucked from obscurity and thrust into the spotlight with the complicity of a manipulative music industry and a public unwilling to let Elvis go.
- The Return: Jack returns to London after three years in exile and immediately goes in search for the next job. On discovering that his old connections have gone cold he sets about makiing his own luck and decieds to target rich business people in the city. When a job goes wrong, Jack is left fighting for his life against an enemy who is far more powerful and devious than he could ever have imagined, sending him on a collision course with a catastorphic secret.
- Winter: Forty something, foul-mouthed and aggressive, with an unquenchable thirst for booze and fags, when we first meet Woods Weston he appears to be a hopeless case. But, as the narrative unfolds, it reveals a once successful and charismatic man capable of great sensitivity, an accomplished artist, a loving husband and a committed father. TOMMY FLANAGAN stars as a father consumed by grief who must come to terms with an emotional breakdown in order to save his relationship with his two young sons, 19 year-old Tom (TOM PAYNE) and 14 year-old Max (BILL MILNER); deeply moving and visually arresting, WINTER is a poignant exploration of love, loss and family bonds.
Okay, I really want to see Aaaaaaaah! That sounds like it could be awesome. And Orion sounds fun too. Burn Burn Burn could go either way. The Return and Winter don’t especially grab me.
I won’t bother with the short films.
So we’ve got some early and strong support for The Lobster, which makes me very happy, and definite support for Macbeth, 45 Years, and Ex Machina, all of which make me fairly happy too.
To be fair, the BIFAs have not had too much influence on the Academy, but we’re just getting started here. This is going to be a hell of a season, because there are so few frontrunners. And that’s the way I like it.