BAFTA boosts Oscar hopes of 'Slumdog Millionaire' and 'Benjamin Button'
Two of the five front-runners at this year's Oscars — "Slumdog Millionaire" and "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" — led the pack at the BAFTAs with 11 nominations each, including best picture nods. Another two — "Frost/Nixon" and "Milk" — fared far less well, though they count best picture nods among their six and three BAFTA bids respectively. And while the fifth favorite at the Oscars — "The Dark Knight" — managed eight BAFTA nods, it was bumped from the best picture race by "The Reader" (which had five nods in total).
While the BAFTA laurels have foreseen only two best-picture Oscars winners — "Gladiator" (2000) and "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" (2003) — since these kudos were moved up in 2000 to take place while academy members are still voting, they do far better at predicting the acting awards. Both last year and in 2006, all four BAFTA champs went on to win at the Oscars.
With dueling lead actress nominations, Kate Winslet can't be the double winner she was at the Golden Globes for "Revolutionary Road" and "The Reader." Winslet won only the first of her five BAFTA nods — a supporting award in 1995 for "Sense and Sensibilty." Also in the running for best actress are first-time BAFTA nominee Angelina Jolie for "Changeling" (which has seven nods in all), 1982 BAFTA best actress Meryl Streep ("The French Lieutenant's Woman"), who earned her twelfth nom for "Doubt" (which has three nods in total), and Kristin Scott Thomas, who earned her third nod for "I've Loved You So Long."
The biggest surprise is the omission of Sally Hawkins, who has already won the Golden Globe as well as both Gotham and LA critics awards for "Happy-Go-Lucky." Yet, this British film was roundly snubbed. Also out of the running is Critics Choice winner Anne Hathaway who made the long list even though "Rachel Getting Married" has yet to open in the U.K.
Four of the five best actor contenders — Frank Langella ("Frost/Nixon"), Dev Patel ("Slumdog Millionaire"), Brad Pitt ("The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"), and Mickey Rourke ("The Wrestler") — are first-time BAFTA nominees while Sean Penn scored his third nod for "Milk."
Pitt also competes in the supporting-actor race for "Burn After Reading" against 1992 BAFTA best actor Robert Downey, Jr. ("Chaplin") for "Tropic Thunder", first-time nominee Brendan Gleeson for "In Bruges", 2005 BAFTA best actor Philip Seymour Hoffman ("Capote") for "Doubt," and one-time BAFTA nominee Heath Ledger for "The Dark Knight".
Last year's supporting actress winner Tilda Swinton ("Michael Clayton") repeats in that race for "Burn After Reading" against 2006 best actress nominee Penelope Cruz contending for "Vicky Christina Barcelona" and a trio of BAFTA newcomers — Amy Adams("Doubt"), Freida Pinto ("Slumdog Millionaire"), and Marisa Tomei ("The Wrestler").
Two of the five DGA nominees — British born Christopher Nolan ("The Dark Knight") and Gus Van Sant ("Milk") — were snubbed in favor of two-time BAFTA directing nominee Stephen Daldry ("The Reader") and the one-time nominated Clint Eastwood who is up for "Changeling" (his other Oscar pony "Gran Torino" has not opened in the UK yet). Of the other three contenders, Ron Howard ("Frost/Nixon") has one BAFTA directing nod while Danny Boyle ("Slumdog Millionaire") and David Fincher ("Benjamin Button") are newcomers to this race.
Three of the five WGA adapted screenplays contend — "Benjamin Button" by one-time BAFTA nominee Eric Roth ("Forrest Gump"), "Frost/Nixon" by 2006 BAFTA winner Peter Morgan ("The Last King of Scotland"), and "Slumdog Millionaire" by one-time BAFTA nominee Simon Beaufoy ("Slumdog Millionaire"). One-time nominee David Hare ("The Hours") returns for "The Reader" while newcomer Justin Haythe is up for "Revolutionary Road."
Only two of the WGA original screenplay contenders compete here: two-time BAFTA scripting nominees Joel & Ethan Coen for "Burn After Reading" (they won the helming prize last year for "No Country for Old Men") and newcomer Dustin Lance Black for "Milk." The other three nominees are also newcomers to this BAFTA race — Philippe Claudel ("I've Loved You So Long"), Martin McDonagh ("In Bruges"), and J. Michael Straczynski ("Changeling").
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Photos: Sony Pictures Classics, Miramax, Picturehouse, Paramount Vantage