While the Academy Awards tease us with lists of semifinalist pre-nominations in only certain categories -- such as foreign film and some of the technical ones -- the BAFTAs have "long lists," as they're called, in almost all categories. Indeed, 15 films are in the running in most of the 17 races. The final five contenders in each category will be announced Jan. 21 (almost two weeks before nominations for the Oscars are unveiled) with the awards fest on Feb. 21 (two weeks before the Academy Awards ceremony).
More than 6,000 members of BAFTA culled these long lists from 220 eligible films. Leading with 17 mentions -- including best picture and for seven performances -- is "An Education" while "Inglourious Basterds" merited 14 mentions including best picture and four performances. As "Avatar" was short-listed in all races in which it was eligible except acting, it earned 11 mentions, as did "The Hurt Locker" (including picture and three acting bids) and "The Lovely Bones" (four acting bids but no picture mention).
Other notable contenders include "Up in the Air" with nine mentions (including best picture and three performances (George Clooney, Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick), "Precious" with seven mentions including best picture and three performances (Gabby Sidibe, Mariah Carey and Mo'Nique) and "Nine" with six mentions including the performances of Marion Cotillard and Penelope Cruz. Cruz is also in the running for her performance in "Broken Embraces." That film is one of the final five nominees for foreign-language fare along with "Coco Before Chanel," "Let the Right One In," "A Prophet" and "The White Ribbon."
Other performers with double mentions are Meryl Streep for her lead roles in "It's Complicated" and "Julie & Julia" and Stanley Tucci for his supporting work in "Julie & Julia" and "The Lovely Bones." Last year, Streep landed her ninth lead nom for "Doubt" (her performance in "Mamma Mia!" had made the long list). Streep's first two Oscar-nominated performances -- supporting turns in "The Deer Hunter" and "Kramer vs. Kramer" -- saw her competing in the lead category at BAFTA. She lost both of those races, as well as her three supporting bids and eight of her lead ones. The only BAFTA Streep won was for her 1981 leading role in "The French Lieutenant's Woman." Her 1982 Oscar-winning performance in "Sophie's Choice" was not seen in the U.K. until 1983, and she lost that race to Julie Walters for "Educating Rita."
Last year, "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" and "Frost/Nixon" led the long lists with 14 mentions each, followed by "Changeling," "The Dark Knight," "The Reader," "Revolutionary Road" and "Slumdog Millionaire" with 13 apiece. In the second round, "Benjamin Button" and "Slumdog Millionaire" both landed 11 nominations while "The Dark Knight" earned eight (but not a best picture bid). "Changeling" had seven nods, "Frost/Nixon" six and "The Reader" five. In the end, it was eventual Oscar champ "Slumdog Millionaire" that won the BAFTA best-picture prize. Three of the four acting winners -- Kate Winslet ("The Reader"), Heath Ledger ("The Dark Knight") and Penelope Cruz ("Vicky Christina Barcelona") went on to prevail at the Oscars. The fourth -- Mickey Rourke ("The Wrestler") -- lost the Oscar to Sean Penn ("Milk").
Two years ago, "Atonement" led the BAFTA long list with 17 mentions, followed by 13 for "American Gangster," "Elizabeth: The Golden Age," "No Country for Old Men" and "There Will Be Blood." On the big night, "Atonement" -- the only British film among the final five best-picture nominees -- won that race as well as production design. All four acting winners -- Daniel Day-Lewis ("There Will Be Blood"), Marion Cotillard ("La Vie en Rose"), Javier Bardem ("No Country for Old Men") and Tilda Swinton ("Michael Clayton") -- went on to repeat at the Oscars. In 2006, one of the two pix that tied for the most long-list bids, "The Queen," won the BAFTA for best picture, but four years ago the long-list leader, "Memoirs of a Geisha," didn't even get a nom in the top race.
Photo: Dominic Cooper, Rosamund Pike, Peter Sarsgaard and Carey Mulligan in a scene from "An Education." Credit: Sony Pictures Classics