Germany, Ireland and Chinese martial arts loom large as British cinema hands out its BAFTA awards on Sunday, with less than a month to go to the Oscars.
With 14 nods, German director Edward Berger’s “All Quiet on the Western Front” is the joint most-nominated foreign-language film in the BAFTA academy’s 76-year history.
It has tied with Ang Lee’s martial arts drama “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”, co-starring Michelle Yeoh, which won the same number of nominations in 2001.
Yeoh is nominated for best actress this year as a worn-down laundromat owner who transforms into a high-kicking heroine, in the wildly inventive “Everything Everywhere All At Once”.
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Yeoh’s kung-fu science-fiction film received 10 BAFTA nominations, as did the pitch-black Irish comedy “The Banshees of Inisherin” co-starring Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson.
“Elvis”, Baz Luhrmann’s biopic of the king of rock ‘n’ roll, is on nine nominations, with classical music psychological drama “Tar” in line for five awards including best actress for Cate Blanchett.
The main awards of the ceremony, the highlight of the British film calendar and a key indicator to the Oscars on March 12, will be handed out at London’s Royal Festival Hall from 1900 GMT.
Kremlin critic ‘banned’
The awards suffered controversy two years ago when BAFTA gave a lifetime achievement award to British actor and producer Noel Clarke, only for a series of sexual misconduct allegations to emerge against him.
This time, Bulgarian investigative journalist and Kremlin critic Christo Grozev says he has been “banned” from attending the awards, where a documentary about dissident Alexei Navalny is nominated.
Grozev, who is credited with helping to reveal a plot to kill Navalny, appears in the documentary.
London’s Metropolitan police said only that “some journalists face the hostile intentions of foreign states whilst in the UK”, while BAFTA said the safety of its guests and staff was a priority.
And BAFTA has faced criticism for overlooking women.
Only one, Gina Prince-Bythewood, is nominated for best director, for “The Woman King”. That is one more than the Oscars managed in that category this year.
Ahead of the ceremony, BAFTA chairman Krishnendu Majumdar stressed the “amazing range” of work up for recognition.
“It’s crucial that people go to the cinema, it’s part of our culture,” he told AFP, expressing hope that the success of “Top Gun 2” and “Elvis” heralded a revival after the pandemic.
“Avengers: Endgame” actress Hayley Atwell, who co-announced the nominations, praised the “variety in genre” this year.
“It shows that there is the audience, and they’re diverse in what they want. And so there is room for lots of different kinds of storytelling,” she told AFP.
“All Quiet on the Western Front”, about the experiences of a teenage German soldier during World War I, is based on the 1929 anti-war book by Erich Maria Remarque.
Its BAFTA nominations include best film, best director, foreign film, adapted screenplay and cinematography, as well as supporting actor for Albrecht Schuch.
The best actor category will pit Farrell against Paul Mescal (“Aftersun”), Austin Butler (“Elvis”), Daryl McCormack (“Good Luck to You, Leo Grande”), Bill Nighy (“Living”) and Brendan Fraser (“The Whale”).
For best actress, along with Yeoh and Blanchett, the competition is among Ana de Armas (“Blonde”), Emma Thompson (“Good Luck to You, Leo Grande”), Danielle Deadwyler (“Till”) and Viola Davis (“The Woman King”).
Other best director nominees include Martin McDonagh for “Banshees”, Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert jointly for Yeoh’s film, Todd Field (“Tar”) and Park Chan-wook (“Decision to Leave”).