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'Casino Royale,' 'The Queen': BAFTA Nominations

Daniel Craig in Casino Royale
Helen Mirren and Sylvia Syms in The Queen (top); Daniel Craig in Casino Royale (bottom)

Though usually more open to non-English-language films than the U.S.-based Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the Orange British Academy of Film and Television Arts failed to place either Pedro Almodóvar's Volver or Guillermo del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth as one (or two) of this year's best film or best director nominees.

Pan's Labyrinth did, however, receive a total of 8 nominations, including best foreign-language film and best original screenplay (del Toro). Almodóvar had to settle for a nomination in the best foreign-language film category, plus a best actress nod for Penélope Cruz.

As to be expected, the top nominees were The Queen, with ten nods, and the perfect example that at the movies bigger usually means boringer, Casino Royale, with nabbed nine nominations, including best British film.

Forest Whitaker, James McAvoy in The Last King of Scotland

Among the BAFTA surprises, both major and minor, were the inclusion of The Last King of Scotland as one of the top films of 2006 and a best supporting actor nod for James McAvoy (above, with Forest Whitaker), who has been totally ignored by critics and other award-giving groups in the U.S. – and who happens to be the male lead in the film.

Also, BAFTA members gave Dreamgirls a mere two nominations (best supporting actress for Jennifer Hudson and best music), while Children of Men and The History Boys were nowhere to be found in the best adapted screenplay category. (At least both Richard Griffiths and Frances de la Tour were recognized for their excellent work in the latter film.)

Several potential Oscar contenders – e.g., Letters from Iwo Jima – can't be found in the BAFTA list because they will not be released in the United Kingdom before Feb. 11, the date of the BAFTA ceremony and the deadline for qualification for this year's awards.

Now, in a previous post about the 2007 BAFTA longlists, I remarked that small British films such as Andrea Arnold's Red Road and Paul Andrew Williams' London to Brighton were not in the running in any of the major categories. Indeed, both are listed only in a general category called “Special Achievement by a British Director, Writer or Producer in their First Feature Film.” This award represents the British Academy's token recognition of independent British cinema.

The British Academy takes its international (read: Oscar – in other words, Hollywood) influence quite seriously. That helps to explain the prevalence of American and Anglo-American productions – Pan's Labyrinth notwithstanding – in the nominations.

That also helps to explain why the 2006 British Independent Film Awards are important.

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