BAFTA Awards' Royal Movies + Veteran Vilmos Zsigmond & Swimmer Problems in Palm Springs

James McAvoy The Last King of Scotland: BAFTA Awards royal moviesJames McAvoy in The Last King of Scotland. This year, the British Academy decided to support two (at least part-) British “royal movies”: Stephen FrearsThe Queen, starring Helen Mirren as Queen Elizabeth II, and Kevin Macdonald's The Last King of Scotland, starring James McAvoy as a Scottish doctor who becomes part of the entourage of Uganda dictator Idi Amin Dada (Forest Whitaker) in the early 1970s. Both “royal movies” were written by Peter Morgan – in the case of The Last King of Scotland, with Jeremy Brock. A Best Supporting Actor BAFTA nominee, James McAvoy has been wholly ignored this awards season in North America.

'Royal movies' & James Bond + Hollywood fare dominate BAFTA Awards while Spanish-language contingent has strong presence

As to be expected, the two top nominees for the British Academy Awards, a.k.a. the BAFTAs, were (at least part-) British productions:

  • Stephen Frears' paean to Queen Elizabeth II, The Queen, with ten nods, including Best Film, Best British Film, Best Actress for Helen Mirren as the titular character, and Best Supporting Actor for Michael Sheen as the (now disgraced) British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
  • Martin Campbell's James Bond flick Casino Royale, evidence that these days bigger almost invariably means duller, with nine nominations, including, gasp!, Best British Film, Best Actor for Daniel Craig, and Best Adapted Screenplay (Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, and Paul Haggis).

And then there's Kevin Macdonald's The Last King of Scotland, which, somewhat surprisingly, was shortlisted in five top categories: Best Film, Best British Film, Best Actor for U.S. performer Forest Whitaker as deranged Uganda dictator Idi Amin Dada, Best Supporting Actor for James McAvoy, and Best Adapted Screenplay (Peter Morgan and Jeremy Brock).

James McAvoy's supporting actor BAFTA nomination was particularly unexpected – and not just because he happens to be the film's de facto lead. After all, the Scottish actor has been just about completely ignored this awards season on the other side of the North Atlantic.

In fact, the same goes for The Queen's Best Supporting Actor nominee Michael Sheen: he's as much the film's lead as Helen Mirren and he has been blithely relegated to the sidelines this awards season in North America.

Spanish-language presence

Even if usually more open to non-English-language films than the U.S.-based Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts failed to include two internationally acclaimed Spanish-language releases – Pedro Almodóvar's Volver and Guillermo del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth / El Laberinto del fauno – in the Best Film and/or Best Director categories.

Pan's Labyrinth did, however, receive a healthy eight nominations, among them Best Foreign Language Film and Best Original Screenplay (del Toro). Almodóvar, a one-time awards season favorite, had to settle for a Best Foreign Language Film nod, in addition to Penélope Cruz getting shortlisted for Best Actress.

Update: See BAFTA 2007 winners.

'Dreamgirls' snub

Bill Condon's Dreamgirls was another would-be awards season front-runner bypassed for Best Film and Best Director. Adding insult to injury, the glitzy American musical earned a mere two nominations: Best Supporting Actress for Jennifer Hudson and Best Music (Henry Krieger).

Alfonso Cuarón's dystopian drama Children of Men and Nicholas Hytner's The History Boys are two other titles missing in action from the Best Picture and Best Director roster – not to mention Best British Film and Best Adapted Screenplay. Regarding the latter film, Richard Griffiths and Frances de la Tour did get shortlisted in, respectively, the Best Actor and Best Supporting Actress categories.

Several other potential Oscar contenders – e.g., Clint Eastwood's World War II drama Letters from Iwo Jima – can't be found on the British Academy's list of nominees because they will not be released in the United Kingdom before Feb. 11, the date of the 2007 BAFTA ceremony and the deadline for qualification for this year's awards.

Taking Oscar influence seriously

Absent from the previously announced 2007 BAFTA longlists, small British films such as Andrea Arnold's Red Road and Paul Andrew Williams' London to Brighton have been both shortlisted in the BAFTAs' “Special Achievement by a British Director, Writer or Producer in their First Feature Film” category – the British Academy's token recognition of independent British cinema.

Indeed, BAFTA voters take their international – i.e., Oscar/Hollywood – influence quite seriously. That helps to explain the prevalence of American and Anglo-American productions – Pan's Labyrinth notwithstanding – on the longlists and, ultimately, in the nominations themselves.

That also helps to explain both the importance of and the need for the British Independent Film Awards.

Vilmos Zsigmond Brian De Palma Nancy Allen Blow Out: Oscar + ASC Award winnerVilmos Zsigmond, Brian De Palma, and Nancy Allen on the set of Blow Out. Veteran cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond is a three-time ASC Award nominee and a three-time Academy Award nominee – and a one-time winner at each organization. At the ASC Awards, Zsigmond's nominations are for the TV movie Stalin (1992, he won, in addition to an Emmy), and, in the features category, The Ghost and the Darkness (1996) and this year's The Black Dahlia. At the Oscars, his nominations are for Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977, he won), The Deer Hunter (1978), and The River (1984). Update: Vilmos Zsigmond received a fourth Oscar nod for The Black Dahlia.

American Society of Cinematographers Awards: Another controversial Mel Gibson period drama is in the running

In other awards season news, the feature film nominees for the 2007 American Society of Cinematographers (ASC) Awards are:

  • Emmanuel Lubezki, Children of Men.
  • Dick Pope, The Illusionist.
  • Robert Richardson, The Good Shepherd.
  • Dean Semler, Apocalypto.
  • Vilmos Zsigmond, The Black Dahlia.

This marks the eighth ASC nomination for Richardson; the third for Zsigmond, who won for the 1992 telefilm Stalin; the second for Lubezki and Semler; and the first for Pope.

Semler's nod marks the second time ASC members have recognized the cinematography of a violent and controversial Mel Gibson effort. In early 2005, Caleb Deschanel received an ASC Award nomination for Gibson's blood-soaked The Passion of the Christ.

Emmanuel Lubezki & Vilmos Zsigmond

This awards season, Mexican cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki is the U.S. critics' clear favorite, while Hungarian-born Vilmos Zsigmond's inclusion is notable in that he has been shooting films since the early 1960s. Zsigmond's remarkable credits include:

  • James Landis' cult classic The Sadist (1963).
  • Robert Altman's McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971) and The Long Goodbye (1973).
  • John Boorman's Deliverance (1972).
  • Steven Spielberg's The Sugarland Express (1974) and Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977, which earned him an Oscar).
  • Brian De Palma's Obsession (1976) and Blow Out (1981) – plus last year's The Black Dahlia.
  • Michael Cimino's The Deer Hunter (1978) and Heaven's Gate (1980).
  • Mark Rydell's The River (1984).
  • George Miller's The Witches of Eastwick (1987).
  • Richard Donner's Maverick (1994).
  • Woody Allen's Melinda and Melinda (2004).

In 1999, Vilmos Zsigmond was handed the ASC Lifetime Achievement Award.

Where's 'Pan's Labyrinth'?

“Favorable reviews tend to mention beautiful images, but that's a matter of taste,” says ASC President Daryn Okada. “Artful images can be distressing if that's what it takes to properly affect the emotional flow of a film. Our members judge whether the cinematographer helped to create a sense of time and place that pulls the audience into the story. We ask how the visual language affects the emotional content of the film. Great cinematography is something you feel.”

That being the case, the absence of Guillermo Navarro's work on Pan's Labyrinth is a galling oversight. Though hardly “pretty,” Navarro's cinematography was a crucial, disturbing (and beautiful) component of Guillermo del Toro's dark fairy tale for adults.

On a radically different level, the same can be said of José Luis Alcaine's subtle camerawork in Volver, which gives Pedro Almodóvar's comedy-drama just the right amount of colorful hyper-realism.

Also missing in action from the 2007 ASC Award nominations: Clint Eastwood's World War II dramas Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima, Alejandro González Iñárritu's Babel, Bill Condon's Dreamgirls, Martin Scorsese's The Departed, and Stephen Frears' The Queen.

Dystopian drama is surprising Vancouver & Central Ohio winner

More awards season news: The Vancouver Film Critics Circle and the Central Ohio Film Critics Association have – surprisingly – selected Alfonso Cuarón's dystopian drama Children of Men as the Best Film of 2006. That's a (double) first. (See the full list of Vancouver and Central Ohio winners further below.)

The Queen's Helen Mirren was a more conventional Best Actress winner in both Vancouver and Central Ohio, but Pedro Almodóvar's Volver was an unexpected Best Foreign Language Film choice in Vancouver and so was Best Actor Leonardo DiCaprio for The Departed in Ohio.

Also in Ohio, Clive Owen was named Actor of the Year for both Children of Men and Spike Lee's B heist thriller Inside Man, greeted with enthusiastic reviews upon its spring release only to be completely ignored – until now – by year-end award-giving groups.

Hockey's Rocket + Julie Christie returns

In the Vancouver Film Critics' Canadian cinema categories, the Best Picture was Charles Binamé's The Rocket / Maurice Richard, a Quebecois production about the obstacles faced by the titular, mid-20th-century, francophone hockey player (incarnated by Roy Dupuis) in a mostly anglophone hockey world. The Best Director, however, was Reg Harkema for Monkey Warfare, a sociopsychological comedy about two down-and-out, pot-smoking bohemians (Don McKellar, Tracy Wright) who are befriended by a fiery young pot dealer (Nadia Litz).

Veteran Julie Christie (Best Actress Oscar winner for Darling, 1965) was one of the nominees in the Best Actress in a Canadian Film category for her portrayal of a woman losing her mind to Alzheimer's in actress-turned-director Sarah Polley's well-received feature film debut Away from Her. Christie lost to Carrie-Anne Moss, who plays the mother of a boy whose best friend is a human-eating zombie in Andrew Currie's Fido, a comedy thriller that was also named the Best Film Made in British Columbia.

Agua Nicolás Mateo: Swimmer problems with doping charges + personal relationshipsAgua with Nicolás Mateo: Swimmer problems. Buenos Aires-born musician and actor Nicolás Mateo plays a competitive swimmer from an impoverished background in Verónica Chen's Argentinean-French psychological drama Agua. Mateo's co-star is another Buenos Aires native, Rafael Ferro, cast as a former competitive swimmer whose promising career was destroyed by a doping scandal. As a river-swimming competition approaches, both men must come face-to-face with their personal relationships and inner demons.

Lonely Iranian wife & swimmer problems top Palm Springs Film Festival

Lastly, the 2007 Palm Springs Film Festival's New Voices New Visions Grand Jury Prize was given to Rafi Pitts' Iranian drama It's Winter / Zemestan, the story of a woman (Mitra Hajjar) left behind in a small Iranian town after her husband (Hashem Abdi) travels abroad in search of work. That's when a good-looking newcomer (Ali Nicksaulat) falls for the lonely wife.

The Special Jury Prize went to Verónica Chen's Agua (“Water”) a.k.a. Aguas Argentinas, a French-Argentinean drama about the problems facing two competitive Argentinean swimmers: one (Rafael Ferro) is now a coach after having his name sullied by doping charges; the other (Nicolás Mateo) is trying to join the national team for financial reasons. A complex professional and personal bond develops between the two men.

Spy drama 'The Lives of Others' wins Audience Award

Also in Palm Springs, writer-director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck's The Lives of Others / Das Leben der Anderen was the Audience Choice Award winner for Best Narrative Feature. The old-fashioned spy melodrama revolves around a Stasi busybody who undergoes a change of heart after snooping into the lives of a playwright and his girlfriend, with tragic consequences.

Starring Martina Gedeck, Ulrich Mühe, and Sebastian Koch, The Lives of Others won seven 2006 German Academy Awards, in addition to taking home the European Film Academy's 2006 Best Film Award.

Lucy Walker's British documentary Blindsight, about a blind mountain climber who leads a group of blind Tibetans up Mt. Everest, received the Audience Award for Best Documentary Feature.

And finally, the Best Foreign Language Film FIPRESCI (International Federation of Film Critics) Award went to Guillermo del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth.

The 2007 Palm Springs Film Festival ran Jan. 4–15.

See below the full list of winners at this year's Palm Springs Film Festival, in addition to the Vancouver and Central Ohio film critics' selections.

2007 Palm Springs Film Festival Awards

FIPRESCI Award for Best Foreign Language Film: Pan's Labyrinth (Mexico / Spain / U.S.).

New Voices New Visions Grand Jury Prize: Its Winter (Iran).

New Voices New Visions Special Jury Prize: Agua / Aguas Argentinas (Argentina).

Audience Choice Award - Best Narrative Feature: The Lives of Others (Germany).

Audience Choice Award Best - Documentary Feature: Blindsight (U.K.).

Director of the Year: Alejandro González Iñárritu, Babel.

Ensemble Performance Award: Babel.

Career Achievement Award: Cate BlanchettBabelNotes on a ScandalThe Good German.

Desert Palm Achievement Award: Kate WinsletLittle Children.

Rising Star Award, Female: Jessica BielThe Illusionist.

Rising Star Award, Male: Adam Beach, Flags of Our Fathers.

Breakthrough Performance Award: Jennifer Hudson, Dreamgirls.

Frederick Loewe Award for Film Composing: Philip GlassThe Illusionist & Notes on a Scandal.

Visionary Award: Todd Field, Little Children.

Chairmans Vanguard Award: Little Miss Sunshine.

SAG Foundation Patron of the Arts Award: Sydney Pollack.


Vancouver Film Critics Awards: Winners & nominations

Best Film: Children of Men.

Best Foreign Language Film: Volver.

Best Canadian Film: The Rocket / Maurice Richard.

Best British Columbian Film: Fido.

Best Director: Alfonso Cuarón, Children of Men.

Best Director of a Canadian Film: Reg Harkema, Monkey Warfare.

Best Actress: Helen Mirren, The Queen.

Best Actress in a Canadian Film: Carrie-Anne Moss, Fido.

Best Actor: Forest Whitaker, The Last King of Scotland.

Best Actor in a Canadian Film: Don McKellar, Monkey Warfare.

Best Supporting Actress: Cate Blanchett, Notes on a Scandal.

Best Supporting Actress in a Canadian Film: Nadia Litz, Monkey Warfare.

Best Supporting Actor: Alan Arkin, Little Miss Sunshine.

Best Supporting Actor in a Canadian Film: J.R. Bourne, Everything's Gone Green.

Honorary Awards: Jay Brazeau, Sandy Wilson, Daryl Duke.


Central Ohio Film Critics winners

Best Film: Children of Men.

Best Foreign Language Film: Pan's Labyrinth.

Best Actor: Leonardo DiCaprio, The Departed.

Best Actress: Helen Mirren, The Queen.

Best Supporting Actress: Jennifer Hudson, Dreamgirls.

Best Supporting Actor: Eddie Murphy, Dreamgirls.

Best Ensemble: The Departed.

Best Director: Martin Scorsese, The Departed.

Best Adapted Screenplay: William MonahanThe Departed.

Best Original Screenplay: Rian Johnson, Brick.

Best Cinematography: Dean Semler, Apocalypto.

Best Score: Gustavo SantaolallaBabel.

Best Documentary: An Inconvenient Truth, dir.: Davis Guggenheim.

Best Animated Film: Cars, dir.: John Lasseter & Joe Ranft.

Best Overlooked Film: Brick, dir.: Rian Johnson.

Actor of the Year (for an exemplary body of work): Clive Owen, Children of Men & Inside Man.

Breakthrough Film Artist: Jennifer Hudson, Dreamgirls, for acting.


British Academy of Film and Television Arts website.

American Society of Cinematographers website.

Image of James McAvoy in one of the BAFTAs two “royal movies,” The Last King of Scotland: Fox Searchlight Pictures.

Vilmos Zsigmond, Brian De Palma, and Nancy Allen Blow Out image: Filmways Pictures.

Nicolás Mateo Agua movie image: Celluloid Dreams.

Vancouver Film Critics list of nominees and winners via Vancouver journalist Ian Caddell.

“BAFTA Awards' Royal Movies + Veteran Vilmos Zsigmond & Swimmer Problems in Palm Springs” last updated in September 2018.

BAFTA Awards' Royal Movies + Veteran Vilmos Zsigmond & Swimmer Problems in Palm Springs © 2004–2018 Alt Film Guide and/or author(s).
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