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This year’s Golden Globes awards in January took place behind closed doors, with no red carpet, no celebrities, no press and no audience. While there was obviously COVID-19 and the Omicron surge to consider, the main factor behind this distinctly un-Globes complete removal of fanfare was the HFPA’s dramatic and well-documented fall from grace and an ongoing boycott by much of Hollywood. It’s perhaps understandable that many people outside the film world — and even within — might not recall who even won (for the record, The Power of the Dog was named best picture, drama, and West Side Story, best picture, musical or comedy).
This Sunday’s BAFTA awards ceremony, by contrast, looks set to be a glitzy, star-studded affair, with the British Academy bringing out the big guns to celebrate the return to an in-person event at London’s Royal Albert Hall following 2021’s virtual affair. Rebel Wilson is on hosting duties, while Shirley Bassey will kick off proceedings by belting out a classic James Bond theme. Lady Gaga, Florence Pugh, Emma Watson, Rege Jean-Page and Millie Bobby Brown are among the lineup of A-list presenters.
There’s no scientific reasoning for this comparison, aside from the fact that, outside the industry, both the BAFTAs and the Golden Globes are — after the Oscars — generally the first film awards listed in resumes, bios and Wikipedia entries (and obituaries). Indeed, for those talented enough to have won multiple honors across the board, the order usually goes, Academy Awards, followed by either BAFTAs then Golden Globes or Golden Globes then BAFTAs, seemingly giving both a shout for second spot in the status stakes.
But has that now changed? Does the Globes’ current unfortunate position as the persona non grata of the Hollywood events calendar mean that BAFTA can now take advantage and firmly claim rights to being the biggest film awards after the Oscars?
As one awards strategist in LA notes, the Globes have “definitely taken a major hit to their profile,” adding that they’ve been “almost non-existent” the last two years. “So the BAFTAs are definitely up there, behind the Academy.”
The question being posed — which is really little more than a theoretical and entirely subjective exercise — rests on semantics, essentially on what is meant by “biggest”.
If it’s “most prestigious,” then there are many that would claim that the BAFTAs were already above the Globes before the recent fallout, purely based on who it is picking the winning films and a voting process untainted by controversy or allegations of corruption.
“I’d argue that the BAFTA film awards were always bigger because of the pedigree and experience of the voting membership, where you’ve got 6,500 voting members versus the 105 at the HFPA,” says one experienced U.K.-based publicist, who suggests that much of the Globes status was purely based on the “entertainment” value of the awards themselves — generally quite boozy and with a host likely to poke fun at the celebrity guests — rather than what the awards actually stand for. “The Globes carved out a niche moment,” they suggest.
The LA strategist says that “unlike the HFPA, the BAFTA membership is a respected group of filmmakers, so that adds a lot to its prestige.”
“BAFTA is a big organization and there are a lot of significant people with membership,” adds Liz Miller, Premier PR’s awards season veteran, with 15+ years of experience with campaigns. “They have outreach programs, which are really quite good, and a public face that’s really quite good too.”
Miller also suggests that the BAFTAs are “probably more significant” than any other country’s individual film awards, such as the Cesars, Goyas and Donatellos.
When it comes to the personal value of the BAFTAs, Golden Globes or Oscars, establishing any sort of ranking is — naturally — extremely subjective.
“Every awards show means something different to each person,” says Jo Whitehead of London-based publicists WDW Entertainment. “If you’re a British talent that lives in America and you get nominated for a BAFTA, they’re generally quite excited to be coming back and coming home. I guess it all depends on your emotional connection with it.”
But if “biggest” is being considered in terms of how important an event is in the awards season calendar, particularly as a bellwether for the all-important Academy Awards, then change is in the air.
Since 2001, when the British Academy deftly shifted its awards from a post-Oscars slot in April to earlier in the year, the BAFTAs have become a key — if not the key — focus for the industry in the build up to AMPAS’ grand finale. Held two weeks before the Oscars — just before the last round of voting begins — it soon established itself as a hugely influential opportunity for a final awards campaign push, with many turning to it for clues as to last minute momentum shifts in Oscars voting buzz. The nominees and winners often matched.
But not so much anymore.
Following a seismic internal review in 2020 in response to widespread claims that its nominations lacked diversity (a year where the #BAFTASoWhite hashtag began trending), the British Academy made more than 120 significant changes to its voting, membership, and campaigning processes. It added a longlist round, put greater emphasis on juries, tweaked certain categories and began phasing out DVD screeners in favour of its own platform, all part of what it described as “levelling the playing field” to ensure as many films were seen as possible.
As a result, 2021’s nominees — the first since the changes were implemented — were the most diverse in BAFTA’s history and a breakaway from the norm as simply setting the stage for the Oscars nominations a week later. That being said, the eventual BAFTA and Oscars winners lists were almost identical.
This year, however, the emergence of BAFTA’s new identity is arguably even more apparent. Some categories — such as best actress — have zero crossover with the Oscars (BAFTA voters picking Lady Gaga, as well as Emilia Jones and Alaina Haim). As part of what feels like a much stronger localized focus, several U.K. films and stars are getting the sort of recognition they might not have had just a couple of years earlier, Boiling Point‘s Stephen Graham, Ali & Ava‘s Adeel Akhtar and After Love‘s Joanna Scanlan shortlisted in the top performance categories.
Few are criticizing the BAFTAs for, as Whitehead describes, “standing on its own two feet,” and its diversity push and more individual, British personality has been met with high praise. But there’s a feeling from many in the industry that the current crop of nominees — and a voting process now much dependent on juries — have made the awards less relevant in the overall Oscars push. As one awards season analysts notes, they’ve “now become less a part of the awards season conversation.” Miller says the changes to the voting proceedings have “probably tipped the scales away from what AMPAS voters are likely to do.”
“A few years ago, I would have said 100 percent that the BAFTAs are the last stop on the road to Oscar glory,” says Whitehead, who claims that, despite the recent shifts, the BAFTAs are still “very strategically” placed, with final Oscars voting opening on March 17, four days after the BAFTA ceremony.
“People still come over [to the U.K.] on the road to the Oscars, there’s a big AMPAS nominees party and there’s still press going on,” she says. “People are still campaigning.”
But if the nominees are completely different, what’s the point of BAFTA campaigning if it’s sole purpose is to sway the Oscars (unless it’s really just for the numerous AMPAS voters in the U.K.)? Some insiders have claimed that the shift has actually called into the question the importance of studios throwing their weight behind U.K. awards campaigns.
“If it’s not helping their film have a shot at an Oscar, then they’ll still probably devote some resources to it, but probably not as much,” says the LA awards strategist.
The SAGs — several have suggested — are now more perhaps more of an indicator of what might happen at the Oscar.
Going back to the original question, if “biggest” is simply meant to mean the actual ceremony itself, then — certainly for 2022 at least — there’s simply no contest between the BAFTAs and the Globes.
That being said, the fact that this year’s BAFTA awards are being held a day after the DGA Awards and the same day as the Critics’ Choice awards means there’ll be some noticeable absentees, among them, at the time of writing, Jane Campion and Paul Thomas Anderson (who are both up for best director BAFTAs), and Will Smith, Leonardo DiCaprio and Mahershala Ali (all up for best leading actor).
So, in conclusion, are the BAFTA’s now the biggest film awards after the Oscars?
Says Miller: “Does it really matter? I think on some level, everybody acknowledges the whole thing is quite silly, right?”
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