in focus


Since the high-profile cancellation of the Golden Globes ceremony last month, the handful of weeks between nominations and any red-carpeted thanks at other ceremonies has seen industry speculation, opinions and predictions spiced up with a debate on whether the U.S. writers strike will have an impact on the upcoming Oscar shindig. The brouhaha even floated across the pond with a media frenzy bubbling over whether the British Academy Film Awards, scheduled ahead of the Oscars as has been the practice for the past few years, will be more glittering than ever.

The theory is, nominated star power such as George Clooney, Cate Blanchett, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Tommy Lee Jones will make the trip to a ceremony outside WGA jurisdiction to see if they have secured a British bronze mask.

But here the debate over star power is a sparkling sideshow to the ongoing hand wringing over the "Britishness" of the awards.

Organizers argue that movies nominated for a British Academy Best Film award should be judged against the best the world has to offer. "There should be no ghettoization of British filmmaking endeavors, and the movies and talent must go up against the best to be the best," organizers say.

But here's the rub. The ceremony carries a best film category and a best British film category. Logic should dictate that having those two categories sends a signal that while British movies might be good, they need their own category to secure plaudits.

Last year, "The Queen" paraded off with the best film plaudit but, despite being a nominee for best British movie, failed to secure that one, missing out to "The Last King of Scotland," which in turn was also nominated in both categories. So on the night, both films walked off with a British Academy award but the film judged by the membership to be the best film of 2006 was not good enough to secure the year's best British film.

One wag argues that having a British film category is necessary because they are the best in the world anyway, so that category should be regarded as the evening's highest plaudit. This year's best film category contains only one British film, Joe Wright's "Atonement," which is funded by Universal. Should "Atonement" win the Best British film plaudit, all eyes and ears will be tuned in to whether Wright's film emerges victorious in the Best Film category for which it is also nominated.

"And after that, it'll be heads down to see if it can win the Oscar a couple of weeks after that," said one tipster.

That's one ghetto the producers would like to be in.

Stuart Kemp can be reached at