Oscar Theory #11: Whoever Wins The BAFTA Gets The Oscar

When it comes to the acting awards at the year’s Oscars, it looks things could get very British. No, not because the world has gone mad over Prince William and Kate Middleton’s wedding. Because Brit Colin Firth looks like an almost shoe-in to win Best Actor for his performance in “The King’s Speech,” while his fellow countryman Christian Bale—who in all honesty, I didn’t realize was British until just a few weeks ago—is the favorite to win Best Supporting Actor. While we were too busy with the Super Bowl to watch the BAFTA Awards—that’s the British Academy of Film and Television Arts—maybe we should have been paying more attention. Back in 2000, the British award show moved to February so that it would it would precede the Oscars. Ever since, it has become like looking in a crystal ball. Last year, 12 of the 18 major BAFTA winners went on to win Oscars. [EW]

The predictive powers of the BAFTAs get even more impressive when you limit it to the top six categories—Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, and Best Supporting Actress. I crunched the numbers and, over the past few years, 80 percent of the winners have overlapped. After the jump, take a look at the BAFTA effect played out in the past few years, and what it could mean for this year’s Oscar hopefuls.

  • In 2007, the BAFTA and its American counterpart agreed 100 percent on the acting awards: little golden dudes and big bronze faces went to Forest Whitaker, Helen Mirren, Alan Arkin, and Jennifer Hudson. However, the two shows didn’t agree on Best Picture. The Brits—totally stereotypically—voted for “The Queen,” probably while sipping on a cup of tea. Meanwhile, we here in the US of A picked “The Departed.” But hey, 4 out of 5 ain’t bad.

  • A year later in 2008, the two shows agreed completely on acting again: Daniel Day-Lewis, Marion Cotillard, Javier Bardem, and Tilda Swinton won the top honors at both awards ceremonies, so their acceptance speeches felt kind of like “Groundhog Day.” But the British and American Academies once again disagreed on Best Picture—the Brits went for “Atonement” while America picked “No Country for Old Men.” Interestingly, both chose the Coen Brothers for Best Director.
  • In 2009, the two finally agreed on Best Picture, with both casting their votes for “Slumdog Millionaire” and giving the Best Direction win to Danny Boyle as a result. As for acting, the two overlapped on three award winners: Kate Winslet, Heath Ledger, and Penelope Cruz. In the U.S., the Academy went with the total predictable choice of Sean Penn for Best Actor in “Milk,” the Brits got things right and gave the award to Mickey Rourke for his soul-busting turn in “The Wrestler.”
  • Last year, the BAFTAs’ time machine must have been broken because only half their top acting selections went on to win Oscars. The Brits stuck with their own—Carey Mulligan as Best Actress for “An Education” and Colin Firth as Best Actor for “The Single Man”—while those honors stateside went to Sandra Bullock and Jeff Bridges, respectively. But the two awards show agreed full-heartedly on the supporters—Christoph Waltz and Mo’Nique. And most of us wouldn’t have been so surprised when Kathryn Bigelow became the first woman to win the Oscar for Best Director if we had watched the British awards show a few weeks earlier—she won it there, as well. Ditto for “The Hurt Locker” upsetting “Avatar” and “Up In the Air” and becoming the Best Picture of the year.

So how will the BAFTA effect play out this year?

It certainly bodes well for Firth, who took home the award Best Actor at the BAFTAs for a second year in a row. Things also look good for Natalie Portman, who ascended the stage to accept the BAFTA Best Actress award.

While I want Melissa Leo and Christian Bale to win the Best Supporting Oscars for their guttural performances in “The Fighter,” if I were placing bets, I’d put money on the duo who won the statues at the BAFTAs —Helena Bonham Carter and Geoffrey Rush, both for “The King’s Speech.” Many critics are grumbling that Rush especially could pull off the Bale upset.

As for Best Picture, the BAFTA voters went for “The King’s Speech.” Chances are they will here too, unless this is a case where a movie about the royal family appeals more to a British audience. In which case, something else has a chance.