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Last Updated: Monday, 16 February, 2004, 08:44 GMT
Baftas 'may influence Oscar vote'
By Chris Heard
BBC News Online

BBC News Online assesses what impact Sunday's Baftas may have on Oscar voting in two weeks' time.

Scarlett Johansson
Scarlett Johansson is nominated for two film roles

US Academy members watched the prestigious Bafta award for best film being handed out in London on Sunday with their usual interest.

But to what degree, if any, will the British Academy's choice have an impact on the Oscars two weeks later?

It could be significant, according to some industry watchers who say this year's race is more wide open than many have made out.

The Return of the King, the final part of Peter Jackson's Lord of The Rings trilogy, is favourite among most commentators to sweep the board in Hollywood on 29 February.

Ewan McGregor in Big Fish
Big Fish has made the best film shortlist
It dominated the Golden Globes - the first major pre-Oscars testing ground - and won five Bafta awards including best picture.

But if it had been overlooked in London on Sunday, Oscar voters may have been be swayed away from Middle-earth towards something more cinematically realistic, say film experts.

Steven Gaydos, executive editor of Variety movie industry magazine, said: "I think this is an odd year - there is no clear consensus across the board and that's where the Baftas could have some impact.

"You can't say Lord of the Rings is a sure thing at the Oscars. A fantasy film has never won in 76 years, and a lot of people in the acting branches are not impressed. They will be leaning more towards Mystic River, driven more by reality and a social element."

Charles Gant, film editor of Heat magazine, believed Rings would sweep the board at both ceremonies, but said if something else had happened on Sunday, it could have made everyone think differently.

Jude Law
Jude Law is nominated for his acting in Cold Mountain
The Baftas are now been staged in advance of the Oscars - a move that has dramatically increased their profile and influence in Hollywood.

Before 2001, when Bafta trailed in Oscar's wake, they were seen as an anti-climax - and would barely have registered among many Tinseltown movers and shakers.

Now, though, in a turnaround described as an act of "genius" by some observers, Bafta helps set the international film agenda and can affect the choice of Oscar voters.

It does all this while proudly proclaiming an independence of spirit and maintaining its vital PR role for British movie-making.

Actors and film-makers take advantage of the ceremony's red carpet exposure to give their movies a final push in the run-up to the Academy Awards.

Last year, A-listers such as Nicole Kidman, Meryl Streep and Julianne Moore flew to London to promote their films - with the attendant possibility of swaying undecided Academy voters.

Peter Jackson
Peter Jackson is up for a prize for directing The Return of the King
This year, Oscar voters will become conscious of who and what Bafta chooses to honour a full nine days before their own ballots close.

Mr Gaydos said it was important for movie stars to show up at the London event.

"Everyone is watching the awards season. We look at all the awards and see how they might be predictors, if the voters would be influenced.

"If 250 critics have said Finding Nemo is one of the best films of the year, no Academy voter is going to ignore that when it comes to choosing the best animated film category."

Mr Gant was agreed on the potential impact of the British prizes on Hollywood's jurors.


"Bafta is a very good way of catching (US) Academy members in the UK," he said.

"Having the star come over and attend screenings is the process by which votes are sought. The endgame is to scoop up Academy members."

This year the voting process on both sides of the Atlantic has been hit by the "screener" row - a ban on preview DVDs of fancied films for Academy voters, instigated by studios fearful of internet piracy.

The ban was later lifted but it led to some voters missing out on seeing certain films.

"Bigger companies like Warners didn't send out tapes and it meant that Mystic River didn't get a nomination because not enough people saw it," said Mr Gant. "I think Warner Bros missed a trick there."

Whatever and whoever Bafta honours, the awards are firmly established as the most glamorous night on the UK entertainment calendar - and an event the world now takes even greater notice of.


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