Awards Whispers

Our annual team of anonymous Bafta voters return for to share their early thoughts on the 2023/2024 awards race so far.

Festival consultant and programmer, female, Bafta voter

Which films and performances have captured your attention?
Many of the standouts for me this year have been debuts: Past Lives, American Fiction, How To Have Sex and The Settlers. All are fully formed with such a confident directing vision and sense of themselves.

I also adored Anatomy Of A Fall, The Zone Of Interest and Maestro, which is much queerer — and less prosthetics-heavy — than the trailer suggests. It’s a large, slightly narcissistic performance, but one that’s entirely fitting for the film and Bradley Cooper gets my best actor vote at this stage. Justine Triet, Jonathan Glazer and Bradley Cooper should be front and centre of the director category conversations.

In terms of performances, Tilda Swinton is fantastic in The Eternal Daughter, a feat made even more impressive given that she’s improvising against herself. Florence Pugh is also a knockout in A Good Person. It’s also great to see Andrew Scott carrying a film: he and Paul Mescal are an inspired — and very sexy! — pairing in All Of Us Strangers.

Anything that has not lived up to the hype?
I thought El Conde was a huge disappointment. Such an exciting idea, but tonally all over the place. I was also a bit disappointed by both Barbie and Oppenheimer. The cultural cut-through that both films had was so important for the industry, but Barbie felt like a fun idea that hadn’t gone through a rigorous development process, while Christopher Nolan doesn’t do himself any favours with regard to Oppenheimer’s female characters. There’s one particular sexposition scene that’s more egregious than anything in Game Of Thrones. That said, all the performances are outstanding across the board.

Producer 1, female, Bafta voter

Which films and performances have captured your attention?
I’m a massive fan of All Of Us Strangers, and the love it picked up at the British Independent Film Awards should hopefully translate to buzz for Bafta. Poor Things is a lot of fun, if a strong flavour, and The Zone Of Interest was incredible. The Holdovers was one of the most enjoyable films so far. You realise how rarely you see films that are genuinely warm, and what a brilliant ensemble cast.

I’ve been most surprised by Maestro — a very stylish art movie with a great showcase of Leonard Bernstein’s music, and a much more beautifully directed film than I was expecting. I also thought Australian teen horror Talk To Me was so well done. It’s always challenging to get horror to land with awards voters, and I hope that one is recognised.

Anything that has not lived up to the hype?
It’s always disappointing to see some of the biggest-budget films not deliver creatively, but I found Napoleon full of very strange choices — although it also contained some excellent action setpieces.

Producer 2, male, Bafta voter

Which films and performances have captured your attention?
I find myself responding to the international films more than the US ones. Anatomy Of A Fall, The Zone Of Interest, Perfect Days, The Boy And The Heron, The Promised Land, Housekeeping For Beginners, Society Of The Snow, Evil Does Not Exist — these are all movies that I found inspiring and made me happy for the state of cinema. Some of the Hollywood stuff has left me cold, but I loved the ambition of Maestro.

Anything that has not lived up to the hype and buzz on the film?
I have a new theory about some of the platform films: The Burial, Pain Hustlers, Air, Nyad. They are like elevated TV movies. True-life stories that sit well on TV, but don’t feel like cinema. It made me realise the direction that platforms are starting to take with movies: big stars in true stories. Like the ones HBO used to make years ago. I wouldn’t pay to see them in the cinemas and wouldn’t vote on them for awards. But they pass the time like a cosy crime series.

Distribution and marketing consultant, male, Bafta voter

Which films and performances have captured your attention?
Poor Things was a breath of fresh air. How often does one encounter an American actress — here, Emma Stone — so freely embracing her role with such risky moves in neo-­conservative Hollywood? She engages the audience in a bold combination of comedy and nudity without it ever feeling ridiculous or misplaced in her performance. In the polarised world we live in, it would be far too easy to direct some male-gaze criticism at the director, when the film actually feels so free-spirited and joyful… and Emma Stone is one of the producers.

I also liked The Teachers’ Lounge. Leonie Benesch joins Sandra Hüller and Paula Beer as yet another bright German actress ready for export. The film’s themes are challenging, aiming to value right from wrong in a work environment with children, while Benesch gives her character the appearance of holding it together — but completely crumbling inside. 

Media executive, female, Bafta voter

Which films and performances have captured your attention, and why?
Rye Lane, Rye Lane, Rye Lane. I’ve watched it three times, and each time I’ve cried like a lovesick teen. Everything you need from a rom-com, and Raine Allen-Miller needs all the first feature awards. It’s an original love letter to a London often overlooked/poorly viewed, and centres the possibility of Black love unbound by stereotype.

Femme is an almost perfect film. George MacKay and Nathan Stewart Jarrett give powerfully believable performances in roles that push the narrative when it comes to homophobia, revenge, conforming to the expectations of masculinity and love between men.

Spider-Man: Across The Spider-­Verse is one of the best films you’ll watch in your life; and Earth Mama, by Savanah Leaf, captures so seamlessly and authentically the world of a San Francisco community of mothers-to-be whose life decisions have swerved them off course. It’s a quietly impactful debut feature. 

Anything that has not lived up to the hype?
Guardians Of The Galaxy: Vol. 3: meh. Theater Camp: how can a film about kids at theatre camp be boring? Barbie: it’s clever, it really is, but maybe it thinks itself a little too clever. I’m loath to put Chevalier on this list, but I must: paint by numbers and lacking, dare it be said, soul.

Producer 3, female, Bafta voter

Which films and performances have captured your attention?
I’m excited about the exploration of feminism through a different lens, from the fiction titles Poor Things and Priscilla to the docs Is There Anybody Out There? and Smoke Sauna Sisterhood. They remind us that women desire and deserve agency over their own experiences — and sooner or later, they are going to get it!

It is nice to see the breeziness of the south London-set romantic comedy Rye Lane. A charming script, relaxed performances by David Jonsson and Vivian Oparah and confident direction by Raine Allen-Miller — what an original debut.

Anything that has not lived up to the hype?
I don’t get the hype around Past Lives. The plot is thin, the contemporary partnership isn’t threatened by the childhood friendship — there’s no real tension in it. I just kept waiting for something interesting to happen… but it didn’t.

Distribution/exhibition executive, male, Bafta voter

Which films and performances have captured your attention? 
Return To Seoul .Park Ji-min’s lead performance, alongside Oh Kwang-rok’s scene stealing, heart-breaking supporting part was truly outstanding. Past Lives is an astonishing achievement all round, especially given it’s a debut. Celine Song’s script and direction was so assured and special.

I’m not generally prone to hyperbole, so forgive me for the aggrandising, but I like to think that watching The Zone Of Interest is similar to what I imagine seeing a new Kubrick film must have been like. I feel lucky to be around at this time to see Jonathan Glazer making films like this.

Films I’m pleased to have discovered thanks to the Bafta process are Chloe Domont’s Fair Play – which I probably would never have come across on Netflix otherwise – it has a great tight script and two really game lead performances as well as Eric Gravel’s Full Time, with Laure Calamy acting for her life.

Anything so far that has not lived up to the hype?
Plenty! I’ve struggled with most of the supposed recent big hitters, especially those by the elder statesmen of cinema. I’m also not really enjoying a lot of the streamer originals. 

Producer 4, female, Bafta voter

Which films and performances have captured your attention?
Yorgos Lanthimos’s Poor Things for me is a cinematic masterpiece, a film that sweeps you from the first frame into a realm where every possibility unfolds. Initially I felt disorientated by this unique world but the stellar performances of Willem Dafoe, Emma Stone and Mark Ruffalo anchor you in a humorous exploration of the dangerous ambitions of men.

In delightful contrast, Earth Mama offers a stark and focused perspective on motherhood and the care system. Savanah Leaf’s directing debut, featuring first-time actress Tia Nomore, is both poetic and unapologetic, skilfully portraying the dilemmas faced by its main character. 

Anything that has not lived up to the hype and buzz on the film?
Regrettably, Emerald Fennell’s Saltburn left me longing for more. The tone of the film felt inconsistent and the plot twist lacked the payoff that I craved. But cinema­tographer Linus Sandgren’s skill shone through, making the film a visually captivating experience.





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