What ‘Don’t Look Up’ and ‘House of Gucci’s’ Robust BAFTA Hauls Say About the Oscar Race

·6-min read

With SAG Awards nominations and now the BAFTA longlist, two critical groups that overlap with Oscar membership have weighed in on the awards season. First, not to be confused with actual nominations, the BAFTA Awards released its longlists across 24 categories, each having varying numbers and methods to determining them, depending on the voting chapter. Proving once again that critics and journalists don’t have the last word, despite its divided reception, Netflix’s “Don’t Look Up,” alongside the acclaimed musical “West Side Story” from 20th Century Studios, co-led the field of possible nominations still in play with 15 each.

“Don’t Look Up” by Adam McKay landed among the best film, director, and original screenplay races. In addition, many of its sprawling ensemble — Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Cate Blanchett, Meryl Streep and Mark Rylance — made the top 15 in their respective categories. With film critics divided and vocal about the movie’s themes, which McKay and his co-writer David Sirota began to respond to on social media, this shines a light again on the differing opinions between critics and actual major awards voters. We don’t know how many noms for McKay’s film it will translate into, but this shows that passionate responses to movies can create waves of support, whether good or bad. You can point to films like “Green Book” (2018) as an example.

More from Variety

The film, which also became No. 1 on Netflix after its release, was recognized by the SAG Awards for its ensemble. The actors’ branch is the largest of the Academy, and that group can have a substantial impact when they coalesce around a movie.

Kicking the door in with the British voting bloc was Ridley Scott’s “House of Gucci,” and sporting a barely “fresh” score of 63% on Rotten Tomatoes, the campy thriller is rolling in with 14 possibilities still on the table, including best film of the year and outstanding British film. Despite all the complaints about their accent work and cartoony interpretations of real-life figures, actors Adam Driver, Lady Gaga, Jared Leto and Al Pacino landed in their respective acting races. Scott’s other film, “The Last Duel,” which is far better received at an 86% RT score, didn’t perform as well but is still among six categories, including adapted screenplay for Ben Affleck, Matt Damon and Nicole Holofcener. Coincidentally, this will also serve as Ben Affleck’s only shot at a BAFTA nod because his performance in the epic, along with his turn in George Clooney’s “The Tender Bar” (which was shut out), both failed to make the supporting cut.

“West Side Story” from Steven Spielberg had a similar showing, with the iconic director making his list of 20 and his diverse cast of new and veteran actors — Rachel Zegler, Ariana DeBose, Rita Moreno, David Alvarez and Mike Faist — all still on the table for nominations.

Right behind McKay’s satire and Spielberg’s remake is Kenneth Branagh’s “Belfast” personal drama “Belfast” and Jane Campion’s western “The Power of the Dog” with 14 each. “Belfast” pulled in mentions for all of its actors including Caitriona Balfe, Jamie Dornan, Ciaran Hinds and Judi Dench. “Power” added the inclusion of Jesse Plemons, who’s been absent from the precursors in favor of his front-running co-star Kodi Smit-McPhee.

Also divided, Amazon Studios’ “Being the Ricardos” got a second wind today with a respectable nine-category showing, including three of its actors — Javier Bardem, Nicole Kidman and J.K. Simmons. The question about how many will translate needs more examining.

Given the ties to the Royal Family, it’s been unclear how the British crowd would respond to Neon and Topic Studios’ “Spencer.” However, while Kristen Stewart did make the field of 15 leading actresses, the film remains present in three other spaces — outstanding British film, costumes and score.

Denis Villeneuve’s “Dune” and Cary Joji Fukanaga’s “No Time to Die” pulled in a muscular 12 mentions each. The former didn’t land in any acting races, but it’s still within grasp for adapted screenplay, which has seemed like its most significant hurdle in the season. With the latter, Daniel Craig’s final 007 outing is among the leading actors and even managed to pull in his Latina co-star and standout Ana de Armas. As I’ve shared for a while now, watch out for the movie to show up substantially at the Oscars, including best picture.

. - Credit: Melinda Sue Gordon/MGM
. - Credit: Melinda Sue Gordon/MGM

Melinda Sue Gordon/MGM

Another film that over-performed with the Brits was Wes Anderson’s “The French Dispatch,” with 11 mentions, the same number as Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Licorice Pizza.”

Looking at the diversity showing for BAFTA, there are notable inclusions worth celebrating. For example, in the director field, which recognizes 10 men and 10 women, the latter group contains Afro-Latina Janicza Bravo (“Zola”) but did overlook Halle Berry’s directorial debut (“Bruised”).

Many standard players are there for the filmmaking men, such as Kenneth Branagh (“Belfast”). Still, the race is also comprised of Japan’s Ryûsuke Hamaguchi (“Drive My Car”), Afro-Latino filmmaker Reinaldo Marcus Green (“King Richard”) and Pakistani director Aleem Khan (“After Love”).

Six actors will ultimately be nominated in their respective categories for round two of voting. The top two vote-getters from round one are automatic nominees, which are not known. After that, a jury will select the four remaining nominees based on the rest of the field. Last year, this threw the awards season out of whack when leading actress only included two Oscar nominees, Vanessa Kirby (“Pieces of a Woman”) and eventual BAFTA and Oscar winner Frances McDormand (“Nomadland”).

In leading actor, three Black actors remain in the running, including the never BAFTA-nominated Will Smith (“King Richard”) and Denzel Washington (“The Tragedy of Macbeth”), hoping to get a boost from the awards body. Their category also possesses the greatness of Muslim actors Riz Ahmed (“Encounter”) and Adeel Akhtar (“Ali & Ava”).

The leading actress race didn’t have as many diverse voices overall with Jennifer Hudson (“Respect”), Tessa Thompson (“Passing”) and Zegler holding it down for the Black and Latina women.

The supporting actor category incorporates two Latinos among the 15, Alvarez and Benicio del Toro (“The French Dispatch”), but no other POC. They failed to name Colman Domingo (“Zola”), Idris Elba (“The Harder They Fall”) and Benedict Wong (“Nine Days”). Even Orion Lee (“First Cow”) was eligible, and considering his director Kelly Reichardt made the longlist, he would have been an inspired choice.

The supporting actress field has the best representation from culture and age and types of films among them. Latinas had a solid showing, including Anya Taylor-Joy (“Last Night in Soho”). Also, seeing powerhouses like Aunjanue Ellis (“King Richard”) and Ruth Negga (“Passing”) standing alongside Judi Dench (“Belfast”) and Ann Dowd (“Mass”) is the type of representation I love to see.

Can’t forget the love for Apple Original Films’ “CODA,” whose star Emilia Jones made the actress field, and her co-star Troy Kotsur, whose fantastic performance was among the supporting actor hopefuls, a welcomed inclusion for Deaf actors.

Taking a beating with the British Academy was Searchlight Pictures’ “Nightmare Alley,” only in four categories — production design, cinematography, costumes, and score (which is already out of the running for the Oscars shortlist).

Round two voting, to determine the nominations in the member-voted categories, will open between Jan. 14-27. Nominations will be announced on Feb. 3. This will be followed by round three voting to determine the winners, which will open between Feb. 9 and Mar. 8.

Best of Variety

Sign up for Variety’s Newsletter. For the latest news, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting