Cheer up

And well you might look sad, Olivia Colman. Despite producing one of last year’s stand-out performances in film, namely, as abused wife and Christian charity shop manager Hannah in Paddy Considine’s devastating debut Tyrannosaur, you have been overlooked by the membership of Bafta in their 2012 nominations (which can be seen here in full). Instead, Leading Actress will go to one of the following five: Bérénice Bejo for The Artist; Meryl Streep for The Iron Lady, Michelle Williams for My Week With Marilyn; Tilda Swinton for We Need To Talk About Kevin; and Viola Davis for The Help (which I haven’t seen, for the record). All of the above are great performances – and I’m sure Davis is good in The Help, let’s give her the benefit of the doubt – but it seems a crying shame that Colman didn’t make the final five.

It’s a shame, but it’s not a scandal, as many peers and commentators have made it seem on the internet today. If you want to understand the Bafta voting system, it’s explained in detail here. Basically, the 6,500 Bafta members vote the starting list of about 250 contenders down to 15, the longlist, then vote that down the shortlist, after which they vote for their favourite from that list of five. In other words, their vote is not influenced – at least not directly or explicitly – by such cynicism-feeding factors as who will look good on the front row at the ceremony on TV, or who deserves an award because they will make the British film industry look good, or the who will make us look good because they are American and will therefore stop the Baftas looking parochial and insular.

I’m sure Bafta members ask their friends who they’ve voted for, in secret (just like Big Brother housemates always seem to do) or who they intend to vote for, but with 6,500 of them, a consensus is bound to arise, and it will, you have to expect, accurately reflect the views of the membership. This is not the Hollywood Press Association, or the public, it’s 6,500 mostly professional people from within or in the vicinity of the industry.

In other words, across those 6,500 members, Olivia Colman might actually have been their sixth favourite Leading Actress, as she was rightly included in the 15-strong longlist. She was also longlisted for Supporting Actress for The Iron Lady, interestingly enough. It would have been ironic if she’d made the shortlist for that but not for Tyrannosaur.

Frankly, as is well known, Tyrannosaur is easily one of my favourite films of last year – right up there with Kill List – and I’m hardly on a limb in this regard. But in both cases I can see why Bafta members might recoil from the subject matter, and the execution. Neither is an “easy” film. Certainly not as “easy” as My Week With Marilyn or The Help (which I haven’t seen, but I will eat my hat if it doesn’t have an uplifting message, something that Tyrannosaur doesn’t, at least not in the conventional sense). Tyrannosaur gets a nomination for Paddy Considine, which is cheering news, but that is the full extent of its Bafta recognition.

What we have here is a disconnect between a broad consensus and the personal passion of a number of individuals. It happens. It happens in elections, too. As we have established, in a democracy the middle ground wins elections, and not the fringes. The Artist may be French, and in its own way radical, but it’s easy to like, and will prevail, I think, in all the big award categories this season. Considine did not write his first feature film so that it would bag him an Oscar, but he might, in his heart of hearts, dared to imagine it being recognised by Bafta. Unfortunately, if it wasn’t eligible as an “Outstanding Debut” (which it is), we would be looking at a total snub.

Except it wouldn’t be a snub. It wouldn’t be the insidious result of an agenda, or of internal politics. It would just be a larger group of professionals not liking a film about horrible, depressing abuse and brutality, than those liking it.

Which doesn’t make it any easier to be Olivia Colman today, who has arguably delivered the performance of her career so far – because Considine cast her in a non-comic role and gave her so much more to get her teeth into – and it has slipped beneath the radar.

It is not abuse. It is the way of the world. You wanted democracy. You got it.

PS: It has been suggested – by none other than that nice man Boyd Hilton on Twitter – that both Shame and We Need To Talk About Kevin, nominated for best film, are less conventional than Tyrannosaur. It’s an interesting point. I would say that Tyrannosaur’s “conventionality” or otherwise isn’t really the issue here; it’s more about its unrelenting misery, all-round tone of grey despair and scenes of sadistic violence. Shame is about a rich man who has a lot of mechanical sex but can’t get a girlfriend. It’s a powerful film, but actually pretty glamorous with its New York setting, and the only abuse is really self-abuse. Kevin is definitely disturbing, but it has moments of happy home life at the beginning (against which the nightmare plays out) and again has a bright, aspirational, middle-class setting (again, which points up the nightmare). But do discuss!

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7 thoughts on “Cheer up

  1. It’s still a shame that she wasn’t nominated. It’s another shame that Tyrannosaur didn’t receive more love than it did. No nomination for Peter Mullan nor a nomination for Outstanding British Film which is I think is a glaring obscene omission no matter how much you spin it.

  2. With regards to “The Help”, Viola Davis is probably the standout performance in a slightly disappointing film. I watched it just after reading the book and couldn’t help but think that Emma Stone (who is otherwise very good) was woefully miscast.

    I could have done without the Tilda Swinton nomination, in favour of Olivia. I find her extremely overrated in general.

  3. Painting A Vulgar Picture
    by RedStarPenguin

    All this Olivia Colman outrage on Twitter this morning is hilarious. Firstly most people can’t even spell her name correctly so clearly even if they did see actually go to see Tyrannosaur they didn’t stay long enough to watch the credits. Hardly film buffs are they?. Secondly, How many of these lemmings on Twitter have actually seen the film Tyrannosaur? After all it only took £250k at the box office. At seven quid a ticket (or £14 in London) that’s not very many punters, certainly less punters than there are people tweeting about it today. Surely if this performance was so outstanding , word of mouth would have driven up ticket sales beyond a lame £250k?

    Moreover probably most voting BAFTA members will not have seen the film as most self respecting BAFTA members work on location in the film industry and don’t get time to go to the cinema due to the hideously long hours they are required to work.

    I have even read tweets this morning regarding ‘the appalling travesty’ against Olivia Colman written by friends and colleagues who I know for a fact haven’t seen the film, people who by their own admission ‘haven’t been to the cinema in 6 months’ What a sad desperate sycophantic country we live in when seemingly normal people jump on a bandwagon of outrage regarding something they are completely ignorant of. Clearly it’s more important to be seen to be in touch with the Zeitgeist than it is to actually go and see the film.

    Look at the tweets and comments carefully. Looks to me like the peeps at Warp and Optimum and their cronies have cooked up a lovely bit of publicity… just in time for the DVD release of Tyrannosaur in 3 weeks hence.

    • I like this. But it’s possibly a shade too cynical even for me at the end! I agree that most haven’t even seen the film. And there’s an interesting piece to be written about the exponential outrage potential of social networking sites, particularly Twitter. I hope I have addressed that in my blog entry, though. Also, if I worked at Warp or Optimum, I’d be pretty pissed off about Olivia Colman not making the list. It may be that their outrage is genuine. Imagine that?

      Bafta members get sent all the films on DVD. So if they haven’t watched the films, it’s their fault, and not the system’s.

      • Well perhaps a little too cynical….! I should tone it down a touch next time!

        Nobody has any right to be outraged, that just seems silly. If it’s art then it’s subjective. It’s ridiculous to say that one piece is somehow better than another… or to even compare them. Let’s accept awards ceremonies for what they are, an instrument of self-promotion and career building. It’s the ‘business’ in movie-business. And if it’s business then you can’t demand awards you can only try to make sales.

        Olivia Colman may have given a great performance but the BAFTA members decided they preferred the others more somehow, it doesn’t mean Olivia’s was less good or less valid. Why get outraged? Awards shows are just silly in an artistic context. It only makes sense for the producers to be outraged in a business sense, it’s denying them recognition and publicity. But anyway I digress, my main point was about the bandwagon, it’s comical. I wouldn’t normal comment but it started at 8.30 in the morning. By lunchtime I’d reached my limit!!!! 🙂

        As for BAFTA members…. the DVDs get handed around on the back of the crew bus at lunchtime. Working members get so many films to view they can’t possibly watch them all. And the rest of the crew get to catch up on movies they’ve missed/american movies not on general release here yet. The BAFTA member will ask the rest of the crew which ones they’ve seen and liked and vote for that one or failing that the one their mates worked on. Especially in the “lesser” and technical categories. Believe me, I taken part in the discussions in the past. If you were doing 70/80 hour weeks on location what would you do? Are you really gonna sit down at the end of a 15 hour day and watch the relentlessly downbeat Tyrannosaur? Or the more upbeat yet equally worthy The Help? (I’d go to the pub myself)

  4. If bandwagon jumping were an Olympic sport the UK would be in strong contention for a medal.

    I like 99.5% of the UK population didn’t see Tyrannosaur but this is mainly due to the myopic distribution policies of the major cinema chains who only seem to show films if they are in 3D.

    I have seen The Artist though and it is massively overated.

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