Opinion - The 2012 BAFTA nominations

The 2012 BAFTA nominations - opinion

Scorsese, Streep, Tintin and The Artist all nominated - but do they deserve it?

The announcement of any film awards nominations list is guaranteed to stir up debate about which films are missing, which are undeserving of their placement, and most of all, who's most likely to win. The 2012 BAFTA nominations list has all that, plus some extra added curiosities worth exploring.

Take, for example, Martin Scorsese's acceptance into the Academy Fellowship. As with the Oscars foisted upon him for 2006's (quite frankly over-boiled) film The Departed, there's a sense that St Marty is receiving this honour because the Academy feels guilty about not having done it earlier. True, Scorsese gets props this year for releasing a reasonably enjoyable ode to cinema (Hugo) and a good documentary (George Harrison: Living in the Material World) – both of which are up for BAFTAs in other categories – but neither film really packed the punch last displayed in films like Goodfellas or Casino. Maybe (aside from collective guilt and having snubbed him before), Scorsese is now seen as enough of an elder statesman to earn what is effectively a cinematic lifetime achievement award – as Kris Kristofferson said, 'the kind you get if you live long enough.'

The 12 nominations garnered by The Artist – like Hugo, a love letter to the early years of cinema – seem less calculated. Sure, there is a slight sense of the industry praising its own cheerleaders here – 'Hey, ain't cinema grand? And by extension, us for supporting it?' – but as ever when a film has a massive haul of award noms, the devil is in the technical detail. The Artist's nods for Make Up and Hair, Costume Design, Production Design, Cinematography and Editing go some way to recognising that the film put a lot of effort into every aspect of filmmaking, instead of racking up a spectacular CGI budget and neglecting the rest (hello, Tintin). The twin nominations for Sound and Original Music are also more significant than usual in The Artist's case, what with it being a (largely) silent film and all.

There are a few individual choices throughout the shortlist that raise an eyebrow. The Artist, The Descendants, Drive and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy are all deserving of a Best Film nomination, but how did bland and worthy issue movie The Help sneak in there? The African-American civil rights struggle deserves better than to be lumbered with this pedestrian sludge. By contrast, The Iron Lady looks very comfortable as a Leading Actress, but is an ill-fitting choice for Best Original Screenplay – critics were unanimous in singing Meryl Streep's praises when the film came out, but nobody thought Abi Morgan's determined avoidance of Thatcher's politics was a good move. If you really want to give hot property Morgan some specifically writerly recognition, why not show some love for her and Steve McQueen's powerful sex addiction drama Shame?

My final thoughts go out to Rango. Cruelly shunted aside in favour of the Tintin juggernaut at the Golden Globes, one can't help but fear for his safety as the two go head-to-head once more (Arthur Christmas is in there too, but quite frankly, he doesn't stand a chance, even if he is playing on Aardman's home turf). Tintin packed in tonnes of CGI spectacle, but was otherwise a shallow viewing experience; Rango was similarly computer-generated, but managed to utilise that technology to create a texture and atmosphere all its own. Then again, with Hugo and The Artist flying the flag for cinematic love-ins, maybe there's room for this ode to the western to succeed as well.

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