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‘Aviator’ leads British film award nominations

‘Vera Drake’ picks up 11 nods; ‘Million Dollar Baby’ not in running
/ Source: Reuters

Kate Winslet will compete with herself at Britain’s film awards next month, landing two nominations for best actress, but Martin Scorsese’s “The Aviator” led the way with 14 nods in a pre-Oscar boost.

“Vera Drake,” about a back-street abortionist in 1950s London, picked up 11 British Academy Film Awards nominations on Monday, matched by “Finding Neverland,” a story of J.M. Barrie’s friendship with a family who inspired him to create Peter Pan.

Once again the BAFTAs, moved in 2001 from April to February to fall between the U.S. Golden Globes and Oscars, are seeking to steal a little of Hollywood’s limelight as the cinema awards season reaches its climax.

“There is a perception that the BAFTAs are now some sort of indicator en route to the Oscars,” BAFTA chairman Duncan Kenworthy told Reuters.

In fact, the BAFTAs’ recent track recod is mixed, at best. Last year, “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” won the best picture prize at both awards, but the directing and actor/actress prizes diverged.

“The bottom line is that we want to have all nominees in the room. If Americans stayed away it would be less exciting,” added Kenworthy, producer of British cinema successes including “Four Weddings and a Funeral” and “Love Actually.”

Winslet has been shortlisted for “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” and “Finding Neverland,” and is up against Imelda Staunton for Vera Drake, Charlize Theron (“Monster”) and Ziyi Zhang (“House of Flying Daggers”) in the best actress category.

“Daggers,” the martial arts extravaganza directed by Yimou Zhang, is up for nine BAFTA awards.

Tough field for best actor prize
Leonardo DiCaprio, who starred alongside Winslet in the box office sensation “Titanic,” was nominated as best actor for his portrayal of billionaire playboy Howard Hughes in “The Aviator.”

He is competing with Johnny Depp in “Finding Neverland,” Jamie Foxx for “Ray,” Jim Carrey for “Eternal Sunshine...” and Mexican actor Gael Garcia Bernal for “The Motorcycle Diaries.”

Critics have bemoaned the lack of British films represented at the BAFTAs, noting that movies like “Shaun of the Dead,” “My Summer of Love,” “Vanity Fair” and “The Phantom of the Opera” were not in the running for major gongs.

But Kenworthy said there was plenty of British talent on show in a year when predicting winners would be tough.

“British talent is global now and that is a new definition. Rather than being about British-financed films, it is British talent that’s the criterion.”

One notable absentee from the BAFTA ceremony on February 12 will be Clint Eastwood’s acclaimed boxing drama “Million Dollar Baby,” which won awards for best director and best dramatic actress at the Golden Globes.

Kenworthy said that the film’s distributors decided not to send out “screeners,” or DVD copies, to more than 6,000 voters because they were worried about copies changing hands and being pirated.

“The downside was that members can’t vote for film they didn’t see.”