Baftas 2022: a lively, good-taste nomination list despite some surprising omissions

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Bafta must hope that its nominations mark a fresh start after a year of pure mortification for that body caused by the Noel Clarke debacle: screenwriter-actor-director Clarke was presented in 2021 with the outstanding contribution to cinema award, despite accusations against him of bullying and abuse. Clarke denied accusations of sexual misconduct and the award finally had to be suspended. But this year’s list is very lively: the best director section is not lacking in inclusivity and good taste: Aleem Khan, Ryûsuke Hamaguchi, Audrey Diwan, Paul Thomas Anderson, Jane Campion and Julia Ducournau. (All fascinating choices – though I personally am a Titane refusenik, finding that film inferior to Ducournau’s debut, Raw.)

Leading the nominations tally is Denis Villeneuve’s gigantic sci-fi adaptation Dune with 11 (though no director nod), then it’s Jane Campion’s enthralling The Power of the Dog with eight, and below that is Kenneth Branagh’s wonderfully heartfelt and sympathetic personal movie Belfast with six, based on his own early memories of a boyhood in Northern Ireland at the beginning of the Troubles. I was surprised actually not to see Belfast going higher than this and not actually leading the field, as it seems tailor-made to appeal to Bafta voters.

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Baftas 2022: a lively, good-taste nomination list despite some surprising omissions
© Provided by The Guardian Sands to good to be true … Timothée Chalamet and Rebecca Hall in Denis Villeneuve’s Dune. Photograph: Moviestore Collection Ltd/Alamy

As far as snubs go, and whatever my reservations about the film, I am staggered to see nothing in the best actress category for Kristen Stewart’s enjoyable portrayal of Diana, Princess of Wales in Pablo Larraín’s satirical fantasy Spencer. Maybe native-Brit Bafta voters are slightly more sceptical about Stewart’s reading of Diana than was generally assumed. And I am sorry to see that David Lowery’s superb The Green Knight, with Dev Patel as the troubled Arthurian hero – one of the very best films of the year – seems to have been so widely forgotten. It could also be said that Guillermo del Toro’s savage noir Nightmare Alley deserved more than three nominations. Those who groan at the disparity of awards prestige and actual commercial success will note the complete absence of Spider-Man: No Way Home which has ruled the global box office and got people back into the cinemas, even more so than James Bond in No Time to Die, which has picked up five nominations. Mamoru Hosoda’s dreamy Japanese anime Belle should really have got into the animations list.

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But Dune is a thrillingly cinematic spectacle, a futurist colonial tale in the Lawrentian desert, and if it turns out to dominate this year’s Baftas, this will be no disgrace: it is an awe-inspiring epic, a bigscreen spectacle which is eerie and exotic, and actually an improvement on the previous adaptation directed by David Lynch. The Power of the Dog is an utterly gripping and operatic drama in the American west, a frontier of emotional and sexual dysfunction, with wonderful performances from Benedict Cumberbatch, Kirsten Dunst and Kodi Smit-McPhee. And then there is Branagh’s utterly seductive Belfast, which refuses the traditional dramatic language of anger, cynicism and despair.

Baftas 2022: a lively, good-taste nomination list despite some surprising omissions
© Provided by The Guardian PTA meeting … Alana Haim in Liqorice Pizza. Photograph: Entertainment Pictures/Alamy

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I admit I’m a bit dismayed to see the prominence of Adam McKay’s impeccably intentioned all-star climate change satire Don’t Look Up, which worryingly gets a best film nod, as well as best actor for Leonard DiCaprio. Don’t Look Up is the celeb comedy equivalent of Gal Gadot’s Imagine video. As far the best actor nods go elsewhere, Mahershala Ali is a great pick for his excellent performance in the sci-fi drama Swan Song, and no one could begrudge the nomination for Will Smith for his crowd-pleasing turn in King Richard.

On the best actress list, I’m rooting for Joanna Scanlan whose superb performance in After Love, playing the widow who realises her late husband was leading a double life, confirms her reputation as one of the most distinctive and valuable talents in British cinema. But the prize could well go to Alana Haim, for her remarkable acting debut in the glorious Licorice Pizza or to Lady Gaga for her outrageous and entertaining turn as the scorned woman in House of Gucci.

The outstanding debut award is arguably the beating heart of the entire Bafta ceremony, and the prize which can make such a difference to careers, so it is great that Philip Barantini’s one-take restaurant drama Boiling Point in there, and also Rebecca Hall’s excellent movie Passing.

So a very plausible range of achievement here, and my guess is that it’s Branagh’s Belfast which will convert most of these nominations.

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