Christopher Nolan is expected to have a successful return to the Baftas with his film “Oppenheimer”.

Christopher Nolan is expected to have a successful return to the Baftas with his film “Oppenheimer”.

Last summer, the #Barbenheimer hashtag emerged, encouraging viewers to watch two very different blockbuster films back-to-back. Christopher Nolan’s epic film about J Robert Oppenheimer and his involvement with the atom bomb was almost overlooked in comparison to the lighthearted and comedic Barbie movie, which was longer in length. At the box office, Barbie’s worldwide revenue of $1.4 billion far surpassed Oppenheimer’s $959.9 million. However, as the awards season comes to a close, Oppenheimer is gaining more recognition and is expected to surpass Barbie at both the Oscars and the Baftas. This sets the stage for a triumphant return for Nolan at the Baftas in London on Sunday.

Despite being a highly successful filmmaker in Hollywood, with his movies grossing over $6 billion and receiving widespread critical acclaim, Nolan has yet to be awarded an Oscar or Bafta. He has directed 12 feature films, showcasing his range from groundbreaking thrillers like Memento to blockbuster superhero movies like Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, as well as sci-fi adventures such as Inception, Interstellar, and Tenet. Oppenheimer, his latest project, continues his interest in historical dramas following his previous work on Dunkirk in 2017. Despite being nominated for five Oscars and winning five Baftas, Nolan has not won a single award.

This year may bring a change. Oppenheimer is in the lead for nominations at the Baftas with 13, and received the same number for the Oscars. The director is also personally nominated in three categories – best film, best director, and best adapted screenplay – at both awards. While it is difficult to accurately predict the outcome of votes, it would be surprising if Oppenheimer did not win the best director award from both organizations.

Cillian Murphy is also up for an Oscar and Bafta for Oppenheimer.

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According to Charles Gant, who is the awards editor for Screen International magazine, he does not believe that the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (Bafta) has a bias against acclaimed director Christopher Nolan, despite him not winning for his previous films Inception or Dunkirk. While it may be easy to attribute it to a “tall-poppy syndrome,” Gant does not believe that is the case. Inception, being a sci-fi action blockbuster, is not typically the type of film that Bafta favors. Furthermore, Dunkirk lost to Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri for Best Film and Guillermo Del Toro for Best Director for The Shape of Water. Gant does not see this as an indication of a prejudice against Nolan; rather, the votes simply favored other films.

According to Bafta voter Gant, it is possible that Nolan’s success may shift due to the impact of Oppenheimer. Despite facing obstacles such as a long runtime and predominantly male dialogue scenes, Oppenheimer has managed to stand out in a competitive year. Gant acknowledges that although Oppenheimer may not be their personal top pick for major awards, they recognize its accomplishment in turning a serious topic into a global box office hit and making it feel like a significant event. Gant does not foresee any other film surpassing Oppenheimer’s impact.

Nolan’s successful journey seems to have already commenced, with two Golden Globe wins and the Directors Guild of America award this year. He also received the prestigious BFI Fellowship, presented by the prime minister at a recent event. However, the dominance of Oppenheimer at the Bafta ceremony highlights the delicate balance that Bafta faces in recognizing Hollywood’s influence in English-language filmmaking while also promoting British productions. Gant believes that British actors will perform well at this year’s ceremony, with nominees including Carey Mulligan, Vivian Oparah, and Claire Foy, as well as Irish actors Cillian Murphy, Barry Keoghan, and Paul Mescal. Gant notes that Bafta has always aimed to showcase British talent alongside the best from around the world, though in practice this often means primarily from North America. Overall, Gant believes Bafta is successfully navigating its chosen path.

Bafta leading actress nominee Vivian Oparah with David Jonsson in Rye Lane.View image in fullscreen

There has been a lot of concern about the exclusion of Andrew Scott, the Irish lead actor in “All of Us Strangers,” from the best leading actor category at Bafta, with criticism directed towards their jury system. Bafta had implemented a new nomination system where juries select half of the nominees in important categories, in an effort to promote diversity in their awards. However, in this situation, it seems that Scott, a prominent gay actor, was not nominated, despite two of his co-stars receiving nominations for supporting performers.

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Gant, who was previously a member of the Bafta jury, supports the system’s expansion, stating that it was a needed adjustment after the 2020 #BaftaSoWhite controversy. He believes that the benefits outweigh any drawbacks. However, like many others, he is confused by Scott’s exclusion. He finds it to be a strange outcome, as Bafta juries typically make decisions with careful consideration and thoroughness. In this particular case, the jurors collectively made a decision that is difficult to understand.

The Bafta film awards will be held on Sunday, February 18th at the Royal Festival Hall in London.