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Columns Eleanor Ringel Cater

British Academy awards ‘Nomadland’ and ‘Promising Young Woman’ top honors

Frances McDormand stars in "Nomadland" movie

By Eleanor Ringel Cater

Compared to the Oscars, the BAFTAS are mere infants.

The BAFTAS, you say?

Yes, the BAFTAS, i.e., the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, created in 1949.  And yes, that’s all there is to it – simply an acronym. No colorful anecdote here, no cute nickname.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences was founded in 1927, and it decided to hand out something called the Academy Awards in 1929.

Frances McDormand stars in “Nomadland” movie

The statue, a naked man 13 ½ inches tall and weighing a hefty 8.5 pounds, was designed by Cedric Gibbons, a much-lauded art director and production designer. To actually create the award, the Academy gave $500 to an unemployed art school student named George Stanley who sculpted Gibbon’s version in clay. And voila…or close enough.

So where did the name Oscar come from? According to the most popular version, Bette Davis, returning to her table after picking up the prize for “Dangerous,” joked that the statue’s backside reminded her of her then-husband’s rear end (His name was Harmon Oscar Nelson).

But others have laid claim to the honor, among them showbiz columnist Sidney Skolsky and Academy exec, Margaret Herrick. In her autobiography, “Mother Goddam,” Davis declared, “A sillier controversy never existed. I don’t believe my fame and fortune came from my naming Oscar “Oscar.” I relinquish once and for all any claim I was the one.”

Anyway, please forgive the long digression. Back to the BAFTAS.  I never paid much attention to them because, for decades, they were given out after the Oscars. (But then again, I never paid much attention to the Golden Globes, the National Board of Review or the critics groups, including the ones I belong to). But none of those organizations should be considered worthy prognosticators (including the ones I belong to…).

The BAFTAS, by contrast, are respectable. If there’s one thing the Brits know about, it’s putting on a show. Among British Academy’s founders are Laurence Olivier and David Lean. Across the pond, the American Academy can look to Louis B. Mayer and his lawyers.

Carey Mulligan stars in “Promising Young Woman”

The 2021 BAFTAS were handed out last weekend. The categories don’t exactly match up with Oscar’s. For instance, they give both a Best Picture and an Outstanding British Film. “Nomadland” and “Promising Young Woman” were both up for Best Picture (along with “The Father,” The Mauritanian,” and “The Trial of the Chicago 7.” “Nomadland” won. And “Promising Young Woman” took Outstanding British Film.

Translation: Nothing’s any clearer concerning the Academy Awards race. Making it all messier: Carey Mulligan, “Promising Young Woman’s” leading lady, wasn’t nominated for Best Actress, while “Nomadland’s” Frances McDormand was – and won.

Best Actor went to Anthony Hopkins (“The Father”). He beat out the late Chadwick Boseman (“Ma Rainey’s”), who’s still expected to take the Oscar. As for the Supporting categories, Daniel Kaluuya (“Judas and the Black Messiah”) and Yuh-Jung-Youn (“Minari”) continue their two-step to an awards season sweep.

April 25 keeps getting closer.  And America keeps getting more vaccinations. Maybe a socially-distanced, all-masked Oscar party could be a gleam in someone’s eye…


Eleanor Ringel

Eleanor Ringel, Movie Critic, was the film critic for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for almost 30 years. She was nominated multiple times for a Pulitzer Prize. She won the Best of Cox Critic, IMAGE Film & Video and Women In Film awards. An Atlanta native, she graduated from Westminster and Brown University. She was the critic on WXIA’s Noonday, a member of Entertainment Weekly's Critics Grid and wrote TV Guide’s movie/DVD. She is member of the National Society of Film Critics and currently talks about movies on WMLB and writes the Time Out column for the Atlanta Business Chronicle.


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