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Baftas 2021: Who will win, who should win, and who got overlooked

Adam White
·7-min read
<p>Potential winners: actors Bukky Bakray, Daniel Kaluuya, Riz Ahmed, Maria Bakalova and Frances McDormand</p> (Altitude/Warner Bros/Amazon/Searchlight)

Potential winners: actors Bukky Bakray, Daniel Kaluuya, Riz Ahmed, Maria Bakalova and Frances McDormand

(Altitude/Warner Bros/Amazon/Searchlight)

Predicting this year’s Baftas means, for the first time in a while, solely predicting the Baftas. They are not secretly predictions for the Oscars, or any other, bigger and more glamorous transatlantic awards show.

After so many years of the Baftas pointlessly emulating the Academy Awards and overlooking many of the homegrown films they’re meant to celebrate, we finally have a representative and interesting line-up of nominees.

It also makes predicting who’ll win that much trickier – and a lot more fun.

Unusually, the Oscars are in the same boat this year, with few films or actors feeling like shoo-ins even this late in the awards calendar. Surprises are inevitable. Even more so at Bafta, with Nomadland feeling just as likely to sweep the board as something far smaller like Rocks.

Ahead of this weekend’s ceremony, which screens on Sunday (11 April) at 7pm on BBC One, we’ve predicted the probable wins and possible shockers for the major categories, as well as the names and films that got overlooked.

Best Film

The Father

The Mauritanian

Nomadland

Promising Young Woman

The Trial of the Chicago 7

Will win: Nomadland

Should win: Nomadland

Shoulda got a look-in: Minari (and a few others)

This is the one category at this year’s Baftas that could do with being a little more daring. The Trial of the Chicago 7 is its only real stinker, but it’s difficult not to feel underwhelmed considering the vast number of films represented elsewhere. Sound of Metal, Minari, Judas and the Black Messiah and Another Round are just some of the movies that could have justifiably slotted in here over something like The Father or The Mauritanian, neither of which will be remembered once this year’s awards season is over. Of the nominees, Nomadland would be deserving of a win, and will probably take home the trophy. Chloe Zhao’s film, about a nomadic traveller (Frances McDormand) roaming America, is touching, tender and nourishing. Even if we weren’t all confined to our houses, its use of open space would have inspired awe.

Carey Mulligan in Promising Young WomanFocus
Carey Mulligan in Promising Young WomanFocus

Outstanding British Film

Calm with Horses

The Dig

The Father

His House

Limbo

The Mauritanian

Mogul Mowgli

Promising Young Woman

Rocks

Saint Maud

Will win: Promising Young Woman

Should win: His House

Shoulda got a look-in: Lynn + Lucy

Critiquing the universally strong line-up of nominees for Outstanding British Film feels a bit like splitting hairs. It would have been nice, though, to see something for Lynn + Lucy. Fyzal Boulifa’s feature debut is a gruelling, melancholy affair driven by toxic friendships and suspicion, and deserves more eyes on it. Promising Young Woman, the most high-profile of this category’s nominees, will probably win, despite its star, Carey Mulligan, missing out on a Best Actress nod. It won’t be an objectionable choice, but the film is deeply flawed. Its takes on misogyny, trauma and the police are narrowly and often questionably sketched, and it’d be disappointing to see far more assured work (notably the harrowing and imaginative His House) miss out as a result of its victory.

Lee Isaac Chung directs Steven Yeun and Will Patton on the set of MinariMelissa Lukenbaugh, courtesy of A24
Lee Isaac Chung directs Steven Yeun and Will Patton on the set of MinariMelissa Lukenbaugh, courtesy of A24

Best Director

Thomas Vinterberg, Another Round

Shannon Murphy, Babyteeth

Lee Isaac Chung, Minari

Chloe Zhao, Nomadland

Jasmila Zbanic, Quo Vadis, Aida?

Sarah Gavron, Rocks

Will win: Chloe Zhao

Should win: Shannon Murphy

Shoulda got a look-in: Channing Godfrey Peoples, Miss Juneteenth

This is a great Best Director line-up, with almost every nominee a worthy winner. While Zhao will unproblematically take home the trophy, it would be wonderful to see Murphy awarded. Her Babyteeth is the kind of debut that commands attention, taking typically mismatched tones – it’s a film that bounces between teen psychodrama, heartbreaking weepie and dark comedy within minutes of screentime – and making them not only cohesive but oddly beautiful. Similarly stirring is Channing Godfrey Peoples’ Miss Juneteenth, a gorgeous ode to Black beauty, intergenerational sacrifice and working class ennui. It features a standout performance from the perpetually underused Nicole Beharie, and has been criminally overlooked this awards season.

Best Actor

Riz Ahmed, Sound of Metal

Chadwick Boseman, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Adarsh Gourav, The White Tiger

Anthony Hopkins, The Father

Mads Mikkelsen, Another Round

Tahar Rahim, The Mauritanian

Will win: Chadwick Boseman

Should win: Riz Ahmed

Shoulda got a look-in: Delroy Lindo, Da 5 Bloods

Boseman is undeniably magnetic and unintentionally heartbreaking in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom – which marked his final acting role before his tragic death last year – but the film he’s in is so stagey and limp that it’s hard to root for. Ahmed, however, is majestic in Sound of Metal, a movie that finally fulfils the potential of an actor often wasted in supporting roles. On that same wavelength is Delroy Lindo as a tinderbox of a war veteran in Da 5 Bloods. The film is a blistering showcase for him, with director Spike Lee demanding audiences wake up to an actor who hasn’t had the respect he deserves.

Chadwick Boseman in Ma Rainey’s Black BottomDavid Lee/NETFLIX
Chadwick Boseman in Ma Rainey’s Black BottomDavid Lee/NETFLIX

Best Actress

Bukky Bakray, Rocks

Radha Blank, The Forty-Year-Old Version

Vanessa Kirby, Pieces of a Woman

Frances McDormand, Nomadland

Wunmi Mosaku, His House

Alfre Woodard, Clemency

Will win: Frances McDormand

Should win: Alfre Woodard

Shoulda got a look-in: Julia Garner, The Assistant

In a fairer world, Alfre Woodard’s anguished, career-best performance as a conflicted prison warden would have been a far bigger awards-show magnet – in 2021, but also two years ago when Clemency was first released in the US. Still, no one will take issue with McDormand sweeping this either. Elsewhere, there are a number of great women overlooked in this category, including Elisabeth Moss in Shirley and Minari’s Han Ye-ri, who has frustratingly received few of the plaudits granted to her co-stars. But it would have been particularly welcome to spotlight The Assistant’s Julia Garner. The film, inspired by Harvey Weinstein’s sexual predation but also every tale of abuse of power, is full of silent menace and uneasy answers, with a wide-eyed Garner as its beating heart.

Alfre Woodard in ClemencyNeon
Alfre Woodard in ClemencyNeon

Best Supporting Actor

Daniel Kaluuya, Judas and the Black Messiah

Barry Keoghan, Calm with Horses

Alan Kim, Minari

Leslie Odom Jr, One Night in Miami

Clarke Peters, Da 5 Bloods

Paul Raci, Sound of Metal

Will win: Daniel Kaluuya

Should win: Daniel Kaluuya

Shoulda got a look-in: Bo Burnham, Promising Young Woman

Kaluuya is this year’s only real sure-thing when it comes to awards, having taken home a number of important precursors ahead of the Oscars. His streak will probably continue here, and deservedly so. Playing Black revolutionary Fred Hampton, Kaluuya evokes the fierce, unflinching pull of a leader, and gives one of the most compelling and ultimately devastating performances of the year. Less talked about, and deserving of a spot here, is Promising Young Woman’s Bo Burnham. The Eighth Grade director, occasional actor and one-time YouTube star teasingly plays with his off-camera persona here, and nails the slippery tone of the film as a whole. In a movie that has its flaws, its universally great ensemble cast is not one of them.

Kosar Ali in RocksFable Pictures
Kosar Ali in RocksFable Pictures

Best Supporting Actress

Niamh Algar, Calm with Horses

Kosar Ali, Rocks

Maria Bakalova, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm

Dominique Fishback, Judas and the Black Messiah

Ashley Madekwe, County Lines

Youn Yuh-jung, Minari

Will win: Maria Bakalova

Should win: Kosar Ali

Shoulda got a look-in: Gina Rodriguez, Kajillionaire

Bakalova had one of the year’s big star-is-born moments playing Borat’s endlessly downtrodden daughter, so a win wouldn’t be a problem. Kosar Ali, though, is a total spark plug in Rocks – funny and charming, yet quick to spring on you moments of deep pathos. Similar sentiments could be applied to Kajillionaire’s Gina Rodriguez. Miranda July’s odd, deceptively powerful comedy-drama has been bizarrely shortchanged this awards season, but in particular Rodriguez’s vivacious supporting role as a budding con artist. Rodriguez’s annoying social media presence be damned – she’s a star.

Kingsley Ben-Adir in One Night in MiamiPatti Perret/Amazon Studios
Kingsley Ben-Adir in One Night in MiamiPatti Perret/Amazon Studios

EE Rising Star

Bukky Bakray, Rocks

Kingsley Ben-Adir, One Night in Miami

Morfydd Clark, Saint Maud

Sope Dirisu, His House

Conrad Khan, County Lines

Will win: Kingsley Ben-Adir

Should win: Bukky Bakray

Shoulda got a look-in: Toby Wallace, Babyteeth

This category is voted for by the public, so it stands to reason that Ben-Adir, the only non-newcomer of the nominees and the only one not featured in a low-budget arthouse movie, will take it. It’ll be a deserved win, but Bakray is also brilliant in Rocks. In her acting debut, she captures the heart and soul of a teenage girl forced into circumstances she shouldn’t be in. Overlooked here is Babyteeth’s Toby Wallace, whose performance as a reckless ne’er-do-well love interest to a teenage girl is both alluring and unpredictable.

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The Baftas have stopped mimicking the Oscars, and they’re finally worth paying attention to