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What does David Fincher's BAFTA win mean for the director at the Oscars?

February 14, 2011 |  3:45 pm

It was no big surprise, really, that "The King's Speech" dominated the BAFTA awards Sunday night. It is, after all, the hometown film, even though audiences stateside have embraced it wholeheartedly as well. So it was a bit of a shock when David Fincher beat out Tom Hooper for best director over there on the "King's" turf. Fincher's "The Social Network" was the early Oscar favorite but saw its chances fade once  "The King's Speech" started its drive. (The surprise win for Tom Hooper at last month's Directors Guild of America awards was a big spark in the turnaround.)

Is there now a possibility that "The Social Network" and "The King's Speech" could split the two big prizes on Oscar night, with Fincher walking away with best director while "The King's Speech" wins best picture? It's happened before, most recently in 2005 with "Crash" winning best picture and Ang Lee winning best director with "Brokeback Mountain," and again in 2002 when "Chicago" won best picture and Roman Polanski was awarded the best director statue for "The Pianist."

It could happen again, and anecdotally, I've heard motion picture academy members talking in such fashion. But how much influence do the  BAFTA awards have on the Oscars? According to my colleague Tom O'Neil, there are about 500 British Academy of Film and Television Arts members who are also members of the 5,800-member American academy. And the two award shows' choices have matched up four times in the last decade when the BAFTAs moved their show up earlier than the Oscars. 

It is significant, though, that the BAFTAs didn't go with one of their own Sunday evening, especially considering how Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush and Helena Bonham Carter dominated the acting prizes. Rather, the British Academy chose Fincher for his job directing 20-somethings in their founding of Facebook. The BAFTAs also chose Aaron Sorkin, for adapted screenplay, a scenario we are likely to find repeated at the Oscars. "The Social Network" also won for editing, besting both "Inception" and "The King's Speech," a category many say you need to win to get best picture.

There are only two weeks to go till the big night and ballots are due a week from tomorrow. Most voters probably already have their minds made up.

-- Nicole Sperling