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'The King's Speech' BAFTA romp: What does it mean for the Oscars?

February 14, 2011 |  9:00 am


As expected, "The King's Speech" pulled off an impressive sweep at BAFTA, claiming seven awards, including the dual crowns as best picture and best British picture. That marked the first time both prizes went to the same movie since the category for best British film was re-introduced in 1992.

That combo probably clinches its top Oscar victory next. Ever since 2000, when BAFTA moved up its award ceremony to take place before the Academy Awards, the two prizes have agreed on best picture four times: "Gladiator" (2000), "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" (2003), "Slumdog Millionaire" (2008) and "The Hurt Locker" (2009). The victory by "Hurt Locker" surprised kudos-watchers.

Last year, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts correctly foretold the Oscar winners of supporting actor and actress. Could it be significant that Geoffrey Rush just beat Oscar front-runner Christian Bale ("The Fighter")? His "King's Speech" costar Helena Bonham Carter won supporting actress too, but she wasn't nominated against Oscar faves Melissa Leo ("The Fighter") and Hailee Steinfeld ("True Grit"). Or maybe their victories at these British film awards were to be expected considering Rush and Carter are subjects of the empire — he's an Aussie; she's a Brit.

Last year, BAFTA showed a strong preference for British thespians in the lead races, picking Colin Firth ("A Single Man") over eventual Oscar champ Jeff Bridges ("Crazy Heart") and Carey Mulligan ("An Education"), who had an easier time of it. She wasn't nominated against Sandra Bullock ("The Blind Side").

Beware: Sometimes BAFTA hints at Oscar upsets ahead — like Marion Cotillard ("La Vie en Rose") and Tilda Swinton ("Michael Clayton").

The reason may be a significant overlap in voters. About 500 members of the British Academy also belong to Hollywood's Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which has 5,800 members.

— Tom O'Neil

Photo: BAFTA