Suspicion of optimism

Posted by · 6:08 am · January 19th, 2009

As you know, one of the many things that aggravated me about this year’s BAFTA nominations was the pointed shut-out of Mike Leigh’s “Happy-Go-Lucky.” The snub extended to lead actress Sally Hawkins, who has torn through the critics’ awards on the other side of the Atlantic and stands a sizeable chance of landing an Oscar nod on Monday morning — as does Leigh himself, for that matter.

The Independent recently did some digging into the snub, and has found that a number of Leigh’s peers and contemporaries are similarly shocked by the omission. Venerable critic Barry Norman (something of a British institution) is particularly outraged, hailing “Happy-Go-Lucky” as the equal of BAFTA-garlanded “Slumdog Millionaire,” and going so far to label Leigh “a prophet without honour,” less appreciated in his homeland than he is elsewhere.

Of course, Leigh has won three BAFTAs in his career, so perhaps that’s getting a little dramatic. Nonetheless, the article wonders whether this year’s snub could be put down to a BAFTA grudge against the famously candid filmmaker, who has criticised the organisation’s voting methods in the past.

Hmmm. Ultimately, interestingly enough, it is “Slumdog Millionaire” scribe Simon Beaufoy who might have hit the nail closest to the head when he says the film was a victim of “traditional British suspicion of optimism” — something which I think accounts for the film’s polite but less-than-ecstatic critical reception here. It’s also a precise echo of a sentiment Eddie Marsan voiced in my October interview with the actor:

“I thought the film might go down well in America — better, even, than at home — because they’re not quite as cynical as the British. I think they’re more willing to buy into an optimistic character.”

BAFTA chairman David Parfitt, of course, is having none of it, suggesting simply that the film opened too early in the UK. More weirdly (and rudely), he also implies that Hawkins’ Golden Globe win should be taken with a pinch of salt:

“The Globes are chosen by a bunch of foreign hacks, and there’s only around 50 of them. We are 6,000 industry professionals.”

What exactly are you trying to say here, Mr. Parfitt? That the verdict of the BAFTAs — the organisation which, may I remind you, apparently believes that “Mamma Mia!” is a better British film than “Happy-Go-Lucky,” and that Freida Pinto is more deserving than Viola Davis — is somehow more valid and credible than that of the Globes, because of sheer voting numbers? It strikes me as an unnecessarily childish take, and an unnecessarily hurtful dig at a British star’s success, but whatever.

When all is said and done, “Happy-Go-Lucky” is one of those occasional British films that played better away from home. To what extent, we’ll find out on Thursday morning.

→ 6 Comments Tags: , , , , , , | Filed in: Daily

6 responses so far

  • 1 1-19-2009 at 7:23 am

    red_wine said...

    What a terrible shame that Happy-Go-Lucky was left empty handed while Slumdog was lavished with ridiculous praise(Supp Actress, Art Direction?????????) at Baftas. Shame on you Baftas. When a film like Happy-Go-Lucky is in contention, they go off parading the flavor-of-the-season, perhaps dazzled by the popularity of that British film.

    Sally Hawkins & Mike Leigh (direction) should easily win their categories if this wasn’t such a twisted star-fucking award season.

    I can understand that maybe the committee might be a bit dense to appreciate Leigh’s outstanding direction but what about Hawkins? Her performance is there for everyone to see. Its surprising that they would trample over a Mike Leigh film in this way.

  • 2 1-19-2009 at 9:04 am

    Rob said...

    Its reasonable that Leigh’s criticism of BAFTA could have hurt him.

    Mirren was ignored for the Final Prime Suspect and Elizabeth I, after complaining about a lack of recognition for previous projects by BAFTA. There are few that didn’t think her work was good enough to be nominated.

  • 3 1-19-2009 at 9:55 am

    Matt said...

    It could be because Happy Go Lucky kinda sucked and the main character made them want to die (as she did with me) a slow painful death rather than having to hear anymore from her.

  • 4 1-19-2009 at 10:07 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    Well, I’d say the same thing about “Changeling” and its lead character, so it’s all a matter of taste.

  • 5 1-19-2009 at 12:41 pm

    hugo said...

    Very painful Happy go lucky not nomination in any category, and worse still in the best actress.
    Well said, this seems more a settling of accounts is really embarrassing, having won the Berlin festival, which means it was not irrelevant in Europe , all the festivals there are always unhappy (whether or not winning Scott Thomas etc.etc) Sally Hawkins was named best actress well deserved .
    Moreover multi award for criticism here and there and in England the same nominated for many awards, should say something and not be in vain.
    But I do not know that both the SAG nomination has not influenced the decision BAFTA, but does not recognize the BAFTA British talent? and has done so once when other awards not have recognized his actors they did.
    But now totally ignored Leigh and snubbing its protagonist, whose performance was preceded by high praise for such a difficult role, only Emma Thompson and Meryl Streep could have done it.
    A penalty for Hawkins, great actress I’ve seen other actions of, and is the best of his generation in the Great Bretaña.Espero that justice is done in some way and be nominated for an Oscar for saving the honor of being considered the most desaires of actress underestimated the season and without merit because his performance was great and easy if not the best of the best five years.

  • 6 1-19-2009 at 9:45 pm

    debt relief said...

    Completely agree with your predictions. Can’t wait for thursday!