LONDON – Sci-fi epic “Dune” and dark western “The Power of the Dog” lead the race as the British Academy Film Awards return Sunday with a live, black-tie ceremony after a pandemic-curtailed event in 2021.
Acting nominees Benedict Cumberbatch and Lady Gaga are among the stars expected on the red carpet at London’s Royal Albert Hall before a ceremony hosted by Rebel Wilson. Last year’s event was largely conducted online, with only the hosts and presenters appearing in person.
Denis Villeneuve’s “Dune,” starring Timothee Chalamet and Zendaya, has 11 nominations including best film, cinematography and original score. Jane Campion’s “The Power of the Dog,” set in 1920s Montana and starring Cumberbatch as a ranch owner, has eight including best director and best film.
If Campion takes the directing trophy she will be only the third female winner in that category, but the second in two years after Chloe Zhao for “Nomadland” in 2021.
Kenneth Branagh’s semi-autobiographical “Belfast,” the story of a childhood overshadowed by Northern Ireland’s violent “Troubles,” has six nominations including best film. Daniel Craig’s final James Bond thriller, “No Time to Die,” Steven Spielberg’s musical “West Side Story” and Paul Thomas Anderson’s coming-of-age drama “Licorice Pizza” have five nominations apiece.
Best-picture nominees are “Dune,” “The Power of the Dog,” “Belfast,” “Licorice Pizza” and disaster comedy “Don’t Look Up.”
The separate category of best British film comprises “After Love,” “Ali & Ava,” “Belfast,” “Boiling Point,” “Cyrano,” “Everybody’s Talking About Jamie,” “House of Gucci,” “Last Night in Soho,” “No Time to Die” and “Passing.”
The contenders for best actor are Cumberbatch, Adeel Akhtar for “Ali & Ava,” Mahershala Ali for “Swan Song,” Stephen Graham for “Boiling Point,” Leonardo DiCaprio for “Don’t Look Up” and Will Smith for “King Richard”
Leading actress nominees are Lady Gaga for “House of Gucci,” Alana Haim for “Licorice Pizza,” Emilia Jones for “Coda,” Renate Reinsve for “The Worst Person in The World,” Joanna Scanlan for “After Love” and Tessa Thompson for “Passing.” The category is the most unpredictable of the night, with acclaimed performances by Kristen Stewart in Princess Diana biopic “Spencer” and Olivia Colman in “The Lost Daughter” overlooked for nomination.
The British film academy has expanded its voting membership and shaken up its rules in recent years in an attempt to address a glaring lack of diversity in the nominations. In 2020, no women were nominated as best director for a seventh consecutive year, and all 20 nominees in the lead and supporting performer categories were white.
Awards organizers say they are committed to supporting new talent, and this year all the performers in the supporting actor category are first-time nominees. They include Woody Norman for “C’mon C’mon” — at 11 years old the youngest nominee of the year — and Ariana DeBose, who plays Anita in “West Side Story.”
The British awards, known as the BAFTAs, are usually held a week or two before the Academy Awards and have become an important awards-season staging post. This year’s Oscars take place March 27.
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