If there was any justice in the world, the latest Bond film – Sam Mendes’ Skyfall – would be up for Best Film at this month’s Academy Awards, but, almost inevitably the film was snubbed in favour of more “important” films like Lincoln and Zero Dark Thirty, which you can perhaps accept as an American ceremony celebrating American.
You might think then that Skyfall is assured of a big win at the Baftas tonight, given how British the property is, and the British Academy’s supposed commitment to all things British, but that win is less than assured. In the past, Bafta has been dead set against Her Majesty’s Finest, snubbing 007 on 41 occasions, with the single win from the series’ 42 nominations coming for Ted Moore’s cinematography on From Russia With Love in 1963.
Most of those nominations have also come in technical categories, and thus aren’t an appreciation of the franchise as a whole or the character – and so many of them suggests almost begrudging commitment to nominating 007 without actually acknowledging the real quality of the films.
That also includes no director nominations, no Best Film Bafta nods and just three acting nominations, from a long and illustrious history. They may have recently celebrated Bond in a Bafta special, but considering the history, you can’t really take it all that sincerely.
Skyfall should win the Outstanding British Film, but it should also have been up for the overall Best Film award as well, and even the Outstanding British nod might just go to Les Miserables. Both Judi Dench and Javier Bardem are both also up for best supporting roles, even though Skyfall was actually M’s story and not Bond’s, and unfortunately, I can’t see either winning.
Even being nominated is being heralded as a victory, considering the Bond and Bafta context, but that shouldn’t be how it is. Skyfall is a wonderful film, a triumph of technique and artistic execution, with a keen eye for story and a group of performances from Bond at the top to Ralph Fiennes at the more minor end of the scale that were all outstanding, and yet it is not being heralded as it should.
It’s all because Bond seems to be a dirty word – Academies on both sides of the Atlantic prefer stand-alone films to sequels, and bloated franchises like Bond’s probably rank even further down. The snobs will no doubt call it lazy film-making, because the framework is already in existence and nothing ever really gets challenged: but they would do well to revisit Skyfall, to appreciate Sam Mendes’ achievement.
When other films like The Artist are openly celebrated for their homages to bygone years, Skyfall seems to have been snubbed mostly because it is a Bond film that celebrated Bond films. Even though the commentary is clever and never excessive, how could Bafta ever turn its back on the long and proud tradition of snubbing Bond films by lavishing praise and awards on the film that looks back at the franchise the most fondly? It would be a contradiction of everything the British Academy has stood for.
Bond is just too popular, which is the kind of assertion that makes a mockery of this kind of awards affair, which will ignore the fact that Bond has made more than $1 billion now or dismiss it as the result of an entrenched franchise. But such snobbery ignores the fact that Skyfall is a great film, both as a blockbuster and as something far more intimate: yes, we have explosions and car chases and violence, but we also have a core devoted to personal relationships – chiefly between M and Bond – and the ghosts of the past.
It is arguably the finest written of all the Bond films – which makes the snub of writers Neal Purvis and Robert Wade the most ludicrous – and it is certainly among the best directed – and yet, again, Sam Mendes isn’t up for Best Director. And even though the other films up for Best Film might be deemed more culturally important than Skyfall, there is no doubt that Mendes’ job was far more difficult, or that his success was more astounding.
For the same reason, Daniel Craig’s performance as Bond deserves huge credit – he is reinventing a character who has been around for 50 years, offering something revisioniary as well as true to the past at the same time, and yet he will be passed over as a glorified action movie star by the snobs.
Whatever happens tonight at the Baftas, Skyfall will not come away with the praise it deserves, and once more we’ll wonder why Bafta sees Bond as a dirty word, when really the franchise should be celebrated for what it does for the British film industry. Rita, Sue & Bob Too might be good fun, but you won’t see Javier Bardem signing on for a remake.
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