There are some years when awards season seems to be pretty much a foregone conclusion. Film fans and pundits watch on as one movie dominates the field from the moment it premieres until the Oscars ceremony in March, picking up just about every gong under the sun on its way to an inevitable golden statuette. Sometimes the film is deserving of its adulation, other times less so, but either way, the race itself ends up lacking much excitement or unpredictability, making the eventual reveal feel a little stale.


2023, it's safe to say, is not one of those years. Indeed, with less than two months to go until Jimmy Kimmel hosts the 95th Academy Awards in Los Angeles, the race is as wide open as ever – something which has been further underlined by today's nominations for the 76th BAFTA Film Awards.

The five nominees for Best Film are: The Banshees of Inisherin, Elvis, Everything Everywhere All At Once, Tár, and perhaps most unexpectedly All Quiet On The Western Front (whose total of 14 nominations is the most one film has achieved since The King's Speech managed the same amount in 2011.) While the inclusion of these films in itself isn't necessarily a shock – the first four at least are all considered to be pretty much locks for Best Picture nods – what is surprising is a couple of the films that have missed out.

Perhaps the most notable omission is Steven Spielberg's semi-autobiographical The Fabelmans, a film that has wowed critics since it first debuted at Toronto Film Festival in September 2022 – and which we called "a dazzling and bittersweet movie memoir" in our own five star review. The film has been seen as a frontrunner in the Best Picture race since then, a position only strengthened by its recent victory in the Best Motion Picture - Drama category at the Golden Globes. Its absence from this list, then, comes as something of a shock, especially coupled with the fact it only received a single nomination in any category, for Best Original Screenplay.

Also rather conspicuous by its absence is Top Gun: Maverick – a sequel that outperformed pretty much everyone's expectations at the box office and received consistently glowing reviews, and which has since emerged as a major player in the awards conversation. Joseph Kosinski's film has picked up four nods in the technical categories, but its absence from the Best Film list could be seen as the death knell for any outside chance it had of picking up the top Academy Award in March – even if a nomination still seems pretty much a certainty.

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But what does this all really mean for the Oscars race? Well, even if the BAFTAs have regularly picked a different Best Film winner than the Oscars in recent times (the winners have only matched three times in the last 10 years) it's far less common for the eventual Best Picture winner not to make it onto the BAFTA shortlist at all, something which has happened just twice in the last two decades. But both The Fabelmans and Top Gun: Maverick can take heart from the fact that one of those anomalies came just last year, when CODA emerged as a surprise Oscar winner despite having been similarly absent from the BAFTA nominations list.

And so perhaps rather than looking at this BAFTAs list as a barometer of what we might expect to win the main prize at an entirely different awards ceremony in two months' time, we should celebrate the fact that these awards bodies aren't simply regurgitating the same predictable lists. Since the BAFTAs switched to a new nomination process in most categories in 2021, there's been a feeling that the awards have started gaining back their own identity, becoming something more than just a dress rehearsal for the Oscars.

These changes to the process haven't actually extended to the Best Film category so far – in which further diversification would still be welcome – but perhaps the fact that two films considered major Oscar favourites have missed out on a nomination should be seen as a sign that BAFTA voters are thinking a little differently than Oscar voters, rather than spelling the end of those films' chances.

Heading into the Oscars, there's a genuine sense that about five or six different films have a chance of picking up the top prize – and given just how close the race is this year, The Fabelmans shouldn't be ruled out just because of its omission here.

The Fabelmans is released in UK cinemas on Friday 27th January 2023. Check out more of our Film coverage or visit our TV Guide and Streaming Guide to find out what's on.


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