The BAFTAs - Can Fantasy Reveal More About Ourselves Than Reality Itself? Words by Dylan Spicer
Poor James Cameron? I honestly couldn’t tell you. This year’s BAFTAs contained some surprises, and though a lot of people may have predicted it, reality won over fantasy, with The Hurt Locker taking six awards to Avatar’s two. Whether the cast and crew behind the latter mind, after making the highest grossing film (ever), cannot be said, but it does serve as a reminder that the most popular film will not always clean up during awards season and that there is truly no reflection between budget and critical success. Although fantasy may be a bigger draw at the box office, it is reality that generally scoops the prizes. Does this mean that fantasy will always be just a gaudy crowd-pleaser? Of course, drawing a dividing line between reality and fantasy is not always so easy. In many ways the two films have very similar concepts behind them, and this would not be the first article to suggest that Avatar and the Iraq War are not mutually exclusive concepts. Yet it is dangerous to assume this was a case of either/or. In many ways the two films could not be more dissimilar both creatively and economically. With Hurt Locker just about scraping even on its budget (and even this might have required some creative accounting), and Avatar launching itself into the financial record books, it is surprising that such a rivalry has risen at all. Allegories aside, the look and feel of both movies are completely different, and there are other factors involved. My limited knowledge of the patrons of BAFTA, and the way the system works can’t help but getting me thinking the reason behind the failure of fantasy. BAFTA candidates get the films through weeks in advance on pre-release DVDs, and many of them, and rightly so, are at least in their mid-fifties. This means that vast majority will be seen on the small screen, and certainly not the 3D, forty foot bonanza of Avatar at the IMAX. I enjoyed both movies, but Hurt Locker is by the far the more emotive when stripped of its special effects. Patently unfair, but the truth. Of course, this does not mean a film that escapes from everyday life is doomed from the start when it comes to nominations. An Education came in with a whole host of awards, but only Carey Mulligan came away with the honours. Up, a quite literal flight of fantasy came through not only as expected in best animation, but with its music. The most touching moment of the night was Duncan Jones’s acceptance speech for Moon winning Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer. That said, it lost out to Fish Tank for the Outstanding British Film, as gritty and as urban as they come. The BAFTAs will always be a controversial, and will never end with everyone happy. Whether you prefer the reality of existence or flights of fantasy, neither category will have an instant upper hand. A real exploration of humanity, be it on our own planet or elsewhere, will always ultimately win through.