BAFTA Awards Showcase British Film Taste and Talent

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While Americans are already gearing up for the Academy Awards, many of our biggest stars will be in London this weekend for another big awards show: the British Academy Film Awards, called BAFTAs for short.

The Oscars are a big deal, but nothing celebrates British achievements — and taste in — film like the BAFTA awards, held Sunday at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden. While a number of Americans (including Amy Adams, Anne Hathaway, Ben Affleck, George Clooney and Quentin Tarantino) will be on the scene, the night belongs to British artists above all.

English actor and all-around entertainer Stephen Fry will host this year’s awards show, broadcast Sunday evening here on BBC America. As with any awards show worth its salt, this one will involve a red carpet beforehand so viewers can critique attendees’ outfits and hairstyles. Winners will be handed statuettes in the shape of a slightly creepy one-eyed ancient Greek theater mask.

What is the British Academy? Properly known as the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, BAFTA is a nonprofit organization dedicated to developing and promoting film all over the world but especially, of course, in Britain. While Sunday’s ceremony is its biggest, it also gives awards for television, games and contributions specific to Scotland and Wales.

As with the Academy Awards, the nominees are made up of artists from the U.S., Britain and elsewhere. BAFTA nominees include familiar faces such as Sir Cameron Mackintosh, Dame Judi Dench, Daniel Day-Lewis, Dame Helen Mirren, Sam Mendes and Tom Hooper as well as up-and-coming British names like Juno Temple and Suraj Sharma.

Presenters will lean more heavily toward the British side, which will no doubt make the proceedings more interesting than U.S. awards shows often can be. Among them: Billy Connolly, Danny Boyle, Eddie Redmayne, Gemma Arterton, Henry Cavill, Sir Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman and Simon Pegg.

While films from all over the world are considered for most of the awards, given in categories similar to the Oscars or the Golden Globes, the BAFTA awards include one for “Outstanding British Film.” The nominees this year — “Anna Karenina,” “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,” “Les Misérables,” “Seven Psychopaths” and “Skyfall” — show how many British films reach American audiences.

Then again, Americans dominate many BAFTA categories. Not a single Brit is nominated in the supporting-actor category, for example. And only one film, “Les Miserables,” is nominated in both the British and overall best-film categories, which begs the question of how highly British filmmakers think of their compatriots’ work.

The BAFTA Fellowship, the equivalent of a lifetime achievement award, goes this year to Alan Parker. While Americans should know the name — he’s the director of “Mississippi Burning” and “Evita,” — few have contributed as much as he has to British cinema. He’s been the chairman of both the British Film Institute and the British Film Council. He was knighted in 2002.

“It’s almost impossible to highlight any one moment of his career, but the incredible 19 BAFTAs his films have won indicate the esteem in which he is held by his peers, as well as the outstanding nature of his work,” said John Willis, chairman of the British Academy.

Tessa Ross, controller of film and drama at Channel 4/Film4 in England, will get the Outstanding British Contribution to Cinema award based on how she’s wielded her power to fund projects over the years. The London Independent calls her “the mother of British filmmaking.”

by Christy Karras

Host Stephen Fry playfully polishes statuettes in advance of this Sunday's British Academy Film Awards. (Photo by Dave J Hogan/Getty Images)

Actors Hugh Jackman and Bradley Cooper, here at a BAFTA Los Angeles tea party last month, will be among the stars at the BAFTA awards in London. (Photo by George Pimentel/BAFTA LA/Getty Images for BAFTA LA)

Alan Parker is the 2013 BAFTA Fellowship award. (Photo by Dave M. Benett/Getty Images)

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