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Bafta gong is no guarantee of Oscar success

By Channel 4 News

Updated on 21 January 2010

If James Cameron is delighting in Avatar's eight Bafta nominations, he might think back to that Bafta night in 1998 when a similarly festooned Titanic came away with nothing, writes Stephanie West.

Avatar is tipped to dominate this year's Baftas.

Back then, the Bafta ceremony always came last in award season. So Cameron had already proclaimed himself "King of the World" at the Oscars in March, an especially sweet victory as so many had written his film off as financial folly.

Instead, as well as becoming the highest-grossing film of all time, Hollywood heaped it with the ultimate accolade, the Academy Award, 11 times over.

But fresh from his Oscar triumph, the Baftas in April proved something of an iceberg when his film ran aground and didn't claim a single victory from its 10 nominations. A little British film, The Full Monty, won best picture that night.

That was no real surprise. A rip-roaring fairytale of a success story and the holy grail of a business model, the Sheffield tale had cost only £2m, but made its budget back 80 times, taking £160m in cinemas alone. It won awards and audience prizes in spades, and I still remember director Peter Cattaneo telling me his favourite was some Nordic audience trophy that translated as "spreader of joy".

But if there's no Full Monty doing battle with Cameron in 2010, there are small, highly individual films that are seriously loved and acclaimed by the critics.

His competition includes his former wife, the director Kathryn Bigelow, whose Iraq film The Hurt Locker has eight nominations, and the British movie An Education, based on the writings of columnist Lynn Barber, about the seduction by an older man which nearly derailed her schoolgirl ambition of going to Oxford.

And then there's Up in the Air, with George Clooney as a jet-setting axe-man. Companies hire him in to fire their staff, so he exists in a high-altitude bubble, intent on notching up air miles and avoiding any personal ties. And Precious, taking on a tough subject, the incestuous abuse of an overweight teenager in Harlem.

But whoever wins at the Baftas, the victory will arguably give no concrete clue as to who and what pictures will triumph at the Oscars.

It is the Golden Globes and the various industry guild awards which take place in America over the next month or so, which are considered true indicators.

James Cameron won two Golden Globes for Avatar. If goes on to win the Directors Guild of America Award in February, voted for by fellow directors, he'll become the favourite.

The Baftas may select many of the same films, but they remain a distinctly British take on proceedings. And it is only in 2001 that the Bafta ceremony was brought forward to February instead of its usual April date, in a bid to become part of the unofficial award show season that starts in January and culminates at the Academy Awards.

But the Baftas and Oscars remain distinctly different shows, not least because Hollywood is a one-industry town and the Academy Awards are the most important date in its diary. And an Oscar win is still the accolade that can boost cinema ticket sales around the globe.

Back in 1998, the after-show party for Titanic took over west Hollywood, and there was only one story in town.

By contrast, what I remember most about the Baftas that year was the fact the very sad news that Linda McCartney had died emerged during ceremony and nearly eclipsed the event. In the press room, all the winners coming back stage found they weren't being asked about their films, but were being asked to pay tribute to Macca's wife instead.

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