FOR the wealth of British talent nominated at this year’s Academy Awards, the wait is almost over.
In the early hours of Monday morning, the film industry’s biggest and most prestigious awards ceremony will be underway, and there will be plenty of British talent in attendance.
As homegrown actors and filmmakers have secured a wealth of nominations in this year’s Oscars, with two Brits, Eddie Redmayne and Benedict Cumberbatch, vying for the best actor award, and Redmayne’s co-star in The Theory Of Everything, Felicity Jones, and Gone Girl’s Rosamund Pike both nominated for best actress.
Keira Knightley, who stars alongside Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game, is hoping to pick up her first Academy Award for best supporting actress, ten years on from her first nomination.
But amid the excitement, the ceremony has been somewhat overshadowed by a racism row amid claims that Hollywood’s black actors and directors are being shunned.
There was no best actor nomination for Oxford-born David Oyelowo, who was critically acclaimed for his performance as civil rights leader Martin Luther King in Selma. The film did pick up a best picture nomination, but is tipped to miss out to Birdman.
According to film lecturer Martin Carter, of Sheffield Hallam University, the lack of diversity in this year’s nominee list could have been affected by the success of 12 Years A Slave last year. The film, directed and produced by Londoner Steve McQueen, won three Oscars, including the coveted best picture.
“You can’t help but think that the Academy is pleased with itself that it gave 12 Years A Slave best picture last year, it has ticked that box and can go back to white nominees,” he said.
The Academy, he says, is overwhelmingly made up of “male, white, rich, over 60s” who sometimes fail to recognise minority actors or directors.
However, Oyelowo isn’t the only Brit that has been overlooked, says Mr Carter. While he would bypass Redmayne and Cumberbatch on the shortlist to give the best actor gong to Steve Carrell for his “transformational” performance in Foxcatcher, he would rather the Oscar went to Timothy Spall for his role in Mr Turner.
“I would have loved to see Timothy Spall at the Oscars in a tuxedo,” he said.
The film did see one high profile Brit nomination, for cinematographer Dick Pope, who inadvertently became an online sensation when Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs pronounced his name “Dick Poop”. Mr Carter, who was an extra in the biopic, said Pope’s work was “marvellous” - and a credit to British filmmaking’s past.
“We have produced some of the best cinematographers in film history, he said. “All too often the British are described as not having the visual sensibility, but actually, for a film making nation, we’re pretty good.”
And while he won’t be placing any bets on a winner, from those nominated for best picture, he would chose Boyhood.
“It is an extraordinary film. 12 years in production and a unique piece of cinema,” Mr Carter added.
Rivalry beyond acting
The battle for the leading actor Oscar does not just pit two of Britain’s biggest stars against each other, it also revisits one of the nation’s most enduring rivalries - Eton versus Harrow.
When Etonian Eddie Redmayne faces Harrow-educated Benedict Cumberbatch, it repeats a rivalry usually played out on the cricket pitch. Recent years have seen Eton dominate the acting world with alumni including Damian Lewis, Tom Hiddleston and Dominic West. But the rise of such well-heeled stars has not escaped criticism - with Cumberbatch complaining he had been the victim of “posh bashing”.