It’s mid-April, and we still have two weeks to go before the Oscars wrap up this weirdly protracted awards season. On Saturday, when the Directors Guild of America presented its top award to Chloé Zhao for Nomadland, the New York Times’ Kyle Buchanan declared her to be “the prohibitive front-runner, since the DGA winner has won the best-director Oscar thirteen of the last fifteen times.” Zhao delivered an extraordinarily gracious acceptance speech, addressing each of her fellow nominees—Lee Isaac Chung (Minari), Emerald Fennell (Promising Young Woman), David Fincher (Mank), and Aaron Sorkin (The Trial of the Chicago 7)—to express her personal appreciation for their work. And then, the following night, Nomadland took four top prizes from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts.
Besides best film and director, Nomadland scored BAFTAs for cinematographer Joshua James Richards, who also shot Zhao’s two previous features, Songs My Brothers Taught Me (2015) and The Rider (2017), and for Frances McDormand, who plays a woman living out of her van as she treks across the American West. Both of the Telegraph’s film critics, Robbie Collin and Tim Robey, were ticked off that neither McDormand nor Anthony Hopkins, who won best actor for his portrayal of an eighty-three-year-old man slipping into dementia in Florian Zeller’s The Father, bothered to show up for the ceremony—even virtually. “If the no-show justification came down to assuming they’d probably lost anyway, since both were pitted against highly competitive lineups, that’s even less respectful to those fellow nominees, any one of whom would have been over the moon to win,” writes Robey.
But everyone, including the Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw and Catherine Shoard, was delighted by the flustered acceptance speeches Emerald Fennell delivered when Promising Young Woman won the awards for outstanding British film and original screenplay. The film starring Carey Mulligan as a medical school dropout seeking to avenge the death of her best friend is “a labor of love,” said Fennell, and “everyone did it pretty much for a packet of crisps.”
Darius Marder had a very fine weekend as well, winning the DGA’s award for the best first feature for Sound of Metal, which stars Riz Ahmed as a heavy metal drummer losing his hearing. Sound of Metal also won BAFTAs for editor Mikkel E. G. Nielsen and for the team of five—Jaime Baksht, Nicolas Becker, Phillip Bladh, Carlos Cortés, and Michelle Couttolenc—responsible for the film’s remarkable sound. The BAFTAs also threw a spotlight on two more promising young talents, Bukky Bakray, who won the rising star award for her turn as a London teen struggling to raise herself and her younger brother in Sarah Gavron’s Rocks, and Remi Weekes, the winner of the award for outstanding debut by a British writer, director, or producer for His House, a horror thriller centering on a Sudanese couple moving into a shabby temporary home in an English town.
In the coming days and weeks, we’ll be hearing from more guilds—cinematographers, editors, sound technicians, and costume designers—before the Independent Spirit and Academy awards are presented on April 24 and 25. Chloé Zhao will likely have to come up with a few more fresh approaches to acceptance speeches before she can get back to putting the final touches on The Eternals, the new wing she’s building in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and writing a sci-fi western vampire movie for Universal.
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