Oppenheimer blitzes 2024 Bafta Film Awards with seven wins

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On a night long on glitz but short on surprises, Christopher Nolan and Oppenheimer proved the biggest winners at the 2024 Bafta Film Awards in London. In a litmus test of industry feeling ahead of next month’s Oscars, Nolan’s biography of nuclear physicist J Robert Oppenheimer left with seven Baftas in total, including the blue-riband award for best film. 

Accepting his own prize for best director, Nolan said that while the film ended on a “necessary” note of despair, he also wanted to highlight individuals and organisations who had worked to reduce the world’s stock of nuclear arms. “They show the potential of efforts for peace.”

Among the film’s other awards were those for best actor and best supporting actor, given respectively to Cillian Murphy and Robert Downey Jr.

But despite five nominations, no success came for Barbie, the other half of the “Barbenheimer” double-bill that so excited audiences last summer. The Oscars had already delivered a perceived snub with a lack of nods for director Greta Gerwig and star Margot Robbie. Here, while Robbie was in contention for best actress, that prize was instead won by Emma Stone for her turn in the Promethean fantasy Poor Things.

Emma Stone won the award for best actress, presented by Idris Elba, for ‘Poor Things’ © 2024 Getty Images

Murphy’s best actor prize for playing the tortured Oppenheimer saw him pull ahead of nominees including Paul Giamatti, star of bittersweet comedy The Holdovers. But that film did provide the winner of best supporting actress, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, whose victory mirrored the same result at last month’s Golden Globes. 

So too did Downey Jr winning best supporting actor, as well as the awards for Nolan, Murphy and Oppenheimer’s overall triumph as best film. Nolan’s film now seems likely to be unstoppable at the Oscars, to be held on March 10 in Los Angeles. 

But while the major prizes ran squarely to form, the Baftas like to see themselves as more than simply a supporting player in the Hollywood awards season. That desire has often been expressed in an Anglocentric slant. This year, a particularly British point of view was evidenced by the multiple nominations received by Saltburn, the stately-home satire that has inspired so many viral tributes on TikTok. 

Though the cast members shortlisted in the acting categories went unrewarded, the film was a major presence at this year’s awards. (A performance by Sophie Ellis-Bextor of its sardonic anthem, “Murder on the Dancefloor”, featured prominently in the ceremony.)

Director Jonathan Glazer and producer James Wilson won the outstanding British film award for ‘The Zone of Interest’ © 2024 Getty Images

The prize for Best British film, however, went to The Zone of Interest, Jonathan Glazer’s stark study of everyday life for the commandant of Auschwitz. The award made for an unusual double, with the project also winning best film not in the English language. (Though made with a British and Polish production team, the dialogue was shot mostly in German.) For Glazer too, the Oscars now await, with nominations for best director and best picture.

But the evening’s most poignant award was perhaps best documentary. A year ago, that prize went to Navalny, the portrait of Russian dissident Alexei Navalny filmed before his 2021 return to Moscow. Now, two days after his death in a Russian jail, the same award was won by 20 Days in Mariupol, director Mstyslav Chernov’s on-the-ground account of the invasion of Ukraine. Chernov ended his acceptance speech with the words: “Let’s keep fighting.”

Full list of winners at bafta.org

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