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An Education joins the big boys and girls at the BAFTAs

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The British film An Education has secured eight nominations at the BAFTA Film Awards — as many as both the technologically pioneering Avatar and the low budget Iraq War film The Hurt Locker.
The three will be joined in the race for the Best Film – at next month’s London ceremony – by Jason Reitman’s bitter-sweet comic drama Up In The Air and Lee Daniel’s tale of an obese, abused New York teenager, Precious: Based on the novel Push by Sapphire.
One of the more interesting categories is the directing competition, with Avatar’s James Cameron up against his ex-wife Kathryn Bigelow, whose The Hurt Locker drew a powerful response from audiences and critics alike. The field also includes another woman – Lone Scherfig – who brought Lynne Barber’s memoirs to the screen in An Education. South African first timer Neill Blomkamp has a well-deserved nomination for the remarkable aliens-on-earth drama District 9, with Quentin Tarantino notching up another nod for Inglourious Basterds.
The awards that turn most heads, of course, are the acting categories — where Meryl Streep has notched up a record thirteenth nomination for her role in Julie & Julia. With the British Academy, she’ll face tough competition from Carey Mulligan for her highly regarded lead role in An Education. Even a nomination next month from the American Academy will boost her Hollywood prospects, but she’s already making waves stateside, with a strong supporting role in this week’s release, Brothers. Precious star Gabourey Sidibe, Saoirse Ronan, from The Lovely Bones and Audrey Tautou’s eponymous performance as Coco, before she started up Chanel round up the lead actress category.
Andy Serkis is being hotly tipped for his remarkable portrayal of Ian Dury in Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll, with another British actor, Colin Firth, nominated for playing American in the designer Tom Ford’s directorial debut, A Single Man. Little known Jeremy Renner has picked up a nomination as the head of the bomb disposal squad in The Hurt Locker. Jeff Bridges has been receiving remarkable notices as a burnt-out country singer in Crazy Heart, while George Clooney’s airbound trans-continental staff-sacker has earned him a nod for Up In The Air.
Two of Clooney’s co-stars, Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick are up against each other in the Best Supporting Actress competition. The John Lennon biopic Nowhere Boy also has two nominations in this category, for Anne-Marie Duff and Kristin Scott Thomas. Singer Mo’Nique completes the field, as the brutal mother in Precious.
Christoph Waltz’s creepy performance as the Jew Hunter in Inglourious Basterds has been honoured with a nomination in the Best Supporting Actress category, where he faces competition from Christian McKay’s star-making performance as the title character in Me And Orson Welles – and he wasn’t playing “me.” As the Carey Mulligan’s father in An Education, Alfred Molina is thoroughly deserving of his nomination. Profiting from his new comic persona, Alec Baldwin scooped a nod for It’s Complicated. And Stanley Tucci is the fifth nominee, for The Lovely Bones.
The Hangover, The Hurt Locker, Inglourious Basterds, A Serious Man and Up will battle it out for the Best Original Screenplay prize, while the Best Adapted Screenplay award will go to one of District 9, An Education, In The Loop, Precious or Up In The Air.
Being the BAFTAs, there are a couple of categories to guarantee Britain at least a couple of winners. The Outstanding British Film nominees are An Education, Fish Talk, In The Loop, Moon and Nowhere Boy — and those up for the prize for the outstanding British debut film-maker including the directors of Nowhere Boy (Sam Taylor-Wood), Moon (Duncan Jones), Exam (Stuart Hazeldine), Shifty (Eran Creevy) and the team behind the documentary Mugabe And The White African.
The BAFTAs also like to look to the future, with a prize for the Rising Star. This prize – chosen by audiences, rather than the six thousand strong Academy membership – will go to one of Carey Mulligan, Nicholas Hoult (A Single Man – but you’ll probably remember him as the kid in About a Boy), Tahar Rahim (A Prophet), Kristen Stewart (Twilight) and Jesse Eisenberg (Zombieland).
The Orange British Academy Film Awards, as they’re formally known, will be dished out on February 21st at the Royal Opera House in London.

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