What the Baftas mean for this year's Oscars race

The Shape of Water is also honoured at final big pre-Oscars awards bash

epa06541046 British-Irish filmmaker Martin McDonagh (L) Producer Peter Czernin (2-L), US actor Sam Rockwell (C) and US actress Frances McDormand (2-R) and British producer Graham Broadbent (R) pose in the press room after winning Best Film for 'Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri' during the 71st annual British Academy Film Awards at the Royal Albert Hall in London, Britain, 18 February 2018. The ceremony is hosted by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA).  EPA/ANDY RAIN
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Sunday night saw the biggest movie awards ceremony outside the United States hand out the gongs. A host of black-gown-clad A-listers showed international support for the #TimesUp movement at the Bafta Awards, hosted by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, following similar protests at last month's Golden Globes. The Baftas, staged at the Royal Albert Hall in London, are the final big shindig before cinema's greatest show on earth – no, not the Hugh Jackman movie, but the Oscars, which take place in a fortnight.

Along with the Golden Globes and a slew of critics and guild awards that take place from December to February, the Baftas are considered a barometer for which films may be celebrating in Hollywood, at the Oscars on March 4. There were few surprises at Sunday night's ceremony – here are our key takeaways.

Three Billboards back on track

Hot Oscars tip Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri seemed to have lost a little momentum following the Writers Guild of America Awards earlier this month – as a British film, it was ineligible. The WGA failings were a technical knockout at best, because you can't win an award you can't enter, but in the maelstrom of hype that leads up to Oscars week, it is always a bonus to be a part of it.

Martin McDonagh's dark comedy certainly picked up rhythm on Sunday, with a total of five awards, including the Best Film, Best Original Screenplay and an unsurprising Best Leading Actress for Frances McDormand. Sam Rockwell was also awarded the Best Supporting Actor prize, while Three Billboards rounded off its haul with Outstanding British Film, an honour that doesn't feature at the Oscars next month.

The win is by no means a guarantee of Oscars success, although for a long time around the turn of the century, the two juries seemed to be of the same thinking. You have to go back to Steve McQueen's 12 Years a Slave in 2013 for the last time the two ceremonies agreed on Best Film, but it certainly puts McDonagh's film in the mix.

Guillermo del Toro picks up Best Director

Alongside Three Billboards, Guillermo Del Toro's The Shape of Water – the fantastical tale of a mute cleaner who falls in love with a sea creature in the top-secret facility she cleans – is probably joint favourite for Oscars glory. The movie had the most nominations at this year's Baftas, with a total of 12. It only picked up three victories in the end, for music and production design, and Del Toro walked away with Best Director.

The Billboards/Water twosome seems most likely to do the business come Oscars night, but Lady Bird and Get Out are still very much in the wings waiting to pull off a surprise. Whichever of the four front-runners picks up the top Oscar next month, what is refreshing is that it will feature a strong female lead or a serious racial agenda. After a run of #OscarSoWhite, #MeToo and #TimesUp at recent Oscars, the key issues are making their way to Oscar-winning films themselves.

Gary Oldman takes Best Actor

As expected, Gary Oldman took home the Best Leading Actor gong for his portrayal of Winston Churchill in the biopic Darkest Hour. The Baftas do tend to have a slight British bias when it comes to handing out awards, so we can't be certain that the Oscars will follow suit, but Oldman's incredibly convincing portrayal, which required a four-hour session in prosthetics before each day of filming, has to be in a strong position. His strongest competitor – Get Out's Daniel Kaluuya – is also British, giving potential for an #OscarsSoBritish backlash.

Best of the rest

Among the night's other awards, Blade Runner 2049 and Dunkirk fared well in the technical categories, with special effects and cinematography prizes for the former and sound for the latter. Christopher Nolan may be a little disappointed Dunkirk didn't perform better in the more mainstream categories, but he probably shouldn't be surprised – with no real stand out performances among a solid but unremarkable ensemble cast, his best hope was always Best Film or Director, and in a field so dominated by Three Billboards and The Shape of Water, that was always an outside hopeful at best.

Get Out's Kaluuya picked up the Rising Star award – the only award decided by a public vote, so audiences clearly love his performance, even if the judges overlooked him on this occasion. Rungano Nyoni's satire I Am Not a Witch sprang probably the biggest surprise on an evening lacking in unexpected plot turns, pipping William Oldroyd's literary adaptation Lady Macbeth to Outstanding Debut by a British Writer. British box-office successes The Death of Stalin and Paddington 2 failed to register, though with Three Billboards being such a strong front-runner in the Outstanding British Film slot, no one should be too shocked by that.


Read more from the Baftas:

Three Billboards wins big with clutch of awards

Best-dressed in black at the Baftas - in pictures

Duchess of Cambridge doesn't wear black