As Bafta rolls out its red carpet for its annual film awards tomorrow, the eyes of Oscar judges will no doubt be trained on the glittering British ceremony, with industry insiders suggesting their heads are being turned by its choice of winners every year.
The British Academy of Film and Television Arts moved its ceremony to fall before the Oscars rather than afterwards in 2001, but few could then have imagined the Baftas would become such reliable predictors for what would claim victory at the American Academy Awards.
Yet the industry has witnessed a growing connection between the two ceremonies. More Bafta winners have followed up with an accolade at the Oscars. All five films nominated in in the Best Film Bafta category this year – Avatar, An Education, The Hurt Locker, Precious and Up in the Air – feature in the same category in this year's Oscars. Four out of five Bafta-nominated screenplays are also Oscar nominated as well as directors and lead and supporting actors and actresses.
Some in the film industry now claim that the British awards ceremony is casting a greater influence over its bigger, more lavish Hollywood counterpart. Variety magazine recently suggested that the two academies have "gradually converged in their selections", culminating last year when they picked the same five nominees and winner for best picture, the British independent film Slumdog Millionaire.
It is impossible to say for certain whether this recent convergence is coincidental or meaningful, said Variety, but the magazine noted that the two academies have some overlapping decisions. In its analysis of the past eight years of Bafta and Oscar wins, it discerned an undeniable correlation across 10 major categories including best film and best actor/actress. Variety stated: "You almost certainly won't win an Oscar if you don't get nominated for a Bafta. If you win a Bafta, you will get nominated for an Oscar."
Barry Norman, the veteran film critic, said that it had become apparent in the past few years that Bafta-nominated British films were being picked up by Oscar judges who may otherwise not even have seen them, due to their limited release in American cinemas, citing An Education and In the Loop – relatively small-budget British films – as examples. "What Bafta decides for their nominations must give Oscar voters ideas. I sure there is an influence, certainly over what gets an Oscar nomination, and especially with relatively small British films that would only have a limited distribution in the United States; many such British films have art-house distributors," he said.
Amanda Berry, chief executive of Bafta, said many Bafta members felt that the British ceremony had in the past been obscured by the after-glow of the Oscars. Members debated changing the awards' date for two years before they did it, partly because "we didn't want to become a carbon copy of the Oscars. We wanted to retain our uniqueness". She said the date was finally moved so that "we could fit into that film window between the Golden Globes and the Oscars". The ceremony has become a hot ticket with a growing list of A-list attendees.
Ms Berry added: "I would hope we have some influence over the Oscars. We share some of the same members. I feel a level of pride (in the hit rate of winners at the Baftas who go on to win at the Oscars)," she said.
She dismissed the idea that Bafta's choices are becoming more influenced by Hollywood tastes. "We are sometimes criticised for not doing enough for British film, but by creating a very international ceremony we are setting ourselves up to compete with the very best in the world."
Bafta vs Oscars: The winners
Baftas: Jamie Bell, Julia Roberts, Gladiator
Oscars: Russell Crowe, Julia Roberts, Gladiator
Baftas: Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Lord of the Rings (Fellowship of the Rings)
Oscars: Denzel Washington, Halle Berry, A Beautiful Mind
Baftas: Daniel Day-Lewis, Nicole Kidman, The Pianist
Oscars: Adrien Brody, Nicole Kidman, Chicago
Baftas: Bill Murray, Scarlett Johansson, Lord of the Rings (The Return of the King)
Oscars: Sean Penn, Charlize Theron, Lord of the Rings (The Return of the King)
Baftas: Jamie Foxx, Imelda Staunton, The Aviator
Oscars: Jamie Foxx, Hilary Swank, Million Dollar Baby
Baftas: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Reese Witherspoon, Brokeback Mountain
Oscars: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Reese Witherspoon, Brokeback Mountain
Baftas: Forest Whitaker, Helen Mirren, The Queen
Oscars: Forest Whitaker, Helen Mirren, The Departed
Baftas: Daniel Day-Lewis, Marion Cotillard, Atonement
Oscars: Daniel Day-Lewis, Marion Cotillard, No Country for Old Men
Baftas: Mickey Rourke, Kate Winslet, Slumdog Millionaire
Oscars: Sean Penn, Kate Winslet, Slumdog Millionaire