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(Amy Sancetta/AP Images)
(Amy Sancetta/AP Images)

For the past few years, British stars and films were hot and heavy contenders for Oscars. This year, not so much.

It is looking as if there won’t be much cause for cheering among Anglophiles come tomorrow (January 24), when Academy Award nominations are announced live in Los Angeles at 5:30 am. (8:30 am for East Coasters tuning in).

This year, there’s no Colin Firth and The King’s Speech, no Helen Mirren and The Queen.  There is, in fact, no film about British royalty anywhere in contention.

Best Actress

The closest the nominations will come to those two earlier Oscar-winning powerhouse performances and films is the expected nomination of Meryl Streep for her portrayal of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in the biopic, The Iron Lady. It will be the American actress’s 17th nomination. (She has two wins, the last way back in 1983 for Sophie’s Choice.)

Scottish actress Tilda Swinton, who won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for Michael Clayton (2007), has a shot at a Best Actress nomination for We Need to Talk About Kevin. American actress Michelle Williams is a shoo-in to be nominated for her portrayal of Marilyn Monroe shooting a movie in London in the British film, My Week with Marilyn. Other than those gals, the category is weak tea as far as Brit-related films are concerned.

Tilda Swinton in 'We Need to Talk About Kevin'

Best Actor

The potential Best Actor roster is even thinner when it comes to talent who might use a word like “chuffed” – remember Mirren’s acceptance speech? – from the podium. Gary Oldman is the only English actor even being mentioned for possible consideration for his performance as George Smiley in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, and he’s no sure bet.

Best Supporting Actress

For Best Supporting Actress, Janet McTeer has a solid shot at a nomination for her robust turn as a woman passing as man in Albert Nobbs. More distant possibilities are Vanessa Redgrave for Coriolanus (though the fact that she didn’t even land a BAFTA nomination would seem not to bode well) and Carey Mulligan for Shame.

Best Supporting Actor

In the Best Supporting Actor ranks, the sole Brit sure to nab a nomination is Kenneth Branagh for his knowing impersonation of legendary English actor Laurence Olivier in My Week with Marilyn. Possibly also in the running is Sir Ben Kingsley, for Hugo, but a nomination for him would be more of a surprise.

Kenneth Branagh as Laurence Olivier in 'My Week With Marilyn'

Best Director

The only English person with even a distant prayer of hearing his name read out for a Best Director nomination is Stephen Daldry, for Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. Martin Scorsese is highly likely to be nominated for Hugo, which was shot in England. And Steven Spielberg may hear his name called for War Horse, which is set in and was filmed in England, but the equine movie seems to be losing its footing in the awards race.

Best Picture

As for Best Picture, the strongest contender for a nomination having even a whiff of England attached to it is Hugo, which was shot at Shepperton Studios near London and the Nene Valley Railway in Peterborough. If there are more than five nominations this year (there can be as many as ten, but also be as few as five), War Horse might squeak in there as might even longer shot Tinker Tailor.

The giant surprise – though fans would be overjoyed – would be if the final Harry Potter film, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 managed to land a nomination. Don’t count on it. The movie may have made more money than any other film last year, grossing $1.3 billion worldwide, and Warner Bros. has mounted a major awards ad campaign for it, with billboards around Los Angeles and ads on industry web sites and publications, but Oscar voters have yet to show any indication of succumbing to Harry’s spell.


Which British film or actor do you hope gets nominated on Tuesday morning?


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By Leah Rozen