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'The Shape of Water,' 'Three Billboards' and 'Darkest Hour' lead BAFTA nominations

With Sunday’s Golden Globes behind us and eight weeks to go in one of the most unpredictable Oscar races in years, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts announced the nominations for its annual film awards, giving another boost to Guillermo del Toro’s “The Shape of Water.”

After leading the field in Globes nominations, Del Toro’s fantastical romance about a mute woman (Sally Hawkins) who falls in love with an aquatic humanoid creature also topped the BAFTA pack with 12 nominations, including for best film, director and screenplay along with nods for Hawkins and supporting actress Octavia Spencer.

Writer-director Martin McDonagh’s dark morality tale “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” — fresh off its best picture win in the drama category at the Globes — and the Winston Churchill drama “Darkest Hour” followed behind with nine nominations apiece, including nods for best film.

Christopher Nolan’s World War II thriller, “Dunkirk,” and the romantic drama “Call Me By Your Name” rounded out the best film category. But two other films widely seen as strong Oscar contenders — Greta Gerwig’s coming-of-age dramedy “Lady Bird,” which notched a best picture victory at the Globes in the comedy or musical category, and Steven Spielberg’s Pentagon Papers drama “The Post — failed to make BAFTA’s cut.

Indeed, “The Post” — which earned six Golden Globe nominations but left empty-handed — failed to score a single BAFTA nod, a surprising turn given the pedigree of Spielberg and stars Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks as well as the film’s timely story of a fierce struggle between presidential power and press freedom.

Notably, in a year that has been dominated by issues of gender inequality and sexual misconduct in the entertainment industry, the best director category, as at the Globes, consisted entirely of men, with Nolan, Del Toro, McDonagh, Denis Villeneuve (“Blade Runner 2049”), and Luca Guadagnino (“Call Me By Your Name”) scoring nominations.

Gerwig was left off the list, though “Lady Bird” did draw nominations for her screenplay as well as the performances of Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf. (The last woman to land a BAFTA directing nomination was Kathryn Bigelow, for her 2013 thriller, “Zero Dark Thirty.”)

Jordan Peele’s horror satire “Get Out,” which scored two Globes nominations and is considered a possible contender for a best picture Oscar nod, earned BAFTA nominations for lead actor Daniel Kaluuya and for Peele’s screenplay.

In the acting categories, actors from England and Ireland were particularly well-represented. Along with Kaluuya, Ronan, and Hawkins, Gary Oldman (“Darkest Hour”), Daniel Day-Lewis (“Phantom Thread”), Jamie Bell (“Film Stars Don’t Die In Liverpool”), Lesley Manville (“Phantom Thread”), Kristin Scott-Thomas (“Darkest Hour”) and Hugh Grant (“Paddington 2”) all scored nods.

Grant’s nomination may seem particularly surprising to American audiences, as the family film sequel doesn’t open until Friday in the U.S. (Originally due out from the Weinstein Co., which distributed the original, “Paddington 2” will instead be released by Warner Bros.) But the film, which was a significant holiday hit in the U.K., illustrates the way slight differences in the release calendar can impact BAFTA’s choices.

Nevertheless, the BAFTA nominations, which are chosen by the group’s 6,500 members, are generally considered a significant bellwether for the Oscar race. Though in a year as wide open as this one, it remains to be seen how predictive they will be.

The BAFTAs will be handed out Feb. 18. See the full list of nominees.

josh.rottenberg@latimes.com

Twitter: @joshrottenberg

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