I've never really understood why BAFTA makes such a song and dance of publicizing every stage of its voting process -- the pre-nomination longlists they release for each award category every January are both suspense-draining and indicative of the overly small pool of films they consider, but I suppose when you're not the Oscars, you have to drum up attention however you can.

Perhaps it makes slightly more sense to release a longlist of contenders for the one BAFTA category determined by a public vote -- the Rising Star Award. With voting now open, the public is thus offered a say in the nominee list as well as the final outcome, though with only eight names to whittle down to five in January, it seems an odd half-measure. Clearly, BAFTA doesn't trust the public to single out the worthiest names themselves -- and given a number of the winners they've chosen, they have little reason to do so -- so giving them the liberty of booting three names from the group is a bit of a token gesture.

Check out the full longlist, with more thoughts on the names includes, after the jump.

The longlist of eight names, as selected by a committee of journalists and industry luminaries, including Sienna Miller and "Harry Potter" director David Yates:  

Jessica Chastain
Adam Deacon
Chris Hemsworth
Tom Hiddleston
Felicity Jones
Jennifer Lawrence 
Chris O'Dowd
Eddie Redmayne 

My concern with handing it to the public at this stage is that some of the most deserving names here might well struggle to make the nominee list due to the comparatively low profile of their work. We may think of Jessica Chastain as this year's most obvious breakout star, but with "The Tree of Life," "The Debt" and even "The Help" having made little impact on British mainstream audiences, she's possibly less likely to make the cut than Adam Deacon, a local actor and rapper with a less notable résumé, but substantially more youth appeal.

For similar reasons, Jennifer Lawrence will probably be relying more on her "X-Men" credentials than her recent Oscar nomination to make the list, while stage star and recent arthouse fixture Tom Hiddleston has his excellent work in "Thor" to help him along. Speaking of which, I wouldn't be at all unhappy to see Chris Hemsworth on the final ballot: the award specifies "star," after all, and he anchored "Thor" with more magnetism and charisma than any of this summer's blockbuster headliners.

My hunch is that the winner might well turn out to be Chris O'Dowd, such a sparky and endearingly off-center foil for Kristen Wiig in "Bridesmaids" (he's still on my personal Best Supporting Actor ballot), and blessed with the advantage of a built-in following from his work on British TV -- a factor that helped Noel Clarke beat the Michaels Fassbender and Cera three years ago, prompting much head-scratching across the pond.

I'll be casting my vote for Chastain, but I suspect the finalists will be Deacon, Hemsworth, Hiddleston, Lawrence and O'Dowd. You can have your say here.