Cinema Autopsy on the 2009 Samsung Mobile AFI Awards Winners

13 December 2009

Samson (Rowan McNamara) and Delilah (Marissa Gibson) from Samson and Delilah

While I would have liked to have seen Balibo pick up a few more of the major awards at the 2009 Samsung Mobile Australian Film Industry Awards, I am nevertheless thrilled by how well Samson and Delilah did. As a professional voting member of the AFI I did vote for Balibo to win Best Film (in both the industry choice and the AFI’s member choice categories) and Best Direction as I truly think it is the most remarkable film I have seen this year. Nevertheless, I am also extremely fond of Samson and Delilah and since I gave it my second vote in the above mentioned categories I was more than happy to see it come out on top.

My original reviews of Samson and Delilah and Balibo.
My interviews with Warwick Thornton and Kath Shelper (Samson and Delilah) and Robert Connolly (Balibo)

José Ramos-Horta (Oscar Isaac) and Roger East (Anthony LaPaglia) from Balibo

Among other things Samson and Delilah also picked up the awards for Best Original Screenplay (Warwick Thornton), Best Cinematography (Warwick Thornton) and Best Sound while Balibo also won Best Adapted Screenplay (David Williamson and Robert Connolly), Best Lead Actor (Anthony LaPaglia) and Best Editing (Nick Meyers ASE). All these awards reflected the way I voted. I also voted for Blessed to win Best Lead Actress (Frances O’Connor) and I was pleased to see that come through as well. While the Best Supporting Actor award for Balibo (Oscar Isaac) and Best Supporting Actress for Beautiful Kate (Rachel Griffiths) did not reflect the way I voted, I thought they were the strongest categories in the awards this year with little separating the nominees.

My disappointments were minor but I would have much preferred to see the Production Design and Costume Design awards go somewhere other than Australia. It always frustrates me the way these awards tend to automatically go to period films rather than to films that use production design and costumes to subtly convey character information. I also wasn’t impressed with Mao’s Last Dancer getting the Best Original Music Score as its music was merely serviceable. Finally, I was a bit sad that Mary and Max didn’t pick up any awards and as I mentioned in my previous post about the feature film nominees (and the following comments) it was a real shame that Disgrace didn’t even get any nominations.

The Cat Piano

As well as voting in several feature film categories, I also was pleased to vote for Best Feature Length Documentary, Best Short Fiction Film and Best Short Animation, and the winning films in all these categories reflected how I voted. While The Cat Piano was by far the best film in the Best Short Animation category, I found most of the films nominated in the Best Short Fiction Film to be very strong this year. Although I did vote for the winning film Miracle Fish, Water and Burn were not too far behind. I voted for Glass: A Portrait of Philip in Twelve Parts for Best Feature Length Documentary but Bastardy was also an incredibly strong contender for that award.

A complete list of all nominees & winners from the 2009 Samsung Mobile AFI Awards

AFI 2009 Best Short Animation The Cat Piano (Ari Gibson and Eddie White, 2009)

© Thomas Caldwell, 2009

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Top Ten Films of 2008

28 January 2009

Catching up from 2007

For my top ten films of 2008 list I’ve decided to only include films given a theatrical release in Australia in 2008. So I would like to first mention the following films that I finally saw in 2008, which I would have included on my 2007 list had I seen them in time:

No Country for Old Men (Ethan Coen and Joel Coen, 2007)
4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days (Cristian Mungiu, 2007)
The Jammed (Dee McLachlan, 2007)
Noise (Matthew Saville, 2007)

While there is not much for me to say about No Country for Old Men and 4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days that hasn’t been said already, it was tremendous coming back to Australia mid way through 2008 and discovering that films of the calibre of The Jammed and Noise were being made and getting the acclaim that they deserve.

Top Ten films released theatrically in Australia in 2008*:

1. There Will Be Blood (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2007)

Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis)

Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis) from There Will Be Blood

Every new Paul Thomas Anderson film is somehow better than last and There Will Be Blood is his greatest triumph yet. While Anderson’s previous films have a distinctive American independent film feel to them, There Will Be Blood takes on the grand narrative of a classical Hollywood epic but is closer in tone to the maverick spirit of Citizen Kane (Orson Welles, 1941). In the final scene, the low angel shot of Daniel Day Lewis charging down the bowling lane is a spine tingling moment of perfect cinema. This is probably the only film released in 2008 that will eventually be regarded as a classic.

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Film review – Glass: A Portrait of Philip in Twelve Parts (2007)

2 December 2008

Philip Glass is one of the most prolific and influential modern music composers. His operas, symphonies, concertos and film scores have been equally celebrated and derided. Glass himself jokes that his music is, “So radical that I could be mistaken for an idiot”. For 18 months Australian director Scott Hicks (Shine) had unrestricted access to Glass’ personal and professional life to make this extraordinary documentary.

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