Cinema Autopsy on the 2009 Samsung Mobile AFI Awards Winners

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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  1. A great year for Australia film. It would seem we are bouncing back from the slump of the last few years… decades… :/

    I mostly agree with you on what I’ve seen, but I personally found Disgrace to be the disappointment of the year. It was just messy and didn’t seem to have much of an idea of where it was going or how it was going to get there. Most of it’s worth came from the subject matter it was trying to address, but given it didn’t really interpret the plot in a comprehensive cinematic style, it fell through even on that front. Overall, not something I’d consider worthy of awards such as these.

  2. Yeah, it pretty much panned out the way I expected/hoped. I was hoping for Ben Mendelsohn over Anthony LaPaglia, but can’t really complain.

    I gotta call foul on your Australia comment though. You truly think that Australia didn’t have the best costume design and production design of the nominees? I would’ve been fine with Mary and Max taking Production Design – such a feat that was – but, honestly. I know the movie isn’t loved, or even liked, by many online, but Australia deserved those prizes.

    I’m thinking The Cat Piano will win the Oscar. It’s a cinch to get nominated (and it’s on the shortlist) and it’s just so so good. Everyone who watches it falls for it instantly.

  3. I actually don’t feel strongly one way or another about Australia as I found much to like about it and much that I found to be heavily flawed. My issue with it winning the production design and costume prizes is really to do with my frustration over the way period films usually always win design awards. I would never want to downplay the enormous skill that goes into re-creating a period setting but I find it far more impressive when production design and costumes are used in contemporary settings to express something about the characters. It’s an extra layer of meaning within a film that is often unnoticeable when done well. For that reason I gave my vote to Mary and Max for Best Production Design and to Blessed for Best Costume Design.

    As for The Cat Piano, I’ve been thrilled to see how popular it has become. It features three of my favourite things – a film noir influence, cats and Nick Cave!

  4. I couldn’t help but notice that both Baz Luhrmann and Anthony LaPaglia spoke publicly in awe of Samson and Delilah (which was my vote by a country mile) before it won the major awards. For me, Balibo doesn’t even come close. My second choice was Mao’s Last Dancer.

    As for Ben Mendelsohn and Anthony LaPaglia, I thought both their performances were dismal. The standout for me was Oscar Isaac for best supporting actor in Balibo. He is the best thing about the film.

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