Glamour over grit at the AACTA Awards Ceremony

7 February 2012

I’ve recently become one of the regular film and television columnist for the Kill Your Darlings blog Killings. For my first piece I wrote about last week’s 2011 Samsung Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts (AACTA) award ceremony and Channel 9 broadcast:

The AACTA awards are an attempt to rise above the negativity and celebrate our local achievements. However, by focusing so much on mainstream appeal, celebrity and glamour, the ceremony and the broadcast may have lost its original audience – the people who are actually passionate about Australian film and television.

The full column is available at Killings

Cinema Autopsy on the 2010 Samsung Mobile AFI Awards Feature Film Nominees

8 December 2010
Bright Star: Fanny Brawne (Abbie Cornish)

Bright Star

For me the two films eligible for the 2010 Australian Film Institute Awards that really stood out over everything else were David Michôd’s Animal Kingdom (2010) and Jane Campion Bright Star (2009). Both films have deservedly picked up a number of nominations this year (Animal Kingdom in particular) and while I’d like to see a few nods go to Bright Star, I suspect Animal Kingdom is going to sweep the floor. I certainly believe it will win both the AFI Members’ Choice Award and the Samsung Mobile AFI Award for Best Film, plus the awards for direction and original screenplay as well.

Of all the films nominated for best adapted screenplay I believe that The Tree is the one that should win for Julie Bertuccelli’s fine work. I also admired Tomorrow, When the War Began on many levels but I still firmly believe that the way the invaders where represented was a poor choice and for that reason I believe it is a flawed adaptation (you can read all the debate that my stance on that issue created in the comments under my original review).

Beneath Hill 60

Beneath Hill 60

Everybody nominated for the cinematography award did outstanding work but for me it will once again be between Adam Arkapaw for his work on Animal Kingdom and Greig Fraser for his work on Bright Star. However, I would love to see Fraser ultimately get the nod for this in recognition of just how much good work he has done recently on other films such as Let Me In, The Boys Are Back and Last Ride. As for the editing award I really have no idea who I would ultimate pick from the terrific nominations so I’ll simply pick recent Australian Screen Editors Awards winner Dany Cooper ASE for her work on Beneath Hill 60. However, I am steadfast in my belief that Beneath Hill 60 should win the best sound award as the use of sound in that film was astonishing.

While I wasn’t a fan of Bran Nue Dae, it is the only musical nominated for the original music score award so I won’t be the least bit surprised if it wins. However, once again I return to Animal Kingdom and Bright Star as the films I feel should be recognised for they way they used music to so effectively create atmosphere. While I usually get frustrated by the conservative and bland approach of always giving production design and costume awards to period films, in this instance I believe that Janet Patterson should win both awards for her stunningly expressive work in Bright Star.

Animal Kingdom

Animal Kingdom

Finally the acting awards, which Animal Kingdom dominates yet again with multiple entries in both the lead male and supporting male categories. Nevertheless, I think Ben Mendelsohn truly deserves to win the best lead male award for his terrifying performance as Pope. Mendelsohn has been nominated several times before and won a supporting actor award in 1987 for The Year My Voice Broke but I think his work in Animal Kingdom is a career best. On the other hand, while I realise that Jackie Weaver is probably the favourite for the best female actor award for her performance in Animal Kingdom, I would really like to see that award go to Abbie Cornish for giving such a moving yet measured performance in Bright Star. I don’t have particularly strong feelings about who should win the supporting actor awards but I’m inclined to thing the awards will go to Joel Edgerton and Laura Wheelwright, both for Animal Kingdom.

The 2010 Samsung Mobile AFI Industry Awards presented by Digital Pictures will be held on Friday 10 December 2010.

The 2010 Samsung Mobile AFI Awards Ceremony will be held on Saturday 11 December 2010 and televised at 9.30pm on Channel 9.

UPDATE (12/12/10) I won’t be writing a separate article this year about the actual winners as the awards more or less went to the films that I expected/wanted them to. Check out the list of all the winners here on the AFI website.

© Thomas Caldwell, 2010

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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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Cinema Autopsy on the 2009 Samsung Mobile AFI Awards Feature Film Nominees

29 October 2009
Damon Gameau as Greg Shackleton in Balibo

Damon Gameau as Greg Shackleton in Balibo

The nominations for the 2009 Samsung Mobile AFI Awards have come out and in a year that has been very strong for Australian cinema the nominations have nicely captured the diversity of Australian films that were eligible. This was the first year that I voted in the individual categories as a professional member of the Australian Film Institute and while the nominations don’t 100% reflect how I voted, I would have never expected them to and I’m overall pleased with the outcomes.

Among the feature film nominees I’m particularly happy to see Balibo, Samson and Delilah and Mary and Max – the three films that I regard as easily the best Australian films of 2009 – to be nominated for both the AFI Members’ Choice Award and the Samsung Mobile AFI Awards for Best Film. I’m less enthusiastic, but not surprised, about Beautiful Kate and particularly Mao’s Last Dancer also getting nominations in both these categories but I certainly don’t begrudge the fact that are included. Having said that, I would up upset if Mao’s Last Dancer won anything over the far superior films that it is up against.


Trisha (Anastasia Baboussouras) and Katrina (Sophie Lowe) in Blessed

The interesting point of difference between the two best film categories is that Australia got the sixth nomination for the AFI Members’ Choice Award while Blessed received the sixth nomination for the Samsung Mobile AFI Awards for Best Film. Both films are flawed but nevertheless contain elements of considerable merit. They also curiously represent the growing divide between the different types of films that various commentators argue we should be making more of or less of depending on where these commentators stand on the whole art versus commerce debate.

There were a number of films not represented in the nominations that I would have liked to see included but in the majority of cases their absence is understandable. I only saw Newcastle recently and was completely bowled over but its energetic depiction of youth surf culture, however I am aware that I am somewhat on my own with just how highly I regard Newcastle. Lake Mungo, Van Diemen’s Land and $9.99 are other films that I wish had picked up at least a couple of nominations each but they are all niche films and their absence is hardly surprising.


David Lurie (John Malkovich) and Lucy (Jessica Haines) in Disgrace

The real shock this year is the complete lack of nominations for Disgrace. While it is a film I had issues with (although I am increasingly realising that was exactly the point) I am still very surprised not to see it represented at all. It is an acclaimed film, technically very impressive, it contains strong performances and it is adapted from a well-renowned novel. So what went wrong? Perhaps it was too challenging and confronting. This is an unlikely explanation considering the number of nominations for other ‘challenging and confronting’ films such as Balibo, Samson and Delilah, Mary and Max, Blessed and Beautiful Kate. Maybe Disgrace wasn’t considered Australian enough (which is reasonable) and didn’t attract votes as a result (which is not so reasonable). Again, if that was the case then how do we explain the large number of nominations for Mao’s Last Dancer? I honestly have no brilliant explanation but the complete exclusion of Disgrace is the only significant sour note in the nominations this year.

Hopefully I’ll get the chance to discuss each category in more detail closer to the 2009 Samsung Mobile AFI Awards Ceremony on Saturday 12 December and I’ll also then mention the mostly brilliant feature length documentaries, short fiction films and animated shorts that have been nominated this year.

In the meantime, below is a personally ranked list of all the feature films that were eligible for nomination:

(Robert Connolly, 2009) 14 nominations

Samson and Delilah (Warwick Thornton, 2009) 11 nominations

Mary and Max (Adam Elliot, 2009) 4 nominations

Disgrace (Steve Jacobs, 2008)
Newcastle (Dan Castle, 2008)
Lake Mungo (Joel Anderson, 2008) 
Van Diemen’s Land (Jonathan auf der Heide, 2009)
$9.99 (Tatia Rosenthal, 2008)
Cedar Boys (Serhat Caradee, 2009) 1 nomination
The View from Greenhaven (Kenn MacRae and Simon MacRae, 2008)

Blessed (Ana Kokkinos, 2009) 4 nominations
My Year Without Sex (Sarah Watt, 2009) 2 nominations
The Combination (David Field, 2009)
Beautiful Kate (Rachel Ward, 2009) 10 nominations
Australia (Baz Luhrmann, 2008) 6 nominations
Dying Breed (Jody Dwyer, 2008)

Last Ride (Glendyn Ivin, 2009) 2 nominations
Charlie & Boots (Dean Murphy, 2009)
Two Fists, One Heart (Shawn Seet, 2008)
Mao’s Last Dancer (Bruce Beresford, 2009) 9 nominations
Stone Bros. (Richard Frankland, 2009)

Lucky Country
(Kriv Stenders, 2009) 1 nomination
Closed for Winter (James Bogle, 2009)

Under a Red Moon (Leigh Sheehan, 2008)

Beautiful (Dean O’Flaherty, 2009)

Sweet Marshall (Eva Acharya, 2009)

© Thomas Caldwell, 2009

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Wake in Fright: Personal impressions of an Australian classic from a first-time Gen-X viewer

3 July 2009

key_art_7878 smallI first read Kenneth Cook’s 1961 novel Wake in Fright in 1990. It was a set text for my English class and not something that I would have chosen to read. At the time, I was still coming down from a period spent adoring the images of Australia that had filled my head since seeing Crocodile Dundee four years earlier and from the 1988 celebrations of 200 years of permanent white settlement in Australia. As a child I wanted to grow up to be a movie star. Later, after I first saw Oliver! I wanted to be a pickpocket and after seeing Raiders of the Lost Arc I naturally wanted to be an archaeologist – or Harrison Ford. However one of the biggest impressions left on me when I was younger was Paul Hogan playing Mick Dundee, the distinctively Aussie bushman in Crocodile Dundee.

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