Wednesday, July 16, 2008

25 Films Compete for 2008 AFI Awards

25 films have been deemed eligible for this year's upcoming AFI (Australian Film Institute) Awards. The number is a significent jump from years past where the number has remained around the 15 mark. This jump can be attributed to a rule change that I spoke about earlier in the year that allows smaller independent films a bit more leeway in terms of release. That means titles such as The Jammed and All My Friends Are Leaving Brisbane, which wouldn't normally be eligible, are submitted, which will only help them in the long run. It's about time the AFI recognised the fact that, especially with Australian cinema, the means and methods are changing.

There were some titles that I thought may have still been submitted such as Alex Frayne's creepy Modern Love, the futuristic Court of Lonely Royals (my review) and Jamie Blanks' Storm Warning, but it turns out they were not or didn't reach the new guidelines. Also, there were titles that I expected to be released closer to the cutoff date such as Dying Breed, Newcastle, How to Change in 9 Weeks, Long Weekend, The Gates of Hell, Crush and Elise (starring Natalie Imbruglia) which are obviously looking now at 2009 release dates (or very late 2008).

Worryingly films like Corroboree and Son of a Lion have been showing at festivals all year 'round, yet no word on when they are to receive any sort of theatrical release. I particularly want to see Ben Hackworth's film after missing it at MIFF last year.

Unfortunately, Baz Luhrmann's upcoming epic Australia was not submitted. That's very disappointing considering this is the AFI's 50th year and it might've been nice to have a big film in contention. Especially considering that now the film will have to wait until November 2009 for any AFI glory (I don't see why it wouldn't get any). But for a film of that size it is really locked into it's release date, which falls just outside of the eligibility period.

The 25 films that will be competing for AFI's highest honour are listed below. I haven't seen many of them, but that's what the AFI screening sessions are for!

All My Friends Are Leaving Brisbane (dir. Louise Alston) - Romantic comedy of sorts about a girl who's friends are, well, leaving Brisbane. What's a gal to do?

The Black Balloon (dir. Elissa Down) - Probably the year's most acclaimed Aussie film so far, I am positive this film that stars Rhys Wakefield, Gemma Ward, Luke Ford, Toni Collette and Erik Thomson will go down very well with AFI voters. I missed it at the cinema unfortunately, but wanted to see it very much. Here's hoping it's as good as "they" say.

Bitter & Twisted (dir. Christopher Weekes) - Expect Noni Hazlehurst to get her eighth AFI nomination for her lead role in this flick. If she's in it she's nominated, isn't that the rule? She has been nominated for three years in a row - Little Fish (won) in 2005, Candy in 2006 and Stepfather of the Bride in 2007 - so I don't see why the run won't continue.

Black Water (dir. David Nirlich & Andrew Traucki) - After last year's Rogue struck out with AFI voters (apart from a measly Best Visual Effects award) I actually think this other killer croc flick could take a chomp or two out of the field. It's apparently very good - and better than the film that inspired it, Open Water - and I just wish it would get a proper distribution deal.

Cactus (dir. Jasmine Yuen Carrucan) - Sunk like a lead balloon at the box office, but some people liked it so I'll be keen to catch up with it.

Children of the Silk Road (dir. Roger Spottiswoode) - Australian/Chinese co-production, directed by a Canadian and starring a Brit (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), this flick seems to qualify purely because a large chunk of the budget was Australian (for some reason, the story has nothing to do with Australia despite having Radha Mitchell and David Wenham in the cast).

Death Defying Acts (dir. Gillian Armstrong) - Much like The Children of the Silk Road, this flick isn't about Australia at all, it merely has Australian finance behind it (it's a coproduction with Britain), but it's star is an Aussie (Guy Pearce) and at least it is directed by one too.

Five Moments of Infidelity (dir. Kate Gorman) - I had never heard of this title by first time director Gorman (who is usually an actor), but I can't say what I have read since has made me enthused. Eep.

Gabriel (dir. Shane Abbess) - Was a decent-sized hit (especially compared to its budget) back in November last year (released after the cut off date for last year's awards). I wouldn't expect this to get any nominations outside of the art direction/visual effects categories, which it definitely deserves notices for because, for a low budget Aussie flick, they were pretty good even though the rest of the film was not.

Green Fire Envy (dir. Jessica Lytton) - Made as part of the Participate Film Academy, this briefly screened around the country in April (I didn't even know). The website (click the title, the film doesn't have an IMDb profile) says it is "in the tradition of Crash" involves a "streetwise call girl" so, ya know, the usual really.

Hey Hey It's Esther Blueburger (dir. Cathy Randall) - I'm interested to finally get to see this movie as it's been quite the hot potato. Some say it's awful, while others - like David Stratton - hailed it as one of the best movies dealing with teenagers ever made, so I don't really know what to think. Features Toni Collette and Keisha Castle-Hughes.

The Jammed (dir. Dee McLachlin) - This acclaimed independent film about human trafficking will be gunning for the big prize after being ineligible last year due it's awkward distribution. Will be interesting to see if it's successful a year after it's news making run at the box office or if the buzz has died down enough for something else to take it's place.

The Independent (dir. Andrew O'Keefe & John Studley) - No, not that Andrew O'Keefe (thankfully). This is a comedy about a man running for office.

Men's Club (dir. Michael Joy) - You may recognise some of the stars here such as Paul Gleeson (The Bet, Love My Way) and Steve Le Marquand (Last Train to Freo), but this movie, despite having never heard of it, is from the same production company (that'd be Titan View) that made The Jammed so I'm keeping it on my radar.

The Plex (dir. Tim Boyle) - A comedy about cinema ushers.

Punishment (dir. Danny Matier) - A "hit-man revenge tale" or something...

Rats and Cats (dir. Tony Rogers) - Acclaimed comedy from the team behind Wilfred (yes, the man-dressed-as-a-dog sitcom) Jason Gann and Adam Zwar about a journo who travels to a small country town to meet up with a disgraced former television star.

Salvation (dir. Paul Cox) - Renowned director Paul Cox returns with a film about a evangelical minister and Russian prostitutes. Stars Wendy Hughes and Kym Gyngell. It's actually screening at this year's Melbourne International Film Festival (click here) if you want to watch it. I'm not sure when, or if, it's getting a regular distribution.

September (dir. Peter Carstairs) - I really liked this quiet and visually poetic (very Days of Heaven) movie about the Australian wheat belt. It was beautiful to watch and to listen to, although I'm sure many would find it dreary and boring. Such is life, I guess. It was a just miss in my 2007 Top Ten and stars Xavier Samuel and Clarence John Ryan as a white and Aboriginal teenagers respectively whose friendship (and love of boxing) is torn by racial tensions.

The Square (dir. Nash Edgerton) - A new film that's out in a couple of weeks, directed by Nash Edgerton and written by Nash and Joel Edgerton. Stars the latter Edgerton as well as Anthony Hayes (see below), David Roberts and Claire van der Boom who made an impression in the third season of Love My Way recently. On an unrelated note, I really like the poster for this film (left), and it should come as no surprise that it was designed by Jeremy Saunders.

Ten Empty (dir. Anthony Hayes) - It will be interesting to see if two-time AFI winner Anthony Hayes (two Best Supporting Actor trophies in a row Look Both Ways and Suburban Mayhem) can get AFI voters behind his, apparently, abrasive look at domestic life that he co-wrote with 2007 AFI Best Actor nominee Brendan Cowell (for Noise). It stars Daniel Frederiksen, Geoff Morell, Tom Budge and features Cowell and Jack Thompson.

The Tender Hook (dir. Jonathan Ogilvie) - Looks set to be one of the strongest titles on the list, this is a noirish tale about a love triangle in the 1920s. Stars Rose Byrne, Hugo Weaving (he sings in the trailer, Matthew Le Nevez, Pia Miranda and Luke Carroll. I like the period that the movie is set it so I'm really hoping for something good.

Three Blind Mice (dir. Matthew Newton) - This directorial debut by actor Newton has slowly been growing in buzz since it was selected for, and subsequently won a prize at, the Sydney International Film Festival. It follows three Navy personnel on the night before they get shipped offshore. Features some strong names in the supporting roles, including Brendan Cowell, Alex Dimitriades, Bob Franklin, Marcus Graham, Pia Miranda, Barry Otto and ASHKA!!!!! herself, Heather Mitchell.

The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark (dir. Oscar Redding) - This retelling of Shakespeare's famous play is, I think, some sort of modern/classic amalgamation. It's set in Melbourne where scenes are set in places like the Burke St Mall and features Shakespeare's original dialogue. I wanted to see this when it was released earlier in the year, but it's release was absolutely miniscule that I missed it. I'm glad I'll get the chance to see it now.

Unfinished Sky (dir. Peter Duncan) - Aussie remake of Dutch film The Polish Bride has been doing quite well for itself at the box office all things considered. Stars William McInnes.

phew That's it! And just to end all this talk I thought I'd give a bit of a rundown of where I expect the AFI voters to drift towards, because you know me! I like predicting stuff!

The Black Balloon
The Jammed
The Tender Hook
Three Blind Mice

Elissa Down, The Black Balloon
Paul Cox, Salvation
Sue McLachlan, The Jammed
Jonathan Ogilvie, The Tender Hook

Joel Edgerton, The Square
William McInnes, Unfinished Sky
Richard Pyros, The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark
Hugo Weaving, The Tender Hook

Rose Byrne, The Tender Hook
Danielle Catanzariti, Hey Hey It's Esther Blueburger
Noni Hazlehurst, Bitter & Twisted
Wendy Hughes, Salvation

Keiren Darcy-Smith, September
Luke Ford, The Black Balloon
Matthew Le Nevez, The Tender Hook
Goeff Morell, Ten Empty

Anya Beyesdorf, Rats and Cats
Saskia Burmeister, The Jammed
Toni Collette, The Black Balloon
Gemma Ward, The Black Balloon

The Black Balloon
The Jammed
Rats and Cats
Three Blind Mice

The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark
Unfinished Sky, that's it. I imagine they'll merge the two writing categories together like they did last year.

The Black Balloon
Death Defying Acts
The Tender Hook

Children of the Silk Road
Hey Hey It's Esther Blueburger
The Tender Hook

The Black Balloon
The Jammed
The Tender Hook

Children of the Silk Road
Death Defying Acts
The Tender Hook

Death Defying Acts
Hey Hey It's Esther Blueburger
Unfinished Sky

Black Water
The Square

I expect to be proven wrong on a lot of accounts.

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