Wednesday, October 27, 2010

18 Thoughts About the AFI Nominations

In honour of the record breaking nomination haul by David Michôd's Animal Kingdom at today's Australian Film Institute Award nominations, here are 18 thoughts/musings/reflections/etc. The entire list of contenders can be found at the AFI website, so please head over there and save me the effort of copying and pasting like a lazy git typing them all out.

1. 18 Nominations for Animal Kingdom?
As if its status as one of the most acclaimed and important films in Australian history, today it had to go out of its way and nab itself 18 nominations! That's a record as far as I can tell (nobody seems to have corrected me yet). Of course, it helps to get three out of four Best Supporting Actor nominations (Guy Pearce, Joel Edgerton and Sullivan Stapleton) and two Best Lead Actor nominations (Ben Mendelsohn and James Frencheville). Throw in some (shall we say) curious technical nominations like Cappi Ireland's for Best Costume Design and Best Production Design for Jo Ford and that means Animal Kingdom received a nomination in every single category that it was eligible for!

2. The Waiting City is this year's Disgrace
Eyebrows were certainly raised last year when Steve Jacobs' critically acclaimed Disgrace, starring a career best John Malkovich, failed to receive a single nomination and it looks like that honour has been bestowed upon Claire McCarthy's The Waiting City in 2010. Oh sure, Denson Baker received a well-deserved Best Cinematography nomination, but that's it. I didn't expect it to get nominations across the board, but the exemplary work by Joel Edgerton and Radha Mitchell (giving perhaps their best ever performances in my eyes) seems like good solid Best Lead Actor and Actress nominees. Not the case. I wasn't as anti-James Frencheville as some, but his nomination over Edgerton (or Peter Marshall in The Horseman for that matter) is baffling.

3. Bright Star was remembered.
I am so happy that not only was Bright Star remembered in the Best Film category, but Jane Campion and Abbie Cornish, too, in their respective fields. Campion's stunning film about poet John Keats was released late last year (along with The Boys are Back, which also had a solid nomination tally) and could have easily been passed over for more recent fare. Note, Campion is nominated for Best Original Screenplay, not Adapted like the Academy tried to make out that Bright Star was (pish posh, obviously!)

4. Women make up half the Best Direction category
It's true. And it's interesting that they went with Julie Bertuccelli, a foreigner.

5. Don't feel sorry for Kodi Smit-McPhee
Sure, he's the lone representative for any movie that is not Animal Kingdom in the Best Supporting Actor category, but since he is nominated for a film that was a flop and an awards day dud (that'd be Matching Jack), not to mention his second nomination for The Road in the International category, let's not get too sad for the kid. He's already won an AFI and another nomination in his brief time plus he's making critically acclaimed films overseas, so he's going all right!

6. Speaking of those International Awards...
You have to just accept Sam Worthington being nominated for Avatar, but Mia Wasikowska for Alice in Wonderland? When she gave a great performance in The Kids are All Right? That's crazy talk! Meanwhile, Naomi Watts received what will probably be her only nomination for Mother & Child and she should probably win the category, unless voters are feeling partial to Toni Collette in The United States of Tara for a second year in a row.

7. Favouritism
Yeah, Jacki Weaver was great and all and seeing her nominated (and surely win) was great (although I'm more excited about her Oscar prospects right now), the top nomination of the day for me was that left field, but oh so rockin' nomination for Daybreakers in Best Original Screenplay. You can't say that isn't an interesting citation. I'd say a deserved one, too.

8. Tomorrow when Ashleigh Cummings is a star
I was happy to see Ashleigh Cummings got a nomination in the Best Young Actor category for her work as "Robyn" in Tomorrow When the War Began. As I get further away from seeing that film, a good one and one that got several major nominations including Best Film, it is without a doubt she and Deniz Akdeniz that linger as the standouts. That shot of Cummings walking towards the camera as she fires her rifle is one of the finest individual moments from any of the AFI contenders.

9. No The Horseman
I know it was a very longshot, but it would have been great to see Steven Kastrissios' intense revenge horror film The Horseman get something. Peter Marshall's performance is the best male performance of the year, too.

10. Ben Mendelsohn will finally win a Lead statue
He's like Meryl Streep. He won way back 1987 for Best Supporting Actor in The Year My Voice Broke, but despite six nominations in the Lead categories (one was for Lead Actor in a TV Drama for Love My Way) it appears he will finally get that Lead Actor AFI award. I thought he deserved it last year for Beautiful Kate over the eventual winner, Anthony LaPaglia for Balibo, but who can deny him this year? James Frencheville is the Queen Latifah to Mendelsohn's Catherine Zeta-Jones, if you know what I mean.

11. Doubling up
This doesn't happen to often. Not only are two actors from the same film represented together in Best Lead Actor (the aforementioned Mendelsohn and Frencheville from Animal Kingdom), but the Best Lead Actress category, too, as French actor Charlotte Gainsbourg joins her young The Tree co-star Morgana Davis. I was hoping for one, but didn't expect both!

I keep a running "ballot" document for each year as it goes by and I have Davies and Gainsbourg listed together under Best Actress purely because they feel so intertwined in that film that it feels impossible to separate them. No one is going to deny Jacki Weaver in that category at the AFIs, but I reckon Morgana Davies would've won this in a walk if Weaver had have been submitted in the Best Supporting Actress category, but that's not how the AFI Awards work.

12. International names on the list
We've already mentioned Julie Bertuccelli (Best Direction) and Charlotte Gainsbourg (Best Lead Actress), but Clive Owen too snuck in on goodwill for The Boys are Back, a likable if unremarkable film that still wormed its way to nominations.

13. Ernie Dingo?
Did this well known actor's recent string of bad publicity and alleged criminal activity cause him to be snubbed for Bran Nue Dae. I don't know anyone who doesn't say he gives the best performance of that indigenous road trip musical, a Best Film contender, and yet he was absent from the ballot. Was surprised to see Geoffrey Rush not nominated, either, in the Supporting Actor category since he is so revered.

14. John Edwards, but not the psychic one
Is John Edwards the most respected man in Aussie television right now? The AFI TV categories are filled with projects he is involved with. In fact, of the four Best Television Drama series nominees, only one (ONE!) does not list John Edwards as one of the producer nominees. Rush (Network Ten), Spirited (W) and Tangled (Showcase) have all been shepherded by the man, which is a remarkable achievement. That his three shows are all quite good is another matter entirely. How about Claudia Karvan and Jacquelin Perske, too? They have a new show? Nominate it!

15. Network Ten, for better or worse
Whether you like Network Ten's programming - and I wholeheartedly agree with piece by Clem Bastow at The Vine re James Packer's recent purchase of the channel - it's hard to deny, as I look over the TV nominations that without them the list would be... barren, for lack of a better word. Hell, the Best Telefeature/Mini-Series category wouldn't even exist! And I think we can all be thankful that Rush is there to save us from an embarrassing Packed to the Rafters/Rescue Special Ops situation.

16. Five outta six ain't bad!
Back to the films, I wasn't a fan of Beneath Hill 60, but the nominations are all pretty impressive. Sure, the Animal Kingdom love went a little bit overboard like Goldie Hawn, and The Waiting City's egregious snubbing is more than a little sad, but one bad movie out of a bunch (and, yes, I am admittedly in the minority in regards to my feelings about Jeremy Sims' WWI movie) is a good stat.

17. Struck out
Films to receive no nominations at all are Accidents Happen, The Horseman, I Love You Too, Lou, Mother Fish and Subdivision. Nothing too upsetting about those apart from The Horseman, which I've already spoken about.

18. Next year?
We've already seen several contenders in the form of The Loved Ones, which should be nominations across the board, but I'll be specifically cheering on nominations for Best Production Design, Best Costume Design and Robin McLeavy for Best Lead Actress, giving a performance that can instantly be regarded as one of the greatest horror performances of all time. Yes, I am being serious. We've also got Red Hill, which should do well in the technical categories, and - depending on eligibility issues - The King's Speech. That Oscar contender is an official UK/Australia co-production, but is it enough of one to qualify? Well, that's too far away to think about, so let's just stay with 2010, okay?


Stephen G (@australiascreen) said...

Hey Glenn, great post. Technically, the King's Speech is not a co-production but it is produced by a UK-Australian company and has an Australian producer (Email Sherman).

Anthony Mai said...

I watch Aussie TV a lot more than I watch Aussie films... But thanks for the great read, Glenn ;)

I'm the sort of film blog reader that reads about a lot of movies, yet doesn't go see them!

I found the TV nominations very disappointing. 2008-2009 had more deserving nominees. Nominees that didn't make me question the institute's integrity!

FranklinBluth said...

Bright star FINALLY gets some recognition. It was such an awesome film. Beautifully acted and beautifully shot.