Tuesday, November 29, 2011

And the AACTA Nominees Are...

Just announced are these nominations for the inaugural AACTA Awards, to be held in Sydney early next year. As anybody would a brain could have predicted, it was a big day for local box office hits Red Dog, Oranges and Sunshine, Snowtown and The Eye of the Storm who amassed a high number of nominations over a large swathe of categories, sadly at the expense of some of smaller movies that really deserved it. OH WELL! The Hunter and Mad Bastards proved surprising additions to the AACTA Best Film roster, but seemingly completely absent are three of my very favourite Australian films of the AACTA eligibility period; Griff the Invisible, The Loved Ones and Sleeping Beauty. Let's take a look at the roll call of nominees.

Best Film
The Eye of the Storm
The Hunter
Mad Bastards
Oranges and Sunshine
Red Dog

Quite a good line-up. Whilst I personally loathed Snowtown, which I described as "revelling in its lower class miserabilism like a pig in shit", I can acknowledge that I am in the minority and that many saw it as a brutal, powerful display of filmmaking. As much as I quite liked The Eye of the Storm and Mad Bastards, I did feel there were stronger films in play this year that just unfortunately fell into the realm of niche or too artsy fartsy to be considered.

Best Direction
Fred Schepisi, The Eye of the Storm
David Nettheim, The Hunter
Kriv Stenders, Red Dog
Justin Kurzel, Snowtown

Jim Loach's absense is curious since, after Red Dog, his film (Oranges and Sunshine) was the biggest local hit of the year. But, I guess, these four nominees all make sense, so we can't really complain.

Best Lead Actor
Willem Dafoe, The Hunter
Daniel Henshall, Snowtown
Geoffrey Rush, The Eye of the Storm
David Wenham, The Eye of the Storm

A very strong category this year, I must say. While arguments could be made for one or two other contenders - named Alex Dimitriades, turning in his best work to date in Richard Gray's Summer Coda - these four names are a very solid roster for the talent involved as much as the famous faces.

Best Lead Actress
Judy Davis, The Eye of the Storm
Frances O'Connor, The Hunter
Charlotte Rampling, The Eye of the Storm
Emily Watson, Oranges and Sunshine

And here is where the wheels fall off. As much as I love and adore the Australian Film Institute and, now, the Australian Academy of Film and Television Arts, I routinely feel like some of the voters don't really navigate the contenders well enough. Good on these four nominees as they're certainly a fine set of contenders, but I wished the actors branch had have, well, branched out a little bit. Personally, I don't know how actors could watch what Davis and Rampling are doing - which is to say what they tend to always do, but with little variation on former glories - and nominate them over the beguiling, career-changing work of Emily Browning in Sleeping Beauty. I can accept Julia Leigh's film failing to find a place in other major categories, but only three technical nominations for a film that played the Cannes Film Festival seems a bit insulting, especially when Browning's performance was hailed even by the film's detractors. And then, of course, there is the masterful work by Robin McLeavy in The Loved Ones. A performance so fantastic that it instantly ranked as one of the greatest horror movie performances of all time (and that's not just me saying that) getting overlooked (predictably so, but frustrating nonetheless) for nice, if unspectacular bitchery from Davis and Rampling. If Australia's own industry won't honour them then who will?

Best Supporting Actor
John Graden, The Eye of the Storm
Sam Neill, The Hunter
Robert Rabiah, Face to Face
Hugo Weaving, Oranges and Sunshine

And now this is like a big mix of the lead actor quality and lead actress iffiness. I'm just going to come out and say that I don't even remember who John Graden played in The Eye of the Storm and that his appearance here is little more than prestige filler. Did the actors even look at John Brumpton from The Loved Ones or Tom E Lewis and Steve Bisley from Red Hill? Why not Greg Tait in Best Film nominee Mad Bastards? Now, Robert Rabiah on the other hand is a pleasant surprise as I had expected that film's nominations to come from the likes of Sigrid Thornton or Ra Chapman on the women's side of the craft. Rabiah is very good in the film, but I am sure this category will go to Hugo Weaving as it rightfully should for Oranges and Sunshine, one of his best roles to date.

Best Supporting Actress
Morgana Davies, The Hunter
Louise Harris, Snowtown
Helen Morse, The Eye of the Storm
Alexandra Schepisi, The Eye of the Storm

Davies, at only about 10 years of age, already has three nominations from these Australian film awards! After last year's work in The Tree, she returns with The Hunter and it's nice to see her here alongside the two women from The Eye of the Storm, but major props for nominating Louise Harris. I may not think much of the film, but Harris' performance is perhaps the best of the year by anybody in any category, Australian or international. She is PHENOMENAL and considering she was found in a supermarket purchasing groceries, she certainly lived up to the potential her director saw in her.

Best Original Screenplay
Leon Ford, Griff the Invisible
Sean Byrne, The Loved Ones
Brendan Fletcher, Dean Daley-Jones, Greg Tait and John Watson, Mad Bastards
Patrick Hughes, Red Hill

Much like America's version of the Academy, the Best Original Screenplay category is a major improvement and a more interesting list of contenders. Best Original Screenplay: Where genre films go to die, apparently. Watch Mad Bastards win this award for its director and actor collaborators over the very fine superhero drama, Griff the Invisible, the action/western, Red Hill, and the splatterfest horror comedy, The Loved Ones. Love this category.

Best Adapted Screenplay
Judy Morris, The Eye of the Storm
Alice Addison, The Hunter
Daniel Taplitz, Red Dog
Shaun Grant, Snowtown

Again, no Oranges and Sunshine is really curious. Maybe The Hunter wasn't the fifth place better in Best Film like I suspected.

Best Cinematography
Robert Humphreys, The Hunter
Geoffrey Hall, Red Dog
Geoffrey Simpson, Sleeping Beauty
Adam Arkapaw, Snowtown

I perhaps would have liked the inner-suburban charm of Simon Chapman's work on Griff the Invisible to slide in, or even Dan Freene's techno effort on Wasted on the Young, but these are four exceptionally well-shot movies either way.

Best Editing
Dany Cooper, Oranges and Sunshine
Jill Bilcock, Red Dog
Veronika Jenet, Snowtown
Leanne Cole, Wasted on the Young

I'm glad Wasted on the Young managed at least one nomination, and it's fitting that it's for Leanne Cole's fine work in the editing suite.

Best Sound
Sam Petty, David Lee, Robert Mackenzie, Les Fiddess, Tony Murtagh & Tom Heuzenroeder, The Hunter
Wayne Pashley, Derryn Pasquill, Polly McKinnon, Fabian Sanjurjo, Phil Heywood & Peter Smith, Legends of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole
Phil Judd, Nick Emond & Johanna Emond, Mad Bastards
Frank Lipson, Andrew McGrath, Des Kenneally, Michael Carden, John Simpson & Erin McKimm, Snowtown

So glad Snowtown and Mad Bastards made it in.

Best Original Music Score
Matte-Zingales, Michael Lira & Andrew Lancaster, The Hunter
David Hirschfelder, Legends of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole
Cezary Skubisewski, Red Dog
Jed Kurzel, Snowtown

Snowtown all the way! I hated the film, but at least three of its nominations deserve to take home the prize... go figure!

Best Production Design
Melinda Doring, The Eye of the Storm
Steven Jones-Evans, The Hunter
Ian Gracie, Red Dog
Annie Beauchamp, Sleeping Beauty

At least Annie Beauchamp showed up for her ornate design of Sleeping Beauty's delicate petal sets. In a just world it would win. Alas...

Best Costume Design
Terry Ryan, The Eye of the Storm
Emily Seresin, The Hunter
Cappi Ireland, Oranges and Sunshine
Shareen Beringer, Sleeping Beauty

Disappointing that a movie about a costume - that'd be Griff the Invisible - or Red Hill's western garb couldn't unseat something The Hunter, which... well, I'm not sure what real character-defining costume work went on that production, do you?

Best Visual Effects
Scott Zero, Cloudstreet (TV)
Grant Freckelton, Legends of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole
David Booth, Peter Webb, Ineke Majoor & Glenn Melenhorst, Sanctum
Felix Crewshaw & James Rogers, The Hunter

Yeah, I guess.

Raymond Longford Award
Don McAlpine

There are plenty more of awards on the TV side of things as well as the documentaries that can be viewed at the AACTA website. Thankfully they includes many tips of the hat to The Tall Man, my favourite local documentary of the year. I generally think the nominees are very good, I just wish the very top tier categories had shown a bit more ingenuity to stray further from the Very Worthy Films and embraced a wider view of the eligible contenders. Films to get completely shut out include The Cup (deservingly so), Caught Inside (unfortunately the one film I didn't get to see), A Heartbeat Away (remember that one?), Big Momma's Boy (a movie I nearly walked out of the media screening of it was that offensive and bad), Here I Am (marred my amateurishness in many key departments) and, most disappointing of all, Summer Coda.

What do you reckon of the nominees? Do you agree it's a crying shame that Emily Browning and Robin McLeavy were left off for more recognisable and actorly actors? These are the bitter tears of award show disappointment. Let's get used to them now as there will be a lot over the next few months!


Anonymous said...

Re: Robin McLeavy's snub. I couldn't agree more, but remember, these guys also completely ignored John Jarrett in WOLF CREEK a few years ago as well, and that was THE performance of that year (I was an AFI voting member that year, and I was dismayed when the middle-class middle-aged voters nominated OYSTER FAMER (the film that only got one other nomination, for Cinematography) for Bets Film over WC. It was about that time that I started to get a little disillusioned (and tried to get as many fellow youth-minded people on the membership as possible).

Damn shame I missed FACE TO FACE at the cinema. I have to try and find some other way to see it now before the show.

Travis Cragg

Anonymous said...

And, according to imdb, this is the first ever nomination for John Gaden! That surprised me. TC

Dale said...

I can't comment on the lead actresses who did get nominated because I haven't seen any of those movies, but I really would've liked to see Emily Browning, Robin Mcleavy, and/or Maeve Dermody get nominated, and I think all three movies would've suffered from a significant amount of bias due to their genres and general strangeness.

I knew it was going to get a bunch of nominations because it was so popular (*grumble*) but I'm glad Red Dog was at least cut out of the acting awards, especially regarding our leads. Nothing against Josh Lucas or Rachel Taylor, but they were assigned the roles of being the pleasant, relatable ones, and as such they didn't have to play actual characters with personalities so much as show up and look happy/sad/ect. as appropriate. I really wasn't pleased with the screenplay nomination, though. I thought it was very lazily written, and the humour was cringeworthy.

Anne said...

I agree about Robin McCleavy. For mine, hers was the most electric Australian performance of the year in a film which scored 96% on Rotten Tomatoes and won 3 international awards, including a big one at Toronto. If people were looking closely it was our next most internationally acclaimed film after Animal Kingdom in 2010. But it's horror and horror always has an automatic cross against its name. Still, there's some really interesting and bold films in the mix.

Glenn Dunks said...

Travis, that John Jarrett snub is baffling to this very day. Especially since Kestie Morassi was nominated, so it wasn't like they didn't think of it as an actors movie. I liked Oyster Farmer though, but, yeah, Wolf Creek shoulda been there.

Dale, you're right. All three of those women would have been fabulous nominees, but the genre thing probably didn't help. Alas, Maeve Dermody was nominated (and rightly so) for her incredible performance in Black Water a few years back, so...

As for the Red Dog leads? Well, I really liked Taylor actually and she also had Summer Coda to work with, but neither performance really had much to work with I guess to entice a nomination.

Anne, definitely agreed.