Now in its 6th year, the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts returns once more to shine a light upon homegrown talent. Thankfully this year’s lineup has more of a genuine Australian presence in comparison to previous years, which have featured international winners including Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet. There’s also been a reduction in predominantly overseas based productions with only a handful of Aussie talent present – for example, Predestination.
It’s great to see more of a focus on true blue Australian films, but the question remains; will this year’s pool be more stupendous than the last? I guess that depends on how you define stupendous, but nevertheless there is a fine array of films contending for the awards.
It’s safe to say that it would be tough to beat last year’s winner for this category. Mad Max: Fury Road took out best film in 2015 and also best direction for George Miller, defeating films such as the family friendly Paper Planes, road movie Last Cab to Darwin and the eccentric black comedy The Dressmaker.
Striving to take out this year’s prize are:
Hooked On Film rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Starring: Geoffrey Rush, Odessa Young, Sam Neill
Director: Simon Stone
Hooked On Film rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Starring: Bethany Whitmore, Harrison Feldman, Matthew Whittet
Director: Rosemary Myers
Hooked On Film rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Starring: Aaron Pederson, Jackie Weaver, David Wenham
Director: Ivan Sen
Hooked On Film rating: ½
Starring: Andrew Garfield, Hugo Weaving, Teresa Palmer
Director: Mel Gibson
Hooked On Film rating: TBC
Starring: Mungau Dain, Marie Wawa
Director: Martin Butler, Bentley Dean
None of these nominees can compete on the same level as Mad Max, however, as an overall collection of films, this year’s lineup is far superior to the last. Except for Mel Gibson’s WWII drama Hackshaw Ridge, each nominee shows Australian culture and landscapes in fresh new ways. It’s great to see Australian cinema finally heading in the right direction.
Having said that, the strongest contender for the top prize is certainly Hackshaw Ridge. With a four and a half star rating from Hooked On Film and comparisons drawn with Steven Spielberg’s war classic Saving Private Ryan, Hackshaw Ridge is both the favourite and my pick to win.
It was no surprise when George Miller took out the award for Best Direction last year to leave fellow nominees, including Jeremy Sims (Last Cab to Darwin), Neil Armfield (Holding the Man) and Jocelyn Moorhouse (The Dressmaker) in his dust.
This time around, we’re once again seeing almost an exact duplicate of the Best Picture category, with Rosemary Myers (Girl Asleep), Ivan Sen (Goldstone), Mel Gibson (Hackshaw Ridge) and Martin Butler and Bentley Dean (Tanna) all with their hats in the ring. Both Myers and the Butler/Dean duo brought us excellent storytelling for their respective independent films, and although I’d love the co-directors behind Tanna to take the win, it will most likely be Mel Gibson and his WWII drama popping up here again, following in Miller’s footsteps with the double award win.
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
With a dubious nomination, Paper Planes took out last year’s coveted prize, besting the efforts of Miller, James McFarland (Kill Me Three Times) and Black Ayshford (Cut Snake), with the latter two serving as very poor competition in this category.
This year’s nominees are thankfully a much stronger bunch, with Abe Forsythe‘s unique spin on the Cronulla riots in Down Under tipped to outstrip the field. Also in the running is Ivan Sen for Goldstone, Andrew Knight and Robert Schenkkan for Hackshaw Ridge and Damian Hill for Aussie suburban drama Pawno.
So there you have it. This year’s AACTA awards are bringing us a wonderfully diverse bunch of films, all more than deserving of their nominations, unlike some of the films that scraped into various categories last year. With the ceremony due to take place on December 4, it won’t be long now until we learn the winners and losers of 2016 for Australian cinema.
Image courtesy of AACTA.org