The night of nights for the Australian film industry, the annual Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts (AACTA) Awards, are held on Wednesday 5 December. Film critic Blake Howard has seen every film in the competition. What will win? What should win? Here are his picks and predictions for the major categories.
AACTA AWARD FOR BEST FILM PRESENTED BY FOXTEL
• Boy Erased – Steve Golin, Kerry Kohansky-Roberts, Joel Edgerton – Anonymous Content and Blue-Tongue Films
• Breath – Johnson, Simon Baker, Jamie Hilton – Gran Via, Windalong Films & See Pictures
• Cargo – Samantha Jennings, Kristina Ceyton, Russell Ackerman, John Schoenfelder, Mark Patterson – Causeway Films
• Ladies in Black – Allanah Zitserman, Sue Milliken – Lumila Films
• Sweet Country – Greer Simpkin, David Jowsey, David Tranter – Bunya Productions
The AACTA will go to…Boy Erased. Joel Edgerton’s adaptation of Garrard Conley’s memoir is just the kind of Australian-produced potential Oscar contender that will likely sweep the AACTA’s this year, before rolling into the international awards season. In the last three successive awards, the big winners on each night have been included in the Oscars cohort (Lion, Hacksaw Ridge and Mad Max: Fury Road).
AACTA AWARD FOR BEST INDIE FILM PRESENTED BY EVENT CINEMAS
• Brothers’ Nest – Clayton Jacobson (Dir), Jason Byrne – Jason Byrne Productions Pty Ltd
• Jirga – Benjamin Gilmour (Dir), John Maynard – Felix Media Pty Ltd
• The Second – Mairi Cameron (Dir), Leanne Tonkes, Stephen Lance – Sense & Centsability & Dust Bunny Productions
• Strange Colours – Alena Lodkina (Dir), Kate Laurie, Isaac Wall – Strange Colours Productions
• West of Sunshine – Jason Raftopoulos (Dir), Alexandros Ouzas – Exile Entertainment
The AACTA should go to…Jirga. Benjamin Gilmour’s mesmerising Afghanistan-set-drama is the kind of independent Australian story that casts a telescope from its arid locales right back toward our collective perception of who we are.
• Boy Erased, Joel Edgerton – Anonymous Content and Blue-Tongue Films
• Breath, Simon Baker – Gran Via, Windalong Films & See Pictures
• Ladies in Black, K Bruce Beresford – Lumila Films
• Sweet Country , Warwick Thornton – Bunya Productions
The AACTA should go to… Warwick Thornton. To put it simply, immersion in every aspect of the film is breathtaking. A terrific cinematographer, Thornton has a commanding and singular vision. Thornton’s Camera D’Or winning debut Samson and Delilah also graces the Flicks’ 25 greatest Australian films of the 21st Century list – the only filmmaker with two entries in the top 10.
The AACTA will go to… Joel Edgerton. AACTA will want to endorse the talented Mr Edgerton as Australia’s latest prestige filmmaker and Oscar contender.
AACTA AWARD FOR BEST LEAD ACTOR
• Ryan Corr 1% – See Pictures Pty Ltd
• Lucas Hedges Boy Erased – Anonymous Content and Blue-Tongue Films
• Damian Hill West of Sunshine – Exile Entertainment
• Daniel Monks Pulse – Daniel Monks & Stevie Cruz-Martin
• Hamilton Morris Sweet Country – Bunya Productions
The AACTA should go to… Hamilton Morris. Morris’ performance in Sweet Country is all the more of a marvel considering it’s his very first time in front of a camera.
The AACTA will go to… Damian Hill. Despite leading performances being secured by international actors in Australian productions (Leonardo DiCaprio & Andrew Garfield), with the tragic departure of Hill on September 24, it’s very likely that his fine and final performance in director Jason Raftopoulos’ West of Sunshine will secure the gong.
The AACTA will go to… Julia Ormond. The AACTA awards have a track record of awarding international talent in our loosely categorised Australian films. Ormond’s stern and sassy Magda Szombatheli, the Slovenian ‘refo’ mentor passing on her worldly wisdom to Rice’s Lisa Miles, has the right mixture of class and prestige to score with voters.
AACTA AWARD FOR BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
• Simon Baker Breath – Gran Via, Windalong Films & See Pictures
• Fayssal Bazzi The Merger – The Merger Productions
• Russell Crowe Boy Erased – Anonymous Content and Blue-Tongue Films
• Joel Edgerton Boy Erased – Anonymous Content and Blue-Tongue Films
• Josh McConville 1% – See Pictures Pty Ltd
The AACTA should go to… Russell Crowe. Crowe’s performance in Boy Erased is one of restrained brilliance, harnessing the actor’s presence in a way usually reserved for his towering protagonists in films such as The Insider and A Beautiful Mind.
The AACTA will go to… Russell ‘Rusty’ Crowe is a lock.
AACTA AWARD FOR BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
• Elizabeth Debicki Breath – Gran Via, Windalong Films & See Pictures
• Natassia Gorey-Furber Sweet Country – Bunya Productions
• Noni Hazlehurst Ladies in Black – Lumila Films
• Simone Kessell 1% – See Pictures Pty Ltd
• Nicole Kidman Boy Erased – Anonymous Content and Blue-Tongue Films
The AACTA should go to… Simone Kessell. Kessell’s performance as Hayley in 1% – the woman pulling the strings while Knuck (Matt Nable) is in prison – is one of the film’s fundamental strengths. For a film trumpeting machismo, it’s the powerhouse women who subtly take charge.
The AACTA will go to… Nicole Kidman. There’s just no way that the Australian Academy isn’t going to want to get behind a legend whose preposition is “OUR” during her lengthy purple patch. If Kidman secures the award it will be her second AACTA award in consecutive years that overcame GOD AWFUL wigs.
AACTA AWARD FOR BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
• 1% Matt Nable – See Pictures Pty Ltd
• Brothers’ Nest Jaime Browne – Causeway Films
• Sweet Country David Tranter, Steven McGregor – Bunya Productions
• Upgrade Leigh Whannell – Goalpost Pictures and Blumhouse Productions
The AACTA should go to…Sweet Country‘s David Tranter and Steven McGregor. This Australian western morality tale does a sensational job of harnessing the elemental and the topical.
The AACTA will go to…Upgrade‘s Leigh Whannell. This terrific and original body horror sci-fi comes from a writer behind some of the most successful horror franchises in recent memory, but this may be one of the only categories this worthy film will penetrate.
AACTA AWARD FOR BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
• Boy Erased Joel Edgerton – Anonymous Content and Blue-Tongue Films
• Breath Gerard Lee, Simon Baker, Tim Winton – Gran Via, Windalong Films & See Pictures
• Cargo Yolanda Ramke – Causeway Films
• Ladies in Black Sue Milliken, Bruce Beresford – Lumila Films
The AACTA should go to…Cargo. Yoldana Ramke breathed political and topical themes into this elevated zombie survival feature.
The AACTA will go to…Breath. Gerard Lee and Simon Baker wrangled Winton’s parochial poetics into an exciting and vivid adaptation. Baker’s accomplished debut has stiff competition, so it will likely be a lock for the adaption.
The AACTA will go to…Sweet Country . If my predictions are true (thus far), this will be the only recognition for Thornton’s undeniable masterpiece.
AACTA AWARD FOR BEST EDITING
• Breath Dany Cooper – Gran Via, Windalong Films & See Pictures
• Ladies in Black Mark Warner – Lumila Films
• Sweet Country Nick Meyers – Bunya Productions
• Upgrade Andy Canny – Goalpost Pictures and Blumhouse Productions
The AACTA should go to…Upgrade. Whannell’s blistering 100 minute low-fi sci-fi uses editing smarts for story economy and to stretch the micro budget into a slick and dynamic feature.
The AACTA will go to…Breath. For the immersive experience conjured by the surf scenes alone.
AACTA AWARD FOR BEST FEATURE DOCUMENTARY
• Ghosthunter Ben Lawrence (Dir), Rebecca Bennett – Ghosthunter One
• Gurrumul Paul Damien Williams (Dir), Shannon Swan – 6 Seasons Productions
• Jill Bilcock: Dancing the Invisible Axel Grigor (Dir), Faramarz K-Rahber – Faraway
• Mountain Jennifer Peedom (Dir), Jo-anne McGowan – Stranger Than Fiction Films Pty Ltd
• Working Class Boy Mark Joffe (Dir), Matt Campbell, Andrew Farrell, Michael Cordell – CJZ
The AACTA should go to…Gurrumul. This celebration of a once in a generation artist is uplifting and affecting in equal measure.