Last night, the Australian Film Institute’s new Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts (AACTA) held its first awards, broadcast nationally not quite live on Channel Nine. Some reflections on the broadcast (noting that I am a professional voting member, with film writer/critic and producer accreditation):
The industry now pronounces the awards “the actahs”, which is a very clever Australian play on words and the noun “actor”. There is a certain – and quite wonderfully Australian – ironic humour in this, which operates on both high and low levels, and I think will “take off” and embed in public (or at least industry) consciousness. Good on ‘em: this one will probably work.
The editing of last night’s broadcast was very good. The 9.30pm (Sydney time) almost two hour broadcast of activities which had happened just a few hours before was awfully quick turnaround, and was well-done. I doubt that anyone really questioned it. Professional and true.
About a full half hour of the broadcast was taken up with the “frocks” and Richard Wilkins interviewing people on the “red carpet”. Pretty much shades of the Oscar ceremonies, when Wilkins is in LA to do the same with nominees, for Australian television. He did that part just fine, and some of the chats (and frocks) were not bad at all. Major brickbat, however: the shameless integration of a promotional plug for David Jones with one of the interviews. Major clanger, that one – infomercial at its worst. Second problem – in a two hour broadcast, bring on the awards more quickly, please. Also a real mistake to have a red carpet interviewee admit she had not seen any of the best film nominees: that’s one true way to diminish the value of the awards – if she has not taken the time to see them (and she is there, for goodness’ sake), why should we? Richard, next time skip that question, please.
Fabulous parts of the broadcast: the Sydney Opera House setting (could not be better); the personalities and their enthusiasm, Geoffrey Rush, Cate Blanchett (no autocue for her – she learns her lines well), Olivia Newton-John, Russell Crowe, Mia Wasikowska, Jonathan and Anthony LaPaglia, Jacki Weaver. And I totally loved the funny songs about the best film nominees: clever, intelligent, sly, professional, fun, well-written. Worth ARIA nominations in their own right. And Olivia Newton-John gave a spirited performance to start.
Not so wonderful parts: promos for upcoming Australian films. Isn’t this an awards ceremony for 2011, but the promos for upcomings (only one of which – A Few Best Men – is actually screening now) was awfully clunky, and confuses (as well as diminishes) the 2011 Awards “brand”.
No surprises: Red Dog winning the best film award, Judy Davis best actress award. Cinematography to The Hunter, costume and production design for Eye of the Storm (it was beautiful), Mrs Carey’s Concert best doco.
Yes surprises: no other major awards for Red Dog, with best director going to Justin Kurzel for Snowtown, as well as the other major acting, editing, sound and adapted screenplay “actahs” for Snowtown.
Interesting choice: Best original screenplay for Griff the Invisible.
Great to see: Don McAlpine receives the Raymond Longford Award.
Problem with “Griff” and Snowtown: hardly anyone has actually seen these films so far (Snowtown grossed about $1.1million in the ‘Oz box office: at $15/ticket that’s about 73,300 viewers) – although that will change once they come out on DVD and eventually TV broadcasts, in which case millions will eventually watch. That’s eventually. But there is still a difference between the cinema and television (the small screen), where these films will find their audience – as Screen Australia reminds us through its Beyond the Box Office research (April 2011).
Finally – despite the professional editing of the broadcast, it’s a shame we did not see the whole thing: I understand (I was not there) that we television viewers missed the highlight of the evening – director Stephan Elliott (Priscilla Queen of the Desert, A Few Best Men) had a great and at times emotional rave about coming out gay (he is, okay, no surprises) and the perfidy of Australian film critics, particularly one from Melbourne. Apparently he also predicted that his speech would be cut from the Channel Nine broadcast. He was right about that (see comment below). I heard this on ABC Radio Sydney 702 this morning at 7.40am, but you can also read about it in Encore magazine here. You can also see part of it on the ABC News website.