Has My PhD Thesis Become Relevant Again in the Age of Trump?

January 21, 2018

One year into the Trump Administration, I am starting to conclude that my PhD thesis – entitled The Making of a Cultural Moment: Mel Gibson’s “Passion” Goes to the Movies – is becoming relevant again.

Part of my thesis dealt with how movies can reflect our cultural, political, economic and social obsessions – although not always directly, and not exactly in the ways we expect. The most interesting films are those that coincide with our immediate fascinations, meaning that a film – often years in the making – has had some “clue” as to what else was “burbling” along in the collective unconscious and our body politic, a long time before it became apparent to the rest of us.

Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ was such a film, coinciding – and helping to create – a “cultural moment”.

And what is our current “moment”? Or, rather the question is, what are contemporary films telling us about our current moment?

Steven Spielberg’s The Post is an obvious one. Some selections:

  • “When a film is bang on the moment, as “The Post” is determined to be, what will remain of its impact when the moment is past? Maybe Spielberg, Streep, and Hanks are possessed, like many of their compatriots, by a deeper dread. Maybe they think that the moment is here to stay.” – Anthony Lane in The New Yorker
  • “At a pivotal time in American history, the government was preventing the press from getting the news out, on the grounds that it would do injury to national security.” – Manohla Dargis in The New York Times
  • The Post is the story of a legacy, but it’s also a rallying cry.” – Stephanie Zacharek in Time magazine
  • The Post examines a crucial moment in American journalism from more than 45 years ago, although the film clearly invites viewers to see the material’s gripping contemporary relevance.” – Tim Grierson in Screen Daily

And what do the other recent Golden Globe nominees (and possible Oscar winners) tells us about our moment?

  • Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (women’s empowerment, #metoo, Black Lives Matter)
  • The Shape of Water (immigration controls and fear of the other)
  • Get Out (Black Lives Matter and fear of the other)
  • I, Tonya (women’s empowerment)
  • Lady Bird (women’s empowerment)
  • The Greatest Showman (a metaphor for the current President?)
  • Dunkirk (are we strategically withdrawing? if so, from what?)
  • Call Me By Your Name (gay marriage, gender diversity)

Another connector between movies and life – at least life, political-style as experienced in the USA – is the well-known figure of Stephen K. Bannon, who seems to court controversy wherever he goes. In a telling New York Times article dated June 26, 2005 (“On the Right Side of the Theater Aisle”), journalist James Ulmer starts this way, quoting Bannon:

The film producer Stephen K. Bannon isn’t just on a crusade. He’s on a roll.

“Look at Feb. 25, 2004 — a watershed week for the Hollywood right,” he said in his Santa Monica office while scribbling a circle around the word “Lord” on his whiteboard. “On Ash Wednesday, ‘The Passion of the Christ’ is released theatrically, and on Sunday, ‘Lord of the Rings’ — a great Christian allegory — wins 11 Academy Awards. So here you have Sodom and Gomorrah bowing to the great Christian God, and did you guys notice? No, because 99 per cent of the content in the media’s sewage pipes is the culture of death, not life.”

Bannon – one of America’s greatest recent practitioners of the art of reinvention – understood back in 2005 the strong connection between American popular culture and American political life – an important theme in my thesis – and honed his skills in subsequent years. So much so that he rose just about as high as you can in political life (White House Chief Strategist to the President) before a spectacular fall. A great podcast from NPR’s Embedded program (“How Steve Bannon’s Time In Hollywood Changed Him”) from October 2017 illustrates how well Bannon was schooled in US movies before his move to politics.

The truth about the “current moment” is that it is awfully hard to know what is until it has passed, making the notion of “current” difficult to discern.

But it’s worth trying, and our movies are a great place to start.

Film review of Lion

January 27, 2017

(This film review of “Lion” appeared in the Australian Jewish News on January 26, 2017.)

Directed by Garth Davis; written by Luke Davies, based on the book “A Long Way Home” by Saroo Brierley; starring Sunny Pawar, Dev Patel, Rooney Mara, David Wenham, Nicole Kidman, Abhishek Bharate, Divian Ladwa, Priyanka Bose, Deepti Naval, Tannishtha Chatterjee and Nawazuddin Siddiqui


When the history of Australian film of the early 21st century is written, “Lion” will take its place as one of the best of its era, a film both totally unique and fully realised. While its story of childhood loss, displacement, the search for identity and ultimate redemption is universal, it is also thoroughly Australian.

And it’s a true story.  Saroo Brierley became separated from his family in India at the age of five and was adopted by an Australia couple who lived in Hobart.  Some 25 years later, he discovered the potential of Google Earth; after months of searching satellite photos, he recognised his hometown, leading him to a reunion with his birth family.

The first half of “Lion” takes place in India, with young Sunny Pawar playing the role of Saroo, and Abhishek Bharate playing his older brother Guddu.  One fateful day Guddu takes young Saroo on one of his many train expeditions in search of things to sell, and Saroo becomes too tired and is left to sleep at a train station.  Upon waking up in the night, he searches for his brother and gets trapped in an empty train that travels for days – and almost 1500 kilometres – from Saroo’s home in regional Khandwa to Kolkata (Calcutta).  For weeks, Saroo wanders the streets, unable to speak the local language (Bengali; his native tongue is Hindi) and avoids the fate of many homeless young people who are ruthlessly trafficked by unscrupulous adults.  He winds up in an orphanage that is truly Dickensian, filled with screaming kids presided over by uncaring adults.  Too young even to remember his last name, the attempts to find his mother and family fail.

The first hour of “Lion” is possibly one of the best cinema hours you will see this year:  much of the time, the film proceeds wordlessly, mutely viewed from young Saroo’s standpoint.  The media attention has focussed on the “name” stars – Dev Patel (“Slumdog Millionaire”), who plays the 30 year-old Saroo, and Nicole Kidman his adoptive mother Sue Brierley, both have Oscar nominations – along David Wenham as adoptive father John Brierley.  But the emotional strength of “Lion” comes from the performance of Sunny Pawar as the young hero.  Like the best of child actors, he brings a stillness and focus to the role that astonishes, illustrating just the ordeal that many young Australian migrants have experienced prior to their arrival here.

The second half of the film focuses on the emotional journey of Saroo (played by Patel), as he slowly works through his traumatic separation.  Patel inhabits his character perfectly, with a great Australian accent and a cool swagger that only just hides the emotional insecurity he still feels at the early loss of his biological family.  American actress Rooney Mara (“Carol”, “The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo”) plays Saroo’s girlfriend, and Divian Ladwa plays Mantosh Brierley, Saroo’s adoptive brother who suffers from psychological demons much greater than Saroo’s.

The second half of the film does not achieve the greatness of the first half, hampered by Saroo’s story that is so internalised that it is hard to show on screen.  But the acting and the settings (Hobart and Melbourne) ground the film in the reality of the present day, setting up “Lion” for the emotional pay-off – yes, Saroo does find his family and learns new things about himself at the same time.

Great films are never the result of one person or one factor.  So it is with “Lion”.  It was not enough that it’s such an amazing “needle in a haystack” story: despite extensive publicity in 2014 given to the publication of Brierley’s memoir “A Long Way Home”, too few of us here in Australia were aware of it before this film. The film “clicks” because of so many interwoven parts.  Director Garth Davis’ background in directing commercials brings a stunning visual style, one that brings the story to life in a way in unforgettable ways.  Scriptwriter Luke Davis (deservedly Oscar-nominated) understands how to surmount life’s demons – he overcame heroin addiction and later turned it into a book and film (“Candy”) – and has fashioned Saroo’s biographical book into a screen story that rings true emotionally.  And someone had to bring it all together, to see the screen potential in the story and to enlist those to make it:  this was role of Sydney Jewish producer Emile Sherman (previous Oscar winner for “The Kings Speech”) and his partners Iain Canning and Angie Fielder.

There are only five to ten films truly worth viewing on the big screen each year.  This year, “Lion” – also nominated for the Oscar “best film” category – is one of them.

lion-nicole-kidman-and-sunny-pawar(photo above: Nicole Kidman and Sunny Pawar in “Lion”)

Holocaust films and the Oscars

April 10, 2015

A conversation with two close friends a few weeks ago – just after the Academy Awards presentation this past February – made me realise yet again how often we miss the real characterisations in films.  Some years ago I loved the 1982 film Sophie’s Choice, conveniently ignoring (or at least somehow not noticing) that the characterisations of Jews in that film were all, somehow, slanted and skewed.  The two major characters – one played by Kevin Kline (an actor who is a personal favourite of mine) and a young woman who dates the young writer Stingo (Peter MacNicol) – both become victimisers, and the symbol of the Holocaust becomes Sophie (Meryl Streep, another favourite of mine), a non-Jewish Polish woman whose father was a fascist.

The Holocaust, for those who have not been counting, is a popular topic on film.  With the success of the Polish film Ida, the numbers are now in.  As J. Hoberman reports in Tablet magazine:

Beginning with the 1959 movie The Diary of Anne Frank, there have been 22 Oscar nominees that, in one way or another represented the Holocaust, and since Shelley Winters won for Best Supporting Actress in 1959, 20 of these movies garnered at least one Academy Award.

The all-time winner of Academy Awards was 1993’s Schindler’s List, with nine Oscars, including Best Picture.  Other big winners:  Cabaret (six in 1972), The Pianist (three in 2002) and Judgment at Nuremberg (two in 1961).  Meryl Streep won her second Oscar for Sophie’s Choice, and “Adrian Brody and Shelley Winters are the only actors to have won Academy Awards for playing a Jewish character in a Holocaust-themed movie”.

So this year the much-cheered Ida won the best foreign film award, beating out the (in my opinion) much superior Leviathan, a contemporary Russian film that has captured the “moment” of a corrupt but empowered Russia that has seen an undeclared civil war in the Ukraine and a heightening of tensions throughout Europe.

In my review of Ida, I was highly critical, writing that I found the film “profoundly depressing and problematic” because “all of the film’s implicit conclusions about Jewish life in its aftermath of the Holocaust are negative.” I concluded that “the life decisions of the two key characters (Ida and aunt Wanda) indicate that the Holocaust has so damaged both of their lives that their only options are to turn away from being Jewish, each irrevocably in their own way.”

Writing in The New Yorker in May of last year, Richard Brody goes further, entitling his review “The Distasteful Vagueness of Ida”.  Brody declares that Ida is a “pernicious fraud—an aesthetic one and a historical one.”  Brody writes:

He is making a declaration: there were Jewish victims of the war in Poland—Jews who were killed by Nazis and, yes, even by Poles—but that Jews weren’t solely victims. Jews, too, were killers, including those who got their revenge on Poland by propelling themselves to power with the rise of Communism….  The evenhandedly editorializing accusations that Pawlikowski builds stealthily into the movie are repellent. Even as he nourishes the notion of collective or national guilt—and seeks to expiate it—with the movie’s ceremonial tone, Pawlikowski also insinuates that the victims were no angels, either, and that maybe some of them have something to atone for as well. “Ida” is, in effect, “12 Years a Slave” in which Solomon Northup shows up in the South, after the Civil War, as a carpetbagger. Ultimately, the movie legitimizes resentment of the very Jews who were murdered on Polish soil—even at the hands of Poles.

I have a hard time disagreeing with Brody.  So here again is a Holocaust film lauded by “the Academy” – and presumably voted for many of the Jewish voters who are members.  Did they really know what they were voting for?  Or were they, like many others, taken in by the pseudo-historical black and white photography, and lulled into believing that Ida was a true representation of Polish-Jewish life in the early 1960s?





2014 Film Critics Circle of Australia Nominations Announced

February 3, 2015

The Film Critics Circle of Australia (FCCA), of which I am a member, has announced the nominations for the 2014 FCCA Awards.

The nominations for Best Australian Film of 2014 are The Babadook (producers Kristina Ceyton and Kristian Moliere), Charlie’s Country (producers Rolf de Heer, Peter Djigirr and Nils Erik Nielsen), Predestination (producers Paddy McDonald, Tim McGahan and Michael Spierig), Tracks (producers Iain Canning and Emile Sherman) and The Water Diviner (producers Troy Lum, Andrew Mason and Keith Rodger).

Leading the nominations with nine nominations is The Water Diviner, followed by The Babadook and Predestination both with eight. Five nominations have been awarded to Charlie’s Country, Felony, The Rover and Tracks. The awards have been spread over twelve films released across Australia during the 2014 calendar year.

FCCA President and ABC Radio host Rod Quinn said, “This year’s nominees show the diversity of the Australian film industry – from a scary movie set in a haunted house, to a modern day epic, and stories that cover our entire continent. The filmmakers nominated include the biggest names in Australian film and many talented newcomers.”

The 2014 FCCA Awards Ceremony will be held on Tuesday 10 March, 2015 from 6.30pm at Paddington/Woollahra RSL, Paddington. During the ceremony there will be a tribute to three eminent members of the FCCA who have recently left their long term positions, Evan Williams who has retired from his position as film critic for The Australian, and Margaret Pomeranz and David Stratton who have departed their 28 year television careers as hosts of SBS TV’s The Movie Show and ABC TV’s At The Movies.


BEST FILM (producers)
THE BABADOOK: Kristina Ceyton, Kristian Moliere
CHARLIE’S COUNTRY: Rolf de Heer, Peter Djigirr, Nils Erik Nielsen
PREDESTINATION: Paddy McDonald, Tim McGahan, Michael Spierig
TRACKS: Iain Canning, Emile Sherman
THE WATER DIVINER: Troy Lum, Andrew Mason, Keith Rodger

Russell Crowe: The Water Diviner
John Curran: Tracks
Rolf de Heer: Charlie’s Country
Jennifer Kent: The Babadook
Michael Spierig & Peter Spierig: Predestination

Essie Davis: The Babadook
Sarah Snook: Predestination
Mia Wasikowska: Tracks

Russell Crowe: The Water Diviner
Joel Edgerton: Felony
David Gulpilil: Charlie’s Country
Don Hany: Healing
Guy Pearce: The Rover

Justine Clarke: Healing
Melissa George: Felony
Erin James: The Little Death
Jacqueline McKenzie: The Water Diviner
Susan Prior: The Rover

Jai Courtney: Felony
Adam Driver: Tracks
Yilmaz Erdoğan: The Water Diviner
Robert Pattinson: The Rover
Tom Wilkinson: Felony

Tilda Cobham-Hervey: 52 Tuesdays
Ashleigh Cummings: Galore
Angourie Rice: These Final Hours
Noah Wiseman: The Babadook

Matthew Cormack: 52 Tuesdays
Rolf de Heer, David Gulpilil: Charlie’s Country
Joel Edgerton: Felony
Jennifer Kent: The Babadook
Michael Spierig & Peter Spierig: Predestination

Ian Jones: Charlie’s Country
Radek Ladezuk: The Babadook
Andrew Lesnie: The Water Diviner
Ben Nott: Predestination
Mandy Walker: Tracks

David Hirschfelder: Healing
David Hirschfelder: The Water Diviner
Antony Partos: The Rover
Peter Spierig: Predestination

Bryan Mason: 52 Tuesdays
Simon Njoo: The Babadook
Matt Villa: Predestination
Matt Villa: The Water Diviner

Jo Ford: The Rover
Alex Holmes: The Babadook
Chris Kennedy: The Water Diviner
Matthew Putland: Predestination

FCCA logo


Oscar predictions: How Right Was I?

February 25, 2013

Two days ago, I posted my Oscar predictions.  So how right was I?  Look at the table below and see.
The result:  I got eight out of ten correct, with the other two as possibilities.  Not bad.

Category Should win (my vote) Probably will win (prediction) Did win
Best film Life of Pi Argo Argo
Best director Ang Lee Ang Lee Ang Lee
Best actor Daniel Day-Lewis Daniel Day-Lewis Daniel Day-Lewis
Best supporting actor Christoph Waltz Tommy Lee Jones Christoph Waltz
Best actress Jessica Chastain Jennifer Lawrence Jennifer Lawrence
Best supporting actress Anne Hathaway Anne Hathaway Anne Hathaway
Best cinema-tography Life of Pi Life of Pi Life of Pi
Best adapted screenplay Lincoln Argo Argo
Best original screenplay Zero Dark Thirty Zero Dark Thirty Django Unchained
Best foreign film (did not choose) Amour Amour

Oscar image


Oscar predictions: The best of the best

February 23, 2013

On Sunday evening 24 February 2013 (Monday early afternoon, Sydney time), the annual Oscars ceremony takes place. I asked three film experts for their views on which films should win and probably will win in each the main categories.  Their answers (along with my own) are listed below.  Just to re-cap the nominees:

Best Picture (nominees)



Beast of the Southern Wild

Django Unchained

Les Miserables

Life of Pi


Silver Linings Playbook

Zero Dark Thirty

Best Director

Michael Haneke (Amour)

Benh Zeitlin (Beasts of the Southern Wild)

Ang Lee (Life of Pi)

Steven Spielberg (Lincoln)

David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook)

Actor in a Leading Role

Bradley Cooper (Silver Linings Playbook)

Daniel Day-Lewis (Lincoln)

Hugh Jackman (Les Miserables)

Joaquin Phoenix (The Master)

Denzel Washington (Flight)

Actor in a Supporting Role

Alan Arkin (Argo)

Robert De Niro (Silver Linings Playbook)

Philip Seymour Hoffman (The Master)

Tommy Lee Jones (Lincoln)

Christoph Waltz (Django Unchained)

Actress in a Leading Role

Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty)

Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook)

Emmanuelle Riva (Amour)

Quvenzhane Wallis (Beasts of the Southern Wild)

Naomi Watts (The Impossible)

Actress in a Supporting Role

Amy Adams (The Master)

Sally Field (Lincoln)

Anne Hathaway (Les Miserables)

Helen Hunt (The Sessions)

Jacki Weaver (Silver Linings Playbook)


Anna Karenina (Seamus McGarvey)

Django Unchained (Robert Richardson)

Life of Pi (Claudio Miranda)

Lincoln (Janusz Kaminski)

Skyfall (Roger Deakins)

Adapted Screenplay

Argo (Chris Terrio)

Beasts of the Southern Wild (Luch Alibar & Benh Zeitlin)

Life of Pi (David Magee)

Lincoln (Tony Kushner)

Silver Linings Playbook (David O. Russell)

Original Screenplay

Amour (Michael Haneke)

Django Unchained (Quentin Tarantino)

Flight (John Gatins)

Moonrise Kingdom (Wes Anderson & Roman Coppola)

Zero Dark Thirty (Mark Boal)

So have a look at our picks below.  Some are consistent – but remarkably few, and in fact I don’t think that there is even one category we four all agree on.  That means we may still have some excitement and uncertainty on the awards night itself.


Don Perlgut’s picks

(Don Perlgut is a film critic and media analyst living in Sydney, Australia.)

Category Should win Probably will win Comments
Best film Life of Pi Argo It was a strong year for films, but I can’t believe that Argo will win.  The betting says it will.  A nice film, but probably something of a “revenge fantasy” about Americans and Iran – or perhaps I am not being generous.  Both the Directors Guild and the Producers Guild have selected it.  Lincoln is strong, but not one of Spielberg’s best efforts, also too talky and too full of dark, smoky rooms).  Django certainly was the most entertaining film of the year, but not the best.  Zero Dark Thirty is superbly well-done, and in another year might have grabbed the votes; however the controversy over representation of torture surely has hurt it with some more left-leaning Academy voters.
Best director Ang Lee Ang Lee For my money, Life of Pi was truly the most accomplished film of the year, and Ang Lee should win best director.  He might – or may get pipped by Spielberg.  Ironically neither Ben Affleck (Argo) nor Kathryn Bigelow (Zero Dark Thirty) were nominated; both would have been strong contenders.
Best actor Daniel Day-Lewis Daniel Day-Lewis There is no doubt on this one.  It’s a memorable performance.  The others are good, but simply not in this league.  And in this year of Obama – who so models himself on Lincoln – a Lincoln winner seems poetically right.  The New York Times calls Day-Lewis “the male Meryl Streep, synonymous with exemplary acting.”
Best supporting actor Christoph Waltz Tommy Lee Jones Don’t get me wrong:  I love Tommy Lee Jones’ performance in Lincoln, but the most unusual and engaging performance of these five is surely Christoph Waltz (Django).  The problem is his role was not really a supporting role:  his screen time was almost as much as his co-star Jamie Foxx, and surely he had more actual dialogue than most of the “best actor” nominees.
Best actress Jennifer Lawrence Jessica Chastain I liked Lawrence in Silver Linings Playbook, a lot.  But there was a stillness and a self of strong emotional core to Chastain’s character which made it so memorable.  She could still win, but the betting seems against her – perhaps fall-out from the torture controversies.
Best supporting actress Anne Hathaway Anne Hathaway No contest here. Adams and Field were strong (Hunt and Weaver not really contenders in my view), but not close.  Only problem:  Hathaway should have had lots more screen time, but that’s the way the role was written.
Best cinema-tography Life of Pi Life of Pi Many people may be confused between the truly delightful special effects in Life of Pi and the actual cinematography, but the seamless blending of the two of them just shows how good that cinematography actually is.  The Los Angeles Times agrees with me.
Best adapted screenplay Argo Lincoln Chris Terrio won the Writers Guild award; surely he will win the Oscar. It’s a good screenplay, but Lincoln (despite its wordiness) was the unusual achievement.
Best original screenplay Zero Dark Thirty Zero Dark Thirty Django Unchained has a possibility here, but it’s a mess in the final third.  All of the nominees are fascinating.  Zero Dark Thirty may run the risk of the torture controversy mentioned above.  Moonrise Kingdom was delightful but too small.  Amour is very good, but not beloved enough by Academy voters to win.  (By the way, the Los Angeles Times disagrees with me on this last point and believes Haneke will win for Amour, given its five nominations.)

Life of Pi

Mark Lazarus picks

(Mark is a jaded film producer, transplanted from the USA to Australia by love. He currently works at Screen Australia helping to make dreams come true.)

Category Should win Probably will win Comments
Best film Beasts of the Southern Wild Argo Everyone’s stunned Affleck has a brain in his head.  Responding to discovery with too much enthusiasm.
Best director Michael Haneke Steven Spielberg Finally he gets one.  Haneke is a genius.
Best actor Bradley Cooper Daniel Day-Lewis Awesome bearding.
Best supporting actor Robert De Niro Robert De Niro When he cries, you’re like, “where the hell’s he been for the last ten years?”
Best actress Jennifer Lawrence Jennifer Lawrence Jessica too new, Quvenzhane too young, Naomi in too cloying a pic about rich people.
Best cinema-tography Django Unchained Lincoln Looks like a civil war photo… or a Ken Burns doc… or one of those pics you take with a costume at a theme park…
Best adapted screenplay Silver Linings Playbook Silver Linings Playbook J. Law dancing in a midriff top is great writing in MY book…
Best original screenplay Amour Moonrise Kingdom Wes Anderson finally plucks the heartstrings.

Zero Dark Thirty

Tal Kra-Oz

(Tal Kra-Oz is a writer and law student living in Jerusalem.)

Category Should win Probably will win Comments
Best film Lincoln Lincoln This has been a remarkably solid year. At least half of the films could have easily taken the Oscar if the others weren’t as strong. I think Lincoln is head and shoulders above the rest, though.
Best director Steven Spielberg Steven Spielberg An Ang Lee coup wouldn’t surprise me, though.
Best actor Daniel Day-Lewis Daniel Day-Lewis No real dilemma here.
Best supporting actor Philip Seymour Hoffman Christoph Waltz, or possibly Tommy Lee Jones This category is pretty wide open, but I think Academy members will go the way of the HFPA and honour Waltz.
Best actress Quvenzhane Wallis Jennifer Lawrence or Jessica Chastain Wallis is too young to win, but her performance was definitely this year’s most remarkable.
Best supporting actress Anne Hathaway Anne Hathaway Probably the only win one can be completely sure of.
Best cinema-tography Life of Pi Life of Pi
Best adapted screenplay Lincoln Lincoln
Best original screenplay Moonrise Kingdom Django Unchained ZD30 is a remarkable piece of writing, but its controversial depiction of torture will probably doom it.
Best Document-ary Searching for Sugar Man Searching for Sugar Man The two Israeli contenders (The Gatekeepers and Five Broken Cameras) are both really powerful and important. But Searching for Sugar Man is the better movie.

Les Miserables

Rod Freedman

(Rod Freedman is an independent director, producer and executive producer whose documentaries have won many Australian and international awards and screened in dozens of film festivals. Rod and his partner, Lesley Seebold, run Change Focus Media – producing television documentaries and educational programs. Rod is particularly interested in stories about people and their life’s journeys.)

Category Should win Probably will win
Best film Lincoln Zero Dark Thirty
Best director Ang Lee Steven Spielberg
Best actor Daniel Day-Lewis Daniel Day-Lewis
Best supporting actor Phillip Seymour Hoffman Christoph Waltz
Best actress Quvenzhane Wallis Jessica Chastain
Best supporting actress Helen Hunt Anne Hathaway
Best cinematography Kaminski (Lincoln) Claudio Miranda (Life of Pi)
Best adapted screenplay Luch Alibar & Benh Zeitlin (Beasts of the Southern Wild) Tony Kushner (Lincoln)
Best original screenplay Quentin Tarantino(Django Unchained) Quentin Tarantino(Django Unchained)

Django Unchained Foxx and Waltz

A number of people have also asked me, “What about the nominees for best foreign language film?”  Good question, I say.  The problem with those predictions is that only two of those nominees (Amour and A Royal Affair) have opened or even previewed here in Australia, so I cannot analyse the “who should win”.  My prediction there:  “Amour” will win, even though my heart is longing for Kon-Tiki.  (And what happened to the French film The Intouchables?  Amazing that film has missed out on being in the final shortlist.)

Final note on Oscar predictions:  If you are interested in the statistical analysis of who will win by noted American political pollster (538.com) Nate Silver, go to his 22 February 2013 post in the New York Times here.  This is the guy who correctly predicts almost every US Federal election in the last five years, and kept telling us that Obama was going to win, when the rest of the world doubted that.  He gives his predictions (based on his usual statistical and objective analysis) in a straightforward and most convincing way.

Interested in how successful my picks were?  Click here to see the results.

Oscar Watch: Rachel Shukert Channels Billy Crystal

February 23, 2013

The Sunday night (USA; Monday mid-day here in Sydney) Oscar ceremony is always great.  Want to read (and listen to) a fabulous ode to how Billy Crystal used to do his Oscar medley?

Click on Rachel Shukert’s article – and downloadable song with lyrics attached (February 22nd, in the online Jewish Tablet magazine) – making fun of the ten movies up for “best picture” at this year’s Oscars.  Great fun.  But one warning:  Shukert includes a number of plot spoilers.

Indigenous Australian film-makers feature in AACTA winners

February 14, 2013

The second awards ceremony of the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts – known as the AACTAs – was held here in Sydney on 30 January and broadcast on Channel Ten.

Host Russell Crowe and AACTA President, Geoffrey Rush, were joined on stage by Cate Blanchett and Nicole Kidman to honour the year’s best achievements in Australian film and television.

The big story of the night was the virtual awards sweep by the film The Sapphires.  Based on a true story, this film tells the tale of four lively young Aboriginal women who form a musical troupe and travel to Vietnam in 1968 to entertain American troops.  It has been described as “toe tapping”, “uplifting”, “energetic” and “feel-good”, and achieved an astonishing 93 percent positive rating by film reviewers, according to the Rotten Tomatoes aggregation website.

The Sapphires took home a total of eleven AACTA awards, including best film (producers Rosemary Blight and Kylie du Fresne), best direction (Wayne Blair), best adapted screenplay (Keith Thompson and Tony Briggs), best lead actor (Chris O’Dowd), best lead actress (Deborah Mailman) best supporting actress (Jessica Mauboy), and best cinematography (Warwick Thornton).

Of these, Blair, Briggs, Mailman, Mauboy and Thornton are all Indigenous – five major awards won by Indigenous people.  (The Sapphires also won AACTA Awards for Best Editing, Best Sound, Best Production Design and Best Costume Design.)

Indigenous screen stories almost swept the drama awards that night.  In the television drama category, the ABC Aboriginal series Redfern Now won two AACTAs – for Best Screenplay in Television – Aboriginal writer Steven McGregor – and best actress in a Television Drama – Aboriginal actress Leah Purcell.

Thus a total of seven Indigenous screen award winners this year.  Is this an Australian record?  I think so.

The Sapphires