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The Babadook, Russell Crowe and Mia Wasikowska Score at "Aussie Oscars"

Glenn here again to look at the AACTA Awards - aka the "Australian Oscars" - which announced their annual nominations last night. Lots of big names spread across the field and some welcome nods to smaller films.

It was an expectedly big day for Russell Crowe's directorial debut, The Winter Diviner. While ol' Rusty may be miffed (justifiable? I'm not sure, I have not seen his film yet) that he missed out on a directing nomination, he surely can't be disappointed for too long since his film is scattered all over the nominations. In fact, with eight, the WWI drama received the second-biggest haul of the day. Somewhat less expected, however, was the film that leads the nomination tally: Predestination. A period-set sci-fi thriller from the Spierig Brothers (Daybreakers) that stars Ethan Hawke as a time-traveller whose life intersects with a mysterious man whose story spans time, space, fate, terrorism, love and even gender. Thankfully that refreshing lack of genre bias extended to six nods for The Babadook and The Rover. Meanwhile, more traditional dramas like Tracks, The Railway Man and Australia's foreign language entry Charlie's Country also fared very well.

Here are the nominations.

Best Film

Best Direction

  • Jennifer Kent, THE BABADOOK (interview)
  • Rolf de Heer, CHARLIE'S COUNTRY
  • Peter Spierig and Michael Spierig, PREDESTINATION
  • David Michod, THE ROVER (review)

Best Lead Actor

  • Russell Crowe, THE WATER DIVINER
  • David Gulpilil, CHARLIE'S COUNTRY
  • Damon Herriman, THE LITTLE DEATH
  • Guy Pearce, THE ROVER

Best Lead Actress

  • Essie Davis, THE BABADOOK
  • Mia Wasikowska, TRACKS

I haven't seen The Little Death, but good grief those other three women? Can we give them all trophies? They are all just so good. I suspect Davis will take it out, but they do like it when stars come home to make local films and stories. And yet, having said that, Sarah Snook is also excellent in Predestination and it would be hard to begrudge her the award for turning the rather preposterous nature of that movie into something with genuine emotional gravitas.

Best Supporting Actor

  • Patrick Brammall, THE LITTLE DEATH
  • Yilmaz Erdogan, THE WATER DIVINER
  • Robert Pattinson, THE ROVER

Best Supporting Actress

  • Erin James, THE LITTLE DEATH
  • Jacqueline McKenzie, THE WATER DIVINER
  • Kate Mulvaney, THE LITTLE DEATH
  • Susan Prior, THE ROVER

Best Original Screenplay

  • Matthew McCormack and Sophie Hyde, 52 TUESDAYS (review)
  • Jennifer Kent, THE BABADOOK
  • Rolf de Heer and David Gulpilil, CHARLIE'S COUNTRY
  • Andrew Knight and Andrew Anastasios, THE WATER DIVINER

Best Adapted Screenplay

  • Michael Spierig and Peter Spierig, PREDESTINATION
  • Frank Cottrell Boyce and Andy Paterson, THE RAILWAY MAN

I guess it should be a good sign that we are making so many more original films, however, maybe if the local industry wants to do better they should start adapting more books or plays. There's so many out there worth bringing to the screen.

Now here is where I get confused. Can we discuss for a moment what constitutes "adapted" and "original" when it comes to short films? Because The Babadook was original a short film titled The Monster (which is available to be viewed on Vimeo), but I've seen it cited repeatedly as original? What are your thoughts on the matter? Obvious Child and The Way he Looks are more examples, and I suspect we'll get more and more as filmmakers find new ways to get their name out there and producers interested.

Best Cinematography

  • Marden Dean, FELL (review)
  • Gary Phillips, THE RAILWAY MAN
  • Mandy Walker, TRACKS

If I had a say, Mandy Walker would not only already be the first female cinematographer with an Oscar nomination (her work on The Well is truly next level), but she'd be in the hunt again this year for her wonderful and evocative use of the outback landscape in Tracks.

Best Editing

  • Bryan Mason, 52 TUESDAYS
  • Simon Njoo, THE BABADOOK

A good day for Matt Villa whose resume is short, but has already graduated to the likes of Russell Crowe and last year's The Great Gatsby (for which he won). 52 Tuesdays is likely my favourite Aussie film of the year, so I'm glad it popped up in at least a couple of categories that it deserved to. I'm not trying to be a contrarian stick in the mud, but if, like me, you found Boyhood not quite as exciting as everybody is saying then please check out 52 Tuesdays. It does what Boyhood does in many ways with structure, but actually makes it about a subject worth being interested in.

Best Sound

  • James Currie and Tom Heuzenroeder, CHARLIE'S COUNTRY
  • William Ward, Andrew Plain, Grant Shepherd and Robert Mackenzie, FELONY
  • Andrew Plain, Gethin Creagh, Craig Walmsley and Colin Nicolson, THE RAILWAY MAN
  • Sam Petty, Des Kenneally, Justine Angus, Brooke Trezise, Francis Ward Lindsay and Robert Mackenzie, THE ROVER

Best Original Music Score

  • David Hirschfelder, HEALING
  • Peter Spierig, PREDESTINATION
  • David Hirschfelder, THE RAILWAY MAN
  • Antony Partos and Sam Petty, THE ROVER

Best Production Design

  • Alex Holmes, THE BABADOOK
  • Matthew Putland, PREDESTINATION
  • Jo Ford, THE ROVER
  • Christopher Kennedy, THE WATER DIVINER

The space age in 'Predestination'

Best Costume Design

  • Wendy Cork, THE BABADOOK
  • Lizzy Gardiner, THE RAILWAY MAN (remember her Oscar win?)
  • Mariot Kerr, TRACKS
  • Tess Schofield, THE WATER DIVINER

Best Feature-Length Documentary

  • THE LAST IMPRESARIO (Nicole and Naomi )

Best Short Animation


Best Short Fiction Film

  • THE iMOM

I mention those last couple of categories because they occasionally pop up on the Oscar lists. Maybe next year? Either way, it's an interesting selection of nominations. I was disappointed to see nothing for the excellent Canopy, but how can some of the best sound mixing of the year compete with The Railway Man, you know?

The winners will be announced at two ceremonies (they award TV as well so there are too many categories for one night) in late January. Some of these films have already been released in America, and Predestination is out in January. Have you seen any of the contenders? Let us know what you think.

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Reader Comments (13)

More like the Oz-cars, amiright?

I'll show myself out.

But for real, any and all attention paid to The Babadook is a wonderful thing. Definitely the movie that I'm proselytizing the most in real life for the past week. And I'm reminded that I really do need to catch up with Tracks as soon as I possibly can.

December 3, 2014 | Registered CommenterTim Brayton

My thoughts on the awards:

- THE WATER DIVINER hasn't even been released here yet (Boxing Day). It feels like Crowe has used his influence to pull some strings, and he got a "qualifying run", or somehow else bent the rules, to get his film considered for the 2014 awards.

- I am extremely proud that my country has a set of film awards this year that recognise good quality genre films in the big categories. I love PREDESTINATION but, even though I am not as big a fan as many others are of BABADOOK and ROVER, I am happy to see their success. Ten years ago (when I was a voting member of the AFI), I was extremely disappointed that the conservative baby boomers couldn't see past the violence to recognise that WOLF CREEK was one of the most accomplished Aussie films of the year, and chose to nominate the mostly forgotten OYSTER FARMER (which only got one other nom, for cinematography) in it's place for Best Picture.

- even though it's not my favourite in the category (I will be rootIng for either PREDESTINATION or TRACKS), I would be happy if BABADOOK wins, if only to maybe shame mainstream Australian audiences and distributors about not going to see or promoting a film that is currently winning awards all around the world

- I saw THE LITTLE DEATH within a week of also seeing SEX TAPE and was quite glad to see an Aussie film that treated sex in an original, quite daring and cleverly amusing way, as opposed to the Hollywood piece of shite (which is currently ranked as my worst movie of 2014)

My predictions for the main categories

- after losing four times, Pearce will finally win an AFI/AACTA this year (unless they are feeling white guilt and award Gulpilil another one)

- I thought Best Actress was Wasikowska's to lose, but now think it might go to the well-respected Davis

- Director is an interesting mix. I think they will go default to give de Heer another one.

- the supporting acting categories is where they will probably choose to award something to THE WATER DIVINER. The LITTLE DEATH actors will probably cancel each other out, and I don't think they will look at ROVER beyond Guy (unless they really want Pattinson to come to the ceremony.

I hope they're brave enough to go with PREDESTINATION for Best Film. If not, then TRACKS is a worthy film as well. WATER DIVINER ids the only one I haven't seen, but the trailer is entirely underwhelming and so I would be voting against that one personally, as well as RAILWAY MAN but, given it's lack of nominations in other categories, i think that one is just along for the ride (such a pity they didn't nominate 52 TUESDAYS in it's place)

December 3, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterTravis C

There were only four adapted screenplays eligible this year; for some reason they failed to nominate TRACKS here. The other one was I, FRANKENSTEIN - which will probably have to settle for no nominations from anyone, ever. LOL

I think THE BABADOOK screenplay is original. Let's keep Adapted Screenplay for scripts adapted from other sources like books, plays, poems etc. Not expanded from, or inspired by, short films by the same writer.

When I saw THE LITTLE DEATH, I thought it might get acting nominations, but 6! That's waaaay overstating the film's slight, sitcom-y charms. I would've kept it to Erin James, and maybe Kate Box.

Very sad to see THE INFINITY MAN not scoring a single nomination, even in Original Screenplay. And why the snubbing for FELONY? Only one sound nomination! Sure, the script had problems but the performances (Joel Edgerton, Tom Wilkinson, even Jai Courtney) were fantastic. And I was disappointed not to see Tilda Cobham-Hervey not recognised in Actress for 52 TUESDAYS. She blew me away; I can't wait to see her in other roles.

December 3, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSteve G

so happy for The Babadook though i'm disappointed that it's distribution in the States has purposefully ghettoized it. I feel like it could have been a much bigger hit had it been heavily promoted and opened wider (horror is so easily marketable)

December 3, 2014 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Travis - I believe AACTA changed the eligibility rules this year for features to now run the full calendar year instead of the old October-October. So this year's season ran slightly longer: from October last year to end of December this year. Hence two years of Boxing Day releases (THE RAILWAY MAN and THE WATER DIVINER) being eligible.

Voters could only see THE WATER DIVINER at special previews, which normally disadvantages films from nominations. In the past, WALKING ON WATER, SWIMMING UPSTREAM and WOLF CREEK all got high profile nominations but missed out on Best Picture nods at least partly because they had not been released at voting time. That meant the wider membership (that votes for Best Picture) could only have seen them in AFI preview screenings, which put the films at a disadvantage against those that had been more widely seen.

There may have been other issues with WOLF CREEK not getting up of course (a strong 2005 Picture slate, for example, plus controversy over the violence) but the timing was also a factor.

December 3, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSteve G

All The Babadook needed was someone like Guillermo del Toro to say "I'll put my name on it" to get a wide release in America. US distributors do not like to bank on first time horror directors, especially with films not set in America. Surely someone could have asked Uncle Guillermo to put his name on it. It worked for Mama and that's not half the film The Babadook is.

December 3, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRobert G

" The Babadook" looks really really scary- I hope it gets a wider release.

December 3, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJaragon

Steve, I believe that is the case with the Boxing Day thing. I think when they changed to the "AACTA" they decided to slowly transition into a calendar year thing. Movies are now viewable by all members online so if you're not in a major city to attend the member screenings you can still see them. Which, yes, is a nice change.

Travis, I don't think it'll be "white guilt" that gets Gulpilil his second (or de Heer's his second, too) statue. He did win best actor at Cannes' un certain regard after all.

December 4, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn

And I meant to say that despite those PREDESTINATION and BABADOOK nominations, nothing for the equally wonderful THE INFINITE MAN is a definitely disappointment. Not even a screenplay nomination for that wonderfully inventive script is particularly silly.

December 4, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn

I expected to see some more variance in the Australian awards this year. On the other hand, two movies, Babadook and Predestination, were really great. And what about the post-apo Rover? I expected it to become the winner. But I was apparently wrong.

December 4, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJB

No nominations for THESE FINAL HOURS?! No....! They said yes to horror, sci-fi but not disaster porn?! It's such a great film :(

I've already seen 5 of the 6 Best Film nominees, so I'm pretty chuffed. Just got to catch the Water Diviner when it's out.

Am totally behind THE BABADOOK winning all its awards! It deserves it. Directing, film and actress FTW!

Also, David Gulpilil for Best Actor for CHARLIE'S COUNTRY!

December 4, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterA Mai

David Gulpilil was good, but we've been there and done that with THE TRACKER. Whereas everybody knows that Guy equally deserves one both for the performance itself and for not having won one before. The "white guilt" thing was a bit of a throwaway line, though, but there is a bit of truth in it.

December 4, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterTravis C

A Mai, I wasn't all that surprised over THESE FINAL HOURS getting nothing. Apart from Nathan Phillips' performance, I'm not really sure where they could have nominated it. Original Screenplay was obviously already filled up.

December 5, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn

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