If you took a cursory glance at the list of films nominated for the 2019 AACTA Awards, you’d be forgiven for thinking that there were only five films released this year. With The Nightingale, Hotel Mumbai, The King, Judy & Punch, and to a lesser extent, Top End Wedding, leading the nominations, one could walk away with the perception that that was it.
With that in mind, I’ve written up my predictions for what will win this years AACTA Awards, and thrown in a few ‘should have been nominated’ suggestions too. I have only considered films that were eligible for nomination, so while I would have liked to have considered films like Hot Mess or Standing Up for Sunny, they simply weren’t up for consideration to begin with.
To read all the nominees, check out the list here.
Should Have Been Nominated:Hearts and Bones
Should Win:Top End Wedding
Will Win:The Nightingale
It became clear in the moment that AACTA bent their own rules to allow
David Michod’s The King to be
considered across the board that the award was now confirmed to no longer be
about the best Australian film. It’s
been that way for a while now, with films like The Great Gatsby and Hacksaw
Ridge taking away the major prize. While I adore The King, I truly do hope that it doesn’t win the major award at
this years awards, especially when there are two truly Australian stories
deserving of the title of ‘Best Film’.
Before I touch on that, I want to mention that Ben Lawrence’s Hearts and Bones should have been in
consideration here. Both Hugo Weaving and Andrew Luri gained deserving
nominations, but it is a film that is truly deserving of a Best Film
nomination. The film wrestles with some deeply important themes, ones that are
inherently Australian, and by doing so, it turns into a profoundly moving
experience. It is a shame that it wasn’t nominated.
Of the films that were
nominated though, it’s Wayne Blair’s Top
End Wedding and Jennifer Kent’s The
Nightingale that lead the pack for me. The
Nightingale is one of the most critically applauded Australian films of the
year, and it’s that reason alone that it will win the top prize. Goodo. The
last time a Jennifer Kent film won the major award at the AACTA’s, she had to
share the honour with Russell Crowe’s turgid war flick The Water Diviner. A cruel blow.
While I admire The Nightingale,
I feel it pales in comparison to Warwick Thornton’s masterpiece Sweet Country. Plus, given that films
recent win, I can’t help but feel that we need to start looking forward in an
aspirational manner. What kind of Australia do we want to see going forward?
Shouldn’t the ‘Best Film’ be a reflection of that? Shouldn’t the award for
Australia’s greatest film prize go to the film that is distinctly Australian,
and in an ideal world, shouldn’t it also reflect Australian values?
Maybe not. I don’t think that a ‘Best Film’ needs to be so stringent as
to being that kind of moral compass, but I do feel that – this year in
particular – there needs to be an affirmation of what kind of Australia we want
going forward. The Nightingale, as
good as it is, cuts a path through the colonial history of Australia, acting
like a ritualistic blood letting for unhealed wounds.
For me, I see Top End Wedding
as the most suitable, deserving winner. It’s a joyous fare that ends with one
of the most purely optimistic and heartwarming endings I’ve seen in an
Australian film in a long time. It’s about family and love, about reconnection
to country. It is distinctly Indigenous, but it’s also purely Australian. It
maybe wasn’t the box office smash that it should have been, but that doesn’t
stop it from being a treat of a film. And, in a year when climbing on Uluru has
finally ceased, I feel we should also celebrate another positive – a romantic
comedy about the First Nations people of Australia, written, directed, and
starring Indigenous Australians.
Best Indie Film
Should Have Been Nominated: Suburban Wildlife
Should Win:Acute Misfortune
The Best Indie Film category was introduced in 2018 as a way of
recognising and celebrating the Australian films with a budget below $2
million. Jirga won that honour. In
the AFI years, Jirga or West of Sunshine or Strange Colours would have been nominated in broader fields than
just a cordoned off ‘Best indie Film’ category (I won’t dig into the irony of
it being presented by Event Cinemas, a place where it’s likely that most of the
nominees didn’t even screen). As it is, these lower budgeted films are
restricted to being tokenistic inclusions in the main event – it’s almost like
this is a ‘thanks for playing’ category.
This is even more apparent when a film like Acute Misfortune fails to get any nominations outside of this
category. Arguably one of the finest written, directed, and acted films of
2019, Acute Misfortune deserved
better than it got. Heck, all of the nominees deserved better. Personally I
would have thrown Suburban Wildlife
into the mix too – one of the most invigorating independent films to come out
of Australia this year, working as a great companion piece to the equally
independent Hot Mess – but the five
nominees are all worthy.
As much as I’d like Acute
Misfortune to win, I believe the honour will go to Buoyancy. Just like Jirga,
Buoyancy is Australia’s submission to
the International Film Award at the Oscars. With this in mind, I genuinely hope
that the Best Indie Film category at the AACTA’s doesn’t turn into a calling
card award to try and add a laurel to a film so it might be considered for a
different award further on. This is not to say that Buoyancy isn’t worthy – it’s a solid film –, it’s just at this
stage, this category feels ripe for manipulation. The AACTA’s need to ensure
that in the future, the films recognised in this category aren’t given the
short straw and ignored elsewhere like they have been this year. And, they also
need to ensure that these films aren’t discounted from the main category simply
because they had a smaller budget. With the ever changing landscape of
Australian film, and the necessity for filmmakers to make their budget stretch
further, it would be a disaster if this was the only way they were recognised
by Australia’s top film prize.
Should Have Been Nominated: Sophie Hyde – Animals
Should Win: Jennifer Kent – The Nightingale
Will Win: Jennifer Kent – The Nightingale
The Best Direction category has always been a tight category to win,
with only four nominees allowed. The four nominees for this year are all
deserving, each crafting some truly stunning work. To see two first time
feature filmmakers (Anthony Miras and Mirrah Foulkes) up for this award is
equally brilliant. With that said, I’d have loved to have seen Sophie Hyde get
a nomination for Animals. Hyde missed
out on a deserving nomination for 52
Tuesdays, and I feel she was equally deserving for the underrated Animals.
But look, as great as everyone is, this is Jennifer Kent’s award to
lose. Everyone else is deserving, but it’s Kent’s direction with The Nightingale that cements her as one
of Australia’s finest directors. Given the poor box office for her film, and
her upcoming work overseas with Guillermo del Toro, I fear that this will be it
for her in Australia, which would be a real shame as she has crafted two truly
essential Australian films.
Best Lead Actor
Should Have Been Nominated: Daniel Henshall – Acute Misfortune
Should Win: Baykali Ganambarr – The Nightingale
Will Win: Dev Patel – Hotel Mumbai
How Daniel Henshall wasn’t nominated here I will never know. Everyone is
deserving of a nomination in this category, and hats off to them for getting
one, but it’s criminal that Henshall went home lacking here.
This one is a hard category to choose as there doesn’t seem like a clear
frontrunner in the mix. I’ll cross out Herriman to start off with as he has
three nominations elsewhere and will easily win one of those. Hugo Weaving is
certainly great in Hearts and Bones,
but the lack of nominations across the board makes me feel like this is one
he’ll lose. Timothee Chalamet is impressive in The King, and maybe they’ll want to reward him here to possibly
boost his Oscar chances, but that seems like a stretch. So, it comes down to
Dev Patel and Baykali Ganambarr. It’s a knife edge, but I’m going to say that
Patel wins here, even though Ganambarr is more deserving. Both are the
emotional cores of their films, the ballast that keeps their narratives afloat.
But, it’s Patel’s Arjun in Hotel Mumbai that
has a positive ending, whereas Ganambarr’s “Billy” suffers from a gut punch of
This could go either way, and I wouldn’t be surprised if any one of
these actors won, but given that Hotel
Mumbai has thirteen nominations under its belt, I feel this is the one
award they’ll walk away with.
Best Lead Actress
Should Have Been Nominated: Laura Gordon – Undertow
Should Win: Aisling Franciosi – The Nightingale
Will Win: Aisling Franciosi – The Nightingale
If there’s any proof that voters didn’t watch many of the Indie films,
it’s here. Because, if they did, then they’d have nominated Laura Gordon for Undertow – easily one of the best
performances in an Australian film this year. Her genuine and open performance
is what makes Undertow such an
engaging, powerful film.
But look, it doesn’t matter who else is nominated in this category,
because the award is going to go to Aisling Franciosi for her overwhelming
performance in The Nightingale. There
is no performance more deserving (well, except maybe Miranda Tapsell’s
infectiously endearing performance in Top
End Wedding) than Franciosi’s intense portrayal of the brutalised Clare
seeking revenge for the death of her family. Honestly, this is one of the great
modern Australian performances, and it’s one that will be taught and referenced
for decades to come.
Best Supporting Actor
Should Have Been Nominated: Sam Claflin – The Nightingale
Should Win: Andrew Luri – Hearts and Bones
Will Win: Damon Herriman – The Nightingale
I’m surprised that given the choice of disgusting heathens to choose
from in The Nightingale, voters went
with Damon Herriman over the truly terrifying and all too real performance
delivered by Sam Claflin. Look, they’re both deserving, I’m just surprised that
they chose to nominate Herriman again. With that said, I’m equally surprised
they went with giving the blink and you’ll miss it performance from Ben
Mendelsohn in The King a nomination
over Claflin, and even over Daniel Henshall’s equally deserving co-star Toby
Wallace in Acute Misfortune. Mendo’s
gonna Mendo I guess.
With that in mind, I think this one is Herriman’s to lose. With four nominations spread across TV and Film, I feel they’ll want to reward him for at least one film performance, and this seems the most likely. Which is a real shame because Andrew Luri’s emotional performance in Hearts and Bones is the reason why people should seek out that film, and out of the nominees, it’s the best performance by far.
Best Supporting Actress
Should Have Been Nominated: Alia Shawkat – Animals
Should Win: Ursula Yovich – Top End Wedding
Will Win: Ursula Yovich – Top End Wedding
The lack of a nomination for either of the actresses in Animals feels like an afront to that film. It’s a wonderfully written, directed, and performed film, and to get no consideration across the board is perplexing. Equally perplexing is are some of the nominations here. I won’t circle them out, but I’m certain that one or two nominees could have shifted aside to give Alia Shawkat a nomination. Additionally, I’m surprised that Palm Beach didn’t receive any nominations at all. Love it or hate it, it’s undeniable that Greta Scacchi delivered a brilliant performance in the film.
Regardless, even if she were nominated, the award should still go to the
brilliant Ursula Yovich in Top End
Wedding. Yovich’s absence is felt completely throughout the film, given the
search for her takes up most of the runtime, but when we finally meet her, and
we finally get to see her with her family in the Tiwi Islands, the emotional
impact is undeniable. Ursula Yovich is a genuine delight, and the films
emotional beat hinges on her performance, and she delivers in spades. I fear
that Top End Wedding will go
unrewarded at the ceremony, but it’s in this category that it could and should
win an award.
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