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The AACTA Awards: Baz 13 – Aus nil

Last night a coterie of celebrities kitted-up in their finest suits and gowns and walked the red carpet at the Australian film industry’s “night of nights”: the 2014 AACTA awards. The so-called Ozcars was broadcast (with a time delay and a nip and tuck in the editing room) on Channel 10 at 8.30pm. And boy, the sights we saw.

Lara Bingle and Sam Worthington made their first official red carpet debut! Geoffrey Rush was there! So was Cate “shoo-in for an Oscar this year” Blanchett! Jacki Weaver too! And Jack Thompson! And Shaun Micallef! And Rove McManus, the guy who used to host that show where he talked to people! And Delta Goodrem! And Baz Luhrmann, who got a spectacular balloon-filled tribute dedicated just to him! So many blemish-less celebrity noggins! Such a great showcase of Australian talent!

And the awards themselves? A triumphant, fittingly nationalistic celebration of our country’s finest filmic performers. The latest patriotic instalment in the history of a ceremony created in the late 1950s “as a way to improve the impoverished state of Australian cinema”.

Mission accomplished. Take, for example, the recipient of the AACTA’s Best Lead Actor Award. This man is a great Australian actor who starred in a movie based on a great Australian script, produced by and for Australians. Something we can all celebrate as an outstanding achievement in true-blue cinematic art. Something worthy to put in Darryl Kerrigan’s proverbial pool room.

But hang on a sec, let’s rewind. The winner of the 2014 AACTA award for Best Actor didn’t actually go to an Australian actor. It went to bloke named Leonardo DiCaprio. You may have heard of him; he’s kind of a big deal in Hollywood.

Most of the budget of the squillion-dollar film he starred in, The Great Gatsby, was financed by an American studio. The major roles in it were given to A-list overseas actors: Leo, Tobey “Spiderman” Maguire and Carey Mulligan. The screenplay was an adaptation of a revered novel by one of the most celebrated American authors. The topic was — wait for it — the American Dream.

DiCaprio wasn’t the only person from The Great Gatsby to win an award. Luhrmann’s glitter-dowsed spectacle scooped the AACTA ceremony with a record-equalling 13 gongs including Best Film, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress. How did we get to this point? How did a film that is self-evidently not Australian dominate the Australian film industry’s night of celebration?

First, there’s the money. In the dying days of Kristina Keneally’s New South Wales government, desperate to be seen to be supporting local industry, the production was given generous offsets totalling around $80 million. That’s a lot of moolah — but less than 40% of the film’s production budget.

Second, there’s the argument that if a considerable chunk of money came from our pockets, it’s our film. Sure, the Australian government’s donation was generous. But so was the offset given to George Lucas’ Star Wars prequels, which were also shot in Sydney. Thirdly, The Great Gatsby features a large portion of Australian cast and crew. Again, so did Star Wars.

The bald truth? By awarding a Hollywood movie the highest of accolades — giving it wins in every category it was eligible for bar one — the AACTAs made themselves look farcical. Perhaps that is no easy feat given the event’s tacky three-year-old acronym (before it was known as the far more distinguished-sounding AFI Awards) which is regarded with sneers and chortles in the Australian film industry. An actor winning an AACTA — geddit?

As the official AACTA Twitter account put it: “we’ve really Bazzed up our ceremony this year”. Indeed, you did. “That tribute to Baz started to get a bit embarrassing towards the end,” wrote The Guardian’s Vicky Frost. “I haven’t cringed as hard at anything in a long time as that Baz Luhrmann musical tribute,” tweeted critic and author Mel Campbell. “And so beginneth the public felating of Baz,” quipped Triple J’s Marc Fennell.

To the AACTA: yep, you guys sure did Baz up the ceremony. If that was your intention, you nailed it. But in the process you did something else: you betrayed the very ideals on which your event was founded. Did the 2014 show really improve “the impoverished state of Australian cinema”?

Of course not. Did it kowtow to Hollywood and give a shot in the arm to an industry so big and burgeoning it wouldn’t even notice the injection? You betcha.

17 responses to “The AACTA Awards: Baz 13 – Aus nil

  1. In one word/phrase “neocon-american colonialism-zionism” c/o their little pseudo aussie mates downunder ‘johnny howard, abbott, and co [gillard & faceless men included] in the form of a so-called Australian political party called the liberals’.

  2. I loved The Turning. It was an amazing achievement, and I recommend that everyone sees it. And The Rocket was fantastic! Loved Satellite Boy and Mystery Road!

    Australian cast and crew really want to work on Australian films (unless they want to be HOLLYWOOD stars and get paid squillions), but we are just not making enough films. I work in the industry, and see the same faces around. The same faces that need work to pay their bills.

    Tell a bloody good story and you will make money.

    And if I had the money, I would start my own cinema chain, and screen Australian content for longer, as well as show other media, host forums and networking opportunities, and make it all accessible to the public and industry practitioners.

    Awards ceremonies are just marketing and advertising tools. The best award is for the production to make its money back and make a profit, after being being seen by Australians and the rest of the world.


  3. AFI | AACTA Board of Directors. Interesting to note that there is only one Board member who is actively involved in hands on film production, Noni Hazelhurst. Alan Finney has had wide experience but no longer active in production. The remaining Board Members are fringe-dwellers. Honorary Councillors are not named. It would be wiser to place these roles in the hands of practicing filmmakers, who can take advise from fringe-dwellers when required. It is no coincident that BAFTA was brought into line to precede the Oscars to build ‘excitement’ for the main event. It is ludicrous to suggest that AACTA is in the same league, especially since our industry is in constant disarray.

  4. The problem wasn’t so much the money that went to make this piece of trailer park trash but what went into advertising it. Unlike the Truly Australian productions it was rammed down our throats till we threw up then rammed down again. I heard almost nothing about the other movies.

  5. That’s what happens when the arts, in all categories, become the plaything of market forces. That’s why an Efficiency Enquiry into the ABC and SBS is suss.

  6. Great, another michelin star for the Baz turd sandwich press.

    Unsurprising really, since the all Australian awards committees are bogus and slanted. Not that it matters. If you’re still of the belief that geographical barriers mean anything culturally anymore you’re about 10 years behind the times, I’m afraid.

  7. As with all Baz movies, this is a shocker… kitsch, gaudy, and certainly not Australian. And why would anyone re-make The Great Gatsby. The original was dull. It is not a good yarn.
    I was producer for the ABC on earlier AFI Awards (precursor to these so-called Ozcars) back in the 1990s and the ceremony was a real Australian affair featuring our finest talents… what has our movie industry become? Where are our writers?
    On another note, how could a director produce a film, Moulin Rouge, where actors couldn’t even pronounce it? MoulOn Rouge? Back to the US Baz, where you belong…

  8. Universally panned by critics, mourned by literary enthusiasts, completely ignored worldwide by Awards Ceremonies… even Rotten Tomatoes has it at 49%.

    The movie is a dog and we just handed it the only 13 (Thirteen??!!!) awards it will ever get. Our charity is boundless. If they shoot a Vince Vaughn movie down here that will clean up next…

  9. Not going to make any comments on the quality (or not) of the film, because that’s not the point you’re making. And on that, whilst tellingly you missed out 2 Australian actors in leading roles in the film, who also both won awards (Joel Edgerton, and Elizabeth Debicki), you also ignored the fact that the creative team behind the film were Australian as were the crew. So, if for a moment we accept for the sake of argument, that the film has sufficient merit, even if celebrating the acting of Leo DiCaprio does seems a little perverse, it is equally perverse not to celebrate the roles of Joel Edgerton, Elizabeth Debicki, Baz Lurhman, Catherine Martin, Craig Pearce, Catherine Knapman, and the many Australian crew? Are they not a showcase of Australian talent? You can’t deny they are Australian! Or do you just cringe at the film, the creative team, their work or these actors or their work, too much?

  10. The Australian film industry reached its lowest ebb last night at the ACCTA’s, an event ostensibly to applaud the best in Australian film and television. It antecedents lie with the Gorton government introducing Federal subsidy in the 1970s for Australian film and television production which saw the first wave of some wonderful Australian films, Australian stories. For over thirty years the subsidy has kept coming and the definition of an Australian film was clear, indeed clarified by the judges in the Federal Court.

    But all this changed in 2006 when George Brandis introduced the Producer Offset which gave a 40% tax rebate for an “Australian film”. The definition of an Australian film was changed and opened the door to making Hollywood films here, with no cultural nexus to Australia if the director and writer (or even co-writer) was Australian and cast elements and crew elements satisfied the Australian test. As a result The Great Gatsby is rumoured to have received $40 million in a tax rebate. The amount is subject to tax confidentiality. The NSW government then added its grant subsidy, another undisclosed, commercial in confidence deal.

    So what has happened is that a cultural subsidy for Australian film and television has now become a manufacturing subsidy for Hollywood, a non recoupable grant. John Gorton would be rolling in his grave.

    It is unclear whether the above was George Brandis’ intention. But like all subsidies the lobbyists will now crank up a gear to prevent a redefinition of an Australian film which stops the Australian taxpayer subsidising Hollywood. The irony of The Great Gatsby subsidy should not be lost on Federal Cabinet, SPC Ardmona and its workers. The government refused to support a $25 million restructure grant for a company which has massive infrastructure and a mass of farmers and contractors supplying goods and services. Film making is quite different and Hollywood has a roaming brief to search for subsidy worldwide, making a film where it suits it. The contractors lurch from one film to another. Perhaps it is time for the Federal government to ask just what kind of a film industry it wants and what stories it is prepared to subsidise. Perhaps now manufacturing subsidy has become an even dirtier word than cultural subsidy. But there is no doubt even Barnaby Joyce would prefer Red Dog to The Great Gatsby.

  11. After watching the Baz version, I rewatched the old one, I couldn’t believe how similar…the same scenes were shot the same way, same angles what did Baz do that made it noteworthy? The acting performances were comparable.. but why remake a film unless you are going to improve/add to/refocus on some part of the story. Disappointed again by Bazmanship.

  12. Too true, Luke.

    But sadly the AACTA (yuk!) farce is also a reflection of the more insidious and broader trend towards the Americanisation (that’s with an ess, Liza!) of all things Australian.

    Little Rotten Johnny has shitloads to answer for in selling the farm and it’s livestock (us) down the river in the great American Free Trade Swindle under his wretched watch. Try looking at the tube anytime and at the predominantly yank ads carelessly and arrogantly dubbed with Oz accents and real bad lip sync that are pervading and dominating our airwaves. Try telling young Aboriginals that they really have more important things to do than ape dubious Afro-American chauvinist, homophobic, dumbed down, materialistic, violent ghetto ‘culture’. Elder’s hearts are breaking at rampant self-serving individualism displacing community action and cohesion when so much needs still to be done from within Koori community to ensure Aboriginal equality and cultural recognition.
    The intervention by an American media tycoon in the last Oz election beggared belief and the list goes on and on.
    A pox on Baz’s multiple AACTAs!

  13. I agree that the competition is extremely lopsided when vastly smaller budget local productions are judged alongside a behemoth that is mostly studio financed.
    The Academy may be challenged to ensure a fairer system of entry criteria
    What annoys me is that feature films get 90% of all the media coverage – mostly uninspired writing from the same old hacks every year who have little or nothing to say.
    The significantly more interesting and competitive area is the very unsexy documentary category which receives the biggest number of entries and is therefore a much more interesting pool of work and mostly comparable in budget. Australia produces many superb documentaries which just don’t get the coverage in the media or the recognition deserved at awards ceremonies.
    I despair when every year I see the same old stuff cringing in the media about celebrities – its been done a thousand times before and is not entertaining or useful in any way. Have a look at the film awards in every other country outside the US and UK – everyone does the glittering TV even modelled on the Academy Awards etc. Most are a lot worse than the AACTA’s.
    So, a gentle reminder that there are so many extremely talented people working in film and television. Get the readers eyeballs by rising above the obvious, and focus on the genuinely interesting work being done out there.

    1. Completely agree baz is apart from strictly ballroom a massively over-hyped director who is genuinly embarrassing to australian art [australia for instance].
      Whats so bad is Baz Lehrman has big lobby in australian cinema/film circles that have completely relegated all the really brilliant and much smarter acting and directorial performances of australian television of late which is such a shame. Because so many of them have been completely brilliant only lacking the showeyness or the advertising backup someone like Baz gets for his output.
      Nevertheless australian cinema and especially its small screen productions on television are second to absolutely no one.

      “Hideous an erotic art world tale” and “AWAKE [by an elephant in the room]” by greg hoey out on amazon and lulu


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