AACTA Awards shape as a big occasion for Mel Gibson and a little-known teenager

Miranda Otto .. impressive in The Daughter. Photo: Brendan Esposito Mel Gibson directs actor Vince Vaughn (right) on the set of Hacksaw Ridge. Photo: Summit Pictures/AP
Nanjing Night Net

Hot contender for best actress: Odessa Young in .

Benedict Samuel and Sarah Snook in The Beautiful Lie, which is nominated for nine AACTA Awards.

Don’t be alarmed if you fail to recognise many of the films in contention for the country’s main film and television awards this year.

In a far cry from the box office hits in the running at the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts Awards last year – Mad Max: Fury Road, The Dressmaker, Last Cab To Darwin, Paper Planes and Oddball – this has been a quieter year for Australian films. The exception has been Hacksaw Ridge, Mel Gibson’s intense drama about a conscientious objector who becomes a hero during World War II.

You might not have seen – or even heard of – the other nominees for best film: the timber town drama The Daughter, the coming-of-age fantasy Girl Asleep, the Vanuatu tribal romance Tanna and the outback western Goldstone. But there are some strong films in there, even if they had only limited cinema seasons.

At least, as the sixth AACTA Awards take place, there are two likely hits heading for cinemas soon in the prequel Red Dog: True Blue and the emotional drama Lion. And on top of Mad Max: Fury Road winning six Oscars this year, there is a good chance Australia will have both Hacksaw Ridge and Lion in the running early next year.

The big question at the awards is whether Gibson’s return to directing will be the big winner 20 years after he collected best picture and director at the Oscars for Braveheart and 10 years after a drink-driving arrest sent his Hollywood career into a spiral. Hacksaw Ridge leads the film nominations with 13 followed by The Daughter with 10.

In the television categories, The Beautiful Lie leads the nominations with nine, followed by The Kettering Incident with eight. They are both up for best mini-series or telemovie against Barracuda and Molly, while The Code, Jack Irish, Rake and Wentworth are up for best television drama. Here’s a rundown of the main film awards …

Best original screenplay While Ivan Sen is a chance for Goldstone and Abe Forsythe for the Cronulla riots comedy Down Under – less so Damian Hill for the comic drama Pawno – the likely and deserving winners are Robert Schenkkan​ and Andrew Knight for Hacksaw Ridge.

Best adapted screenplay Of only two nominees Matthew Whittet​ is expected to win for adapting his own play for Girl Asleep from Simon Stone’s Ibsen adaptation The Daughter.

Best supporting actress With only a limited range of supporting roles for women this year, two nominees for The Daughter, Miranda Otto and Anna Torv​, are up against Kerry Armstrong (Pawno) and Rachel Griffiths (Hacksaw Ridge). Otto had the most complex and demanding role as a conflicted school teacher and nailed it. She should win ahead of Griffiths.

Best supporting actor With Alex Russell (Goldstone) and Luke Bracey​ (Hacksaw Ridge) both missing a deserved nomination, perennial awards favourite Hugo Weaving (Hacksaw Ridge) is up against Sam Neill (The Daughter), Damon Herriman (Down Under) and Mark Coles Smith (Pawno). Weaving won this award for The Dressmaker last year and for Oranges and Sunshine in 2012, in addition to his three best actor wins for Proof, The Interview and Little Fish. He deserves to win again for playing the traumatised father of a war hero.

Best actress In a year of too few strong leading roles for women in Australian film, little-known Maggie Naouri​ (murder drama Joe Cinque’s Consolation) and teenager Odessa Young (The Daughter) are up against established names Teresa Palmer (Hacksaw Ridge) and Maeve Dermody​ (Pawno). The award is likely to go to Young, who played a teenager struggling with a family crisis and is still young enough to be going to schoolies, just ahead of Palmer for Hacksaw Ridge, though both would be deserving winners.

Best actor With two strong performances surprisingly overlooked – Aaron Pedersen in Goldstone and Steve Le Marquand in the gambling addiction drama Broke – two nominees from Pawno, John Brumpton​ and Damian Hill, are up against the more favoured Ewen Leslie (The Daughter) and Spider-Man’s Andrew Garfield (Hacksaw Ridge). Leslie would be just as deserving but Garfield is the likely winner.

Best director Bentley Dean and Martin Butler collaborated impressively with a Vanuatu tribe for Tanna, Ivan Sen again proved his quality as a filmmaker exploring Indigenous themes with Goldstone and Rosemary Myers made a promising debut with the inventive Girl Asleep. But with his first film since Apocalypto a decade ago, Mel Gibson proved he is a world-class director with Hacksaw Ridge. He is both a likely and deserving winner.

Best film While Down Under deserved to be nominated, there are cases for Goldstone and Tanna to win – less so Girl Asleep and The Daughter – but the top award in Australian film should go to Hacksaw Ridge – an intense, violent and moving drama that looks much more impressive on screen than it should for its budget. After a Mad Max film dominated the awards last year, this should be the year of the actor who was the original Mad Max.

The film’s success should not stop there with Hacksaw Ridge also likely to win best cinematography, editing, sound, production design and possibly costume design.

With the craft awards on next Monday, the AACTA Awards are on Wednesday, broadcast on the Seven Network at 8.30pm.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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