Arts & Entertainment


There’s a good argument that Australians shouldn’t do award ceremonies, especially when it comes to handing out gongs for film and television. The Logies have always been a questionable, controversial and at times just plain embarrassing night of accolades for the various TV networks. And the recently revamped AACTA’s still give all the appearance of a poor man’s Oscars or second rate BAFTAs.

Maybe it’s because we just don’t take our own awards ceremonies very seriously and view them as a kind of devalued currency when it comes to The Oscars. Certainly they lack the drama, the gushing acknowledgement speeches and the sheer showbiz panache of the Hollywood prizes. When it comes to production values and contrived musical numbers they still look like a bad night at the Logies circa 1975.

This year’s AACTAs were of course totally dominated by Baz Luhrmann’s Great Gatsby, which took out a staggering thirteen awards including the highly prized Best Film. The Guardian reported that “The ‘Australian Oscars’ rewarded money and international celebrity, leaving TV the only place for true local talent to shine” and went on to add “It is a somewhat embarrassing reflection of what’s important to our industry to see the significance of money and celebrity placed on the ceremony’s highest pedestal.”

Regardless of what you thought of Lurhmann’s $125 million epic, and it’s fair to say internationally critics were lukewarm in their response, it’s surely a sad indictment of the current state of the Australian film industry when one single film (and very much a Hollywood-style film made in Australia) steals all the thunder.

From the 1960s onwards the local film industry has delivered both great promise and enormous disappointment and along the way some truly memorable films however in recent years it seems we have entered the great hiatus. The success of our actors is almost entirely gauged on their ability to crack it in the American market. Despite a plethora of burgeoning young talent lauded at film festivals like Tropfest where are the low-budget indie movies that once defined the local industry?

For $125 million you could probably make between fifty and one hundred low-budget films and whilst it’s unlikely to happen, the talent that might emerge could be astounding – similar to the flood of auteur directors and filmmakers we saw in the US in the 60s and 70s, many of them graduates of Roger Corman’s school of low-budget productions.

The way the industry has chopped and changed over the past decade or so, with the big productions gifted with massive Government subsidies and small indie films shunted to the bottom of the barrel, it’s anybody’s guess where we are heading. Maybe the red carpet needs to be rolled up for a couple of years, and despite some outstanding contributions from the local TV industry, the AACTAs put on hold until we truly have something to sing and dance about.

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