Ah, the AACTAs.
The awards show formerly known as the AFIs underwent a name change in 2011 as part of what seemed to be a push to make the trophy-giving ceremony Australia’s answer to the Oscars. They even started holding them in late January - right in the thick of the overseas awards show calendar – and an international component was introduced to put the AACTAs on the world stage.
But, the 5th Annual AACTAs reverted to being an early December event – with the technical awards handed out on November 30. The date change wasn’t the only thing that felt different from the past few years. Thanks in large part to Channel 7’s coverage, the tone of these AACTAs was more consistent with crowd-pleasing specials like the TV WEEK Logie Awards or the ARIAs than ultra-serious American ceremonies like the Academy Awards and the Emmys, which seemed to have been the aim in recent years (even if they never quite got there).
What else did we notice?
What was with the pre-show entertainment?
The shift was evident from the outset, with appearances by Australia’s Got Talent winners Justice Crew and the newest victor of The X-Factor, Cyrus. The latter performed on an outdoor stage with the most over-the-top branding ever seen on Australian TV – and it all felt a bit MTV-lite and about as incongruous as having Birds Of Tokyo and Rudimental play the show itself.
Then there were the red carpet interviews. Or red carpet promo spots more like. Given all the stars we were continually told were present, we didn’t see red carpet hosts James Tobin and Emma Freedman actually interview very many of them. We did get the first of the evening’s plugs for a stand-alone Home and Away special.
By the way, did you know there’s a stand-alone Home and Away special on Presto?
Yes, it’s a big deal for the local industry that streaming service Presto is airing a one-off Home and Away special. So big that the Netflix rival sponsored the AACTAs to get the word out – and had their logo everywhere. But did we really need the actual ceremony to grind to a halt so a trailer for it could be shown? They actually brought a pair of Home and Away stars onstage as presenters to plug it. Tacky. See also: the AACTA membership drive courtesy of Daniel MacPherson, Manu Feildel and Erik Thompson. There are more subtle ways to do things.
Where were the best drama and best comedy TV awards?
While it’s perfectly normal for awards shows to be condensed for TV broadcast, with some minor categories summarised in an “also receiving awards tonight…” package, it was very odd that Channel 7 opted not to air two of the major TV awards. Or was it?
Is it too cynical to assume that since Channel 7 programs weren’t nominated in the Best Drama Series and Best Comedy Series categories that those awards were ignored in favour of ones in which their own Peter Allen – Not the Boy Next Door was nominated (and inevitably won)? For the record, ABC’s Glitch and Shaun Micallef’s Mad As Hell took out the two absent awards.
It was the best year at the Australian box office for local movies since 2001
It’s a fact worth repeating – and it was throughout the ceremony. Home-grown films have made $85 million this year. Well done, cinema goers.
Is Sarah Snook in everything?
Yes, she is. In 2015 alone, she’s starred in The Secret River, The Dressmaker, Holding the Man, Oddball and The Beautiful Lie. She also received AACTA nominations for the first two. At this rate, she’ll receive all five nominations in both TV and film categories before too long.
Did Pamela Rabe just make an old Deborah Mailman joke?
Speaking of actresses owning a category, Wentworth’s Pamela Rabe, who won the Best Lead Actress – Drama award for her new take on classic character The Freak, made a crack about her category being “known in the trade as the annual Deborah Mailman award”. Must be an old joke – Mailman hasn’t won that award since 2003 and her last AACTA of any kind was three years ago for The Sapphires.
Was Kate Winslet using FaceTime or something what was that?
It was good of her to take the time to send an acceptance speech for her win for The Dressmaker, but did she really have to do it in the corner of her bathroom on her iPhone? Could a crew not have been sent to get something a bit more professional looking?
How difficult must it be to sit in the audience while people shower praise on you?
But like everything she does, Cate Blanchett did it flawlessly. As Hugo Weaving, Richard Roxburgh and Gillian Armstrong (who should speak at every awards show) spoke in superlatives about arguably Australia’s finest actress, the recipient of the AACTA Longford Lyell Award looked humble but deserving – a tough combination to pull off.
Blanchett drew attention to the fact that the lifetime achievement award being bestowed on her had its name changed this year from the Raymond Longford Award to also pay tribute to the work of Longford’s creative and real-life partner, Lottie Lyell.
“So often in any industry – the film industry is no exception – female achievement, because we just get on and do stuff, gets swept under the carpet,” she said in her acceptance speech. “So I think it’s fantastic the AACTA is coming into the 21st Century.”
Meanwhile, the messages from directors who have worked with Blanchett over the years were all well and good, but where was the career montage?
Ky Baldwin is a delight
As brilliant accepting his award as he was in the Peter Allen telemovie, the child star revealed the fears he’d “stuff up and everyone stops watching”. He didn’t and they didn’t – and the two-part biopic was one of the big winners at the ceremony.
Stephen Curry needs to host the 6th Annual AACTAs
Awards show patter is universally awful and everyone from Alex Dimitriades to Michael Caton struggled to sell their strained dialogue. Everyone, that is, except Stephen Curry, who was likely ad libing. He should really host one of these things.
And here comes the dog...
Would it be rude to say that the highlight of the show was the dog from Oddball chasing his tail onstage?
For a list of the AACTA winners (no room for the losers, sorry), go here.
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