Matt's Blog

The Great Gatsby Dominates AACTAs... That's Bad


I didn’t get a chance to comment last week given the passing of Philip Seymour Hoffman but the Australian Academy Awards were recently held and the results generated some discussion on Twitter.

I am a fan of awards shows and I think they serve a purpose in promoting films and promoting the industry.  I’m also a member of the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts (AACTA) and so I do my best to see all of the nominated films and then lodge my vote accordingly.

2013 wasn’t a huge year for Australian cinema but there were a few films that made an impression.  The Rocket won the Audience Award at the Sydney, Melbourne and Tribeca Film Festival.  The Turning was a collection of short stories told over three hours (plus an interval) and was rewarded for its boldness by making more than $1 million at the local box-office.  Mystery Road was shot in Winton and earned Indigenous star Aaron Pederson a nomination at the Asia Pacific Screen Awards.

Despite the merit of these films, it was The Great Gatsby that dominated the Australian Academy Awards.  It was nominated in 13 categories and won 12 of them.  If that’s not convincing enough, it also won a special award for best visual effects (where there weren’t any other nominees).  In the other categories, The Rocket and The Turning picked up one win each.  That’s it.

The problem with this result is obvious.  If the purpose of the awards is to celebrate Australian cinema, what’s the point of giving the same film every award?  I don’t blame the people behind The Great Gatsby (it’s a decent film).  My qualms are with the AACTA voters who scrolled down the ballot paper and ticked The Great Gatsby in every category.  It made more a boring telecast.  It was like watching an AFL grand final where one team wins by 150 points.  It’s fun if you support that team but for everyone else, there’s no excitement.

It’s also worth noting that of any Australian film released last year, it’s The Great Gatsby that needs the least publicity.  It had a production budget of $100 million, an equally huge marketing budget and in the end, pulled in more than $350 million at the international box-office.  I’d have preferred to see the likes of The Rocket and Mystery Road receive a little more recognition so as to prompt audiences to hunt down these great films.

An intriguing slate of Australian films will be released in 2014 and I can only hope that next year’s awards offer up more variety.  I’ll be doing my best with my own vote!