The Baz backlash

31 January, 2014 by Don Groves

While a lively debate over the 13 Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts Awards for The Great Gatsby rages on social media, TV viewers have given their verdict on the Network Ten telecast.

The delayed two-hour show, which started at 8.30 pm, drew an average audience of 400,000 in the capital cities and a peak of 540,000. That was better than last year’s one-hour telecast which had 331,000 viewers. To be fair the AFI confirmed Ten as its broadcast partner only a couple of weeks before that so there was a lack of promotion last year.

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The show, which had a weak lead-in from Jamie Oliver's new series Save with Jamie,  was beaten by Person of Interest on Nine and Bones on Seven.

On Facebook and Twitter there was a pronounced backlash against The Great Gatsby’s domination over The Rocket. Kim Mordaunt’s low-budget Lao-set drama got 12 nominations, two fewer than Baz Luhrmann’s opus, but collected just one award, for Mordaunt’s adapted screenplay.

Perhaps the most trenchant critic is Eva Orner, the US-based, Aussie director of The Network, the documentary which profiled Afghanistan’s first independent TV operation. “Oh AACTA…what are you doing? Giving most major film awards to The Great Gatsby is just silliness,” she posted on Facebook and gave IF permission to run her quotes.

“Comparing an overblown, weak, poorly reviewed, massive budgeted studio film to some solid, tiny budgeted, meaningful Australian films is nonsensical and damaging to the Australian film industry. Makes ZERO sense to me. Gatsby may have blitzed the now meaningless AACTA awards but not faring too well where it is supposed to compete…say at the Academy Awards. I don't get it and quite frankly Baz should be ashamed stealing real "Australian" films' chances and thunder. How would he have felt if Strictly Ballroom had been shut out by a Gatsby, I wonder?

“Why is no-one else yelling about this INCLUDING and ESPECIALLY Screen Oz, Screen NSW, Film Vic, SPAA etc…What’s the point of having a heavily subsidised industry then giving all the awards to a studio film…and shame to all the great Oz films like The Rocket and The Turning?”

Orner’s comments attracted more than 60 likes and numerous supportive comments on Facebook, which suggests a groundswell of opinion in her favour. She won the  Academy Award for best documentary in 2008 for Taxi to the Dark Side and an AFI award for Untold Desires.

"On the money, Ms Orner, absolutely on the money," said Karin Altmann, head of development at ScriptWorks.

AFI/AACTA CEO Damian Trewhella tells IF he welcomes the debate over how to define an Australian film. He said the Academy follows Screen Australia's process of certifying films for the producer offset.

Trewhella declines to reveal voting figures but he said 1,500 members are eligible to vote for most categories and there was a strong response this year.

The best lead actor gong to Leonardo DiCaprio for The Great Gatsby, preferred to fellow nominees Hugo Weaving for The Turning, tyro Sitthiphon Disamoe (The Rocket) and Ewan Leslie (Dead Europe) was derided in some quarters.

“So DiCaprio is Australia's best actor? Wtf?” fumed one FB commenter, Garry Gillard.

The telecast was widely praised on AACTA’s Facebook page but there were a few dissenting voices. “Sorry guys the awards night is pretentious, unreal, false and uninspiring,” said one AACTA member. “The awful scripted autocue is just pathetic. Best [were] Delta Goodrem and Jacki Weaver… Shane Bourne's opening was just embarrassing. Get a pro event producer. We make brilliant film and TV but we can't do a decent natural, down to earth awards night.”

Said another unimpressed viewer, “I'm watching the award speeches and your camera men suck! As the awardees are making their speeches and they are referring to audience members you haven't got a camera lined up! No expressions captured from the fabulously famous stars in their seats… All we have is a portrait shot of 1 of them speaking.”

Producer Tony Buckley welcomed the reinstatement of the  Raymond Longford award in the night-time ceremony after being relegated to the awards luncheon.  He was delighted that this year's recipient Jacki Weaver  acknowledged Longford's partner Lottie Lyell, observing, "That's all the more reason to elevate the award to the Longford-Lyell and have Jacki present it next year to whomever the worthy recipient is."

The AACTA International Awards have come under fire again. One commenter vented on Facebook, “Yes AACTA has become a bit of a farce…glam events in Hollywood presenting awards to people who never entered their films (or care about getting one). How much did that cost? No wonder the entry fees are so high!”

AACTA has defended the international categories as attractive to sponsors and as a cross-subsidy to the Australian awards.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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  • eddie

    Good on you Eva. When the Producer Offset was mooted the definition of an Australian film was changed. It created the possibility that a film, owned and controlled by a Hollywood studio, directed and written by Australians and shot here but with no cultural nexus to Australia could be made here and qualify for the 40% Producer Offset. It took little time for some producers to exploit this. The Great Gatsby is just one of many Hollywood films which have ensued. The Producer Offset for Gatsby is reputed to be $40 million. The World box office is estimated at over US350 million with ancillaries now trickling through. The Australian taxpayer shares nothing in returns and there is no profit. All this was entirely foreseeable. It is deeply ironic that the same day the Federal government refused to invest $25 million in SPC Ardmona that the Great Gatsby received its AACTA awards. Perhaps the Coalition may now suggest to Warners that if it wants to make American films here with Australian creatives it can’t rely on government handouts. If it can say this to Coca Cola Amatil it can say it to Warner Bros. It is surely time for the Federal government to review why Australian film subsidy was created by a conservative government in the 1970s; to allow Australian film makers to make Australian stories. The subsidy was cultural. It is time for George Brandis to ask a few hard questions because frankly he’s been taken for a ride by Hollywood and poorly advised by his bureaucrats.

  • BK

    I can only agree with the comments by those who are critical of AACTA awards.

  • Phil Avalon

    I watched the awards, and yes, the opening presenter Shane Bourne struggled with the hosting. (I was surprised, he is normally good at that sort of thing.) Not a great start.
    Thank God for Jackie, Cate, Geoff & Jack.
    These are first class acts. Not only are they A list talent, their speeches were well thought out and beautifully presented.
    The on stage entertainment dance sequence – mind blowing- the two female vocalists, magnificent.
    I would have liked to see more audience reactions, as this was an obviouus problem. Who ever was on the podium referring to ‘so & so’ in the audience, (and there wasn’t a cut to the person)it left them….flat,embarrassed.
    Overall, a vast improvement on previous years and for me, I enjoyed the telecast. Tt certainly deserves better than the barbs that are being hurled at it today.

  • Dean Hood

    Baz pours his heart and soul into every project he takes on. The Great Gatsby was no exception. I’m proud that this was made in Australia with our talented cast & crew. It was a film made for worldwide release so talent was pulled also from around the world. The film accounted for two thirds of the yearly box office takings for Australian films. No disrespect to the other nominees but Gatsby was a highly polished film that should be awarded. It’s a difficult job getting a film funded, don’t knock Gatsby because it could source funding from Village Roadshow and Warner Bros. It doesn’t matter how much money you have to make a film, it takes talent to make it work.

  • Jessica

    oh please, spare us the brown nosing…

    if he’s such a genius then he shouldn’t need to avail himself of taxpayers money (in place of plenty of worthy upcoming film projects) for his glitzy air-headed epics…

    as usual social media says was others are too afraid to.

  • Gail

    To Dean Hood. No one doubts Baz’s passion. But in the States they have separate awards for indie films and big fanfare like the Oscars. It seems like the Gatsby flunked at the Oscars, and now come back to clean out the little guys. This is the system, not blaming on anyone, just very unfair for the smaller films involved.

  • MD

    Why on earth would gatsby, a film by an Australian film maker, employing Australian actors and crew be disqualified from the AACTA awards. It deserved to win. At least it made money and tax payers dollars were once again pissed away on non commercial indulgence.

    Without the international credibility of gatsby and the other top end Australian talent the awards would have been a very sad event. It was low rent enough as it was. Maybe consider hiring a live band or orchestra next time?? I don’t know what it was like on television there in person there were a hell of a lot of empty seats.

    The problem with Australian cinema is that it is doesn’t know whether it is art or entertainment and rarely does it find it’s audience in either area.

  • reneeb

    Lots of superbly constructed points here. Where I defend Baz is that he proved a filmmaker can make a film set anywhere in the world and in history – right here in Sydney and that gives jobs to the arts and crafted production crews who make movies here.

    No one blinks an eye when Hollywood makes a movie set in another place and time. That is the magic of movies – constructing realities and putting them to celluloid.

    And actors often portray people with accents from nations other than their own.

    Complaining that Gatsby isn’t an Australian movie is like complaining that movies set in outer space with sci-fi storylines have to be made by aliens.

    I do think it’s a shame for Australian actors that di Caprio took out the Aussie Oscar for Best Lead in a film. Where we do need to define the parameters of category like this for example, is to make it about Aussie talent.

    Or maybe do away with parochial patriotic parameters altogether. Should the Arts be regulated or operate under a free trade regime?

  • The Count

    @Eddie – excellent post, I was thinking exactly the same thing re the parrallels between Coca-Cola Amatil and Warner Brothers. The $40 million producer’s offset is nothing other than a GIFT to Bazmark/Warner Bros – that amount goes straight to their profit sheet bottom line.

    What’s more, the notion that attracting big-budget Hollywood productions to Australia will yield “trickle down” benefits for our local story tellers has been shown to be utterly wrong, time and time again. Great for technicians, perhaps, but utterly of no consequence for Australian content creators – the ones who tell Australian stories and advance our culture and national identity.

    Surely it wouldn’t be hard to impose a requirement that a production must be identifiably Australian before the producer’s offset becomes available.

  • Industry insider

    I really don’t think that one ill-informed comment on facebook about their International Awards is sufficient to call it ‘under fire’.

  • pah

    You can’t disqualify Gatsby from the awards just because it was a huge multi million dollar studio production. But clearly on a technical level there is a massive unfairness that arises when small films made for under 5 million have to compete with a 200 million dollar extravaganza. Best design, best cinematography, best costume and often best picture, can rarely be awarded to small films when competing against this.What they could perhaps do is have some budget categories for some of the awards especially many of the technical awards . Perhaps they should have two categories for some of the awards, with a budget benchmark separating them. i.e best cinematography in a film over 10 million…But that would sound too crass wouldn’t it? The reality is though that budget hugely affects what can and can’t be done artistically…

  • Eva Orner

    I just want to clarify…I have no problem with Baz, or his film winning AACTA’s if it were a good film. But a film of that size and budget, if it were good, would be picking up accolades at the Oscars, Baftas, GG’s etc. The fact that it isn’t and was critically panned, then it makes a clean sweeps at the AACTA’s devalues the AACTA’s. Just because he is Australian, it was shot in Australia and they received a huge chunk of rebate money doesn’t mean it’s a good film. There were better Australian films, more deserving of recognition, so something is wrong with either the voting system or the voters or both. The fact that noone is talking about it, is also baffling.

  • Adrien Q. Seffrin

    I don’t understand what budget has to do with an Awards’ show? I’ll bet every Film maker would love a bigger budget to realise their project. Well done Baz Luhrmann for brining one of the landmark American Novels and making it in Australia. Don’ t people realise it is only by the making of these bigger Films that is where skill sets are improved and the latest technology employed? Thereby attracting Production and making us viable in a World Wide Market. Also it was gratifying to see Technicians get paid a decent salary as opposed to some deal or profit share or Kickstqrt model where people can’t afford to perform a craft they love due to the lack of a decent renumeration. And as for Ms Orner questioning the lack of complaining from all of those Funding Agencies, maybe if there were less of them, if they were amalgamated and rationalised, then the funds supporting them, their offices, stationery, electricity etc. could be put to the intended destination.

  • Dean Hood

    Oh Jessica, be brave enough to put a surname to your ignorant post. Every film chases soft money in every corner of the world. I agree with Gail, maybe there should be a local indie awards night.