How do you judge if a film is a winner?

While I eagerly wait for the nominees for best feature film in this year’s AACTA awards it so happens I have caught up with seeing all of the nominees from 2015

Last years winner Mad Max Fury Road  was not my favourite for the year, and while not everyone is expected to agree with the judges, it got me thinking about the ‘judging’ criteria I used.

An award like the Miles Franklin is awarded to a book of literary merit that presents Australian life in any of its phases. There is no criteria that requires the AACTA’s best feature film to present Australian life in particular. However, an Australian award is about supporting excellence in the Australian film industry.  I don’t think we need to be telling ‘Australian’ stories in our films – mainly because all stories are universal in some way.  My absolutely favourite Australian movie from 2014 was The Babadook which shared the Best Feature Film with The Water Diviner.  The latter is arguably a more ‘Australian’ film.  But I know I am in Australia when I watch The Babadook. It is about the accents, the house, the people, subtle things. Mad Max Fury Road could be anywhere – and in fact, much of it is shot in Namibia.  The lead actors are English and South African.  Does all this matter? Is it why I disagree with the judges. I think a little.

Here’s what I think of each of the nominees.

The Dressmaker – 3/5  I wish is was better.  I liked its quirkiness – Australia can do quirky, but the characters’ journeys felt a bit patchy – not quite realised in the action and dialogue. I liked the spaghetti western feel.

Holding the Man – 5/5 this is devastatingly good.  I can’t watch it. It makes me cry. Hold on, maybe I can watch it one more time.

Mad Max Fury Road (The Winner of Best Film) 4/5 – it looks very cool and it is exciting but essentially is just an action movie.

Paper Planes (0/5) I am embarrassed that this movie is even on the list. Dodgy editing? There were weird things going on. Even the kids in the theatre were restless.

Last Cab to Darwin (4/5) There were times when it did not quite hit the mark for me, but overall a tearjerker – you will need tissues.

So, Holding the Man was my favourite of the year. Here is the real answer to why I disagreed with the judges.

It all comes down to two things.

  1. Story: Mad Max Fury Road’s story is exciting but it did not touch me. Holding the Man is a human story of loss and love it made me feel.
  2. Execution: The Dressmaker and Last Cab to Darwin were also good stories and the latter is also about loss and love and made me feel. I am not a film maker so I don’t know how the hiccups happen. Acting a little off, script a little not quite right, editing – but something technical in each of these films took me out of the experience. That is a pity.

Meanwhile, of course, Mad Max is amazingly well made and the production design and the look of the movie deservedly won a swag of Academy Awards.  The AACTA judges chose well but not the one for me. What do you think?

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