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Where Is The Glamour? The Australian Film Institute Awards
by Michael Collins

We all know that the film making business is not all glamour, stars, bright lights, drugs and guns. But there are some occasional moments when it is precisely like that isn't there? Say like film award nights. The glamour is switched to the max and all that work in waiting, auditioning, waiting, working long days, waiting, getting over insecurities, waiting, bitching, waiting, and then some more waiting finally gets the pay off, right? Right? Efilmcritic went to find out at Australia's premier awards night, the 2001 AFI Film Awards as well as seeing Lantana scooping the film award biggies.

Held at the Melbourne Exhibition Centre - a grand old building and locale of the first Australian Federal parliament - the AFI awards had a spectacular and glamorous setting - Just the place for a glamorous film industry night. Yet as you look closer, the façade of cameras, entertainment TV spots and magazines fashion sections fall away. You are left looking at people who are doing just what lots of other people do - looking to find where might be all the glamour.

As Moulin Rouge director, Baz Luhrmann said as he entered the centre, this night was not a horse race, but a celebration of being part of a film industry that was - right at this very moment - doing some very special things indeed. It was about a country of filmmakers together creating distinct world standard movies. Well that's what he said, maybe underneath he was hoping to WIN WIN WIN, but his energy and enthusiasm is infectious and it's hard not to believe him -He is every bit as manic as his films

So the awards night was not about glamour, it was about celebration of accomplishment.

Handsome black tied men in arms with women in evening gowns sliding out of stretch limousines must be about glamour right? Well no, not when you look a little closer. Seeing in the eyes of these people and you see disdain, nerves, resignation and bewilderment. Yes, there is some excitement and even glee over the attention that is bestowed on them, yet it is overwhelmed by the feeling that a lot of these people look like they are a just spending another day at the office.

Some people looked even more stunning in person (especially La Spagnola star Lola Marceli), some not so. Others looked shockingly thin. Men pulling at ties too tight and sporting fake suntans as if they spent the afternoon with their heads in a microwave. Without the cinematography, lighting, personal stylists and touch-up make-up artists, this night was about seeing a hint of what these people are really like - even when they were trying their best to hide it.

So the awards ceremony duly presented the awards and most, if not all, the awards were presented as expected. It was no contest really.

Lantana - the emotional epic of relationships' trust and betrayal won the major awards (totaling seven in all) as everyone knew it would - and deservedly so. Moulin Rouge picked five awards in the design, editing, sound and cinematography categories. For the feature films awards, hardly anyone else got a look in.

Cezary Skubiszewski won for best original score for La Spagnola and Robert Connolly picked up an award for best original screenplay. Andrew Bovell (who co-wrote an early draft of Baz Luhrmann's Strictly Ballroom) won for best adapted screenplay for Lantana, but was oddly not given the opportunity to thank anyone for the award as it was not presented during the main ceremony. I guess it was made up for though with him winning a $10,000 prize for the script as well.

Yet this was all as expected and it hardly provided the most interesting moments of the evening.

The ceremony was all slick, professional and well planned. Lots of bodyguards, people with mobile phones, communications earpieces and one planner whispering and signalling to another.

All very considered, designed, premeditated and, well, fake and tedious.

So it is a welcome occasion when something rather unexpected happens.

The hosts - the dangerously over exposed Roy Slaven and HG Nelson (they even hosted the election coverage for heaven's sake) - jokingly said that if any of the winners forgot to thank anyone they could just interrupt and come up on stage to thank those that they initially forgot.

So, Best Actress winner, Kerry Armstrong did just that. Also during one of her speeches (she won feature film as well as television awards) she said that if the music started to interrupt her speech she would take her trophy, "and thump them with it."

Speaking afterwards about the chances of overseas success of Lantana depending on hype, she responded, "You can only hype bullshit." Reflecting her elation on the night she said that the Lantana role was important to her in terms of her film career saying, "Lantana was a rebirth for me."

She was the most relaxed, natural and delighted person there. And so she was the highlight of the night. Which is why it's not surprising that it was a picture of her that ended up on the cover of newspapers the next day.

As Armstrong was one of the ensemble cast for Lantana, she had to deal with the rather tricky issue of who should get nominated as the leads and who should be the support. For especially the women in the film, it was a lottery. Rachel Blake, winner of the best supporting actress award for Lantana said that it was a bit of an issue for the actresses in the film, but that, "It had been cleared up." Daniella Farinacci and Leah Purcell were the unlucky ones to miss out - Especially Farinacci who really nailed her role.

On the slow burning commercial success of the film, director Ray Lawrence said the film had, "touched the untapped baby boomer audiences." Although he did point out that the success was coming from all ages. He also mentioned that the gathering of the top-notch cast - including Geoffrey Rush - for the film was, "Done easily. People were falling over themselves." This demonstrated the mastery of the script.

With Lantana shovelling in the major awards, it left the dregs for Moulin Rouge. Costume and production designer and double award winner, Catherine Martin said that her husband created an atmosphere that leads to inspiration. "No-one pushes Baz," she said when asked about Luhrmann's famous energy and drive.

So this was a night of motivation, inspiration, achievement, elation, a little spontaneity in amongst the planning, and of course winning, but little glamour. So we should congratulate the winners and leave knowing about the lack of glamour in one of the most glamorous pursuits of all.

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originally posted: 11/24/01 13:49:21
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