This year’s much-touted Oscar nominations mark an interesting diffusion of Australian talent throughout the global film industry. Australian cinema has matured and diversified during the 1990s, earning productions such as Babe, Shine and Priscilla: Queen of the Desert wide acclaim and well-deserved Oscars. What makes the 71st Annual Academy Awards® so poignant from an Australian perspective is that, while 7 Australians have been nominated – making this one of our biggest hauls yet – none have gained their nominations from working on Australian films.
NIDA’s star graduate, Geoffrey Rush, has gained his second Oscar nomination in three years for his supporting role in the brilliant Shakespeare in Love (1998). Fresh from his Best Actor win for Shine (1997), Mr Rush is still the talk of Hollywood, but amidst a plethora of period film nominations, the clever money is on Ed Harris’s spiked performance in Weir’s The Truman Show (1998) in this category.
The exuberant Cate Blanchett, recently voted Australia’s Most Stylish award is not new to acclaim for her thespian radiance. Taking out an AFI Award for Best Supporting Actress in Thank God He Met Lizzie (1997) and numerous awards, including this year’s Golden Globe, for her work in Elizabeth (1998). Nominated for the Best Actress Oscar for one of the two acclaimed portrayals of Queen Elizabeth I to be set in celluloid during the last 12 months (the other being Judi Dench’s opulent Liz in Shakespeare in Love), Cate is a favorite to take out the award, though the princess of period, Gwyneth Paltrow, is hot on her heels.
Peter Weir, sadly, appears amongst one of the strongest fields of directors to receive nominations in recent memory. Bearing one of the most impressive oeuvres in cinema, Weir has been nominated by the Academy twice previously for his skilled direction, those being for Witness (1985) and Dead Poets Society (1989), and once for his writing (Green Card (1990)). While The Truman Show has been his most popular credit, both commercially and in international critical circles, this year has also seen the likes of Spielberg, Benigni, Madden and Malick release some of their finest works to date. The safe money is on Spielberg.
A well known Australian also makes an appearance in the Best Supporting Actress category. Rachel Griffiths, who first attracted the public imagination with her skilled comic/tragic balancing act in P.J. Hogan’s Muriel’s Wedding (1994). She received her first AFI nomination this year for Amy (1998), and her first Oscar nomination for the cerebral British work Hilary and Jackie (1998). Oscar regular Kathy Bates is the favorite here.
Australia’s Grant Hill is in the running for the coveted Best Picture statuette for co-producing The Thin Red Line (1998) with Robert Michael Geisler and John Roberdeau. While Terrence Malick’s masterful character study is a superb exercise in epic staging, logistical manipulation and post-production engineering, and well deserving recognition of this order, Academy tradition has it that one of the big guns should take out the Best Picture gong to maintain a sustained applause. This also rules out the most heartfelt film of the year, Roberto Benigni’s Life is Beautiful (1998).
David Hirschfelder’s Elizabeth score may not suffer the same fate. While he is competing with two legends of modern musical scoring, Hans Zimmer and John Williams, while also tackling Pleasantville’s (1998) only nomination, his considerate period orchestration, which ranges from the sublime to the epic, could just snare him a golden boy.
Closing our list of Aussie nominees is Paul Brincat, who acted as Sound Recordist for The Thin Red Line. Again, this is a dramatically contended category, and one in which Hollywood’s supreme production values generally win out. Still, as with all our contenders, Mr Brincat will carry the hearts of all Aussie cinephiles on his cufflink as he walks into the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion tomorrow.
Best of luck, guys.