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By Joshua Smith

Surprising Results at Awards
Author: Joshua Smith
Published on: December 16, 1998

Well, they've happened. What were expected to be the most exciting and creatively stimulating AFI awards ceremonies in recenmt years turned out to be, well, nothing special.

Sure, Head On, The Boys and The Interview dominated the nominations, and a surprise special appearance by man-of-the-moment George Lucas was publicised to draw in the crowds and gather the attention of the Australian contingent of cinephiles. After all was said and done, however, the awards conveyed a somewhat lacklustre glow rather than the radiant shimmer that was expected.

The critically unpopular Gillian Armstrong work Oscar & Lucinda took out five awards, beating The Boys and Head On in terms of quantity, if not quality of awards. In fact, Ana Kokkinos' audacious debut entered the ceremony with a heady 9 nominations, in a landslide that many saw as a spawning of a new age in Australian cinema. The film left the ceremony in a dishevelled heap, taking only one prize for Jill Bilcock's editing prowess.

The disappointment that surrounds the ceremony's afterglow, however, isn't simply in the years' greatest films' failure to receive the critical acclaim that they deserved - after all, The Interview did gain an appropriately enthusiastic level of appreciation - but that audiences didn't seem to be moved by the incredibly complex and exciting production exhibited by Australian artists of cinema in 1998. Even after winning the major gong for Best Film, as well as gaining acclaim for Best Actor and Best Screenplay, The Interview was hardly a commercial hit. Where I live on the Gold Coast, for example, we have nine different cinema complexes. The Interview was only shown in two, and for a limited run on both occassions. The Boys, Head On, Radiance and Amy suffered a similar fate, revealing that while the critical perception may be gaining in enthusiasm in its reporting of the latest developments in the Australian film industry, audiences remain cautious in their own appraisal.

In any case, word-of-mouth should guarantee that these films succeed during their video release, but due to their less than sensational results at the box-office, it remains a challenge for inspired Australian independent filmmakers to raise the funds necessary to create stylistically innovative films that tackle significant issues surrounding the continuing formulation and solidification of our multi-faceted national identity.

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