A small handful of films and TV shows have dominated the 2020 Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts (Aacta) awards, with the local screen industry set to close out a havoc-ridden year by celebrating the productions that got made before Covid-19 hit.
The coming-of-age drama Babyteeth, the candy-coloured H is for Happiness, the psychological horror The Invisible Man and the film adaptation of Peter Carey’s novel True History of the Kelly Gang all make frequent appearances in the film award categories, alongside the occasional appearance of the horror Relic and the biopic of the late Helen Reddy, I Am Woman, with which they are competing for the title of best film.
The directors of all of these films, with the exception of Unjoo Moon (I Am Woman), have been nominated for the best director award.
Sam Neill’s performance in rural drama Rams and Hugo Weaving in a modern adaptation of Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure appear in the shortlist for best lead actor, alongside George Mackay (True History of the Kelly Gang), Richard Roxburgh (H is for Happiness) and Toby Wallace (Babyteeth).
International talent gets a nod in the best leading actress category, with The Invisible Man’s Elisabeth Moss and zombie comedy Little Monsters’ Lupita Nyong’o nominated alongside Tilda Cobham-Hervey for her portrayal of Helen Reddy, Eliza Scanlen in Babyteeth, and Laura Gordon in the unsettling drama Undertow.
Russell Crowe (True History of the Kelly Gang) and Ben Mendelsohn (Babyteeth) are the most high-profile nominees in the best supporting actor category, but newcomer Wesley Patten (H is for Happiness), Fayssal Bazzi (Measure for Measure) and Aaron Jeffrey (The Flood) may give them a run for their money.
Wayne Blair and Nel Minchin’s film Firestarter, about the Indigenous dance company Bangarra, was nominated for best documentary, alongside Stephen McGregor’s Captain Cook film Looky Looky Here Comes Cooky, Liam Firmager’s Susi Q, Catherine Dwyer’s Brazen Hussies, and two films from Kriv Stenders, Slim & I and Brock: Over the Top.
In the TV categories, actors in the refugee drama Stateless, the crime drama Mystery Road and sci-fi series Bloom dominated the performers’ awards categories, with Australian screen veterans Cate Blanchett, Jackie Weaver, Bryan Brown and Aaron Pedersen among those up for best lead actor and supporting actor gongs.
The award for best drama series will be decided between Mystery Road, Bloom, Wentworth, The Heights, Halifax: Retribution and Doctor Doctor.
Stateless, The Gloaming, Hungry Ghosts, Operation Buffalo and The Secrets She Keeps compete for best telefeature or miniseries.
The lockdown-inspired comedy At Home Alone Together is one of the few nods to the pandemic in the best comedy series category, nominated alongside Black Comedy, The Other Guy, Rosehaven and Upright.
The dominance of reality TV on both streaming services and free-to-air has seen the genre effectively split over four categories, including best entertainment program, best factual entertainment program, best lifestyle program and best reality program. Popular commercial shows including Lego Masters Australia, Gogglebox, MasterChef and The Block have all been nominated.
A children’s television awards category that didn’t feature the ABC’s international hit Bluey would be unthinkable, and here the cartoon about the little blue heeler puppy and her family is up for best children’s program, alongside four other ABC shows plus Little J and Big Cuz from NITV.
The national broadcaster is set to continue as the main player in the children’s television field with recent cuts to content quotas for the genre.
The Aacta awards ceremony will be held, as it is most years, at The Star casino in Sydney, but across two sittings due to reduced capacity required to meet New South Wales’ Covid-19 restrictions.
See the full list of awards and nominations on the Aactas website.