Australia celebrates its Oscar winners

Columns

The Academy Award season is almost as big Down Under as in the U.S. During February, most of the nominated films are showing here and making full use of the wide media coverage. The commercial TV stations are very aware of what their audience is interested in and all channels featured the obligatory arrival fashions, then cut to video of Meryl Streep's acceptance speech and, almost as an afterthought, announced that The Artist had won Best Picture but with no images.

But the main focus was on the local winners. All Australian media covered Aussie Kirk Baxter winning an Oscar for editing The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and there was interview footage with him as well. And in New Zealand, there were major reports on Bret McKenzie (one-half of Kiwi duo Flight of the Conchords) winning the Original Song award at the 84th Academy Awards.

This year there was almost as much coverage across all media of a usually ignored honor. Koko, the dog from last year's biggest local hit Red Dog, has been recognized internationally, claiming the Best Dog in a Foreign Film prize at the annual Golden Collar Awards in Los Angeles. The Australian red cattle dog beat Laika in the French film Le Havre and the Japanese duo of Biina and Ichica in The Day the Dogs Disappeared. Koko was not there to accept the trophy, but his owner-producer Nelson Woss said: ''Koko is an Aussie bloke and, true to form, he doesn't let awards go to his head, although he was a little disappointed that the Golden Collar Award was not edible.''

Back to the Oscars: In 2006, Aussie Peter Templeton was nominated for Best Live Action Short for The Saviour. He did not win, but has now just completed his feature film debut, Not Suitable for Children, starring Aussie-made-good Ryan Kwanten (“True Blood”) as a lazy playboy named Jonah. He plays the typical Hollywood Romeo never struggling to find a bed-mate, but also never settling for just one. Jonah gets a wake-up call when he discovers a lump on one of his testicles. The romantic comedy follows his quest to find someone to mother his child while there is still time. Producer Jodi Matterson says, “It’s a traditional romantic comedy but in reverse, as Jonah crashes through his ex-girlfriends. We think he is going to end up with the ex who is the love of his life, yet we see this friendship with Stevie simmering into a relationship.” The film is about to start audience testing before a release later in the year.

Mel Gibson's newest film, Get the Gringo (previously known as How I Spent My Summer Vacation), is going direct to video-on-demand in the U.S. on May 1 without a theatrical release from Fox apart from a one off screening in Austin, Texas. Locally, Gibson's Icon Distribution will release it in Australia around the same time. The action drama revolves around a career criminal (Gibson) who is arrested by Mexican authorities and placed in a tough prison where he learns to survive with the help of a nine-year-old boy.

Aaron Eckhart (The Dark Knight) and Bill Nighy (Underworld) arrived in Australia at the end of February to join local star Miranda Otto (Lord of the Rings) in the graphic novel turned feature film I, Frankenstein. Adapted for the screen and directed by Stuart Beattie (Tomorrow When the War Began) I, Frankenstein is being shot in Melbourne over a ten-week period.

Send your Australia/New Zealand news items to David Pearce at insidemovies@hotmail.com.