'Animal Kingdom' Eats Competition at Australian Film Awards

Jacki Weaver Continues Awards March

SYDNEY -- Animal Kingdom, the dark tale of a Melbourne crime family and the breakout Australian feature of 2010 showed its pedigree by taking away 10 Australian Film Institute Awards on Saturday, including the top prize for best feature film.

Animal Kingdom writer-director David Michod won best director and best screenplay, best actress went to Jacki Weaver, best actor was Ben Mendelsohn and Joel Edgerton won best supporting actor.

Indeed the awards are mounting up for Weaver. The AFI nod came at the same time that she was named best supporting actress for the role as crime matriarch Janine “Smurf” Cody by the LA Film Critics Association, and follows her win in the same category at the National Board of Review in the U.S. last week.

Weaver was presented her award by Cate Blanchett after they’d come off stage in Sydney where they are both appearing in the Sydney Theatre Company’s production of Uncle Vanya.

Weaver, 63 said “now I’m ripe, it's wonderful to be reassured that I haven’t been barking up the wrong tree for 48 years in my choice of career."

The other major Aussie film of the year, teen action thriller Tomorrow When The War Began, which is sitting atop the local box office rankings with $17 million, took away two awards, winning writer –director Stuart Beattie the best adapted screenplay award, which comes with an AUS$10,000 ( $9,800) prize, and the industry award for best sound.

Beattie said that “writing and directing was the greatest joy of my career.”

He added that its been a great year for Australian films.

“Australian audiences have said we’ll come and see them, so its a great time,” he noted.

Elsewhere, Deborah Mailman won best supporting actress for her role in Bran Nue Dae and best guest or supporting actress in a TV Drama for her performance in Offspring.

The AFI Young Actor Award was presented to Harrison Gilbertson for his role in WWI drama Beneath Hill 60, while in the international categories, Sam Worthington won best actor for his role as Jake Sully in James Cameron’s Avatar and Mia Wasikowska won best actress for her title role in Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland.

If Animal Kingdom provided the focus for the AFI Awards this year, it was Australian game show king, 82-yerar old Reg Grundy who hit the awards’ emotional highpoint, accepting the Raymond Longford Award, the industry’s highest accolade, to a standing ovation and, ever the showman, shedding a small tear.

Grundy and his company Grundy Television, sold to FremantleMedia in the 1990s and the makers of quiz shows like Sale of the Century and The Price is Right and dramas like Neighbours, is still one of the most prolific producers of television internationally, at one point having 160 different programs on air around the world.

Elsewhere visual effects house Animal Logic, the makers of Australia’s first 3D film, Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole and co-producer of Happy Feet, won the Byron Kennedy Award for outstanding creative enterprise within the film and television industries.