'Animal Kingdom' Tops AFI Nominations

Oscar Buzz Builds for "Animal" Star Jacki Weaver

SYDNEY -- Melbourne crime thriller Animal Kingdom garnered a massive 18 Australian Film Institute award nominations Wednesday with the buzz surrounding a best supporting actress Oscar nomination for star Jacki Weaver getting stronger with the record haul.

The debut feature from writer-director David Michod was nominated in every category it was eligible for, including best director, best film, best original screenplay and best actor. It received so many nominations that presenter Cate Blanchett forgot to read it out in a couple of categories.

Animal Kingdom, made for AUS$5 million ($4.9 million), is close to earning its money back at the local  box office and has already won a strong of accolades this year including the dramatic jury prize for world cinema at the Sundance Film Festival.

U.S. distributor Sony Pictures Classic is believed to be building an Oscar campaign around Weaver, who plays the fierce matriarch of a dysfunctional underworld  family.

Its ensemble cast including Weaver, Ben Mendelsohn, Joel Edgerton, Guy Pearce, Sullivan Stapleton and Laura Wheelright scored multiple nominations in the acting categories while newcomer  James Frecheville received 2 nominations for Best Lead Actor and AFI Young Actor Award.

Weaver is up against Abbie Cornish (Bright Star), Morgana Davies (The Tree) and Charlotte Gainsbourg (The Tree) in the lead actress category, while best actor nominations went to Brendan Cowell (Beneath Hill 60) and Clive Owen (The Boys Are Back) alongside Animal Kingdom’s James Frecheville and Ben Mendelsohn.

Animal Kingdom was one of six features nominated in an expanded best feature category.

War film Beneath Hill 60, indigenous musical, Bran Nue Dae, Jane Campion’s Bright Star, Australian French co-production, The Tree and teen action blockbuster Tomorrow When The War Began will vie for the best feature award.

On the technical side the nominations for best visuals included Daybreakers, The Tree, Tinglewood and Tomorrow When The War Began.

Beneath Hill 60 was the next most recognized film for 2010 with 12 nominations in total, including AFI Members’ Choice, Best Direction and all categories across the technical awards. Other multiple nominees included Bright Star, Tomorrow When The War Began, Bran Nue Dae and The Tree.

Australians working overseas have been recognized, with Simon Baker (The Mentalist), Ryan Kwanten (True Blood), Kodi Smit-McPhee (The Road), and Sam Worthington (Avatar) in the running for AFI International Award for best actor and Toni Collette (United States Of Tara), Bojana Novakovic (Edge Of Darkness), Mia Wasikowska (Alice In Wonderland) and Naomi Watts (Mother And Child) nominated in the same category for Best Actress.

The AFI Awards, the most prestigious of the Australian film calendar, are handed out in two ceremonies in Melbourne on December 10 and 11.

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