'Balloon,' 'Sky' soar at AFI noms

Titles will vie for top film, acting awards

SYDNEY -- Elissa Down's "The Black Balloon" and Peter Duncan's "Unfinished Sky" dominated Wednesday's nominations for the 50th Australian Film Institute Awards, with 11 and 10 nominations respectively.

"Balloon" and "Sky" will compete with Dee McLachlan's low-budget indie feature "The Jammed" and Nash and Joel Edgerton's crime thriller "The Square," which each received 7 nominations.

Each of the films in the best feature category will see its helmer face off in the directing category.

Three of the best film nominees mirrored their success as the top performers at the local boxoffice in a lean year, while "The Jammed," released theatrically last year but ineligible for the 2007 AFIs, won best film at last year's Inside Film awards.

Elsewhere, Noni Hazlehurst ("Bitter and Twisted"), Emma Lung and Veronica Sywak ("The Jammed") and Monic Hendrickx ("Unfinished Sky") will compete in the best actress category, while best actor nominations went to Rhys Wakefield ("The Black Balloon"), Guy Pearce ("Death Defying Acts"), David Roberts ("The Square") and William McInnes ("Unfinished Sky").

The AFI also hands out awards for Australian actors working overseas.

Nominated this year in the international actress category are Cate Blanchett ("Elizabeth: The Golden Age"), Judy Davis ("The Starter Wife"), Rachel Griffiths ("Brothers and Sister") and Nicole Kidman ("The Golden Compass"). Best international actor nominations went to Eric Bana ("The Other Boleyn Girl"), Russell Crowe ("American Gangster"), Heath Ledger ("The Dark Knight") and Jack Thompson ("Leatherheads").

In the TV categories, the Nine Network's landmark crime drama "Underbelly" dominated with eight nominations.

The AFI Awards will be handed out at a ceremony in Melbourne on Dece. 6, with the craft awards announced Dec. 5.
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