Presenting day three of Crikey’s annual film awards, The Golden Choc-Tops, rolled out every day this week in anticipation of next week’s Academy Awards. Yesterday, sweaty rides to nowhere and the best sequel of 2010. Today — drum roll, please — the winners are…

Best Australian film of 2010

Simply going by number of bums on seats, 2010 was a strong year for Australian cinema, an industry regularly bogged down in bad press for reasons real or imagined. “Australian films are too wanky and pretentious,” is one of the common complaints. Conversely, “Australian films are too shallow and stupid” is another.

The average punter cares not one iota about the quality of their local film industry, thus the revolving door conversations from commentators about how Australian film funders need to embrace genre film making, think more mainstream, invest more in marketing, find ways to “go viral” etcetera etcetera. Therefore it’s nice to announce some positive news.

Quality-wise 2010 may not have come close to matching the bumper crop of Australian films that arrived in cinemas in 2009 (Balibo, Samson & Delilah and Mary and Max) but going purely by ticket sales it was a more successful year. For the first time in more than a decade nine Australian features earned more than $2 million at the national box office.

Top performers include Tomorrow, When the War Began ($13.5 million), Bran Nue Dae ($7.7 million), Animal Kingdom ($4.9 million) and The Wog Boy 2 (also $4.9 million). But which was the best?

Jane Campion’s Bright Star, a sumptuously shot drama spanning the later years in the life of penniless poet John Keats, was deeply romantic, equal parts beautiful and tragic. Daybreakers, an inventive vampire film from tag-team directors The Spierig Brothers, is sure to become a cult classic.

But the best and most memorable Aussie film of 2010 was also our most acclaimed: Animal Kingdom, the debut feature of former film journalist David Michôd and the film for which Jacki Weaver has been nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Academy Award.

Michôd’s Melbourne-set crime drama is essentially a portrait of a dysfunctional family, led by Weaver as the seen-it-all-before matriarch. The film would make an auspicious debut for any filmmaker, and if Michôd never tops it, a pretty decent magnum opus too.

The quality of acting in Animal Kingdom is so good even pieces of furniture seem to contribute carefully nuanced performances. According to the bookies the chances of Jacki Weaver taking home the Oscar is very slim; about the same as Leslie Nielsen rising from the grave and winning Best Director for a WWII drama told with fart sounds instead of dialogue. Still, we’ll be rooting for Weaver.

The Malcolm Tucker Award for Most Deplorable On Screen Personality

Malcolm Tucker, the foul-mouthed star of In the Loop and TV’s The Thick Of It, lives and breathes diabolical scumbaggery and the winner of the annual Golden Choc-Top attributed with his prestigious name requires nothing short of inhumane bastardy.

A bunch of veteran villains returned in 2010 to play it again, Sam and contend for the title — most notably Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas) in Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps and Freddy one-two-coming-for-you Krueger (now played by Jackie Earle Haley) in Samuel Bayer’s patchy remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street.

There were newcomers, too: Mickey Rourke slashed apart cars and buildings in Iron Man 2, Jesse Eisenberg breathed bitchy life into Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network, Sam Neil drank blood like wine as a corporate fang-toothed baddie in Daybreakers and the train in Unstoppable — Tony Scott’s action movie about, well, an unstoppable train — was also admirably diabolical.

But the Malcolm Tucker Award for Most Deplorable On Screen Personality goes to Casey Affleck for his creepy stony-eyed performance as a cool-headed Texan serial killer in Michael Winterbottom’s The Killer Inside Me. Lou Ford (Affleck) is the kind of emotionally fickle sicko who can brutally murder a person one moment then sit down to enjoy a round of cartoons and chicken wings the next.

The story tracks Ford’s romance with two women: his long term partner Amy (Kate Hudson) and his adulteress Joyce (Jessica Alba), an emotionally vulnerable prostitute. One day Ford brutally kills Joyce for no discernible reason and continues on a “why not?” trail of murders, ratcheting up the body count as if he were a participant in some deranged alternative version of Who Dares Wins.

Take a bow, Casey — but please don’t come into the office to collect your award.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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