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AACTA Film Fest | Giles Hardie's Top Picks

Article by Nova 96.9 Managing Editor, ABC presenter, entertainment journalist, film critic and frequent AACTA Member Event host Giles Hardie.

There’s something thrilling about picking choices from a film festival. That sense of gambling on what will be good purely from promotional statements - because if they can write a good paragraph they can always make a good movie… right?

The AACTA Film Fest is such an exciting concept and the notion of there being a few to see of course confounds the very principal of informing your vote and your mind. So the short version is: SEE THEM ALL!

But in this age of time poor, echo chamber rich, online democracy, here’s a trio of the Film Fest films I have seen that I can thoroughly recommend and a trio of flicks I haven’t but can’t wait to catch at the event.


Three top flicks I can sincerely recommend


The first of two Edgerton films on the list, GRINGO finds its filmmaking lineage in flicks like ROMANCING THE STONE, LETHAL WEAPON and maybe even a little bit of CROCODILE DUNDEE! It’s crazy, it’s hysterical and it’s absolutely necessary to see it on a big screen. Nash Edgerton’s ability to juggle insane plot development with even-more-insane action is dialled up to 11 here as the writer-stuntman-director is given all the tools to go cinematically crazy and consistently torture his brother Joel in the lead role along the way.


Cheating a bit here as I’ve only seen the stage show at time of writing, but given the magical source material this smash hit Australian musical promises to be quite something on screen. Of course it won’t be for everyone - just anyone who likes acting, treasures a good coming of age yarn, loves music, grew up in Australia or ever shopped at a major department store!


Somehow the Spierig Brothers still feel like a too-well-kept secret. WINCHESTER is their passion project about a tycoon’s bonkers never-completed mansion, the spirits that haunt it and a few key nights in its insane real life history. Between Helen Mirren, Jason Clarke and the always amazing Sarah Snook it’s as hard to take a step in Winchester mansion without running into a terrific performance as it is to avoid an irate spirit refusing to cross over.


Three (OK five, I cheated) flicks I can't wait to see


Already a contentious selection, the second Edgerton brother’s film in the festival is going to spark more than a few “what is an Australian film debates”; but here’s a crazy notion: see the film and judge it on its merits before you dissect its “problematic” qualities. For me, Joel Edgerton is as exciting an Australian director, screenwriter and producer as he is an actor and I’m fascinated to see what he’ll get from this cast.


A night of stress, paranoia and romantic anxiety – it’s either going to be great therapy or undo years of it - but this voyage into the psyche of one man’s sleepless night has the potential to trigger all sorts of giggles and self-reflection.


The buzz surrounding Leigh Whannell’s psycho-horror-mind-bending-genre-buster after Melbourne International Film Festival was intense. Can’t wait to glimpse this through fingers or from behind the pillow I may have to bring along to the Film Fest just to safely watch this.


I was going to say THE MERGER but it’s the Film Fest Opening Night film so it feels like an easy pick (but still amazing) so instead I’ll plump for BROTHERS' NEST which I should have seen by now but somehow haven’t so this is that perfect opportunity. Like all of us I love Shane Jacobson but I REALLY love Clayton Jacobson and the stuff he makes with his brother. Can’t wait to see them get their dark comedic murderers on.


Martin Freeman - check. Tropfest finalist turned into a feature - check. Zombie apocalypse versus dad with an infant in a baby carrier - check. Ok, this may not have been your initial festival shopping list but it is now and as such you must see CARGO.


The feature films in competition were screened in cinema in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane during September 2018 as part of AACTA Film Fest. The films will be available for members to watch online via AACTA TV until 11 October 2018.

Please note, LADIES IN BLACK and BOY ERASED will not be available on AACTA TV. Members will have an opportunity to view these films when they are released theatrically in Australia from 20 September and 8 November respectively.

For your complete guide to the feature films competing for a nomination for the 2018 AACTA Awards presented by Foxtel, download the Film Fest Guide here (6MB).


Follow Giles on Twitter and Instagram.


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