AFI likes ‘Look’

Drama takes top prizes at Crowe-hosted ceremony

“Look Both Ways,” an intimate drama about a terminally ill man facing his mortality, collected the top prizes Saturday at the Australian Film Institute Awards here.

Sony’s Nick Cave-penned Western “The Proposition” swept the AFI’s major technical prizes, handed out separately Friday.

The 47th AFI Awards were significantly revamped from last year. Instead of a low-key show in a theater, Russell Crowe hosted a glam dinner for 800 that was taped at Central City Studios for delayed broadcast on Kerry Packer’s Nine web.

Crowe, who returned to Oz to front the kudos from the Gaul shoot for Ridley Scott’s “A Good Year,” did so because, he said, without him producer Paul Dainty would have been unable to secure a national TV slot.

With the Australian film industry in what Crowe described as a “perilous” state, the awards needed all the publicity they could get.

A relaxed Crowe joked about his recent run-in with a Gotham hotel clerk. He walked onstage carrying a chunky, old-fashioned telephone and warned winners to keep it short or “say ‘hello’ to my little friend.”

“Look Both Ways” took awards for film and for tyro director Sarah Watt, who also collected a trophy for her original script. Pic’s Anthony Hayes took supporting actor prize.

However, most thesp prizes went to the cast of Rowan Woods’ heroin drama “Little Fish.” Cate Blanchett collected actress kudos for her lead perf, Hugo Weaving won his third AFI for playing her step-dad and Noni Hazlehurst, who portrayed her mom, won supporting actress.

The producers sought to capitalize on the many high-profile Oz thesps whose careers have blossomed abroad by enlisting their help to present awards. But, except for Simon Baker, all the presentations rolled on videotape because the thesps — including Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman and Naomi Watts — were elsewhere.

Crowe also hosted the tech awards, which proved a contentious prelude to the major awards. Some tech guilds voiced concern that their awards got second billing to Saturday’s higher-profile prizes. Even Crowe went on the record against the split.

Nevertheless, a cheery crowd of 500 applauded A$20 million ($14.7 million) Aussie Western “The Proposition,” starring Ray Winstone, Guy Pearce and Emily Watson. It took nods for production design, costume design, cinematography (Benoit Delhomme) and original score (Cave and Warren Ellis). John Hillcoat’s pic has registered modest receipts of A$2 million in Oz compared to “Look Both Ways” and “Little Fish,” latter of which collected kudos for editing and sound.

However, none of those high-profile pics was the winner at the Australian Writers’ Guild Awards, or AWGIES, announced across town at the Regent Theater.

Instead, Michael Frank’s yet-to-be screened indie feature “Ra Choi,” made for just $60,000 with a cast of unknowns, took the feature film award.

Melissa Reeves’ play “The Spook” collected the Major Awgie Award and the stage script award.

Television script awards went to Louise Crane-Bowes for sudser “Home and Away,” Louise Fox for lauded feevee skein “Love My Way” and John Alsop for the 2006 miniseries “RAN.”