AACTA nominee list sets the scene for awards season

THE AACTA Awards have continued their bid to muscle in on the Oscars action, with three of the six best international picture nominees - announced on Wednesday - yet to open in Australia but likely to figure heavily in the Academy Awards next month.

The Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts emerged in late 2011 from the Australian Film Institute - which remains its parent body - with the aim of putting Australia into ''the global conversation'' on film, which reaches its zenith in the awards season from November to February and includes the Golden Globes and the BAFTAs (the British Academy of Film and Television Arts), plus a host of lesser US awards.

There are five international categories in the AACTAs, presented in Sydney on January 30 before the BAFTAs on February 10 and the Oscars on February 24 (but after the Golden Globes, announced on Sunday night, US time).

They include awards for best screenplay, direction, actor, actress and film, with six nominees in each category.

Twelve films are up for awards, with David O. Russell's Silver Linings Playbook leading the field with five nominations and Steven Spielberg's Lincoln and Kathryn Bigelow's hunt-for-bin Laden thriller Zero Dark Thirty close behind with four each. At least seven films have an Australian connection, though in the case of Django Unchained - nominated for best screenplay - it is admittedly minor, with John Jarratt and director Quentin Tarantino making cameo appearances as a pair of transplanted 19th-century Australian cowboys in the deep south.

Naomi Watts (The Impossible), Nicole Kidman (The Paperboy) and Hugh Jackman (Les Miserables) figure in the acting nominations. Director Ben Lewin is also in the running for The Sessions.

The strong Australian presence could be read as an over-representation that raises thorny questions about how the nominations come about.

AACTA will not reveal who is on its jury of up to 12, including ''writers, directors actors and producers''. It is fair to assume its membership might feasibly include Kidman, Watts, Jackman, Russell Crowe and AACTA president Geoffrey Rush.

This story AACTA nominee list sets the scene for awards season first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.