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Great Australian films

by Katherine
In 2010 (this project is continuing into 2011), I intend to revisit (and visit for the first time!) some influential Australian films. I am interested to view these films as I think they are sadly being forgotten. One challenge is going to be getting some of them! Ideas so far, (I would appreciate more) : 1. Sunday Too Far Away (1975) Ken Hannam. 3.5. Gritty look at the life of sheep shearers in the 1950s. Much more likeable characters (rather than caricatures!) than Wake In Fright but similar themes exploring Australian masculinity. Vivid portrait of the tough life of shearers. 2. Careful He Might Hear You (1983) Carl Schultz. 4/5. This is… Read more

In 2010 (this project is continuing into 2011), I intend to revisit (and visit for the first time!) some influential Australian films. I am interested to view these films as I think they are sadly being forgotten. One challenge is going to be getting some of them! Ideas so far, (I would appreciate more) :
1. Sunday Too Far Away (1975) Ken Hannam. 3.5. Gritty look at the life of sheep shearers in the 1950s. Much more likeable characters (rather than caricatures!) than Wake In Fright but similar themes exploring Australian masculinity. Vivid portrait of the tough life of shearers.
2. Careful He Might Hear You (1983) Carl Schultz. 4/5. This is a haunting film cleverly shot from a child’s perspective. Wendy Hughes’ best role as the disturbed aunt seeking custody of her nephew. My only criticisms – the music was sometimes used in a melodramatic way that took away from the film’s tension and the usually wonderful John Hargreave’s was really hammy!
3. Breaker Morant (1980) Bruce Beresford
4. Walkabout (1971) Nicolas Roeg. 4/5. This is not an Australian film but a British one but as it is set in the Australian outback and has an Australian lead (David Gulpilil) I am including it. This film could have been shot in any other country colonised by Europeans (indeed it is based on a book set in the US where a native American saves the children). However, Nicholas Roeg has used the Australian landscape and its fauna to great effect in creating a visually stunning film about the division between traditional life and ‘civilisation’. As always, Roeg has created a haunting and imaginative film, despite some baffling plot points.
5. Kiss or Kill (1997) Bill Bennett. 4/5. One of my favourite films, film noir in the Australian desert. Frances O’Connor and Matt Day are excellent as two criminals on the run who each suspect the other of murdering the people they encounter. Bill Bennett is a very under-rated director.
6. Jedda (1955) Charles Chauvel
7. On Our Selection (1932) Ken G. Hall
8. The 40,000 Horseman (1940) Charles Chauvel
9. Malcolm (1985) Nadia Tass
10. Bliss (1985) Ray Lawrence. 4/5. Inventive, satirical and off the wall look at 1980s greed and selfishness.
11. The Devil’s Playground (1976) Fred Schepisi. 4.5/5. Schepisi’s first feature is extremely self-assured. A compelling look at the agonies of a Catholic upbringing in the 1950s. The first shot, where the camera follows the line of the river to a scene of the boys swimming is stunning.
12. The Year My Voice Broke (1987) John Duigan. 5/5. Perhaps my favourite film.
13. Shame (1986) Steve Jodrell
14. Gallipoli (1981) Peter Weir
15. The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith (1978) Fred Schepisi
16. Newsfront (1978) Phillip Noyce
17. Mad Max II (1981) George Miller
18. Backlash (1987) Bill Bennett
19. Heatwave (1981) Phillip Noyce. 4/5. Noyce’s follow up to his big hit, Newsfront. This is based on the actual disappearance (and presumed murder) of an anti-development activist in Sydney in the 1970s. Judy Davis stars in this tense, well-made thriller; the final scenes on NYE are particularly striking.
20. Lonely Hearts (1981) Paul Cox
21. Man of Flowers (1983) Paul Cox
22. Monkey Grip (1981) Ken Cameron. 3/5. Despite unlikeable characters this is a thoughtful film about partner sharing in communal houses in the 70s and how this idealistic attitude in reality just didn’t work. Noni Hazelhurst is good in one of her first major roles.
23. The Plains of Heaven (1982) Ian Pringle
24. Puberty Blues (1981) Bruce Beresford. 3/5. Hard to watch but authentic depiction of women’s position in surf culture in the 70s.
25. Wrong Side of the Road (1981) Ned Lander
26. Fran (1984) Glenda Hambley
27. My First Wife (1984) Paul Cox
28. Dead-end Drive In (1986) Brian Trenchard-Smith
29. Dogs in Space (1986) Richard Lowenstein
30. The Empty Beach (1984) Chris Thompson
31. High Tide (1986) Gillian Armstrong
32. Goodbye Paradise (1982) Carl Schulz
33. Starstruck (1982) Gillian Armstrong. 4/5. I adore this movie as I watched it about 200 times as a kid, I wanted to be Jackie Mullins! Lots of fun.
34. Sweetie (1989) Jane Campion. 2/5. I found this film supremely irritating, Campion has a propensity to caricature Australians in order to be ‘quirky’. I just find the wooden acting grating. This seemed very much a first film (which it was). Genevieve Lemon is the saving grace.
35. A Street to Die (1985) Bill Bennett
36. Back of Beyond (1954) John Heyer
37. Bitter Springs (1950) Ralph Smart
38. The Sentimental Bloke (1919) Raymond Longford
39. Ghosts…of the Civil Dead (1988) John Hillcoat
40. The Proposition (2005) John Hillcoat
41. The Shiralee (1957) Leslie Norman
42. Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975) Peter Weir. 5/5. Haunting, eerie and beautiful – and quintessentially Australian.
43. The Year of Living Dangerously (1982) Peter Weir
44. The Cars that Ate Paris (1974) Peter Weir. 4/5. Wonderfully weird and whacky, really hilarious (and revolting) in places. Peter Weir was such a talent and the late John Meillon is chilling as the demented mayor of Paris. Shot in Sofala, New South Wales.
45. The Last Wave (1977) Peter Weir
46. My Brilliant Career (1979) Gillian Armstrong. 3/5. Beautiful looking (though made on a shoe string); muted colours of the Australian landscape, not the usual blazing blue sky and red earth. Judy Davis is very good in her first screen role with Sam Neill as her leading man. I was a little disappointed that the romance was the so central to the plot (as opposed to the book).
47. The Getting of Wisdom (1978) Bruce Beresford
48. Cactus (1986) Paul Cox
49. Oscar and Lucinda (1997) Gillian Armstrong
50. Shine (1996) Scott Hicks. Not my cup of tea – 2/5. I found this to be heavy-handed and sentimental, not a big fan of Hicks.
51. Muriel’s Wedding (1994) P.J Hogan. 5/5. Fantastic film, heartbreaking and uplifting at the same time. Two great Aussie actresses, Toni Collette and Rachel Griffiths.
52. Rabbit-proof Fence (2002) Phillip Noyce. 4/5. Well-made film of an amazing story, the young child actors are great.
53. The Fringe Dwellers (1986) Bruce Beresford
54. The Adventures of Barry McKenzie (1972) Bruce Beresford
55. The Last Days of Chez Nous (1992) Gillian Armstrong
56. Dead Heart (1996) Nick Parsons
57. We of the Never Never (1982) Igor Auzins. 2/5. Pretty feeble depiction of white woman living on a cattle station at the turn of the 19th century. The film focuses on her relations with the local Aboriginal people but is prosaic and sentimental.
58. Caddie (1976) Donald Crombie. 3/5. Helen Morse is great as a single mother in 1920s Sydney. Lovely period detail, Sydneysiders will particularly appreciate the locations (Balmain, Pyrmont and Edgecliff). Perhaps a little twee at times?
59. Storm Boy (1976) Henri Safran
60. Phar Lap (1983) Simon Wincer. I was completely swept away by this film that I thought would be corny. Beautifully shot by Russell Boyd, I was really moved by the relationship between Phar Lap and his strapper (Tom Burlinson). The film also gives an insight into the cut-throat nature of the racing industry, where greed far outweighs concern for the horses’ welfare.
61. The Navigator: A Mediaeval Odyssey (1988) Vincent Ward (This film is a New Zealand-Australia co-production but Vincent Ward is 100% Kiwi).
62. Blackfellas (1993) James Ricketsone
63. Bad Boy Bubby (1993) Rolf de Heer. 5/5. This film is famous for being weird and gruesome but I actually found it very moving as Bubby develops the compassion that’s always been inside him, Nicholas Hope is amazing in the role. de Heer is admirably daring.
64. Australian Rules (2002) Paul Goldman. 4/5. Bleak but well worth it, well-made, well-acted film about race relations in Australia.
65. Ten Canoes (2006) Rolf de Heer
66. Kangaroo (1987) Tim Burstall
67. Hoodwink (1981) Claude Whatham
68. Georgia (1988) Ben Lewin
69. Winter of Our Dreams (1981) John Duigan
70. Dingo (1991) Rolf de Heer
71. Alexandra’s Project (2003) Rolf de Heer. 4/5. Rolf de Heer does it again! Daring, shocking and totally engrossing.
72. The Tracker (2002) Rolf de Heer. 4/5. David Gulpilil is wonderful though this is hard to watch at times. Beautiful looking, with striking paintings spliced in depicting the action. Good use of music. Complex, you are never told what to think.
73. Exile (1994) Paul Cox
74. Beneath Clouds (2001) Ivan Sen. 4/5. Impressive debut feature by Ivan Sen, am eagerly awaiting his next. Beautifully shot, Sen has drawn out heartbreaking performances from his inexperienced actors.
75. Death in Brunswick (1991) John Ruane. 4/5. This was sharp and very funny on my second viewing (18 years after my first). Set in the Melbourne suburb of Brunswick, Sam Neill, a hapless cook falls for a ‘good Greek girl’ and trouble ensues. Irreverent and lots of fun.
76. For Love Alone (1986) Stephen Wallace
77. Idiot Box (1996) David Caesar
78. Proof (1991) Jocelyn Moorhouse. 3/5. A little slower than I had remembered, nevertheless an interesting story examining the nature of trust. Russell Crowe is so young and so ocker!
79. The Interview (1998) Craig Monahan. 3/5. Excellent performances from two of Australia’s best actors, Hugo Weaving and Tony Martin. Unfortunately the end was anti-climactic after a tense build up.
80. Jindabyne (2006) Ray Lawrence. 4/5. This film succeeds at creating and maintaining a sense of tension and menace throughout, something Lawrence tried to do in Lantana but didn’t pull off. Based on the Raymond Carver story (featured as one of the vignettes in Robert Altman’s Short Cuts), with excellent performances all round, especially from the always top-notch Gabriel Byrne.
81. Celia (1989) Ann Turner.
82. Romper Stomper (1992) Geoffrey Wright. 4/5. Intense, well-made and acted story of neo-Nazis in suburban Melbourne. Russell Crowe is terrifying in one of his breakthrough roles.
83. Somersault (2004) Cate Shortland. 4/5. Visually gorgeous and very self-assured for a first feature by Shortland. Abbie Cornish is really heartbreaking in her portrayal of a naive young girl looking for affection through casual sexual encounters.
84. The Odd Angry Shot (1979) Tom Jeffrey
85. The Boys (1998) Rowan Woods. 4/5. So intense and so gripping, this film is very bleak but so well done it is a must-see. David Wenham’s best role as one of three brothers who rape and murder a young woman. Based on the Anita Cobby murder in Sydney in 1986.
86. Chopper (2000) Andrew Dominik. 3.5/5. Gruesome and dark but riveting. Eric Bana is superb in the role that made him famous.
87. The Naked Bunyip (1970) John B. Murray
88. Libido (1973) Tim Burstall, David Baker, John B. Murray, Fred Schepisi
89. Mouth to Mouth (1978) John Duigan
90. Between Wars (1974) Michael Thornhill
91. Pure S (1975) Bert Deling
92. Patrick (1978) Richard Franklin
93. The F.J Holden (1977) Michael Thornhill
94. Bullseye (1986) Carl Schulz
95. The Night, the Prowler (1978) Jim Sharman
96. Stork (1971) Tim Burstall
97. Evil Angels (also A Cry in the Dark) (1988) Fred Schepisi. 4/5. Gripping dramatisation of the Lindy “a dingo took my baby” Chamberlain case that whipped Australia into a frenzy in the 1980. Meryl Street is excellent as Lindy and even manages a very passable New Zealand accent.
98. Vincent (1987) Paul Cox
99. Silver City (1984) Sophia Turkiewicz
100. Blood Oath (1990) Stephen Wallace
101. The Love Letters from Teralba Road (1977) Stephen Wallace
102. The Boy Who Had Everything (1984) Stephen Wallace
103. Strictly Ballroom (1992) Baz Luhrmann. 4/5. Australian filmmakers are often accused of not being able to ‘do funny’. Well this is a funny, quirky, sweet film, Luhrmann’s best, and the one that launched his international career.
104. Cane Toads – An Unnatural History (1988) Mark Lewis
105. The Castle (1997) Rob Sitch. 4/5. Very funny and sweet (if maybe a bit condescending??).
106. My Survival as an Aboriginal (1979) Essie Coffey
107. Candy (1996) Neil Armfield. 4.5/5. Another very impressive little film from Australia. Neil Armfield, best known for his theatre direction, creates a beautiful, harrowing film about drug addiction. Heath Ledger and Abbie Cornish both deliver heart-felt, convincing performances that carry the film along.
108. Amy (1997) Nadia Tass
109. Siam Sunset (1999) John Polson
110. Backroads (1977) Phillip Noyce
111. Suburban Mayhem (2006) Paul Goldman. 4.5/5. Very impressive film from the director of Australian Rules. Kiwi actress Emily Barklay is horrifyingly good as the psychotic suburban hellraiser Kat. Slick, inventive directing by Goldman; this film packs a punch.
112. Dark City (1998) Alex Proyas. 2/5. I’m one of the few people who wasn’t impressed with this film, I was bored.
113. Metal Skin (1994) Geoffrey Wright. 2/5. Wright is a talented director but I found this film bleak and depressing and not exactly a pleasure to watch.
114. Feeling Sexy (1999) Davida Allen
115. Garage Days (2002) Alex Proyas
116. The Bank (2001) Robert Connolly. 3/5. A very good premise and a nice twist but sluggishly directed and a pretty hammy script. The music is grating and overblown. This could have been top-notch in another director’s hands. (Connolly’s Balibo is apparently very good).
117. Romulus, My Father (2007) Richard Roxburgh
118. Children of the Revolution (1996) Peter Duncan
119. Blessed (2009) Ana Kokkinos
120. Two Hands (1999) Gregor Jordan. 4/5. Fun and funny gangster flick with dear Heath (RIP) in one of his earliest roles.
121. Playing Beatie Bow (1986) Donald Crombie. 3/5. A ‘family’ movie though well-done; the period detail of 19th century Sydney is effective.
122. Animal Kingdom (2010) David Michôd. 4.5/5. Super-tense crime melodrama, Ben Mendolsohn is completely terrifying as the psychotic ‘Pope’. This bodes well for the future of Aussie film!
123. Long Weekend (1978) Colin Eggleston 1/5. I know this is one of Quentin Tarantino’s favourite Aussie films but I thought this was really pretty silly. A good premise – an Australian version of The Birds – but was just a bit tedious and unconvincing. Sorry Quentin!
124. Blackrock (1997) Steven Vider 1/5. Bad, bad, bad. Badly directed, badly acted. A grim point in Australian cinema.
125. Lilian’s Story (1996) Jerzy Domaradzki. 3/5. Based on a wonderful book I would not call this a wonderful film. The first third and last third are effective but it sags somewhat in the middle. Toni Collette’s performance is a standout as always – she is Australia’s greatest actress in my opinion.

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