Contemporary Australian Cinema
August 27, 2010 1:35 PM   Subscribe

What are some really great contemporary Australian films that have been criminally overlooked?

I recently watched Rogue and The Square and was blown away by both. Now I'm in a vibe for some really great Australian movies. But it turns out, I know next to nothing about contemporary Australian cinema. I'm familiar with successful art-house fare, like Walkabout, Picnic at Hanging Rock, and The Piano, but now I'm looking for lower-budget, more contemporary films made by Australians about Australian life, like Chopper or Lantana (both of which I also loved).
posted by fryman to Media & Arts (44 answers total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Allll the early Campion. Sweetie is fantastic.

If you'll settle for New Zealand, this is a must-see.

The Proposition is great, but is set in the 1880s outback.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 1:45 PM on August 27, 2010

Best answer: I have a soft spot for Emma-Kate Croghan's Love and Other Catastrophes, which is very much of its time (mid-90s college relationship comedy) but charmingly done.

He Died With a Felafel In His Hand is very different but also worth a look.
posted by holgate at 1:49 PM on August 27, 2010

Best answer: I loved the 2006 "mockumentary" Kenny:

"Director Clayton Jacobson describes the character of Kenny as "The Dalai-Lama" of Waste Management, eternally optimistic and always ready to put others before himself."
posted by ceri richard at 2:12 PM on August 27, 2010 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I really enjoyed The Sum of Us. It has a young Russell Crowe and I can't stand Russell Crowe, but the movie (and Jack Thompson) were both good enough to easily make up for it.
posted by headnsouth at 2:17 PM on August 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The 2009 film Samson and Delilah got incredible reviews and focuses on contemporary Australian life I believe, I think that it's well worth a look. Especially as it currently has a 100% rating on
posted by Spamfactor at 2:18 PM on August 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Love Supreme. Very odd little movie.
posted by adamrice at 2:37 PM on August 27, 2010

Best answer: The Castle - A cult classic in Oz
The Dish
Two Hands (Heath Ledger's breakout role)
The Hard Word
posted by TheOtherGuy at 2:41 PM on August 27, 2010 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Animal Kingdom, a superb film about a Melbourne crime family, is a must-see.
posted by impluvium at 2:46 PM on August 27, 2010

Best answer: I liked the 70s horror film Long Weekend. (Its a lot more grim than the trailer might have you believe)

I've heard good things about Red Hill which should be playing in major cities across the USA.
posted by cinemafiend at 3:07 PM on August 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Just nth-ing Kenny - it remains one of the best movies I've seen. So sweet and funny.

If you want low-budget and you don't mind comedy/horror, could I suggest " Undead? It's the only movie I've ever seen where the audience applauded the screen after a particularly excellent bit of dialogue. (Disclaimer: terrible zombie movie - not to be taken seriously but has zombie fish!).

Romper Stomper was Russel Crowe's break out movie, but don't hold that against it.
posted by ninazer0 at 3:43 PM on August 27, 2010

Best answer: Not contemporary, but The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith (1978) wasn't released in the US for decades. I saw it while on study abroad in South Africa in 2000. It's on Netflix instant watch.
posted by HeroZero at 4:39 PM on August 27, 2010

Best answer: Better Than Sex, Welcome to Woop Woop (that's one bent film!), and pretty much anything else Susie Porter has been in.

We saw Bran Nue Dae a couple of weeks ago and cynical old I loved it as much as my kids did. It's set in the '60's, though.

I also loved our version of Macbeth, starring our latest greatest export, Sam Worthington, before he took Hollywood by storm.

Oh, and for something grim and gritty, try The Jammed.
posted by malibustacey9999 at 4:40 PM on August 27, 2010

Best answer: I saw Bad Boy Bubby in 1993 and it blew me away. Very odd, though, I guess not everyone's cup of tea.
posted by snarfois at 4:41 PM on August 27, 2010

Seconding Romper Stomper. Excellent.
posted by snarfois at 4:42 PM on August 27, 2010

Yes to Romper Stomper, and also Bad Boy Bubby. Very disturbing.

More pleasant - Proof starring young Russel Crowe (again) and Hugo Weaving. The Drive In scene remains very funny.

Love and Other Catastrophes was very light but started a wave of similar films.
posted by jjderooy at 4:45 PM on August 27, 2010

Best answer: The Last Wave (now sometimes known as Black Rain, not to be confused with any of the other films so named) seems to this American to be made of real, homegrown Australian themes and subjects. Rivetting and creepy.
posted by spasm at 5:06 PM on August 27, 2010

Best answer: I second Sum of Us - makes me weep every time but I love it. Very Australian as well.

Bad Eggs and Crackerjack are heaps of fun as well but not overly realistic. They are very Australian too (humour as well as plot).

(If you're also interested in Kiwi flicks - Stickmen and Sioni's Wedding are AWESOME.)
posted by geek anachronism at 5:50 PM on August 27, 2010

Best answer: Dirty Deeds (a early Sam Worthington movie, with Bryan Brown and John Goodman having tremendous fun chewing scenery)
Gettin' Square (huh - Worthington again!)
Kiss or Kill
Garage Days
Going back a little to '86, Malcolm was great fun, too.

Oh, and although I've not yet seen it, I'm told that 1984's Razorback was actually rather good and a sign of things to come from director Russel Mulcahy. It tanked at the Australian box office, despite it being a time when Australians would still actually go to see movies made by other Australians. Legend has it that after this appearance to promote the film on Hey Hey It's Saturday the movie continued to be savaged at intermittent intervals for the remainder of the two hour broadcast by voiceover man John Blackman and the show's effects guy, and this was considered to have been a significant contributor to the film's domestic failure.
posted by MarchHare at 6:07 PM on August 27, 2010

Best answer: Oh, and (I can't believe I forgot this!): Hercules Returns.
posted by MarchHare at 6:09 PM on August 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Children of the Revolution
The Rage in Placid Lake (caution: product may contain inappropriate levels of Ben Lee)
posted by MarchHare at 6:23 PM on August 27, 2010

Best answer: Muriel's Wedding - an Australian classic, starring the very young Tony Collette and Rachel Griffiths. "

Strictly Ballroom is Baz Lurhmann's first film and by far the best.

My year without sex
is low key, sweet film that came out last year.

Wilfred is a tv series but I had to throw it any anyway as it is criminally underappreciated.
posted by Wantok at 7:11 PM on August 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

Nthing The Castle, Two Hands, and Romper Stomper. Also looking forward to checking out some of the others.
posted by dirm at 7:31 PM on August 27, 2010

Response by poster: Wow, this is really great. I had no idea about most all of these (I've seen The Dish and Strictly Ballroom. I really enjoyed both). I've queued up what I can off Netflix, but unfortunately I'm in a small American town without a decent video store, so a lot of these look hard to come by. But they're definitely on my radar now. Thanks!
posted by fryman at 7:42 PM on August 27, 2010

Best answer: > I've heard good things about Red Hill which should be playing in major cities across the USA.

I saw Red Hill earlier this evening (at London's FrightFest) and loved it. It's a classic western/revenge film, set in rural Australia. Recommended.

Other recent Australian favourites:

Lake Mungo
Samson & Delilah
Beautiful Kate
Ten Canoes
The Proposition
The Boys
Romper Stomper
Three Dollars
posted by hot soup girl at 8:47 PM on August 27, 2010

Best answer: I don't think anyone's mentioned Bliss, which is one of my favourite films.
(& btw, I loved this film called Storm Boy, but that was 23 years ago. Does anybody else remember this movie, about a boy living in a shack with his father on the wild Australian coast, who befriends a pelican? Hell I was only 5 but I remember it very well)
posted by Flashman at 9:01 PM on August 27, 2010 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Ghosts...of the Civil Dead. Written by Nick Cave and directed by John Hillcoat, so it's basically as Australian as a kangaroo sharing a Foster's with a wallaby while engaging in a constitutional monarchy with compulsory voting.
posted by Sticherbeast at 10:48 PM on August 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: It might prove tough to find, but I can also recommend Dead End Drive In, Peter Carey's Mad Max/Breakfast Club pastiche.

Less recommended is Alan Arkin and Christopher Lee in the.... somewhat unusual Return of Captain Invincible, which is choc full of little roles by well known Australian actors.
posted by MarchHare at 11:25 PM on August 27, 2010

Best answer: For how we were in the seventies, Puberty Blues.
posted by Ahab at 1:25 AM on August 28, 2010

Flashman, Storm Boy was based on the book, which was my favourite when I was a nipper. Loved the film too.
posted by Admira at 1:26 AM on August 28, 2010

Best answer: Wake in Fright is a beaut.

"Have a drink, mate? Have a fight, mate? Have some dust and sweat, mate? There's nothing else out here."
posted by Wolof at 1:26 AM on August 28, 2010

Best answer: Animal Kingdom (still in some cinemas, so no DVDs or anything yet, if you don't live here)
Beautiful Kate
The Black Balloon
Blessed (especially if you liked Lantana)
Last Ride
Look Both Ways
My Year Without Sex
posted by t-rex at 2:59 AM on August 28, 2010

Best answer: I really enjoyed Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild, Untold Story of Ozploitation! a great documentary on the Australian underground film scene.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 4:04 AM on August 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The Year My Voice Broke.
posted by mooza at 4:35 AM on August 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Seconding Proof, Two Hands, Somersault, Look both ways (what a wonderful film). The Illustrated Family Doctor had mixed reviews and apparently sank without trace here but I really loved it.
posted by Coaticass at 4:54 AM on August 28, 2010

Aw, Stormboy. What a great film. Our whole family bawled our eyes out over Mr Percival. Do watch it.
Cloudstreet, based on the Tim Winton novel, has just been filmed here in Perth. Keep an eye out for its release.
posted by honey-barbara at 7:07 AM on August 28, 2010

Best answer: Flirting - notable early roles for Nicole Kidman, Thandie Newton and Noah Taylor.

It's crap, but engagingly crap: Young Einstein, starring the inimitable Yahoo Serious.
posted by MuffinMan at 2:00 PM on August 28, 2010

Best answer: If you wanted to get weird, Spirits of the Sky, Gremlins of the Clouds might be fun. It's certainly beautiful. Here's a clip.
posted by Ahab at 12:08 AM on August 29, 2010

Best answer: I've always been fond of Siam Sunset, and I'm surprised no-one has mentioned The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert!
posted by a. at 12:28 AM on August 29, 2010

Best answer: Death in Brunswick (1991) is hardly contemporary but you might like it all the same. An absurdly black comedy starring Sam Neill.
posted by Coaticass at 5:24 AM on August 29, 2010

Best answer: No-budget production, but I rather enjoyed The Magician.

(also nths for Death in Brunswick and Malcolm. (yeah, guess which town I live in...))
posted by pompomtom at 3:53 PM on August 29, 2010

Best answer: The Interview (1998), with Hugo Weaving.

Really really really good.
posted by wilful at 5:16 PM on August 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Head On (1998).

The Big Steal (1990).
posted by wilful at 7:16 PM on August 30, 2010

Best answer: Mullet (2001). 5 stars. Depressing.

Little Fish (2005). 5 stars. Even more depressing.

Cosi (1996). 3.5 stars. Amusing, lightweight.

Ned Kelly (2003). 3 stars. Heath Ledger, Orlando Bloom, Geoffrey Rush, clanking armour, bad accents...

Spotswood (1992). 3 stars. Lightweight, early Russell Crowe.
posted by wilful at 7:27 PM on August 30, 2010

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