Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Greatest Australian Films of All Time

No, I'm not doing another countdown, but the AFI (of which I am a member) are currently running a poll to find the five best Aussie films as voted by "You!" The five highest vote getters will be commemorated with a series of stamps (Australia has a weird obsession with commemorative stamp series, it's odd) and some of stuff I presume. They have a list of 55 Aussie films that run the gamut from genre fare such as Mad Max, Dead Calm and Moulin Rouge!, what movie critics would describe as "hard hitting dramas" like Lantana, Chopper and The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith, comedies such as The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, Ten Canoes and Crocodile Dundee, family fare like Babe and Happy Feet and some teen angst for good measure in the form of Looking for Alibrandi, The Big Steal and Puberty Blues.

Oddly though they include titles like Peter Weir's car horror flick The Cars That Ate Paris and Sirens yet exclude classic (or, at least, noteworthy) Aussie movies like Mad Max 2, Walkabout, Death in Brunswick, Cosi, Japanese Story, Children of the Revolution, Wolf Creek (in fact, the Aussie horror genre got neglected entirely), Bad Boy Bubby, Romulus My Father, Abba: The Mov... er, okay, maybe that last one was left off for a reason. Lest the AFI forget that Japanese Story and Romulus, My Father were both AFI winners for Best Film as recently as 2003 and 2007. My how quickly they forget when last year's real top Australian film, Noise (y'all know how I feel about that), was included on the list.

But, I shouldn't gripe. It's the AFI's 50th year so at least they're doing something. Nevertheless, I found it hard to round down my selections to merely a top five, but top five I did. I'm sure this would change tomorrow if I re-evaluated, but this is what I submitted:

1. Moulin Rouge! (2001, dir. Baz Luhrmann)
Because it's certainly my favourite. Sure, it is perhaps cheating in that a lot of the funding came from overseas, but it's still an Australian film and it's my favourite so no. 1 it is.

2. Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975, dir. Peter Weir)
I imagine Gus Van Sant adores this movie, don't you? It's an absolutely stunning piece of cinema. Those scenes at the rock are like some abstract beautiful ghostly poem.

3. Newsfront (1978, dir. Phillip Noyce)
It feels incredible "strayn" and proud of it, in fact I'd probably consider Newsfront one of the most patriotically Australian movies ever. Yet, it's also a fascinating film about news, the people who document it and the lengths they'll go to do so.

4. The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994, dir. Stephen Elliot)
Because apart from perhaps Flying High! no movie consistently makes me laugh as much and as hard as this film about two drag queens and a tranny driving through the desert in a big pink bus.

5. Lantana (2001, dir. Ray Lawrence)
Worldclass drama that became a phenomenon at the box office, trumped everything else come awards time, and put the industry momentarily back on the map. Proves that while American "best of" lists continue to name the same movies - routinely swapping between Citizen Kane, The Godfather and Casablanca - that we are indeed (despite popular opinion) still capable of cranking out absolute modern day classics and that we're actually a still-growing industry.

I felt sad about leaving Muriel's Wedding, The Piano, Gallipoli, Malcolm, Proof and several others off, but it had to be done.

The Herald Sun's Leigh Paatsch has done a countdown for today's Hit liftout of his 30 top Aussie films. I can't imagine why he left out Newsfront yet did include the original Mad Max (not actually that good of a movie, sequels notwithstanding) and Love Serenade (although I think I'm in the minority of not liking that film). His list can be seen below, but click over to the Herald Sun website for his comments on each.

1. Lantana (2001)
The greatest Australian film ever continues to stand as a shining example for others to follow in the future.

The many strands of an intricately-woven contemporary drama intersect at one character, a police detective whose heart is hardening under the stress of juggling the attentions of an unhappy wife and a distant part-time lover.

Some might argue there is nothing quintessentially Australian about Lantana, that it could have been made anywhere at any time.

However, the sheer perfection on display here in every department , especially the uniform excellence of its ensemble cast, the eerie resonance of Andrew Bovell's screenplay, and the textured direction of Ray Lawrence, achieves an intelligence, eloquence and emotion that showcases Australian film at the absolute height of its powers.

2. Mad Max 2 (1981)
3. Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975)
4. Rabbit-Proof Fence (2002)
5. Romper Stomper (1992)
6. Shine (1996)
7. Gallipoli (1981)
8. Muriel's Wedding (1994)
9. Breaker Morant (1980)
10. Chopper (2000)
11. Mad Max (1979)
12. The Boys (1998)
13. Love Serenade (1996)
14. The Dish (2000)
15. Dead Calm (1989)
16. Sunday Too Far Away (1975)
17. Strictly Ballroom (1992)
18. Malcolm (1986)
19. The Year My Voice Broke (1987)
20. Two Hands (1999)
21. Australian Rules (2002)
22. My Brilliant Career (1979)
23. Proof (1991)
24. Crocodile Dundee (1986)
25. The Castle (1997)
26. Noise (2007)
27. Kenny (2006)
28. The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994)
29. The Adventures of Barry McKenzie (1972)
30. Don's Party (1976) / The Club (1980)

Do you have a favourite Australian film? I'd love to hear about it. Speak up in the comments section if you're that way inclined.


par3182 said...

well, this is going to be controversial...

6. muriel's wedding
5. mad max 2
4. lantana
3. gallipoli
2. strictly ballroom
1. love serenade

FranklinBluth said...

muriel's wedding
strictly ballroom
the castle
the sum of us

i can't rank them, i love them all equally!

Adam said...

'Moulin Rouge' is very good and I'll have to seek out 'Lantana' now, but my fav is easily 'Picnic at Hanging Rock.' Still so stunning.

Kamikaze Camel said...

Par, as I said, I'm in the minority of the Love Serenade camp. I just... gah!

par3182 said...

how funny - i always think i'm in the minority for loving it so much (in fact, i don't anyone else who loves it)

Glenn said...

Well, it was very well received upon release, won an award at Cannes, it appears on lists like this and I know several others who adore it.

par3182 said...

in that case - get with the programme, glenn

Anonymous said...

1. Picnic at Hanging Rock
2. Look Both Ways
3. Lantana
4. Gallipoli
5. Muriel's Wedding
6. Proof
7. The Tracker
8. Russian Doll
9. Wake in Fright
10. Breaker Morant

Anonymous said...

Hi, nice list of Australian films but what about Dark City? It seems the list of films are all nearly commercially successful.

Eileen said...

I like many of the films listed, especially Picnic At Hanging Rock which is so beautiful and so eerie. But how about The Devil's Playground (by Fred Schepsi)deals with the strengths and frailties of life in the Catholic education system, repression and temptation, good psychological stuff. also enjoyed Summerfield suspensful and filmed so well

Felipe Arturo Miguel said...

ummm... has anyone seen Snowtown or Animal Kingdom? Those are probably both in my top 10 of ALL TIME. How about The Proposition? Even Red Hill is better than most of the movies on this list.

Glenn Dunks said...

Are you really that thick? This blog entry is from 2008. Animal Kingdom and Snowtown weren't even filmed yet you dope.

downunderjane said...



Is a highly recommended film depicting a small Australian town that hides a dirty little secret.

Sam Juliano said...

Careful He Might Hear You edges Picnic at Hanging Rock for the top spot.