Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Australian Films of 2009

Hey guys, I thought I would bump this entry back to the top. It proved to be quite popular - I'm still getting emails from people asking about certain titles - and new information has come to hand in relation to release dates and title changes for certain movies listed below (thanks mostly to immeasurably helpful Inside Film).

At the start of this new year I thought I'd put together a list of the Australian films that may be coming our way (and if they're good enough, your way too!) in 2009. Australian film production is iffy though, and distribution is even worse. Films can be announced and then not a word is heard (Cedar Boys) until they magically get released into cinemas to the cries of "how did it fail?" (2008's The Tender Hook etc), while others are filmed and then not a single word is heard about them for months or in some cases up to a year (Long Weekend, In Her Skin, Beautiful Kate). And then there are titles that just don't get released at all outside of festivals (Corrobboree). It seems that unless you're Rolf de Heer (Ten Canoes) no Australian filmmakers is capable of making more than one film every few years and there's no guarantee even the most successful debut director will be able to get a greenlight for a second picture. Lack of funding is generally a key reason, but there is more to it.

So while a lot of these movies may indeed be finished this year, they could take anywhere up to three years to even see the light of day! I did, however, try and choose titles that are towards the end of production or already in post and have sites that imply they will be coming out soon. You can bet ya bottom dollar that a few will go direct-to-DVD (I'm looking at you Crush), but thankfully there are quite a few promising titles from high profile directors such as Sarah Watt, Fred Schepisi, Ana Kokkinos, Scott Hicks, Bruce Beresford and Adam Elliot while notable Australian performers like Eric Bana, Radha Mitchell, Anthony LaPaglia, Geoffrey Rush, Miranda Otto and Melissa George have all "returned" to Australia to make Aussie films. I routinely say that more "average movie-goers" would be more willing to see the films our industry makes if the filmmakers went to any effort at all to get people to go and getting somebody of relevance in your cast if probably the next best thing to actually having a movie people might want to see. We may just see a few box office hits this year! And, yes, a whole lot of these titles will probably appear next year if I do this list then, too. Oh well. Such is life.

$9.99 (dir. Tatia Rosenthal) - Australian/Israeli co-produced animated title. Already shortlisted for the Academy Awards' Best Animated Feature category. Only an unforeseen distribution disaster could prevent it from being seen in 2009.

Accidents Happen (dir. Andrew Lancaster) - Geena Davis stars in this Australia/UK co-produced comedy. Australians like comedy. Has had test screenings so should be coming out way later in the yeah.

Acolytes (dir. Jon Hewitt) - Aussie teen thriller that is apparently gunning for a March release and has already won prizes at MUFF. I can't see Aussie kids planting down $12 for this, but stranger things have happened. My MIFF review can be found here.

Animal Kingdom (dir. David Michôd) - Sounds like it could be impressive and has a good cast, but will probably not be ready until 2010.

Balibo (dir. Robert Connolly) - One of my regular gripes about the Australian film industry is that it is, for some reason, incredibly reluctant to revisit our history as a means of film ideas. Sure, there have been movies about Gallipoli and Kokoda and Ned Kelly gets repeated again and again, yet for a country that had a hand in so many important moments in history all filmmakers seem to want to do is make yet another movie about miserable lower-class drug users and the like. Hopefully this one is good and a hit and maybe they'll cotton on.

Beautiful (dir. Dean O'Flaherty) - A thriller that I think is being aimed at teenagers, but I'm not entirely sure. I recently loved the poster. Has screened for media and will be out in the first half of 2009.

The Beautiful and the Damned (dir.Richard Wolstencroft) - Based on a book by F Scott Fitzgerald (he's popular lately, isn't he?) this movie stars nobody you have ever heard of and I have no idea about a release.

Beautiful Kate (dir. Rachel Ward) - Has a great cast - Ben Mendelsohn, Bryan Brown, Rachel Griffiths, Maeve Dermody - but the story sounds a bit on-the-nose. It's all very "when i was growing up my family was terrible, but now I must make amends because death is all around us" etc. Will get a release due to the cast and crew pedigree (it is Rachel Ward's first feature-length movie after a few shorts) and has been in post-production for a while now so it should arrive soon.

Belladonna (dir. Annika Glac) - An Australian/Polish co-production that I've been excited about for a while. It's apparently very "different" and will appeal to about five people total and has a sense of the avant garde about it. The official website offers a hint of how beautiful it may be. Screenings begin in February although I am unaware of a general release date as of yet.

Blessed (dir. Ana Kokkinos) - Deborra-Lee Furness, Miranda Otto and Frances O'Connor will probably do their best (and I do await Furness' performance especially) but Kokkinos' films generally aren't my cuppa either way so we'll see if this becomes a critical champ like the queer Head On or the overtly wanky pretentious arty claptrap like Book of Revelation. Kokkinos is one of those directors who will always get her movies released whether or not they're a) any good or b) make any money.

The Boys are Back in Town (dir. Scott Hicks) - Most likely a 2010 film, although it is being distributed through Miramax and BBC Films and, unlike many Australian production companies and distributors, they know how to get a film out on time instead of having it languish for anywhere up to three years. Stars Clive Owen.

Bran Nue Day (dir. Rachel Perkins) - Another likely 2010 title is this indigineous road trip musical starring Jessica Mauboy, Geoffrey Rush, Missy Higgins and Deborah Mailman. Recently discussed here. No way it won't go theatrical whenever it is available. Should pop up in 2009 thanks to it's place on the MIFF Premiere Fund.

Bright Star (dir. Jane Campion) - A title of great expectation. It's a co-production between Australia, USA, UK and France so it definitely has all bases covered and stars Abbie Cornish with Ben Whishaw, Kerry Fox and the wonderful Paul Schneider. Could be major and it has a cute website.

Cedar Boys (dir. Serhat Caradee) - I remember hearing about this title over a year ago - Rachael Taylor was riding high on the success of Transformers I believe - and yet nothing since. Haven't seen a poster or any promotion at all. Where has it gone? This IMDb forum entry is particularly funny for anybody who knows Australian culture.

Charlie & Boots (dir. Dean Murphy) - Gunning for an October release is this road comedy starring Paul Hogan and Shane Jacobson. Could be huge if it's any good, especially when you consider Hogan's last film was the dreadful Strange Bedfellows and even that was bonza at the box office.

Coffin Rock - Aussie/UK thriller. Sounds ridiculous.

The Combination (dir. David Field) - Sounds like it deals with very similar territory to Cedar Boys - rage-fueled ethnic violence in the Aussie suburbs - but this one is directed by the actor David Field so it piques my interest a little bit more. Has a great poster - even if it does glorify everything people complain about within the industry - and the trailer, below, is actually very good at getting me (at least) involved. And, no, it doesn't explain the title. IMDb claims a late February release so here's hoping they get a move on and crank out some mainstream marketing.

Corroborree - I am still hoping this film, which screened at MIFF in 2007, gets a release of some kind this year. I emailed the producer recently and he said there weren't any distribution plans as of the moment so things aren't looking too good, despite some great festival word-of-mouth.

Crush (dir. Jeffrey Gettison & John V Soto) - Teen-oriented thriller starring Christopher Egan and Emma Lung. It'll nice to see the very talented Lung in full on bunny boiler mode, but I have no idea why anybody would think tae kwon do is a cinematically friendly sport. Could easily go direct-to-DVD.

Daybreakers (dir. The Spierig Brothers) - Aaand yet another horror flick that has been completed filming for well over a year. It'll come out eventually as it has a great cast (Willem Dafoe, Sam Neill, Claudia Karvan, Ethan Hawke and Vince Colosimo). Hopefully the Spierig Brothers (Undead) haven't botched it up big time for their American financiers.

Devil's Gateway (dir. Alexander Herget) - Another one of those done-dirt-cheap horror titles that will most likely appear on DVD at some point with only the barest of theatrical releases if any at all.

Disgrace (dir. Steve Jacobs) - I'm anticipating big things for Steve Jacobs' (La Spagnola) adaptation of JM Coetzee's novel after it screened to great acclaim at Toronto. It could easily turn into a Ray Lawrence-size hit and I'm even going to go out on a limb and predict John Malkovich for an Oscar nomination. That poster, not sure what nationality it is, is gorgeous, isn't it?

Ektopos (dir. Ben Shackleford) - An Australian sci-fi film? I am so there. It's shocking how little the genre has been utilised here outside of Farscape and Rolf de Heer's Epsilon. Not sure when it'll come out though.

Closed for Winter [aka Elise] (dir. James Bogle) - Natalie Imbruglia is apparently impressive in this film, which is yet another title that I've read snippets about for a very long time, yet have never seen a shred of marketing material for. I am a big fan of James Bogle's last movie, the 1998 thriller In the Winter Dark so I look forward to this title. Has since changed it's title to Closed for Winter, the title of the book to which it is adapted from.

The Gates of Hell (dir. Kelly Dolen) - Yet another Aussie horror flick that seems to be languishing about not getting released. This time they all speak in American accents!

Lucky Country [aka Home] (dir. Kriv Stenders) - Director Stenders won me back a bit with Boxing Day after the torturous The Illustrated Family Doctor so I'll be very interested with what he does with this, apparent, western thriller. Screens at AIFF next month. Changed it's title from Home to Lucky Country, a good move I say. One must suspect that at least someone learned a lesson from the mistakes made by The Square.

The Horseman (dir. Steven Kastrissios) - I so hope this film manages to get a release. I definitely think it's worth it. If the film's only virtue was Peter Marshall's astonishing performance then it'd be worth it, but luckily there's more to it.

In Her Skin (dir. Simone North) - It's hard not to think this movie starring Guy Pearce, Sam Neill and Miranda Otto has been shelved. It's definitely been over two years since it was announced and yet not a single shred of publicity. I saw a still over a year ago, that was it. No, seriously!

The Last Confession of Alexander Pierce (dir. Michael James Rowland) - A big step up from the pleasant-but-dull Lucky Miles, Rowland's film detailing the infamous Tasmanian cannibal settler is actually airing on TV this month, but early word suggests it's cinematic in every way. Looking forward to it! Will hilariously go by the title Cannibal Convict in America.

Last Ride (dir. Glendyn Ivin) - Director Ivin won prizes at Cannes and the AFI for the short film Cracker Bag (although I really didn't like The Desert) and now moves into features with this film starring Hugo Weaving, who at least doesn't have to worry about too many people remembering his terrible performance in The Tender Hook since barely anybody even saw it. The trailer looks hypnotizing and it's looking promising. I believe this premieres at AIFF considering it was made through their development fund.

Long Weekend (dir. Jamie Blanks) - Having seemingly been in production for eons, surely Jamie Blanks' second Aussie horror flick in as many years will (after Storm Warning went direct-to-DVD in 2008) get a release of some kind.

Love the Beast (dir. Eric Bana) - Bana somehow gets Dr Phil and Jay Leno to talk about his car in this documentary that is set to come out in the first half of the year. Could give Bra Boys a run for its money in the Highest Grossing Australian Documentary stakes. Opens on March 12.

The Loved Ones (dir. Sean Byrne) - Horror flick with a great tagline - "You Don't Have to Die to Go to Hell" - and starring Victoria Thaine, who along with Emma Lung and Saskia Burmeister is one of this nations best up-and-comers, and Xavier Samuel, one of my favourite rising male talents. I guess it helps that he's definitely nice to look at, ey? Set to be released at the end of the year, but with so many fright titles popping up on this list it's not hard to realise some won't be making it. At least not theatrically, anyway.

Mao's Last Dancer (dir. Bruce Beresford) - Could be popular, an Australian production set in China by well-known director Bruce Beresford. Stars Kyle McLachlan, Bruce Greenwood, Joan Chen and Amanda Schull. Will probably be out towards the prestigious end of the year.

Mary & Max (dir. Adam Elliot) - Let's hope Adam Elliot gets a hit out of this Sundance-approved claymation effort featuring the voices of Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Toni Collette, Geoffrey Rush, Eric Bana and Barry Humphries. Out in April and I can't wait as it's been getting some stellar reviews at Sundance.

My Year Without Sex (dir. Sarah Watt) - This will be a title I'll be paying close attention to. Sarah Watt's feature debut was the excellent Look Both Ways - one of the finest Australian films of the decade - and this sophomore effort stars Sasha Horler (who was great in her tiny Look Both Ways role - and Matt Day, but no word yet on when we should be seeing it on our screens, but it premieres at AIFF.

No Through Road (dir. Sam Barrett) - See Devil's Gateway and Gates of Hell and... and...

Offing David (dir. Jeff Bays) - Still seeking distribution as far as I'm aware so might randomly pop up at some point... or maybe not.

Playing for Charlie (dir. Pene Patrick) - This GLBT-themed (I think, did I read that right all those months ago?) sport film played at MIFF as well as Sydney and was in competition at the Rome Film Festival. It is set for release in mid 2009. It's a "coming of age" tale, which is horrifying to say the least.

Prey (dir. Oscar D'Roccster?) - Yet another movie that has seemingly been in the news for a very long news and yet doesn't seem to be getting released. That the film's director has changed (at least on the movie's IMDb profile) from well-known George Miller (of Man from Snowy River fame, not Mad Max) to somebody called Oscar D'Roccster (surely a fake name) with no other credits to his name is probably indicitive of studio wrangling and unhappy producers. Why can't they release it? Don't they realise Australia wants to see Natalie Bassingthwaighte chainsaw a man's face in half? DON'T THEY?!?

Prime Mover (dir. David Ceaser) - Has screened at previews to yawns. I'd say it would go direct-to-DVD if it weren't for the impressive cast (Emily Barclay, William McInnes, Andrew S Gilbert, Lynette Curran) and that David Ceaser seems to get his movies released despite them not being any good.

Samson and Delilah (dir. Warwick Thornton) - Award-winning short director and cinematographer Thornton directs this indigenous-themed drama. Yet another Aussie film to premiere at AIFF.

Storage (dir. Michael Craft) - Thriller starring Robert Mammone and the ever-improving Saskia Burmeister. Has had special screenings so should be out in one form or another this year.

Subdivision (dir. Sue Brooks) - It will be very interesting to see what Sue Brooks does with her first film since Japanese Story. It stars Brooke Satchwell, Bruce Spence, Gary Sweet, Denise Roberts and Aaron Fa'aoso so it sounds good right there. Will be released in August.

Three Blind Mice (dir. Matthew Newton) - The best Australian film I saw in 2008 was actually this movie that is being released in 2009. Matthew Newton (becoming one of this country's finest multi-hyphenates) stars, writes and directs this tale of three war-bound men on their last night in Sydney. It's really stunning and apparently has distributors circling like they oughta be.

Triangle (dir. Christopher Smith) - Most likely a more high-profile horror title compared to the others on the list. The director of well-liked British horror comedy Severance takes the reigns on this Melissa George-starrer. The poster is good and could post some solid figures when it is released later in the year, unless it proves to be a total dud in terms of quality in which case it'll go direct-to-DVD.

Two Fists, One Heart (dir. Shawn Seet) - It probably won't be hard for this film to improve upon 2008's boxing disaster The Tender Hook, but this is the Australian film industry we're talking about here and the trailer's penchant for sickening title cards like "FAMILY" and "LOYALTY" don't illicit much enthusiasm. It's set for release in March.

Van Diemen's Land [aka Hell's Gate] (dir. Jonathan Auf Der Heide) - The third film in a short period to deal with the tale of Alexander Pearce (after last year's Dying Breed and the upcoming TV movie The Last Confession of Alexander Pearce) is actually a feature-length adaptation of the 21 minute student film that Heide made - or at least that's how I think it works. Was previously titled Hell's Gate. I'd recommend everybody go check out the teaser trailer at the official website. It. Is. a. Bloody. Corker. That final image - and that amazing tag line - are absolutely going to appear in my nightmares. I've already watched it several times. I also love the shot of the men appearing out from the edge of the frame, running towards camera. Great stuff!

The Waiting City (dir. Claire McCarthy) - Another movie likely to still be in post-production come 2010, I am looking forward to this already as it sounds good just from the initial news that has come out about it. Stars Joel Edgerton, Radha Mitchell and Isabel Lucas as a couple (Edgerton and Mitchell) travel to India to get their adopted child.


richardwatts said...

Brilliant list - I don't dare imagine how long it took to pull together something so exhaustively hyperlinked!

Anonymous said...

How about Daybreakers?

Paul Martin said...

I was thinking of you yesterday, Glenn, as I was having a late lunch in Cocco lounge, having spent half the day at Adventure Park. But, not having your contact details, I left town without saying hi.

My thoughts on the list above:

Corroborree - the director or producer contacted me prior to MIFF 2007 and asked if I'd be interested in viewing a DVD screener. I emailed back yes, but heard nothing. Meanwhile, Matt at Esoteric Rabbit raved about it and when I emailed again, I still heard nothing. It's all a mystery to me. I don't know why they bothered to contact me in the first place.

Disgrace - Jacobs' wonderful La Spagnola had the distinction of opening on September 11, 2001. It should have done well, and I look forward to this new film.

Home - I agree with your comments about Stenders, but I liked TIFD more than you, by the sounds of it.

Mary & Max - I'll see anything by the exuberant Mr. Elliot.

Three Blind Mice - agreed, best local film of 2008. Everyone should see this.

Glenn said...

I don't live in Geelong anymore, Paul. Although I am very familiar with Cocco. Me and my friends love that little place. That's very strange about Corroborree. I asked about it to the email address on the production site and the person who responded (tne director or producer) seemed oddly unresponsive to the fact that somebody was legitimately interested in their movie. Very odd.

Anon, added. Thanks, I had indeed forgotten it (who can blame me though!)

Richard, surprisingly it wasn't that labourious!

Paul Martin said...

So, Glenn, you're in Melbourne now? We should catch up at a film sometime. I'm going to a media preview tomorrow 10am in Carlton if you want to come with. If you're interested, email me and I'll give you the details.

The weird thing about Corroborree was that I was responding to their request, but they never followed up when I agreed to it.

Edward Gein said...

Hi Glenn... we all want Nat and the chainsaw and friends let loose.... It's timing the release with her busy schedule and other bits to maximize exposure and awareness (a rare ingredient in local releases I know). Kudos to your great list and great blog. We will be announcing USA and OZ cinema release dates shortly...and we hope and are supremely confident everyone thinks it's worth the wait (based on screening two weeks ago to rapt audience). In the meantime--final poster and bits.. . Cheers, bobby

Glenn said...

Don't care to explain the reason why George Miller has taken his name off of the project?

Edward Gein said...

Hi Glenn, yep--a pleasure. When principal photography ended we (the producers) had strong discussions and arguments with the original director about how the film was to be cut and posted. It had been a very challenging shoot (but then again what shoot isn't? ) We were adamant that the original premise of a PG-13 (ostensibly "M" in OZ) rated sexy/scary supernatural fantasy romp a la PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK meets TWIN PEAKS would be retained. The original director wanted a slowly paced gore-fest and in his cut did not have the tone, tension, or key scenes or feel that we had made SUPREMELY clear was necessary for the highest commercial product from the beginning. Having seen every shot and every daily we were keen that our vision be maintained. We were also adamant about posting at Pete! Ford's Resolution Independent Studios under the masterful visual hand of Scott Zero and having editor Geoff Hitchens re-edit the film to suit our requests. Miller; whether unwilling or unable to comply, chose to walk. The film was successfully cut to our specs and desires, and all the VFX and CGI and soundscape/design brilliantly and painstakingly completed with Oscar d'Roccster in at the end and he is the director of record. Whether people love it, like it or don't warm to it--it's a very intense and fun escapist 90 minutes such as hasn't been seen in Oz in a long long time and we're confident the target audience demographic will fucking love it. Alls well that ends well.. :)

Glenn said...

Big thanks for the input! I like supernatural fantasy romps!

But who, pre tell, is this Oscar d'Roccster. No offense intended, but it sounds incredibly fake. Is he like some guy going by an alias like Jimmy "Fuck You, Jim Schembri" The Exploder?

Edward Gein said...

He's the real deal. A friend from back in Los Angeles who's been working in Europe and US since the 80's (under his real name) and came over as a BIG favor in post to help us tie it all in and be an experience overseeing neutral fresh set of eyes, ears, and hands. His real identity will come out at release date as he'll be doing publicity with us. I'm sure you'll recognize his touch when he see the look of the film. Oz and US releases announcements next week!

Glenn said...

Well you've done your job. I'm actually quite excited now!

Edward Gein said...

Cool! We'll get you to the premiere which will be THE party! NB: Great blog and you could be the most prolific blogger ever... :)

vicki said...

how did you find out about all these movies?
im quite shocked to see so many aussie productions atm

can't wait :)

Jade said...

The Loved Ones.. does anyone know what form of release it would be? Straight to dvd, film fest, cinema release etc?
Contact me on email..

Kamikaze Camel said...

Vanessa, a bit of investigation and a lot of good memory (as in reading tiny snippets about an upcoming movie years ago and then wondering "hey, what happened to that movie..."

I'm still hoping that East of Richmond gets off the ground and stars Dannii Minogue. Can you just imagine? LOL.

Glenn said...

I should point out that that East of Richmond movie has been kicking about for a few years now, but I'm sure Dannii is far too busy being a judge of talent contest programs and releasing B-Side/remix/best of album collections to make a movie.

Jade, I unfortunately haven't heard about The Loved Ones other than Madman are planning an end-of-year release for it. A google of it doesn't exactly bring up a wealth of riches.

RC said...

wow...great work.

eric bana's documentary certainly sounds intersting.

wasn't $9.99 eligible for the animated catagory for this years oscars? I felt like it was on the eligibile list? Maybe not.

Matt Riviera said...

Very valuable resource indeed. Thanks heaps for all the hard work.

Looking forward to seeing the great Three Blind Mice again when it is finally released... and to seeing and writing about as many of these titles as I possibly can in 2009.

Kamikaze Camel said...

RC, it was. It got a very tiny very brief qualifying run in December. It has not, however, been released in Australia yet.

RC said...

I've been curious about Disgrace as well. It's such an interesting book, and I think John Malkovich is perfectly cast.

Joel said...

Great list!
And some that I might actually bother checking at in theaters too.
The Horseman fell victim to 5th film of the day syndrome at MIFF and I ended up not using my ticket, but hoping it will actually get release eventually...

Hayden said...

I did work exp. for The Loved Ones last year and as far as i know they are waiting to see how the final cut looks before they determine the state of release. Apart from that i think its going to be an awesome movie, very scarey!

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Anonymous said...

I cant believe that you can even put Prey in the same list as these other great Aussie films. This film should had never been heard of and gone straight to obscurity....

Glenn said...

*yawn* Done yet, anon?