The Vore's Film staff selects the top best Australian movies of 2016 in cinema or on DVD or Netfix. Are Jocelyn Moorhouse, George Miller & John Curran Australia's biggest directors? For many people, Crocodile Dundee and Mad Max is probably all that comes to mind when they think of what Australian cinema brought about. It’s true though; you won’t see that many memorable Australian films in your local cinema. Not that there’s a lack of talent. Quite the contrary. When it comes to actors, Australia has its fair share of stars who made it in Hollywood. Mia Wasikowska (who seems to appear in almost every film nowadays), Cate Blanchett, Heath Ledger, Guy Pearce, Russel Crowe and Nicole Kidman are just a few names that come to mind.
Now of course there are plenty interesting Australian films. There is a reason why these actors ended up in Tinseltown. When I visited the International Film Festival in Ghent, Belgium last year, I noticed that a considerable amount of films from Down Under were shown. Australian cinema is alive and always has been. A nice occasion to sum up the highlights of the last couple of years.
Amount of country films per year from 2010 to 2017 199 Australian movies scheduled for release this year.
List of highest grossers of the decade & budget
Australian productions are expanding rapidly, but that is mainly because the distinction between American movies & Australian movies has gotten even blurrier. Take a look at Mel Gibson' All-American story Hacksaw Ridge for example.
2010's best rated Australian movies out on DVD, Bluray or streaming on VOD (Netflix, Amazon).
Hacksaw Ridge (03-10-2016, 139 minutes)
Hacksaw Bridge marks the glorious return of Mel Gibson as a director. This story, of a pacifist army surgeon at the Pacific Front during WWII, could have easily turned into a horribly sentimental war drama like Angelina Jolie's 'Unbroken'. But it didn't. One of the most powerful anti-war movies of this century so far!
A promising debut by young Australian filmmaker Nicholas Verso. 'Boys in the trees' is an unnerving coming-of-age flick that evolves around a bunch of teenage skaters hanging out during a Halloween's night. As the night progresses, the teens get to know more about each other, their dreams, and most importantly, their fears.
The Rover, David Michôd’s second feature after the acclaimed Animal Kingdom was met with high expectations long before it was released. Not in the first place because teeny hunk superstar Robert Pattinson was casted as one of the leads. It’s a visually stunning dystopian thriller, set in the outback of Australia (yes, Mad Max comes to mind) which tells the simple yet effective story of a hard boiled loner in pursuit of the men who stole his car. And yes, Robert Pattinson is absolutely capable of acting.
It might be hard to believe that one of the best and most original horror films of the decade so far is an Australian film. You don’t really associate sunny Down Under with dark gothic tales. And yet it’s true. The Babadook tells the story of a Amelia, young widow who has to cope with her six-year old son, a boy with a vivid imagination. After reading The Babadook, a disturbing storybook, the boy believes he and his mom are surrounded by some evil entity. Amelia, irritated at first by her son’s behaviour, soon begins to see glimpses of the Babadook too. The Babadook is a brilliant take on the well known haunted house theme , but this time the real horror hasn’t anything to do with the supernatural at all; the film merely works as an eerie exploration of trauma.
It’s easy to be cynical about Tracks. You could call it the Australian answer to Sean Penn’s beloved Into the Wild (2007), but with a happy ending. Like in that film, Tracks begins with a disillusioned twenty-something looking for redemption or whatever by leaving the civilized world. Films like these, which celebrate the romantic idea of going it alone, I usually don’t like. The lessons to be learned are too obvious. Tracks has Mia Wasikowska though, who plays Robyn, a young woman who’s fed up with everyone and everything, with a great mixture of stubbornness and serenity.
Director Kim Mourdant rose to fame as Australian documentary maker with a focus on South East Asia. The Rocket is her feature film debut, but it’s clear to see where she came from. The film, which takes place in Laos and has an all Laotian cast, is a brilliant and affectionate portrayal of rural South East Asian life and a gripping coming of age tale at the same time. Ahlo is a young boy who is believed to be cursed and bring bad luck. When the annual Rocket Festival is about to take of he is determined to take part in the dangerous competition in hopes of twisting his faith.
Nicolas Roeg’s 1971 classic film The Walkabout set the standards for the Australian Aboriginal cinema. Ever since, Australian filmmakers have been fascinated by this nature vs. man theme; the traditional unspoiled way of living in the outback vs. the fast metropolitan life in cities like Melbourne and Sydney. Sattelite Boy, a cute but never too sentimental film about two aboriginal kids lost in the outback, places itself neatly in that tradition.
David Gulpilil, Cameron Wallaby & Joseph Pedley
Catriona McKenzie (Road, The Third Note & Mr. Patterns)
Hail is one of those films that is hard to pin down. Is it a fictionalized documentary, of documentary fiction? Well, what does it actually matter. Hail is a great film in the first place. An uncompromising, raw and poetic portrayal of Danny, an ex-convict. We follow Danny as he struggles to reconnect with his wife and his tendency to fall back into old habits. Cinematographer Germain McMicking deserves an honorable mention here, as Hail works visually overall. It’s the nightmarish images that evoke Danny’s tormented soul that’ll stick with you for a while.
Director David Michôd already built up a reputation as a promising director after directing a few shorts and documentaries. With Animal Kingdom, his feature film debut, he really placed himself among Australia’s finest. Animal Kingdom is a raw and touching portrait of a young man who seems unable to escape from his family’s tight grip. J is a seventeen year old boy who just lost his mother who died by overdose. His grandmother, some sort of madre de familia of a degenerated, criminal family, adopts him. At first, his new family feels like a warm bath to J, but it soon becomes clear that he is all but free to do what pleases him.