Dec 132014

Charlies Country

It has been an incredible year for Australian and New Zealand film, one of the best in recent memory. Not only has there been a lot of it, but it has been good. From world horror hit The Babadook to Cannes award-winner Charlies Country and Rialto New Zealand Film Award winner The Dark Horse, this is a year we can be really proud of local cinema. Whether you see it at the cinema, rent it on VOD or hire it on Blu-ray, good quality local cinema is more accessible than ever. Andrew and I pick our top 10 Australian & New Zealand films after the jump.


10. 52 Tuesdays (Sophie Hyde)
It is a shame that the slightly overlong 52 Tuesdays, a winner at Sundance and Berlin, runs out of steam towards the end and features some overwritten sideline stories, because this important drama tackles unusual subject matter and observes dual stories of significant personal development with sincerity, honesty and authenticity. A young woman grapples with her own burgeoning sexuality and independence as her mother undergoes a gender transition, restricting their relationship to a single weekly meeting. Conceptually bold – actually filmed on a skimpy budget with a skeleton crew on Tuesdays over the course of twelve months, I believe – 52 Tuesdays benefits from clever editing and some decent performances. [Andy]


9. Electric Boogaloo: The Wild Untold Story of Cannon Films (Mark Hartley)
An entertaining documentary recount of 80’s shlock-kings Cannon Films, chock-full of eccentric characters (Bo Derek and Elliot Gould amongst them), crazy BTS stories and hilarious footage from the HUGE catalogue of films they put out in the 80’s. Their works range from successes like Breakin’ and Runaway Train to train wrecks like Death Wish 2 and The Apple, and the enormous cast of people involved during the 1979-1986 Golan Globus era have a lot to say about the Israeli cousins who bought rubbish scripts with objectionable content and turned them into budget exploitation films. Directed by Mark Hartley, who made the excellent documentary Not Quite Hollywood. [Andy]


8. Son of a Gun (Julius Avery)
Shot on location in Western Australia and Melbourne, Son of a Gun is an outlaw road trip film with a uniquely Australian feel. There’s no mistaking the dry locations as anywhere other than the outback, and it lends itself to the dirty, roughness of the film. It’s not always coherent or particularly good, but when the it all gels it really delivers, with the action sequence in and around the mines of Western Australia a definite highlight. I seriously enjoyed Ewan McGregor playing the veteran crim – he really does bad rather well. [Sam]


7. The Dark Horse (James Napier Robertson)
You can’t take your eyes off iconic New Zealand actor Cliff Curtis, who put on a substantial amount of weight to portray a bipolar ex-chessmaster who takes some troubled youngsters (including James Rolleston, Boy) under his tutelage. He teaches them that the tiny world of the chess board offers many different paths, and not everyone needs to follow the one assigned by their unfortunate social circumstances. Long, perhaps, but quite affecting because we understand what is at stake and how desperate Genesis is to rediscover some purpose, but also keep these kids out of gangs and crime. James Napier Robertson’s film is inspired by real-life Gisborne chessmaster and coach Genesis Portini, who passed away in 2011. [Andy]


6. All This Mayhem (Eddie Martin)
Two brothers, rare natural talents and the self-tagged Barnes and Elias (Platoon) of skateboarding, make it big. Fast. But, at the centre of an irresponsible culture and having chosen to leave their families as young men to conquer the U.S skateboarding scene, a heartbreaking squander and swift, devastating plummet is to follow. Covering a period of 25 years, and full of shocking revelations, this is an engrossing documentary about two young Melbourne guys who rise from Bogan-nothingness to world stardom. But that fame would have tragic repercussions. Features the work of Chris King, the editor of Senna. [Andy]


5. These Final Hours (Zak Hilditch)
The end of the Earth is nigh and we are placed in Perth, one of the last places set to be destroyed by the wall of fire generated by the massive asteroid that hit our planet. The most terrifying part about this film is not that its the end of the world, it’s how humans treat each other when it happens. Disregard for human life and thuggish behavior can already be seen in our current society, it’s no stretch at all to imagine that this really would be how things end. It’s really quite chilling. The sharp screenplay has good momentum that builds at a good pace to its spectacular ending. This film isn’t exactly feel-good, but there are moments that remind you that there is still good in this world. [Sam]


4. Charlie’s Country (Rolf de Heer)
The moving story of Charlie, an Aboriginal man who no longer feels at home in his own country, Charlie’s Country is both sad and profoundly beautiful. It’s a slow-paced film, with the camera languishing on shots and moving as slowly as Charlie’s days went by. I felt incredibly frustrated for Charlie – a man who couldn’t quite live in the European world forced upon him or in the world of his ancestors. He just wanted to eat and look after himself – it’s amazing how hard it’s made for him. David Gulpilil gives such an emotional, stoic performance as Charlie, and I will be cheering for him to win the best actor award at the upcoming AACTAs. [Sam]


3. The Babadook (Jennifer Kent)
A terrifyingly effective blend of malevolent invader/spooky house horror with the real and the deeply personal; a daily reminder of tragic loss and fatiguing single-mother pressures. Jennifer Kent’s atmospheric and emotionally fulfilling début feature – crowdsourced through Kickstarter – does show a lot of its hands early, but still manages to surprise and frighten consistently. Essie Davis is excellent, the sound design unnervingly penetrating. The Babadook delves into grief, loss, isolation and mental illness, doubling as a creepy monster tale and a psychological magnification of the traumas associated with motherhood. [Andy]


2. The Infinite Man (Hugh Sullivan)
This low-budget, high-concept South Australian film from writer-director Hugh Sullivan is one of the smartest, funnest films out this year. When a man tries to recreate the perfect romantic weekend with his girlfriend, things go astray when he employs the use of a homemade time travel machine. More that just an excellent genre piece, this sharply written, witty film is a wonderful example of how to structure a multi-narrative film so that it is both intriguing and comprehensible. The barren location is a great setting and it looks incredibly crisp and oddly inviting, thanks to the work of cinematographer, Marden Dean. Not only the best Australian film of the year, but one of the best films of the year. [Sam]


1. What We Do In The Shadows (Jemaine Clement, Taika Waititi)
Lurking in the shadows & hiding in plain sight, the vampires of Wellington are an incredibly charming and rather vicious breed. A documentary team are granted protection and are granted special access to the shared house of one such group of vampires. It turns out Kiwi dead-pan (no pun intended) humour is the perfect vehicle for a vampire mockumentary. This film is an absolute riot – I’ve never heard an audience laugh so loud, so often. This witty, side-splitting, clever play on genre, was one of our favourite films this year – we both awarded it 5 stars. [Sam]


Honourable mentions: Galore, Predesintation, Tracks, The Mule

Some of the films we haven’t seen yet include: Felony, Fell, Healing, The Little Death, The Dead Lands, The Water Diviner, My Mistress

What were your favourite local films this year?

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