A Cinematic Trip Around Australia

It is Australia Day today. Much like the post I created last Canada Day I wanted to create a post that highlighted films set and produced in each territory/state of the nation on this day. Unlike the Canadian entry, I created this in part to seek further suggestions, as with the Canadian list I had ideas and sought to bolster my list.

Another unique issue that the Australian list presents is that as I looked up films I knew to be set/produced there many didn’t seem to have specificity to their locale and were shot in multiple territories/states. In the end, I did take one film that was shot all over and attribute it to one location, other more obvious titles that could be attributed to many areas were omitted.

As I mentioned above, I really am seeking suggestions too. It’s not the most comprehensive of lists, and the geographical subdividing makes it a bit tougher to assemble, but it was still fun – especially since it allowed me to do some more geography nerd-work, and Canada always came easier to me than did Australia, but now I think I have it all sorted.

The last disclaimer that applies is that I did find links to information on and video of documentaries about the Torres Strait and Christmas Islands, but found nothing suitable about the Capital District or Norfolk Island; so it really is mainland Australian titles within. However, it must be stated for the record that in my searches I did find a plethora of film festivals, agencies and resources in Canberra so that’s very cool.

Over the past few years I’ve been more drawn to Australian films and culture, so I would definitely be eager to find more and also to celebrate some of what I have seen thus far.

Victoria

Victoria

The Up Series

The Up Series (Grenada Films)

Though it is a British production, The Up Series of documentaries has had cause to go abroad as its subjects have grown. The series of films has interviewed subjects every seven years starting at the age of seven. While Nick has spent time teaching in the US, Bruce has taught in Bangladesh, John has done charitable work in Bulgaria; its most frequent trips have been to Australia where Paul moved shortly after the first film. His segments have been amongst the most interesting as his move preceded the talks of expatriates, which entered the series later on.

Lake Mungo

I am not against found footage as a rule. Furthermore, even if you hate it and cite say Chronicle or The Blair Witch Project as the exception that proves the rule, this is a film that should be viewed. In large part due to the fact that it utilizes a mockumentary structure with critical moments being examination of footage. It is a a higly effective slow burn that really packs a wallop.

The Devil’s Playground

Fred Schepisi may not be a name you consciously know but odds are you’ve seen something he’s directed. His credits include Roxanne, A Cry in the Dark (Which features later on this list), The Russia House and Six Degrees of Separation. This is his debut feature, which is an acclaimed, award-winning film that he also wrote, which is better than a vast majority of boarding school-set coming-of-age dramas that are more renowned.

Northern Territory

Northern Territory

Australia

Australia (2008, 20th Century Fox)

OK, OK, I realize that it’s not original in the least to include a film called Australia on a list of Australian films. It’s such an obvious pick that I’d include it here whether I liked it or not, however, I am a fan of this film as the 2008 BAM Awards will evidence.

This is definitely a case where a propriety title (i.e. Baz Luhrmann’s Australia) may be very fitting. It’s clearly one man’s vision. It’s a Golden Age aesthetic plopped into the 21st Century and a sweeping epic that does traverse the nation.

However, much of the film does center around Darwin in the Northern Territory, hence that’s where I place it.

Tasmania

Tasmania

Looney Tunes

Devil May Hare (1954, Warner Bros.)

I grew up on Staten Island, the forgotten borough of New York City, so I have an affinity for any island that’s part of a larger whole. However, even as Staten Islanders we had our occasional moment of cinematic pride (as cheeky as it might be) like in Working Girl. I write that intro because I’m fairly sure that my Tasmanian selections will leave some nonplused and/or vexed. Believe me I am more than welcome to suggestions here, and for what it’s worth I think Tasmania should have an Aussie Rules team. Having said that, here’s my take on Taz:

My first introduction to the isle of Tasmania was through the insane depiction of the Devil as created by the Looney Tunes. Granted I had an inkling, even being young and only slightly informed, that it was a broad caricature but like with everything the Looney Tunes did it’s hilarious; even if the Devils don’t spin like dervishes, spit or even walk on their hind legs.

To mention an actual Australian character: the internet has shown me that Ginger Meggs is quite funny.

Young Einstein

Young Einstein (1988, Warner Bros.)

At least this one features a person who actually is Australian and made his character from Tasmania. Many don’t like this film. I didn’t quite expect to when I saw it in theaters, even though I was young, but I did.

Queensland

Queensland

Crocodile Dundee

Crocodile Dundee (1986, Paramount)

Perhaps one of the most insightful jokes ever on Family Guy was about Crocodile Dundee. Crocodile makes a random appearance and then Peter says “I want to see a lot more of you and then suddenly none of you.” This film epitomizes this pop culture phenomena. We here in the US glutted ourselves on this film and Hogan such that the over-saturation seemed to have nauseated us to the concept by the time the sequel hit. That is rather unfortunate since the reception to the delayed third installment was fairly good, though the box-office was fairly tepid, as expected.

Western Australia

Western Australia

December Boys

December Boys (2007, Warner Independent Pictures)

The films that the cast of the Harry Potter series did, while the series was ongoing, got a bad wrap at the time. In essence, Radcliffe’s involvement in this film was it seems mostly designed to buoy a film that deserved a wider reach. This a very well-told, heart-wrenching film that should be sought out.

New South Wales

New South Wales

When thinking of New South Wales and doing research three titles immediately jumped to mind. One I still have yet to see, two I have.

A Cry in the Dark (1988, Warner Bros.)

A Cry in the Dark is by this point an iconic film, and sadly, in the US in a bit of an infamous way due to the Seinfeld joke. However, this was not only a very popular film but features a great performance by Meryl Streep, one of her myriad Oscar nominations, and it’s a rather effective drama.

Finding Nemo, although it’s animated, takes place underwater, one of the major plot elements is hitting the East Australian current, but of course, the first line that pops into most people’s heads when it comes to this movie is “P. Sherman, 42 Wallaby Way, Sydney.” It is where the dentist’s office is, and it is a beloved film so it most certainly belongs.

Lastly, is Muriel’s Wedding. I honestly cannot tell you how I have not seen this film yet. It’s directed by P.J. Hogan won BAM Awards for his involvement in Peter Pan and stars Toni Collette who is a two-time BAM Award winner in her own right. I will rectify this and seeing the Mad Max films soon.

South Australia

South Australia

Australian Rules  (2002, Beyond Films)

With South Australia I have selected two titles. I have done so with two different trains of thought: one title I want to see based on what I learned about the plot. The second, I have seen and though it was not a film I personally enjoyed (far from it) it is a film that has received a lot of acclaim, but not necessarily viewership.

The film I would like to see is Australian Rules, which deals not only with the antipodean version of the game, which I love, but also with race relations (white and aboriginal).

The film I have seen is Snowtown (aka Snowtown Murders). My displeasure with the film is mostly due to the narrative.

So there are the films I could come up with based mostly on what I’ve seen. As I said, I do these in part to have new films to hunt down. So what say you? Comment below or tweet me @BernardoVillela.

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Top 10 Movies I Can’t Believe I Liked

This is a list I originally posted on my prior site. I don’t think I’ve found newer, better examples; so the choices remain the same. Below you’ll find 10 films that for one reason or another I had no expectations going into, but ended up liking.

10. The Shining (1980)

The Shining (1980, Warner Bros.))

I first saw this film in cinema class as a freshman in high school. Until I saw this film I never really enjoyed being scared, and I hated horror movies. In a class setting it must’ve taken three days to watch it and I was riveted as if I watched it in one viewing and I looked forward to it every day. It was Kubrick‘s The Shining (which I like better than the book) that got me to read Stephen King and ultimately made me fall in love with horror.

9. Star Wars – Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002)

Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones (2002, 20th Century Fox)

I saw the Star Wars prequels first. Having never felt the urge to see the originals, and then hearing about the prequel concept which was popularized, if not invented by, Lucas – I wanted to watch the movies in the story’s chronological order. So I waited until 2005 to see the original trilogy. After having seen The Phantom Menace I just didn’t get the appeal, but I stuck it out and went to see Attack of the Clones and then I got it – Star Wars – Episode II: Attack of the Clones is awesome. The Phantom Menace was just not that good at all and it never will be no matter how many times I watch the film. Star Wars – Episode II: Attack of the Clones won the BAM for Best Picture in 2002 (BAMs are my personal movie awards – look out for those here next year).

8. Hook (1991)

Hook (1991, Columbia)

This film being on the list is based entirely on concept. To me the idea of a movie about Peter Pan growing up was just absurd, so I avoided Hook for a long time but then I watched it… and Spielberg does turn almost everything into gold. It will never replace the original, or come close to it, but it is a very good and underrated film.

7. Max Keeble’s Big Move (2001)

Max Keeble's Big Move (2001, Disney)

I saw this as the cherry on top of a self-made triple feature one day. Of the movies I saw that day (Zoolander and Hearts in Atlantis being the other two), I had the lowest expectations for this one and it was my favorite. It is just a zany, off-the-wall comedy that actually ended up being nominated for a BAM as Best Picture.

6. Freaky Friday (2003)

Freaky Friday (2003, Disney)

It was one of those Disney’s 70s live-action films that just never quite did it for me for a number of reasons, but mainly because suspension of disbelief becomes difficult. Complicating matters this was the second time Lindsay Lohan was remaking a Disney film after her big break in the The Parent Trap. I went to see it ‘just because,’ not expecting much and loved it. It was probably Lohan’s last appealing character pre-drug/attitude problems and Jamie Lee Curtis is a perfect foil. Thus, the ridiculous concept didn’t bother me at all in the end.

5. School of Rock (2003)School of Rock (2003, Paramount)

Keep in mind this film was released in 2003. At the time I only really knew Jack Black from Tenacious D and I didn’t think this concept would work or be funny. I was dragged to watch the film just short of kicking and screaming, and lo and behold I loved it, and consider it to be one of the 50 funniest movies I’ve ever seen. No other vehicle has quite captured Jack Black’s lightning in a bottle like this film did. I was ultimately very glad I saw it indeed and watch it frequently – and quote it as well.

4. A Dog of Flanders (1999)

A Dog of Flanders (1999, Warner Bros.)

I used to go to the movies every weekend in junior high and high school, whether accompanied or not, to see something new. It didn’t matter what I went to see, and that’s how I saw the next film. Here’s a film that misleads with its title. Having never seen or heard of the original story and films upon which this most recent rendition was based I thought it was your typical ‘boy and his dog’ film, in fact the title refers to the protagonist, Nello, as much as it does to his dog. However, at its heart it is a much more serious tale of poverty, sacrifice and the struggle to be an artist. In fact, it may well be one of the best examples of that subgenre. It is a rare film in which the protagonist ages and both performances by actors playing younger and older Nello (Jesse James and Jeremy James Kissner) are equally compelling. Along with a great supporting turn from Jon Voight, a good score, and a tear-jerking ending this is a great film that caught me completely by surprise.


3. Young Einstein (1988)

Young Einstein (1988, Warner Bros.)

I literally saw this because Home Alone was sold out, or was it Batman? Either way I didn’t see it that day and my friend’s birthday plans changed. Just watching it under those conditions should have lead to disappointment. However, I remember it being okay and not a complete and total waste of time. And looking back and considering that it starred a man who calls himself Yahoo Serious that is saying something.


2. High School Musical (2006)

High School Musical (2006, Disney Channel)

If nothing else, it’s one of those movies you watch just because you want to see what people are talking about, and I have to admit that the first one actually does work. Yes, it’s sappy, but it makes no claims to be otherwise and doesn’t try to overdevelop subplot as the 2nd and 3rd installments do. The sequels are also pretty much artistically unjustified and terrible but that can’t detract from the first.

1. Jack Frost (1998)

Jack Frost (1998, Warner Bros.)

This one sits atop the list because it deals with perhaps the most preposterous storyline of them all. A kid loses his father and finds him the next year reincarnated as a snowman. It sounds like the kind of thing that would land on MST3K. However, with the setup, the tumult surrounding the father leaving and the devastation his loss causes, and with all the insinuations of insanity handled immediately – it starts to work. What pushes it over the top are the performances of the cast: the always great Michael Keaton, both on screen and in voice becomes a character we ourselves greatly miss seeing. Joseph Cross, who is now an established character actor having recently appeared in Lincoln, after his prior comeback with Running with Scissors and a supporting role in the Oscar-winning Milk; gives the performance of his childhood career (which is saying something), as the sensitive, shy and affected Charlie. Rounding out the principal cast is Kelly Preston doing the most that almost anyone could with such a small role. It’s a film I’ve now seen a number of times and could probably pop in every holiday season without growing tired of it and still think “I can’t believe I like this, but I do.”