Recently on Twitter, someone asked the question: other than Mad Max: Fury Road, what is the best
action film of the 2010’s? And, really, the only possible answer is Leigh
Whannell’s Upgrade. What makes a
great action film? Well, naturally, the action (so perfectly choreographed here
by Chris Anderson) is a big part, but also the performances (as proven with a
stunning double whammy from Logan Marshall-Green and Simon Maiden), the direction
(which is next level from Whannell), the writing (Whannell again), and the
plot. Upgrade has all of that in
spades, and damn, it’s just about one of the most entertaining action films of
the past decade, making it essential viewing.
You’d think, given the wealth of rural towns and nothing out
there in the Outback of Australia, that we’d have more spaghetti-Western-like
films made here, but nope! We instead have depths of hell Westerns like The Proposition or Sweet Country. So, trust director Jocelyn Moorhouse to make a stand
and change that entirely as she crafts a Western wish a phenomenal fashion
sense in The Dressmaker. Featuring a
pitch perfect duo of performances from Kate Winslet and Judy Davis, this is one
of the finest modern Australian films that managed to not only entertain, but
found massive audience appeal with Aussie audiences.
18. Animal Kingdom – dir. David Michôd – 2010
David Michôd’s debut film managed to
not only put him on the world map, but also Joel Edgerton, Ben Mendelsohn, and most
importantly, gave a late career revival to Jackie Weaver. Weaver managed to
secure the first of two Oscar nominations for her role as Smurf, the ever
doting crim-mum to the thug group that make up the Cody family. Australia has a
wealth of crime films that often romanticise the crime life, but Animal Kingdom does no such thing,
ensuring to show the darkness that thrives within this criminal underbellies
that exist throughout Australia.
At the time of writing, It
All Started With a Stale Sandwich is the best Australian film of 2019.
Given a minute release around Australia – it only had a three day run here in
Perth – you’d be forgiven for not knowing about this film, but now you’re reading
this list you need to put this on your map. I could go on and on why this is a
pitch perfect film, but really, it’s best I point you to my
lengthy review on why this
documentary hit home for me. I love this film a lot, and I sure hope you do too.
While Australia has produced a fair amount of documentaries
about refugees and asylum seekers – Chasing
Asylum, The Baulkham Hills African
Ladies Troupe, Constance on the Edge
–, it’s Gabrielle Brady’s triptych of life on Christmas Island that is the most
effective. The narrative that Brady weaves is astounding, managing to explore
what life is like on the remote island for the people who were born there, for
the animals that call it home, and for the asylum seekers who have their
journey’s conclude there. This is not an easy film to sit through, with main
subject Poh Lin Lee (the islands trauma counsellor) being pushed to breaking
point on more than one occasion, but this is a very important film and one that
deserves your time.
15. The Babadook – dir. Jennifer Kent – 2014
I know I called Killing
Ground the best Australian horror earlier up the list – and I stand by
that, that film intends to terrify the living shit out of you – but that’s not
to discount the horror within The
Babadook. Not only is this an unsettling film about a mother, her son, and
a friendly book that just appears one day, but it’s also a deep exploration of
grief and trauma and the unwelcome emotional headspace that these things put
people in. Has there been a better, more assured and complete debut film from a
filmmaker in Australia than Jennifer Kent’s The
Babadook? Probably not. It is, quite simply, a masterpiece.
Backtrack Boys is
a film that has brought me to tears just thinking about it. I saw it way back
in the middle of 2018 and while I haven’t returned to it since, the ever
frequently updated facebook page reminds me of the lives of the kids that are
in this documentary, reminding me that their stories have carried on long after
the film has finished. Catherine Scott’s gentle direction eases viewers into
the world of jackaroo Bernie Shakeshaft, a quiet spoken, observant, empathetic
bloke who runs a youth program for wayward kids. Through the help of working
dogs, Bernie helps these kids help the dogs, and in turn, they help themselves
try and lead better lives. Watch this one with your family, you’ll feel full of
compassion and life afterwards.
At the end of Mystery
Road, Detective Jay Swan is left in a state of devastation. When we meet
him again in Goldstone, he’s a wreck.
Dishevelled, relying on booze more than he should, and living a fractured life,
he is given no choice but to head back to work and solve another crime. Aaron
Pedersen gives the performance of his career in this much-welcome sequel, and
he’s joined by two simply stunning performances from David Gulpilil and Tommy
Lewis. Indigenous cinema went through a massive revival in the 2010’s, and it’s
thanks to directors like Ivan Sen, Rachel Perkins (Jasper Jones), Wayne Blair (Top
End Wedding), and Warwick Thornton (We
Don’t Need a Map), that this was possible. Goldstone is one of the finest films in the Indigenous Australian
New Wave Movement.
One of the two Best Picture nominated films on this list, Lion is the true story of Saroo Brierly,
a Calcutta kid who finds himself separated from his family, and as a missing
kid, he flows into the adoption system in India, and ends up in Tasmania, a
world away from his home. Sunny Pawar and Dev Patel play Saroo at different
stages of his life, and both compliment each other perfectly in this genuinely
heartbreaking film. While the central story of a man trying to get back to his
family is powerful enough, it’s the impact of the roles that mothers play in
our lives that will hit home the most. It’s impossible to not be an emotional
wreck at the end of this film.
11. Berlin Syndrome – dir. Cate Shortland – 2017
For some, this might be a controversial placement of this
nail biting thriller. I can accept that I might be alone with loving Cate
Shortland’s third film, but it’s thanks to Shortland’s ever assured direction
and Teresa Palmer’s deeply real performance that this film sits so high on this
list. What initially feels like another rote ‘captured woman’ film, gradually
moves into a devastating glimpse into the world of a woman who is trying to get
her life back on track, only to have that path completely obliterated because
of one man. Without Palmer’s performance, or the nuanced terror that comes with
Max Riemelt’s villain, Berlin Syndrome
would be a lesser film, but it’s thanks to these two performances, and Cate
Shortland’s direction, that this is elevated above the genre trappings it could
have fallen into, making it one of the finest thrillers Australia has ever
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