Due to a spot of travel these past few weeks I’m a bit late assembling my Best of 2017 list. But this isn’t a particularly conventional Best of 2017 list either. Instead, this piece is divided into three parts. Firstly, I list the top 10 films covered on Down Under Flix in 2017, along with links to my original reviews. Secondly, I list my top five new Australian releases of 2017. Finally, I list the top 15 films I watched – both old and new, Australian and non-Australian, and excluding any films I’d seen previously – in 2017. Without further ado…
Continue reading “Down Under Flix 2017 Review”
Director: Henri Safran
Starring: John Ewart, John Howard, Nicole Kidman, Manalpuy, Mark Spain, James Wingrove, Peter Sumner, Vineta O’Malley
Bush Christmas is not, as its title implies, a film about how George H.W. and George W. spend their Christmas vacation. Rather, it’s another entry in Australia’s modest canon of cinematic yuletide yarns. Last year, David Swann’s Christmas comedy Crackers got the Down Under Flix seasonal treatment (read our review here), and this year Henri Safran’s family film goes under the spotlight.
Continue reading “Bush Christmas (1983)”
Director: Bruce Beresford
Stars: Susannah Fowle, Sheila Helpmann, Patricia Kennedy, Candy Raymond, Hilary Ryan, Barry Humphries, John Waters, Sigrid Thornton, Kerry Armstrong, Julia Blake
At the time of The Getting of Wisdom’s release, Bruce Beresford was best known for directing muscular, rowdy entertainments like The Adventures of Barry McKenzie, Barry McKenzie Holds His Own, and Don’s Party. The latter film, adapting to the screen a play by Australia’s premier playwright David Williamson, was a step towards respectability for Beresford after his near professional ostracization following the Barry McKenzie films, and he was awarded a 1977 Best Director AFI Award for his efforts. The Getting of Wisdom seems an even more decisive step towards respectability, courting association with the dominant commercial aesthetics of the Australian New Wave: indeed, with its period setting, girls boarding school location, and literary origins (based on Henry Handel Richardson’s 1910 novel), it’s immediately evocative in its surface details of Peter Weir’s Picnic at Hanging Rock, released two years earlier and likewise set in Victoria at the tail end of Queen Victoria’s reign. However, The Getting of Wisdom’s a lighter yet more full-bodied blend than Weir’s artful, enigmatic melodrama. And while its focus on a young woman protagonist and feminine milieu outwardly suggests a significant departure from his earlier work, in its focus on culture clash the film is consistent with not only Beresford’s prior films but also subsequent ones like Breaker Morant and The Club.
Continue reading “Bruce Beresford Bildungsroman Bonanza: The Getting of Wisdom (1977) and Mao’s Last Dancer (2009)”
Director: Carl Schultz
Stars: Wendy Hughes, Robyn Nevin, Nicholas Gledhill, John Hargreaves, Peter Whitford
Last week one of the weaker Australian films of 1983, Phillipe Mora’s The Return of Captain Invincible, was spotlighted here on Down Under Flix. This week’s spotlight falls on one of the best local releases of 1983, Carl Schultz’s Careful, He Might Hear You, based on a novel by Sumner Locke Elliott. The film’s critical status is evidenced by its sweeping of that year’s Australian Film Institute Awards, where it won 8 gongs out of 13 nominations, including awards for Best Film, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Actress for Wendy Hughes (one year after her nominated work in the superb Lonely Hearts), and Supporting Actor for John Hargreaves (two years after his nominated work in Hoodwink), against impressive competition from The Year of Living Dangerously, Man of Flowers, and Phar Lap. But I’m not sure Schultz’s film has persisted in the public consciousness as strongly as those others have, bolstered as they are by the auteur credentials of Peter Weir and Paul Cox, the star power of Mel Gibson and Sigourney Weaver, and the national iconography of the thoroughbred hero of the nation.
Continue reading “Careful, He Might Hear You (1983)”
Director: Phillipe Mora
Stars: Alan Arkin, Christopher Lee, Michael Pate, Bill Hunter, Kate Fitzpatrick
Last year marked the end of my long infatuation with superhero films. For almost two decades I regularly made the pilgrimage to the multiplex to see the latest superhero joints, and while I retain some anthropological curiosity about the genre, 2016’s unfortunate double whammy of X-Men: Apocalypse and Suicide Squad killed most of my affection for and investment in it. Even so, as a former genre apologist and a writer on Australian film, I’ve long had a hankering to see Phillipe Mora’s 1983 film The Return of Captain Invincible, one of Australia’s very few attempts at a superhero movie, albeit a parody.
Continue reading “The Return of Captain Invincible (1983)”
Last month I reviewed two films headlined by the late, great John Hargreaves. Today’s piece spotlights two films from another great Australian actor of similar vintage. To say Jack Thompson is iconic is an understatement. He was one of the brightest new stars of the Australian New Wave, appearing in both lead and supporting roles in stone cold classics like Wake in Fright, Sunday Too Far Away, The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith, and Breaker Morant as well as interesting flicks like Petersen, Caddie, Mad Dog Morgan, The Club, and The Journalist. He was the first male centerfold in Australia’s Cleo magazine, was awarded the first Best Supporting Actor gong at the Cannes Film Festival for Breaker Morant, was the only logical choice to embody Clancy of the Overflow in The Man from Snowy River, hosted a travel program called Jack Thompson Down Under, and in recent years has alternated between roles in Australian films and supporting turns as men of influence (lawyers, politicians, military men, businessmen) in American films. This piece highlights two star turns from Thompson’s filmography separated by twenty years: 1975’s Scobie Malone and 1994’s The Sum of Us.
Continue reading “Jack Thompson double feature: Scobie Malone (1975) and The Sum of Us (1994)”
This latest installment of Down Under Flix’s Aussiewood series chronicling the adventures and misadventures of Australian filmmakers abroad deals with Russell Mulcahy. This isn’t the first time I’ve written about Mulcahy on this website – see my review of his 2003 sports biopic Swimming Upstream – but it’s my first time writing about the director’s signature action fare. Following his inventive creature feature debut Razorback (1984) and the cult success of Highlander (1986), the stalwart music video director looked to be on an upward trajectory as a filmmaker. However, Mulcahy was fired two weeks into production on the Sylvester Stallone vehicle Rambo III (1988) because he wasn’t shooting enough close-ups of its hubristic star, and the subsequent production and release of the much-maligned (and deservedly so) Highlander II: The Quickening (1991) was a ghastly, pained process. Ricochet, Blue Steel, and The Real McCoy followed those professional debacles in quick succession, and these three films feel like exercises in directorial penitence: they’re moderately budgeted, straight-down-the-line mainstream features and are largely inoffensive, discounting the innately quippy immorality of the Joel Silver era of action cinema that Ricochet slots into.
Continue reading “Aussiewood: Ricochet (1991), Blue Ice (1992), The Real McCoy (1993)”