Top Ten Australian Films of 2007

February 4, 2008

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Top Ten Australian Films of 2007

Here are MUFF Festival Director Richard Wolstencroft’s top ten Australian films for 2007 both from the mainstream and independent world:

Rogue Directed By Greg McClean

Well, I don’t know about you folk but I thought this croc attack movie was the best Australian film of 2007, by far. It was a sophisticated genre excursion that was exciting, suspenseful, gruesome and very well put together. The mise en scene was meticulous establishing the isolation of the main characters in a lagoon way up river. Strong performances by Radha Mitchell and Sam Worthington also added to the overall excellence of the picture. When the croc finally attacks it was large, vicious and quickly makes its brutal impact known. The terror sequences were deeply effective but not so far fetched that they could not be real. McLean has kept his interest in realism from Wolf Creek and not gone CGI crazy creating a realistic giant croc… using both visual effects and make up. Kristen and I saw it mid-year and fucking loved it without reservation. We raved to everyone we saw…but for some reason industry people did not react well to it. I dare say a wee conspiracy of anti-genre folk in the Australian film industry was at work. This film seemed to be unfairly maligned, its budget attacked, etc. To me it seemed nothing but great: The way Australian films should be made. I can’t help but sense a deliberate conspiracy against the film since the beginning of the year. From a quality and cinematic perspective, it takes a giant croc shit all over the much-lauded rubbish like Noise and Romulus my Fuckwit. We at MUFF proudly declare this film the Best of 2007 and hope you all check it out on DVD!

The Jammed Directed by Dee McLachlan

One of the other great films of last year was the critically ignored (with few notable exceptions like Jim Schembri) and under-distributed film The Jammed about female sex slavery in Australia. Not a salacious genre piece (that I might have dug even more!), The Jammed is a harrowing tale of this little known form of slavery. I really liked the non-PC nature of the film and its misanthropic outlook. The immigrants who bring these girls into the country are scum, the Aussies who run the brothels they work in are scum, the foreign parents who sell their kids into sex slavery are scum, the government bureaucrats who deport them after such abuse are scum. Everybody accept the girls themselves, who are not presented as perfect angels either, are a collection of excellent examples of the ugly Australia. I imagine this film does not fit the caring sharing Australia fiction the government would like to portray… A tough, hard and gripping film that should have been nominated at the AFI’s and should have been pushed the way Noise was.

Bra Boys Directed by Sunny Aberton & Stuart Beattie

This is the real Australia. Not some PC ad from the government. Wild surfy gangs. Bashings. Drugs. Crime. Murder. Fights with the cops. Cronulla. Race tension. Fuck you larrikinism. This doco has it all. Russell Crowe’s excellent narration added the credibility the project needed to make this doco sore above all others in 2007. This is my Australia – with a wild, fuck you attitude and violent heart imbued with basic salt of the earth notions of mateship, loyalty and freedom. A liberating experience. We need to make fiction features like Bra Boys with dangerous characters and rebels. Bra Boys kicks ass, in more ways than one!

The other seven rounding out the top ten are:

A Nocturne Directed by Bill Mousoulis

An excellent meditation on Vampirism from avant-garde doyen Bill Mousilous. Strong performances from the two lead vampires and a strange meditative mise en scene create an eerie mini masterpiece.

Left Ear Directed by Andrew Wholley

A Tour de Force performance by Lech Mackiewicz about a new Australian immigrant from Eastern Europe discovering nothing but disillusionment, depression and sexual frustration in the lucky country. He finds relief of sorts through a sex doll. A tough, daring and compelling film.

Razzle Dazzle Directed by Darren Ashton

A fun exploration into the world of dance troupes from director Darren Ashton and producer Jody Matterson. Taps into the vein mined by Strictly Ballroom. The portraits of the pushy Moms and pushed-around kids are both amusing and sad. The Mr Jonathan character is funny also. Has elements of the excellent “Kath and Kim” which is a damn good thing. A surprise for me and it did respectfully at the box office.

Blackwater Directed by David Nerlich and Andrew Trauckl

Two good croc flicks in one year. While not reaching the fine tuned heights of genre excellence achieved by Rogue, Blackwater gives us a Dogme style croc film that strands you up a tree for 40 minutes trying to work out how to survive. Realistic, well made and filled with tension.

70K Directed By Jamie Howarth

Excellent expose and documentary from a Melbourne graffiti artist. The filmmaker is being sort for questioning by the boys in blue and the film itself is banned by our masters and betters at the OFLC. True rebel filmmaking.

Lovestruck: Wresling’s No.1 fan Directed By Megan Spencer

Megan Spencer’s excellent portrait of Sue Chuter Pro Wrestling nut is both profound and hilarious at the same tame. While Sue Chuter won’t win any beauty contests in the near future, her passion for Wrestling is without question and worthy of respect. Megan deftly slides between eliciting laughter about the freakish nature of Sue Chuter and revealing the sad story that perhaps part fuels Chuter’s obsession with Wrestling. Chuter’s vindication by her acceptance and respect by famous Pro Wrestler’s is touching and on the money. Another portrait of the real non-PC Australia!

Corroboree Directed by Ben Hackworth

A deliberate art film shot in Daylesford about an old dying art perv who gets an early twenties model to act out various kinky scenarios from his life. Deeply perverse and executed in an avant garde ‘difficult’ formalist style, Hackworth gives us an impressive debut that is uncompromising. This film reminded me of a slow meditative Ken Russell or that excellent little known Australian film The Everlasting Secret Family.

Honourable Mentions:

Lucky Miles (better than I thought it would be), Burke and Wills.

Unseen as of Jan 2007:

Dr Plonk, Home Song Stories, West, Hamlet: Prince of Denmark

3 Responses to “Top Ten Australian Films of 2007”

  1. TK said

    Hmm.. I have to disagree on Rogue. I thought it was perfectly competent and adequate as a film but I think it made some crucial genre mistakes. Truckload of spoilers ahead!

    Yes it fit into the horror genre neatly enough. But that’s a pretty broad genre with many subgenres within in it that this film refused to commit to.

    It set up from the start that this was an ensemble film so it could either have tread the Poseidon Adventure path (people have to face their inner weaknesses and will either survive or suffer as a result) or the Friday the 13th path (everyone gets picked off in decidedly bloody ways until we’re left with 1).

    The first 30 minutes were really interesting. There was a nice enough range of characters, great setting and when the croc finally attacks, the tension is high and the stakes are superb. Then it all just fell in the heap. We came to see a rock show and it just didn’t deliver. Pretty much all the deaths bar one happen off screen. And when a character is as built up as Sam Worthington’s, you simply can’t have him die off screen. Audiences will just sit there expecting him to turn up in the final reel minus a hand to save the day. Sure you can say it was subverting audience expectations, but those expectations are there for a reason – so there is a satisfactory story. So we’ve got a horror film with hardly any blood and most of the deaths happening off screen.

    Then it made another fatal mistake. In horror, when you no longer need a character – you kill them. Plain and simple. They had 4 or 5 characters simply run into the trees and never get seen again. Huh? Shouldn’t they be ripped limb from limb?? Answer yes.

    They also made some crucial mistakes on how crocodiles attack but that was OK – it is a movie after all and they needed to set up their big finale.

    But the finale was useless, after setting up this was going to be a Poseidon Adventure like film (they crossed any chance of splatter/slasher off the list when they let all their secondary characters run into the trees) they decided to leave us with the least appealing, least established, least charismatic character of the bunch (the American surprise surprise) and suddenly decide to make it some sort of Jaws-esque film where one man and one man alone can conquer the beast. It simply didn’t ring true and didn’t adhere to the story they had set up in the first half.

    If you’re going to make a genre film, you have to follow the rules of the genre. Greg proved on Wolf Creek he can terrify audiences while subverting their expectations but on this it reeked of too many cooks trying to make it too many different things and it ended up being nothing.

    I really don’t think it was an anti-genre conspiracy at all. Otherwise why would they have pumped money into Storm Warning, Black Water and a whole stack of other horrors coming our way? Audiences didn’t attend because it was badly marketed, poor timing (best not to release an Australian horror in the same fortnight as 30 Days Of Night and Halloween) and the story didn’t hold interest. I did pick up on a few snide remarks about the budget but when a film costs $25 million and only recoups $2 million of that it does make it harder for another big budget Australian film to get up.

    For my money though – I’d take it any day of the week over Romulus. I still stand by Noise as the best Australian film of 2007. I saw it the same week as Zodiac and found them very similar (films dealing with a criminal act from an unimportant point of view) yet oddly enough, Noise was far superior, effective and elegant.

  2. richard777 said

    Well TK, each to their own opinion.

    But I liked the subverting of the genre in Rogue as I feel McClean obviously knows and loves genre. I found most of his subversions a good idea.

    eg. The croc not killing all the victims makes sense, as croc’s do not attack that way and I think though the film is fantastical it keeps an important foot in the reality camp.

    Noise on the other hand was not subverting the genre at all in my opinion. It slowness, dull subplots and mood just made it boring and dull to me. It was OK for an OZ movie given it’s subject matter but over rated in my book.

    As to it being superior to David Fincher’s Zodiac. Dream on. Zodiac was one of the best International films of 2007. I was always a fan of the Greysmith book and enjoyed the fetishistic attention to detail and excellent realization of the Zodiac case. An ode to a serial killer like something from Keat’s. A cult film in years to come.

  3. […] We’ve blogrolled it ourselves and while it’s listed under our “Movies” category and Idea Fix may have a lot of film content, Richard actually writes about a wide variety of subjects, from music to political conspiracies to personal adventures. As for movies, he’s reviewed There Will Be Blood (agree mostly with him on that one) and The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford (I wasn’t as big a fan) and named the top 10 Australian films of 2007. […]

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