Bought Empire today and when reading their "100 Films You Should See In 2006" (which is about 40% 2005 films being released in 2006 by the sounds of it) I realised there are more movies that should've gone on my Top Anticipated List. Mainly Nicole Kidman's Fur, The Descent and Looking For Comedy In The Muslim World and then there is Flushed Away Aardman Films latest!
There were also a few Australian films.
I thought 2005 was a pretty good year (not as great as some think) for Australian films (comparatively) with:
Little Fish starring Cate Blanchett, Hugo Weaving and Noni Hazlehurst in a oh-so-dreary movie about drug dealers, drug users, drug traffickers and their families. Expertly made and acted, however the film is brought down by it's bleakness. However scores bonus points for creating the most hauntingly beautiful scenes of the year. I speak of Cate Blanchett's arrival at the Sacred Heart choir recital who are performing "Flame Trees". See it and be mesmerised.
Wolf Creek the "horror porn" with John Jarratt, Kestie Morassi, Nathan Phillips and Cassandra Magreth elicited such a reaction in me that I couldn't help but feel the film did exactly what it achieved. it shocked, it horrified and it scared the hell outta me. Can't say whether that's a good thing, though. However, the film did produce a scene that belongs on any Aussie film clip-reel - Kestie Morassi's desperate run down the only road in the outback perfectly encapsulates the film but also the genre.
Peaches with Jacqueline Mackenzie, Hugo Weaving and Emma Lung. Had some ew-enducing moments but overall was a good viewing experience. Jacqueline Mackenzie is so underused in movies, it was good to see her in a large role. The best since she emotionally ended On The Beach back in 2000.
The Mysterious Geographic Explorations of Jasper Morello, that whacked out animated short that got a great release alongside the Russian Man With The Movie Camera. Wacky design (think Sin City mixed with the opening Credits of Catch Me If You Can and never too big for it's boots, this short film was a rollicking ride.
The Hidden History of Homosexual Australia, an intrigueing documentary exploring homosexuality in Australian culture through the years from early films to today's annual Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.
All of those were flawed but proved good examples of Australian filmmaking. However, the two films that really did it for me were
Oyster Farmer with the oh-so-desirably Alex O'Loughlan and Diana Glenn alongside David Field, Kerry Armstrong and Jack Thompson in one of those slice-of-life films that doesn't have much of a plot but focuses more on characters and how they go about life in the Hawksbury oyster-growing region of Australia. Filled with memorable characters and it looks and sounds beautiful. A real gem.
Look Both Ways, the real stand-out for me was this unequivocally Aussie movie that deals with cancer, death, disease and mortality but does so in such a refreshing manner that I couldn't help but get swept along with these soul-searching characters who are just trying to find someone who can stop their constant fears of death. First time writer and director Sarah Watt (who discovered she had breast cancer while filming this) gives the film such a universality of truth and one's desires. She also intersperces the film with her own animation - most of the time representing a new way for various characters to die (shark attack, train derailment) - which helps elevate it beyond the morose. When the two main characters (wonderfully played by Justine Clarke and Watt's husband William McInnes) reach their conclusion it feels geniune and real - just like the film they are in. Passionately beautiful.
There was also The Proposition, which I found very hard to like. Technically great (it didn't win Best Cinematography, Score, Production Design and Costume Design at the AFIs for nothing) and with some really good acting, the film is held down by (similar to Little Fish) it's oh-so-mordlin atmostphere that lacks any form of excitement in the action sequences, and becomes out right boring during the quiet scenes. Shame really, because it could've been great. That one shot of the man being shot in the head still irks me.
I also saw Hating Alison Ashley, which really doesn't need much discussing. Silly pithle. I really like Saskia Burmeister but I want her to get a good role. Delta Goodrem really shouldn't give up her day job though, because really... it ain't workin'.
In 2006 however we have quite a few films that at least sound interesting. Should be interesting to watch to see how they perform. I can picture one being absolutely HUGE, two others being pretty successful as Aussie films go box-office wise, and a few more that I'm sure will be arthouse hits.
1. Candy - Heath Ledger and Abbie Cornish star as candy-addicted kids. Co-stars Geoffrey Rush and Noni Hazlehurst so I don't really know what's to object about. Due May 25.
2. Happy Feet - That trailer is so addictive! It's from the writer of Babe! It's about penguins! It has the voices of Magda Szubanski, Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman, Elijah Wood and Brittany Murphy among others! Should be huge. Due Boxing Day.
3. Jindabyne - As I'm sure people know, I consider Lantana a true bonafide Australian classic (Every single actor in that movie will never top their respective performances) and so the thought of director Ray Lawrence making a new movie makes me salivate. That it has Gabriel Byrne, Laura Linney, Chris Haywood, Deborah Lee-Furness, John Howard (the actor, not Australia's Prime Minister), Leah Purcell and the legend that is Bud Tingwell just makes me more excited. Release date TBA.
4. Ten Canoes - One thing I needed to know about this movie until I got excited. Rolf. de. Heer. You can always be certain that Rolf de Heer will serve you up something different. Whether it be an Amazonian Richard Dreyfuss hunting jaguars in The Old Man Who Read Love Stories or David Gulpilil leading police on a wild goose chase throughout the outback in The Tracker or the gut-punch to love and romance that was Alexandra's Project and those were just the last three years! The plot description reads "Ten canoes, three wives, one hundred and fifty spears...trouble" and is the first film to be filmed completely in Aboriginal language. Colour me excited. Set for March 19.
5. Untitled Kokoda Project - I know absolutely nothing about this film. It doesn't even have an IMDb page and all Empire says is "Inspired by a true story, this presents the experiences of the Australian soldiers on the Kokoda Trail in World War II" - if it's any good, this could be really successful and really great. The last movie actually about Kokoda was... well, there's been no feature-length films about it. What the hell does that say? Apparently out April 25.
6. M. - Yes, another retelling of the old Macbeth tale, but this one is set in the Australia underworld scene, so it could be really good. Plus, it's got Sam Worthington! Awesome. Could be this generations Romper Stomper and the film that finally launches Worthington into big deal status. Out May 25, apparently. Same day as Candy? One's gonna move.
7. Rogue - To quote Empire "The Australian Tourist Commission really should have a word to Greg McLean." LOL. So true. After scaring the bejesus outta me in Wolf Creek he returns - this time with Weinstein Company money and a crocodile. Repeat after me - CROCODILE! If some lazy American critic says alligator I will buy a ticket over there, strangle them, hide the body in a suitcase, bring it on and feed them to a crocodile. Sure to be at least moderately thrilling if McLean's Wolf Creek sensibilities remain. Out late 2006 ala the Creek.
8. Irresistable - Susan Sarandon does Australian movie co-starring Sam Niell about suburban family politics. Heheh, should be a barrel of laughs. Okay, but seriously, it sounds intriguing. Is due around mid 2006.
9. Middle of Nowhere - UK and Australian co-production about a young british couple traveling through the Outback befriend a mysterious American. Sounds an awful lot like Wolf Creek but it's apparently nothing like it. Oh well, that's good. The Creeks been done.
10. Suburban Mayhem - Emily Barclay (In My Father's Den - see it) plots to kill her devoted father. To quite Kath & Kim "she's got issuse". Out late 2006.
11. Opal Dream - Jacqueline Mackenzie and Vince Colosimo star as invisible friends that "resonate" throughout the outback town. I dunno, but it's got Vince and Jacqui! Out mid 2006.
12. Solo - Australia's Project Greenlight winner has had it substancially easier than American counterparts I believe. For some reason it's IMDb page claims it is a 7minute short (?) so I don't know what's happening there. But this one has Colin Friels (who's even good in absolutele horrible venomous claptrap like Tom White) and Vince Colosimo (who I could stare at for hours) and is about a hitman quitting his job and being hunted down. Sounds same ol' same ol' but could be a surprise. Out mid 2006.
13. Book of Revelation - Ana Kokkinos, who didn't exactly blow me away with Head On, returns after a looong absence with this mystery about a man who disappears for 12 days and returns a changed man or something. Sounds odd, hopefully won't be as unfocused as Head On.
14. December Boys - This will be Daniel Radcliffe's first non-Harry Potter movie since that franchise started and it's about a few Australian orphan boys vying for the attention of one family. It also has Jack Thompson and quite strangely Paz Vega who was horrendous in Spanglish, god knows what she'll do here. Out December 2006.
Add to that some good sounding TV movies, especially The Bastard Boys plus a new tv series by Chris Lilley hopefully, and Australian product is just getting better and better.