The 10 best Australian films of 2011

The 10 best Australian films of 2011. By Simon Miraudo.

It’s the final week of 2011, so we’re sharing with you, once again, our end-of-year lists. This was originally published on December 1, 2011.

It’s officially December – let the end-of-year list onslaught begin! With the announcement of the AACTA nominations yesterday, we thought it best to kick off the long goodbye to 2011 by reflecting on the best Australian films of the past twelve months. Some of our local features saw spectacular box office success, while a number were disastrous flops; many debuted at international festivals such as Cannes, Toronto and Sundance, while others coasted on word-of-mouth from within the country. Though there were a few notable releases I didn’t get an opportunity to catch before publishing this list (Oranges and Sunshine, The Tall Man), I think these 10 flicks prove the Australian film industry has much to be proud of (although the showering of affection on The Eye of the Storm continues to boggle my mind). To the list!

1. Mrs. Carey’s Concert

Hey, I’m as surprised as you are that this has taken out the top spot. Low expectations aside, it was hard not to be floored by Bob Connolly and Sophie Raymond‘s documentary on the struggles of music teacher Karen Carey and her occasionally-reluctant orchestra/choir. Mrs. Carey’s Concert is a coming-of-age high school flick in which teenagers rebel against their elders, struggle to articulate their deep-held emotions, and create beautiful music (sometimes all at once). This rich, rewarding feature has one of the year’s best finales. It sent shivers up my spine.

2. Snowtown

In a year where both A Serbian Film and The Human Centipede 2 were banned in Australia – two pictures I sat through with relative ease – it was Justin Kurzel‘s disorienting Snowtown that proved the most difficult to bear. In his depiction of the infamous South Australian “barrel” murders, Kurzel delivered a visceral cinematic experience. Daniel Henshall‘s turn as the charismatic, chilling John Bunting is one of 2011’s finest performances. Unforgettable.

3. Red Dog

You know it; you love it. An energetic and delightful family film about the world’s most loyal canine (in your face Lassie). If it doesn’t draw a tear, you may need to have your ducts checked.

4. Shut Up Little Man! An Audio Misadventure

With shades of The Social Network and Winnebago Man, this documentary tells the tale of two young punks who tape the bizarre arguments carried on by their neighbours, and the way in which they turned the cassettes into a viral sensation. Funny, thoughtful, and more than a little creepy, Matthew Bate‘s Shut Up Little Man – much like the audio recordings at its core – is a gem worth discovering.

5. Mad Bastards

Brendan Fletcher‘s Mad Bastards is heartbreaking (yet occasionally joyful) movie about being a man, brought to life by a vibrant soundtrack of local performers.

6. The Hunter

Willem Dafoe goes on the hunt for the last Tasmanian tiger in Daniel Nettheim‘s mesmerising environmental and existential fable The Hunter. No surprise that this gorgeous-looking movie was the most nominated by the AACTAs.

7. Burning Man

Jonathan Teplitzky‘s Tree of Life-evoking elegy Burning Man is at once alienating and absorbing. Matthew Goode stars as a Bondi chef dealing with the death of his wife (Bojana Novakovic) by cutting a swath through the local womenfolk.

8. Cane Toads: The Conquest

Genocide. Euthanasia. Immigration. Drug abuse. Vigilantism. Taxidermy. Mark Lewis‘ hilarious (3D!) documentary Cane Toads: The Conquest really does cover it all. Under the guise of exposing the mating/nation-dominating habits of Australia’s most despised pest, Lewis cuts to the core of some of the most pressing issues affecting the world today. It also features dogs licking toads and getting stoned in the process.

9. Wasted on the Young

With Wasted on the Young, Ben C. Lucas took elements from Brick and Oldboy and produced a startling and stylish feature debut about a revenge-seeking teen-gumshoe. A blip at the local box office, its young cast are sure to move on to bigger and brighter things.

10. X

Jon Hewitt‘s super-trashy X has a major advantage over that other 2011 film about the seedy underbelly of Sydney’s prostitution scene: it’s fun. Whereas Sleeping Beauty was flat, impenetrable, and holier-than-thou (buoyed only by the stunning Emily Browning), X plays around in the muck… and has a hell of a time doing it.

Discuss: What was your favourite Australian film of 2011?

3 Responses to “The 10 best Australian films of 2011”

  1. Go Red Dog! Hehe Simon “in your face Lassie” is very well put.

  2. Snowtown should have been NUMBER 1 !!

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