Writer Benjamin Law has adapted his sprawling memoir The Family Law, into the brutally honest and savagely funny six-part series of the same name, which is currently screening on SBS. We love his unique worldview, so we invited Benjamin to dive into our online catalogue of free movies and series, and tell us his top ten.
The Family Law
Okay, I know this is (1) technically cheating, (2) constitutes blatant self-promotion, and (3) is terribly unprofessional given it isn’t even going to be up on SBS On Demand forever. However, we’re proud that The Family Law is one the few series SBS On Demand has made available from Episode 1, so you can watch the entire series from the beginning. If you’re reading this and the link’s already expired? Never fear! It just means it’s time to buy the DVD.
First Contact is the most staggering and important reality TV show ever to come out of Australia. The premise is simple: the majority of Australians – roughly 60% – have never had any meaningful contact with Indigenous Australians in their lives. Here, we follow six European Australians as they engage with a diverse array of Indigenous communities for the first time. It’s funny, heartbreaking, confronting, infuriating and – ultimately – moving work from Blackfella Films, who are making some of the best Australian TV right now.
Man on Wire
(James Marsh, 2008)
I know, I know – tightrope walking is the domain of circuses, and I hate those places and the clowns that occupy them as much as anyone else. But Christ, Man on Wire – which documents Philippe Petit's 1974 high-wire walk between New York's Twin Towers – is one of the most elegant, heartstopping things ever committed to celluloid. It’s like a cinematic elegy of heroism and adventure, and pre-September 11 New York.
Coffee and Cigarettes
(Jim Jarmusch, 2003)
Essentially, this is just a collection of short black and white films by genius filmmaker Jim Jarmusch, which showcase conversations around… you guessed it, coffee and cigarettes. Sure, some of the short films are as tedious as the premise sounds, but some will genuinely knock your socks off. If you’re strapped for time, fast forward to the film ‘Cousins’, where Cate Blanchett plays both herself and her fictional dreadful cousin Shelly. It’s a ripper.
The Last Emperor
(Bernardo Bertolucci, 1987)
I remember watching this movie as a kid, shortly after it came out in 1987. Though I wouldn’t have understood most of it, some of the scenes in Bernardo Bertolucci’s film are so remarkable, they’re burned in my mind. Spanning Imperial China through to Cultural Revolution China, this film’s production was insane, and was the first Western film that got access to shoot in the Forbidden City. Nowadays, the nine Oscars The Last Emperor won (winning in every category for which it was nominated) speak for themselves.
The Beat My Heart Skipped
(Jacques Audiard, 2005)
Yeah-yeah, Ryan Gosling is very attractive and handsome, blah-blah-blah, we’ve all heard it before. But you’ll honestly forget Gosling ever existed when you watch Romain Duris on screen for the first time. Every straight woman and gay man in France – where Duris is a superstar – has probably masturbated thinking about Romain Duris at least eleven times, and this broody thriller is a great place to start fostering your newfound sexual obsession. You’re very welcome.
I Am Love
(Luca Guadagnino, 2009)
Everyone who has functioning eyes and excellent taste is obsessed with Tilda Swinton – one of the best female actors of her generation – and with good reason. For what it’s worth, I think I Am Love is her greatest film performance. (Bonus: Swinton even speaks Italian throughout. Damn her to hell.) Good point: Everyone will want to move to Milan and have an affair that destroys everyone’s lives after seeing this film. Bad point: Every sex scene in cinema will look like rubbish after seeing this film.
(Jean-Marc Vallée, 2005)
Growing up gay in a family of five kids – sounds familiar. But that detail is only one of a slew of reasons I related to – and loved – this 2005 French-Canadian film when it first came out. Spanning the 1960s, right through to the 1980s, C.R.A.Z.Y captures the hilarity and heartbreak that comes with being a gay kid raised by conservative parents in that era. It stars Marc-André Grondin, who has breathtakingly terrible hair throughout and still manages to be a babe anyway, and has one of the best soundtracks of any film ever.
(Lone Scherfig, 2009)
For whatever reason, I tend to get teary while travelling on international long-haul flights, but I suspect altitude wasn’t the only reason I burst into tears when watching this film on a plane. It’s the film that properly launched Carey Mulligan’s career, gave Mulligan her first Oscar nomination and showcased how goddamn good Nick Hornby is as a screenwriter. Bonus: Peter Sarsgaard co-stars. I could watch that guy do anything.
We can all agree that the phrase “landmark television event” is overused. But First Australians should be mandatory viewing for every Australian on the day they become a citizen. Over seven episodes, this documentary series investigates what happened when the British Empire and the world’s oldest living culture encountered each other. First Australians will educate you while confronting you with the stark fact of how little we were taught about Indigenous Australian history at school – which is, of course, a shared history of the nation. It’s a brutal history, and it needs to be known.
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