BY Richard Austen

Streaming Suggestions is a month-by-month series of recommendations for film lovers and those interested in expanding their horizons.

While I assume most readers will have at least one of the popular streaming services, I understand that some don’t, so I have also included excellent free services such as Kanopy (UNSW) and SBS on Demand.


Wake in Fright (1971) – available as of 31 March 2020

Known as Australia’s great ‘lost film’, Wake in Fright is a hallmark in Australian cinema, and an example of plain good filmmaking. The performance by Donald Pleasance as Doc, who seems to be holding a perpetual glass of beer in his hands, is unrivalled. The film covers the journey of a young schoolteacher who travels to the remote outback. Suffice to say, chaos ensues (and a lot of kangaroo killing). The director delivers a surreal journey through the Australian outback, with madness and alcohol being the key drivers. Wake in Fright is one of the essential films to see in the canon of Australian cinema, and although it may be a difficult watch, is worth it.

“You'd think a bloke who'd won a silver medal at target shooting could hit himself in the head at a range of three inches”.

Punch-Drunk-Love (2002) – available as of 31 March 2020

This is the film that roused Adam Sandler from his mediocre comedies and showed that he was capable of turning in a great performance. Paul Thomas Anderson creates a different kind of romantic-comedy, one that has some transcendent style and soundtrack, and despite its often weird narrative context, it is a film that just works so well. Sandler and Emily Watson are wonderful in the film, and are lovely playing off of each other. The film follows Barry Egan, a standard man-child stuck in the throes of arrested development. On the surface, he seems pleasant enough, but underneath, he boils with frustration and anger. He has 7 sisters which seem to be perpetually nagging, and the world seems to be working against him, but the film is sympathetic to his cause, and it seems that the machinations of a cosmic destiny allow him to (maybe) find someone he can love. This film is a treat to watch and a good entry point to Paul Thomas Anderson’s work.                 

“I don't know if there is anything wrong because I don't know how other people are.”

Jackie Brown (1997) – available as of 31 March 2020

Quentin Tarantino’s most underrated film, Jackie Brown has aged like a fine wine. Free from many of Tarantino’s trademark writing tropes, the narrative is allowed time to breathe, flesh itself out and not be weighed down by the director’s incessant need for over-the-top violence. The characters in this film are its biggest strength, and Tarantino made two of the great casting decisions in bringing back Pam Grier (Blaxploitation goddess and all-round badass) and Robert Forster (king of character actors) out of career slumps and into the spotlight. These two play off each other so coolly and brilliantly, they alone are reason enough to watch the film, but on top of that, the narrative is excellent, well-paced and satisfying as hell. The cherry on top to this is a supporting cast which includes Michael Keaton, Samuel L. Jackson and Robert De Niro; what more could you conceivably want? Any film that has the gall to completely under-utilise Robert De Niro is a film worth checking out.

“Now that my friend is a clear cut case of him or me. And you best believe it ain't gonna be me.”

Prime Video

Suspiria (2018) – available as of 31 March 2020

A remake of the 1977 giallo horror film, Suspiria (2018) strips itself of all the style that made the original so iconic, and instead expands upon the underdeveloped themes, narrative and characters. Set in post-war Berlin, the film follows Susie Bannion, a young dancer, who joins a world renowned dance company. Little does she know, everyone there is a witch. Luca Guadagnino’s cinematography is suitably bleak and desaturated, and only in its glorious, bloody finale, does the colour of the film become extraordinarily displayed. Guadagnino holds his cards close to his chest, and in only in this fantastic conclusion does everything begin to make sense. The film is an excellent slow-burn horror, and Tilda Swinton is one of the great actors of her age, playing numerous roles in this film brilliantly.

“Movement is never mute. It is a language. It's a series of energetic shapes written in the air like words forming sentences. Like poems. Like prayers.”


Society (1989) – available as of 31 March 2020

While it is not exactly the greatest film ever made, Society is an interesting and essential watch for those interested in B-movies. Society is the kind of movie that you tune into half-way through at midnight when you’re a kid, and become scarred by it for the rest of your life. Brian Yuzna clearly knows the type of films he’s making, and he revels in the glory of gore and messed-up ideas he manages to find himself in. The film itself is seemingly quite ordinary at first glance, but the more you watch, the more you can’t turn your eyes away. The story revolves around a teenager who never feels like he fits in, even at home, and some weird things are going on with his family… Don’t look up much more about the film, going in blind is the best possible way to watch it. Trust me, this is an experience you don’t want to miss.

“You were right Billy, I am a butthead!”


The Godfather – available as of 31 March 2020

As with last month’s The Exorcist, I recommend this as an absolute staple of film, and if you’ve seen it already, watch it again. This film is a masterpiece of the highest calibre. The director, Francis Ford Coppola, is so sure-handed, his craftmanship immaculate. Every frame of this film has a painterly quality to it. The dialogue is iconic, so many quotable lines, not just because of their nature of being memorable, but because they lend such character to the film. The story of the film revolves around the Corleone crime family, and its old-world style of dealing with matters, being undermined by the new world of young gangsters involved with drugs and disrespect. This is pretty much as good as movies can get.

“Leave the gun, take the cannoli”


Beetlejuice – available as of 31 March 2020

During the 80’s and 90’s, Tim Burton made some of the greatest fantastical films in American Cinema, and I think a lot of people tend to forget that when looking at his more recent work. From Edward Scissorhands to Ed Wood, his strength as a visual storyteller was unequivocal. Beetlejuice comes right in the middle of this string of films and shows Burton at his most creative. The film follows a young couple who have recently died and their troubles with the new owners of their house. Winona Ryder gives a solid performance in the film but the real stand-out is Michael Keaton who, although is not in the film for very long, gives a legendary performance as the titular Beetlejuice. The film represents Burton’s creative efflorescence, and is a great, entertaining watch.

“I myself am strange and unusual.”


Hot Fuzz (2007) – available as of 31 March 2020

Edgar Wright’s best film, Hot Fuzz plays like an episode of Midsomer Murders on steroids. It follows Nicholas Angel, an overachieving policeman (sorry, Police Officer) who is begrudgingly reassigned to a rural town where the crime rate is suspiciously low. The film, even on multiple viewings still lands most of its jokes, and is an easy watch. The writing by Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright is really strong, and the characters are memorable.

“No luck catching them swans then?”


Sans Soleil (1983) – available as of 31 March 2020

Chris Marker’s masterpiece documentary, Sans Soleil is a different kind of film experience. Told through contemplative narration against footage that Marker himself shot, the film can be seen as a visual poem. The moments of humanity that Marker captures are intangible to us in the moment, but as we look back at them, they all seem to make sense. The seemingly trivial and arbitrary connections that the narrator makes between culture and the scenes in the film allow us to understand something deeper about our natures, the connections between time and place that seem to inexplicably impact on each other. This is one of those masterpiece documentaries that everybody needs to see in their lifetimes.

“All women have a built-in grain of indestructibility.”


Dancer in the Dark (2000) – available as of 31 March 2020

Lars Von Trier followed up his masterpiece Breaking the Waves with this film, Dancer in the Dark, and although it may not be quite as strong, it’s worth seeing for Bjork alone. Trier’s roots from the Dogme 95 movement are a detriment to the film’s overall style and musical sequences, but there is something just so fascinating about the narrative decisions he makes. The film isn’t to be taken literally, and the situations sometimes border on comedic, but through this all, Bjork’s strength as an actor and Trier’s strength as a storyteller shines. The film centres around Bjork’s character, an immigrant mother who works in a factory, trying to scrape together enough money for her son’s eye surgery, but she herself is quickly losing her vision. Certainly an interesting film for those who are fans of Bjork and those interested in a more accessible Trier film.

“What is there to see?”

SBS on Demand

Bone Tomahawk (2015) – expires January 2021

S. Craig Zahler’s horror-western Bone Tomahawk put him on the map as a director to look out for, and with his succeeding films Brawl in Cell Block 99 and Dragged Across Concrete, he has demonstrated himself as an excellent, uncompromising filmmaker with a grindhouse mentality. This film moves like an old Hollywood western, in the same vein as The Searchers, slow and steady, but ramps up into B-movie gory glory with one of the most disturbing deaths on screen you’ll ever see. The premise itself is pretty standard; a sheriff, his deputy, a cowboy and a foreman go searching for a group that has been abducted by a tribe. But the twist is, the tribe is a group of cannibalistic troglodytes. This is a must-watch for those interested in really strong film writer-directors.

“Say goodbye to my wife; I'll say hello to yours.”


The Straight Story (1999) – expires July 2020

David Lynch’s most accessible film, The Straight Story has none of his trademark surrealism, and instead opts for pure, distilled storytelling. This is a beautifully made film, and reflects a quietude of rural existence that most of us can only dream of. The film itself covers the story of Alvin Straight, a man who discovers that his elderly brother has become critically-ill, and can only get to him by travelling across the country on a lawn-mower. The story is simple and unassuming, but along the journey of the film we meet characters that are just wonderful, and reflect a kind, small-town sensibility. This was Richard Farnsworth’s (Alvin Straight) last film after a history of stunt-men jobs in Hollywood, and he finally got his due. The film is a joy to watch.

"I'd give each one of 'em a stick and, one for each one of 'em, then I'd say, 'You break that.' Course they could real easy. Then I'd say, 'Tie them sticks in a bundle and try to break that.' Course they couldn't. Then I'd say, "That bundle... that's family."


The Proposition (2005) – expires January 2021

Written by Nick Cave, this Australian-set Western film is an underrated and unseen gem. The film is shocking, disturbing and defies the conventions of its genre, right up until its bloody conclusion. Praised for its treatment of Aboriginal Australians (another great Australian-Western that does this is Sweet Country, which is also on SBS on Demand), The Proposition is an entertaining, gory watch with smarts. Ray Winstone plays the antagonist to Guy Pierce’s Charlie Burns, and delivers an excellent performance with some great lines. Winstone’s character gives Charlie Burns an ultimatum, kill his older brother, or his younger brother will be executed. From this simple premise comes some of the most beautiful and horrifying images in Australian cinema. This is some of the best of contemporary Australian film-making.

“Australia. What fresh hell is this?”

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