Twenty Greatest Australian Artistic Accomplishments of All Time

Let’s see if I can make an absolutely definitive list:

The Thorn Birds

20) The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough

This book is like nine hundred pages long and it sounds sexy, there were worn paperback copies at every library book sale of my youth so it must’ve hit home.  Haven’t read it, but I think it’s an achievement, it makes the cut.

True History

19) True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey

I myself didn’t finish it but it definitely seemed like an achievement.

18)  The movie Oscar and Lucinda.

This movie is weird and great.  Ralph Fiennes can’t stop gambling.  A real achievement.

fatal shore

17) The Fatal Shore by Robert Hughes.

Enormous, ambitious, compelling, tremendous work of historical storytelling.  Some excerpts give a sense of the style:

“At the lower end [of poor London circa 1788] were occupations now not only lost but barely recorded: that of the “Pure-finders,” for instance, old women who collected dog-turds which they sold to tanneries for a few pence a bucket.”

of the first night the convicts were allowed on land in Australia: “as the couples rutted between the rocks, guts burning form the harsh Brazilian aguardiente, their clothes slimy with red clay, the sexual history of colonial Australia may fairly be said to have begun.”

“Davey marked his arrival in Hobart Town in February of 1813 by lurching to the ship’s gangway, casting an owlish look at his new domain and emptying a bottle of port over his wife’s hat.”

16) The song “Waltzing Matilda”

Give it up, this is catchy song.

Flinders Street Station

15) Flinders Street Station

Australian architecture has to be represented.  You can’t give it to the Sydney Opera House though, designed by a Dane.  The Royal Melbourne Exhibition Hall gets a lot of attention, but I think Flinders Street Station is the more unique and impressive building and thus the greater achievement.

Wunnummurra Gorge paintings

14) Wandjina Rock Art of the Kimberly. 

Spooky, mesmerizing, and 4000 years later (judging by pictures, never seen it, would love to) it still holds up.

13) The Bee Gees, To Love Somebody

Not sure if the BeeGees should be included, they weren’t born in Australia, but feel like they make the cut.  Corny?  Maybe, but sometimes putting it all out there heart-wise is the way to go.  Don’t agree?  Take it up with with Beyoncé:

The Bee Gees were an early inspiration for me, Kelly Rowland and Michelle. We loved their songwriting and beautiful harmonies.

12) The song “Tomorrow” by Silverchair

Just a slam dunk of ’90s rock.  These guys were 18 when they recorded this.

Screen Shot 2016-08-16 at 2.13.45 PM

11) Paintings of Warlimpirrnga Tjapaltjarri 

Wild, original, great.  Previously covered here.

10) The movie The Proposition

Intense, gripping, cool.  The soundtrack alone almost got its own entry.

Heath Ledger

Russell Crowe in The Insider

9) Heath Ledger’s performance in Brokeback Mountain / Russell Crowe’s performance in The Insider (tie)

Wasn’t sure how to place individual acting achievements in non-Australian movies, but felt like they should be represented.  Heath Ledger is so good in this movie, he walks such a dangerous line, it’s tense all the way through.  Crowe in The Insider is, imo, his best and most human performance in an incredible career.

8) AC/DC’s song “You Shook Me All Night Long”

Indisputable party rock classic.  It’s true, maybe “Highway To Hell” or another AC/DC tune could go here, but I think “Shook” is the more dramatic achievement, standing out from the crowd of AC/DC songs.

Gallipoli

7) The movie Gallipoli

Young Mel Gibson, deeply moving movie about running, buds, war.  What an intense journey this film takes you on.

6) Tame Impala’s album Currents

Why are some songs on this list and some whole albums?  Because it’s my list, I can do what I want.

Kevin Parker of Tame Impala has said that listening to the Bee Gees after taking mushrooms inspired him to change the sound of the music he was making in his latest album Currents.[94]

5) The movie Walkabout

Why are Australians so good at making dreamy movies?  Great kid performances.  One of Warburton’s top seven!

4) Cait Blanchett in I’m Not There

What a masterful performance.  Amazing achievement.

3) The movie Picnic At Hanging Rock

Is there another movie with such a special combo of creepy, trippy, mysterious?  Peter Weir crushing it.

2) The Mad Max epic. 

Ride chrome into Valhalla.  When you put all three movies together, it’s a wonder this didn’t come in first.

1) The Avalanches album Since I Left You

Number one by a mile.  Name a better album by Mozart.  You can’t.

Honorable mention:

  • This painting of a platypus by John Lewin

800px-Platypus_by_Lewin

  • Natalie Imbruglia’s Torn
  • Summer Heights High (respect, I just never got too into it)
  • Rebel Wilson’s performance in Bridesmaids and Pitch Perfect
  • One of Patrick White works  (“The Ham Funeral”?).  Dude won the Nobel Prize, but I have not read them and can’t include them here.
  • Priscilla Queen Of The Desert (seems admirable)
  • Kath & Kim
  • The Slap TV drama
  • Nicole Kidman’s performance in Moulin Rouge

Moulin rouge

you might’ve thought Nicole Kidman would’ve made it into the top 20 but the fact is she didn’t!

  • INXS, “The Devil Inside”

a strong case can be made for INXS – my countercase is why didn’t I remember them until Boyle suggested them when I told him about this list?

  • Joseph Reed’s interior for the State Library of Victoria

800px-State_Library_of_Victoria_La_Trobe_Reading_room_5th_floor_view

  • Brett Whiteley’s Summer at Carcour:

summer-at-carcoar-1977

I welcome your arguments in the comments.


10 Comments on “Twenty Greatest Australian Artistic Accomplishments of All Time”

  1. Tony Dilson says:

    I was going to suggest The Slap TV drama, Frontline, The Secret River (novel), Keating the Musical, Matilda the Musical, Cold Chisel’s ‘Eaat’ album, Flirting starring young Noah Taylor, and dame Edna. Very pleased with your #1. What an incredible album.

  2. Lynn Chase says:

    On the Beach

  3. helytimes says:

    A valid nominee! Thanks for writing.

  4. Anonymous says:

    The Go-Betweens! Or maybe more specifically this song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yq8ZH-Z59hQ

  5. What’s The Thornbirds doing there?

  6. Kathleen says:

    Nailed it, as usual. But I gotta vote for these movies: The Castle, Barry McKenzie, and The Dish. Rabbit Proof Fence?. Also maybe Banjo Patterson’s poem
    Clancy of the Overflow.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Wake in Fright

  8. Anonymous says:

    Steve check out Wake in Fright


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