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Staff Picks: July 2021

Staff Picks Have Been Taken Over...

This month Staff picks has been taken over by the casual library staff members, library work experience students and an AFTRS Alumni.

Each person has chosen four recommendations, with a note explaining each pick.

The picks can be accessed both online from your living room or via the Library (for AFTRS staff and students only).

We have also mixed it up and have picks from all over the internet, including podcasts, games, websites, as well as traditional films and television series.

James Thomas - AFTRS Alumni

Frownland (2007) Editor: Ronald Bronstein

An under appreciated (and under-borrowed) back-shelf oddity. Abrasive, bizarre and featuring a central character who is hard to put up with, it’s also oddly innovative and savagely funny if you’re ready for it.

Fans of Josh and Benny Safdie take note: Frownland is written and directed by longtime Safdie collaborator Ronald Bronstein — co-writer and co-editor on Good Time (2017) and Uncut Gems (2019), and star of the brothers’ early feature Daddy Longlegs (2009).

Synecdoche, New York (2008) Editor: Robert Frazen

Probably too messy to be called a masterpiece, this movie is nonetheless a feat of narrative filmmaking, packed with incredible ideas and elevated by an astounding lead performance from the late, great Philip Seymour Hoffman.

Overwhelming in its ambition — much like the agonised protagonist’s endlessly expanding theatre project — this is a film that is too big to be able to fully contain its own bigness. A brilliant, disturbing, convoluted opus. WARNING: Not a date movie.

Fail Safe (1964) Editor: Ralph Rosenblum

Notoriously overshadowed by the comic masterpiece that is Dr. Strangelove… (1964), Fail Safe is a marvel of white-knuckle tension — if you can look past the obvious parallels with the Stanley Kubrick classic.

An extremely well-crafted thriller, with some inspired editing by Rosenblum and an ending that can still knock the wind out of you almost 60 years later.

Just try not to think of Merkin Muffley.

When The Shooting Stops… The Cutting Begins By Ralph Rosenblum and Robert Karen

Both a history of film editing and a personal journey through a career spent cutting movies for directors such as Woody Allen, Sidney Lumet, Mel Brooks and William Friedkin, Ralph Rosenblum’s memoir is a true gift to anyone interested in the craft of editing. The chapters on cutting The Night They Raided Minsky’s should be required reading for all aspiring film editors:


"Nothing could shake my feeling of having been left to revive a corpse—nor suspend my conviction that I would be sticking tubes, and intravenous drips, and cardiac shocks, and artificial respirators onto and into and out of this patient for the rest of my life." (p24)

Toby Child - Library Work Placement Student

Withnail and I (dir: Bruce Robinson, 1987)

This is a British black comedy about two unemployed actors in London in the 1960’s.

It stars Richard E. Grant, Paul McGann (Doctor Who) and has a very funny performance by Richard Griffiths (who also played the nasty uncle in the Harry Potter series).

Well worth a look if you like films that don’t take themselves too seriously – it is a low budget production that works because of the clever script and talent of the actors alone.   

The World According to Garp (dir: George Roy Hill, 1982)

Based on the John Irving novel, this film is about a struggling young writer (Robin Williams in an early serious role), as well as John Lithgow as an ex-grid-iron player who now identifies as a woman.

The film is quirky, sad at times, and full of eccentric characters and unusual plot turns.   

The Fall (2013-2016)

Set in Ireland, this cleverly written series is about an apparently passionate father who is really a serial killer. (Played by Jamie Dornan.) Gillian Anderson of X-files fame plays the cold-hearted detective tasked with solving the crimes, and gradually the murderer is uncovered by his own psychopathic compulsions. Or is he?

Well written, fast paced, with a cast that also includes John Lynch, who seems to be the ‘fall guy’ for these types of productions.

It is worth being patient with the series - I was hooked by about episode 3.

The Head (2020-)

This macabre and intriguing television series focuses on research scientists enduring a long Antarctic winter.

When their replacement team arrives in Spring, everyone is missing.

Details and flashbacks slowly reveal what has happened.

There are 6 episodes in this cleverly paced ‘whodunnit’/thriller.

There are many plot twists and turns – it reminded me of the Agatha Christie classic novel and film ‘Ten Little Indians.”

Laura Kent - Library Work Placement Student

Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (Dir: Peter Jackson, 2001)

The Lord of the Rings trilogy are some of my absolute favourite films that never lose their charm or wonder on repeat viewings.

The films are beautifully made and hold a special place in my heart as every year my family will marathon the trilogy and bond over our shared love of Middle Earth. 

Spirited Away (Dir: Hayao Miyazaki, 2001)

The film that started my love affair with Studio Ghibli.

This is a beautifully animated masterpiece that showcases the best of Studio Ghibli from memorable characters to impressive fantasy worlds. 

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (Dir: Chris Columbus, 2001)

The movie that started it all and basically kickstarted my love of fantasy.

This is one of the first movies I can clearly remember seeing at the cinemas and was instantly entranced by the magical world of Hogwarts. 

Monsters Inc. (Dir: Pete Docter, 2001)

I'm a massive fan of animation in general and have a huge love of the Pixar films that helped shape and define my childhood.

This is an awesome, fun and sweet film that always remains entertaining and enjoyable on repeat viewings. 

Dimity Kasz - Casual Library Staff Member

The Kitchen Sisters Podcast

 “Stories from the b-side of history.” Aren’t you already hooked? Oral histories that cover a wide range of subjects and people, from Lou Reed’s hidden archive (not even Laurie knew he had it until he died!) and Taylor Negron’s answering machine recordings (extremely funny); to the history of the French Manicure, the art of mushroom foraging, and “hidden kitchens” i.e. political dissent through food.

Every episode showcases small fragments of an interesting person’s life, celebrity or not.

I return to this podcast over and over again ­– not a single episode is uninteresting.

Available wherever you get your podcasts.

Monkey Grip (Dir: Ken Cameron, 1981)

From Helen Garner’s also excellent novel. A story of love, sex, and addiction set in Melbourne in the late 1970s, tinged with the ideals of community living, feminism, and rock & roll.

A very emotional story and perhaps now a little dated, but absolutely an Australian classic for a reason.

If you don’t know Noni Hazlehurst outside of Play School you’re in for a real shock.


Midnight Cowboy (Dir: John Schlesinger, 1969)

Small town naive hustler (Jon Voight) tries his luck in New York City, only to be played for a fool by Dustin Hoffman’s character.

Yeah yeah they form an “unlikely friendship” which everyone raves about, but don’t let it put you off.

This whole film is incredibly charming. And when that Harry Nilsson drops, my god. Someone get me that cow hide suitcase!

Shame (Dir: Steve Jodrell, 1988)

CW: rape, sexual assault.

The old Australian/Western film trope: city slicker gets stuck in a small town only to be horrified by what goes on.

I’ve never, ever, felt more completely trapped and unsatisfied by a film as I have when I watched this – but that’s an endorsement.

Every single man should watch this movie to experience a small glimpse of what it can be like living as a woman in this society.

A horrific, gutsy, and complex film, I was surprised it is only rated M.