Rupert Pupkin Speaks

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Film Discoveries of 2015 - Peter Jewkes

Peter Jewkes (aka Hippowithhiccupsredux) has been obsessed with movies since he was 10 yrs old & his dad took him to the library to see Lon Chaney in THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA.  He has seen a movie a day for approximately the last 30 years.  He posts fanatically to Instagram:

LAUGHTER IN THE DARK (1969) - Tony Richardson's stunning version of the Nabokov novel featuring astounding performances by Nicol Williamson & Anna Karina.

STAVISKY... - A dynamite Jean Paul Belmondo as the notorious 1920s swindler in this Alain Resnais buried treasure.  Charles Boyer co-stars and there is an oddball music score by none other than Stephen Sondheim.

CRAZY JOE (1974) - Peter Boyle has the title role as "crazy" Joe Gallo in this Italian made/New York set mafia bloodbath.  Exciting, weird, extremely well acted by Boyle, Rip Torn, Eli Wallach and Paula Prentiss.  

IN A LONELY PLACE (1950) - Certainly one of the strangest film noirs!  Humphrey Bogart is a screenwriter with a lot of anger management issues who may or may not have comitted a murder...much to the horror of Gloria Grahame.  Directed by Nicholas Ray.

LE CHAT (1971) - Love fades! Denys dela Patelliere's film of a marriage that has list its lustre in the most horrifying way for Simone Signoret & Jean Gabin.

WHERE LOVE HAS GONE (1964) - A masterpiece of high-strung camp.  Socialite sculpture Susan Hayward endures a bad marriage to war hero/alcoholic Mike Connors.  Hayward smokes a lot, Connors yells a lot and Bette Davis (as Hayward's mom) wears a lot of weird clothes.

THE HIRELING (1973) - Class structure run wild.  Robert Shaw is the chauffer for the not so stable Sarah Miles.  Mayhem ensues when Shaw "mis-reads" signals from Miles.

Film Discoveries of 2015 - Jack Criddle

Jack Criddle is a filmmaker/videographer/photographer based in the Berkshires of Western Massachusetts. His credits include work as a production coordinator on the Wilco concert film EVERY OTHER SUMMER, and as a camera operator on William Paul Smith’s A PORTRAIT OF IZHAR PATKIN. The subjects of his own short documentaries range from Vermont-based stained glass artist Debora Coombs to z-grade 1930’s proto-grindhouse director Dwain Esper. At the rare time’s he finds a free moment, he likes to watch movies. He can be reached on Twitter and Instagram.
One of the highlights of this year’s FreshGrass Festival at MASS MoCA was the addition of a new program of bluegrass and roots musicians playing live soundtracks to silent shorts. The best of the bunch was blues virtuoso Mamie Minch’s score to this fantastic Windsor McCay cartoon, based off his surreal newspaper strip. A middle-aged ma-and-pa pair pair fly around the world and to outer space in their house, which is decked out with airplane wings and a propeller. Despite its ten-minute running time, it’s got more fantastic imagery, whimsy and humor than most blockbuster movies of today.
Bit of PRC Pictures’ hokum is one of Bela Lugosi’s better outings with the poverty row studio. This one features a pretty unique plot; Lugosi’s a chemist employed by a dynastic family’s cosmetics company, though he cashed out long ago rather than investing to get a share of the company’s millions. Now, in pursuit of vengeance, he murders the family members by sicking huge (rubber prop) bats that are attracted to his specially-designed aftershave lotion. It’s all pretty silly business, though Lugosi, perhaps projecting his frustrations with the Hollywood studio system into the role, is fabulously menacing.
The biggest treat of Film Forum’s Preston Sturges retrospective was seeing this new-to-me screwball affair in a crisp 35mm print. Joel McCrea and Claudette Colbert’s recently-separated married couple fight for each other’s affections while they each ward off those of wacky millionaire siblings Rudy Vallee and Mary Astor. Sturges was firing on all cylinders here, flawlessly weaving between rapid-fire screwball dialogue, high farce and slapstick comedy, and sustaining the madcap speed of the middle part of THE LADY EVE for the running time of a whole film. Far and away my favorite of any of this year’s first-time watches.
The missus and me decided to watch the Bond series in order in preparation for SPECTRE. In doing so, I discovered that Roger Moore wasn’t as bad as everyone makes out, and that although the Craig films are objectively “better,” Pierce Brosnan still feels more like ‘my’ James Bond, due to his entries being the first ones I saw as a youngster. I also discovered that ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE is the best in the series, and it’s a shame George Lazenby didn’t make more. Lazenby imbued 007 with a sense of humanness and vulnerability without losing any of the high-concept superheroics. And as for Diana Rigg - the ultimate Bond Girl? More like the Ultimate Woman, full stop.
An epic tale of survival, brotherhood, and individualism vs. totalitarianism, played out amongst rabbits in the rural south of England. WATERSHIP DOWN was a film I realized I’d seen clips of but not the whole thing, and it really is a singular and incredible work of art. Boasting a creation-myth prologue by the great John Hubley, life-like character animation on gorgeous watercolor backgrounds, and a stark and emotionally frank story, this is quite likely the greatest British animated film of all time.
It was good to see Michael Keaton return as a critical darling in last year’s excellent BIRDMAN. I consider him one of the great Renaissance men of comedy and drama, and director Amy Heckling to be one of the most underrated comedy filmmakers. JOHNNY DANGEROUSLY is a loving homage and side-splitting piss-take of 30’s gangster movies that adopts the staging and blocking of early talkie cinema, adding in hilarious performances and Zucker Brothers-style visual gags. I recommend watching it in black and white for the full effect.
God bless Frank Henenlotter. In addition to being a cinephile’s cinephile, and an exploitation/horror director whose creations hit all the right notes for this blood-and-monsters-loving dorkus, at his heart he’s a brilliant social satirist. This wonderful little film was made between the cult fave BASKET CASE and the feminist neo-classic FRANKENHOOKER (I mean it.) It a powerful but frequently hilarious tale of addiction, illustrated by an abusive relationship between a young man and a hallucination-causing, brain-eating slug-monster.
I was floored by this obscure gem after reading Kim Morgan’s recommendation and seeing it turn up on Netflix. It’s adapted from a Charles Willeford pulp novel. Patrick Warburton plays a used car salesman and textbook-case sociopath who reinvents himself as a movie director (of what has to be the most misanthropic b-picture ever made, no less.) This film was misunderstood by the few critics who initially saw it, DEAD MEN DON’T WEAR PLAID-type spoof - it’s in fact a black-hearted but caustically funny noir recreation. I’d say it’s long overdue for rediscovery as as one of the screen’s best portrayals of film directing as megalomania.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Film Discoveries of 2015 - Elric Kane

Elric Kane is Co-host of Killer POV podcast(one of my favorite shows). Also, he's on Twitter here: 
1. Les Diables (dir. Ruggia, ’02)
One of the most incredibly daring films about children I’ve ever seen. The performances are so intense and real that it transcends watching a film and makes you feel like a participant in their struggles. This film is virtually unknown in USA and may take hunting for but this makes Larry Clark’s films seem “safe”. A masterpiece. 

2. Sharky’s Machine (dir Reynolds, ’81)
Excellent Golden age Burt Reynolds film directed by the man himself. A cop demoted to Vice stumbles into a Rear Window murder scenario. Funny, sexy, strange and always surprising your expectations. Henry Silva is excellent as always as the psycho killer.

3. The Pit ( dir. Lehman, ’81)
I was familiar with the VHS cover of this one but had never seen it and hard to find now. Deranged Canadian horror. Pervert kid throws folks down a hole in the forest where troll creatures await. Oh, and he his stuffed teddy tells him to kill. A sadistic wonder.

4. Rituals aka The Creeper (dir. Carter, ’77)
Deliverance is one of my favorite American films so Rituals was a true revelation (Another Canuxploitation gem!). Very similar in set-up but more in the Horror realm. Hal Holbrook in a career best performance as a Doctor who will do anything to survive. The filmmaking feels almost dangerous in it’s use of unforgiving locations and realist shooting style. Survival horror at it’s finest. Hopefully Code Red will release a Blu at some point.

5. Sonny Boy (dir. Carroll, ’89)
Killer POV listener John Berry sent me a copy on dvd from a VHS of this before the new re-release from Scream factory. I love Cult films and this is a cult that is sure to grow over the years. Like the male version of ‘Baby Doll’ if directed by the love child of Jodorowsky and John Waters. Truly strange and entertaining White Trash christ riff with David Carradine playing Transvestite Mom. There’s nothing quite like this one folks.

Other worthy 2015 discoveries: Family Plot, Ride the Pink Horse, I Madman, Defiance, The Resurrected

Fav rediscovery screening: The Reflecting Skin 35mm (Heavy Midnites @ Cinefamily)
Seeing this on the big screen rocketed it into the pantheon of my favorite films.

Fav Re-master release: Messiah of Evil on Blu (Code Red).

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Film Discoveries of 2015 - Peter A. Martin

Peter is the managing editor of Twitch Film. He began contributing to the site in 2005 and has never stopped, save for occasional periods when he has been "away." He is also a contributing writer for and other fine print and online publications. He is a member of the Dallas/Ft. Worth Film Critics Association and the Online Film Critics Society. 

Here is another cool Film Discoveries list he did a while back:
Wild Boys of the Road (1933)
This was part of my re-discovery of William A. Wellman, who I knew previously only as the director of enjoyable mucho-macho movies like Beau Geste, Battleground, and The High and the Mighty. Lo and behold, Warner Archive opened up to me gems like Frisco Jenny, Heroes for Sale, Midnight Mary, and this entry, a lithe road movie that in its brisk 68 movies somehow encompasses all of life itself. Brilliant.

Rage (1972)
George C. Scott was so angry! After winning an Academy Award for Patton, he starred in the bristling and terrific The Last Run, the Paddy Chayefsky-scripted The Hospital, and Richard Fleischer's cynical/realistic The New Centurions. Then he made his feature directorial debut with this furious diatribe against the military and government conspiracies in general. His performance reflects the movie's attitude: seething, yet always in control.

The Yakuza (1974)
Before he veered off into larger-scaled, more mainstream entertainment, Sydney Pollack could definitely be mean and dirty, as evidenced by this tough thriller, reportedly written largely by Leonard Schrader, though his brother Paul Schrader reportedly muscled his way to credit along with Robert Towne. Whatever the true story, I loved the way that Pollack makes excellent use of Robert Mitchum as the brooding center of the piece, surrounded by a great cast.

The Cars That Ate Paris (1974) / The Plumber (1979)
My contemporaneous experience with Peter Weir began with The Last Wave, which I saw in a Los Angeles theater not too long after its release. Somehow I never caught up with his other work from that time perod, and I'm glad I finally got to see these two gems, which are dark and dirty and feature a very bleak sense of desperate humor; call them 'Oz noir.'

Hearts of the West (1975)
Jeff Bridges is rambunctious and charming, and he's surrounded by seasoned professionals in the supporting cast, led by Andy Griffith, whose oily persona is covered up by a sneaky smile. Howard Zieff only directed nine features and this rivals the delightful House Calls as his best, most rounded piece of screen comedy.

The Pack (1977)
Wild dogs attack people on an island. That's the premise and director Robert Clouse (Enter the Dragon) delivers exactly what's promised, but Joe Don Baker grounds the thrills with a convincing star turn. The real star, though, is probably film editor Peter E. Berger, who keeps thing super-tight and pulsing.

Demon Seed (1977)
Machines are evil! Granted, the idea of a super-computer raping a woman to produce his offspring is ridiculous and offensive, especially when that woman is Julie Christie. Roll that over in your mind and it becomes more offensive. Yet Christie is rather amazingly good, and the great director Donald Cammell doesn't make anything easy or less than genuine in the movie's stomach-churning terror. This is a movie that I resisted for years, but it's definitely worth a watch.

Angst (1983)
Director and cowriter Gerald Kargl makes a claustrophobic movie about a serial killer freshly released from prison who immediately looks for new opportunities to practice evil. He is despicable, and his actions and words quickly inspire dread that flowers into disgust and a sickening feeling that is even more disturbing than the violence that is depicted.

Pontypool (2008)
Tony Burgess adapted his own novel for director Bruce McDonald and it's startling how effectively it plays out on screen. It's a horror story set in a single location, a radio station in a small town that is struck by a mysterious virus. It's scary and thrilling and very, very dark and entirely disturbing to behold.

Warner Archive - A MIGHTY WIND on Blu-ray

A MIGHTY WIND (2003; Christoper Guest)
"Wha' Happened?"
Christopher Guest has obviously carved a remarkable niche for himself in the wake of the epic classic that is THIS IS SPINAL TAP. 
I think that A MIGHTY WIND gets short shrift when it comes to the Guest filmography. WAITING FOR GUFFMAN was his first effort and is much beloved as is the somewhat broader BEST IN SHOW. WIND though, is perhaps more esoteric and so it doesn't connect with as many people. The Guest stock company is all here and all are bringing their usual best comedic stuff. This film is maybe even a little bit more subtle and less jokey than some of the others, but I don't mind that. I still find it to be not only very funny, but also wonderfully sincere and earnest in kind of a similar way to the music that runs throughout.
Christopher Guest, Michael McKean and Harry Shearer have such amazing chemistry together and seeing them back together as a trio is really a thing that really makes my geek heart swell with happiness. And to see them as this like alternate universe folk band is just a real trip. They are really at their best when the are inhabiting a musical microcosm. The attention to detail in terms of the songs and the music with them is just remarkable. It's clearly a world they adore and whilst they are clearly making fun of the folk scene, they also have a love for it and a love for making music that is both authentic but also funny at the same time. It adds this extra layer of observational humor to the proceedings that just elevates everything. The details though, from the album cover designs to the interesting nasaly vibrato thing that Chris Guest adds to his voice when he is performing, are just outstanding. You can almost feel the depth of knowledge these guys have about this kind of music and how it's engrained in them. It allows them to create these characters and groups that are familiar and yet completely their own thing.  On top of that, A MIGHTY WIND has a lot of heart to it that is not so present in the other Christopher Guest movies. A big part of that comes from Eugene Levy and Catherine O'Hara who play a former duo who used to perhaps be in love with each other but had a falling out and broke up. Their biggest hit from back in the day,(called "A Kiss At the End of the Rainbow") is a delightful and touching song and one that I find genuinely moving by the end of the movie. So in a lot of ways, A MIGHTY WIND is a nice sister film to THIS IS SPINAL TAP and one that I've found myself more and more drawn to as I've gotten older.

Special Features:
This disc has a healthy "gust" of extras:
-An Audio Commentary with Christopher Guest & Eugene Levy.
-Nearly 30 Minutes of additional scenes including "The Good Book Song", "The Catheter Song".
-An Interview with the Folksmen.
-The Bohners meet their fans and more.
-Live TV Broadcast of the concert: The Climactic Benefit Show in its entirety.
-"Vintage" TV appearances from the bands.
A MIGHTY WIND can be purchased here:

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Film Discoveries of 2015 - Jackson Stewart

Jackson Stewart is a writer/director living in Los Angeles. He created the web series 'The Cartridge Family' and wrote for the CW show Supernatural. He also did a short entitled 'Sex Boss' and recently finished a film called BEYOND THE GATES. BEYOND THE GATES was co-written by RPS friend and contributor Stephen Scarlata and the IMDB plot description has me wanting to see it:
"Two estranged brothers reunite at their missing father's video store to liquidate the property and sell off his assets. As they dig through the store, they find a VCR board game dubbed 'Beyond The Gates' that holds a connection to their father's disappearance and deadly consequences for anyone who plays it."

Jackson is on twitter @bossjacko.
Here's his discoveries list from last year:

Crime in the Streets (1956): Don Siegel's follow-up to INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS. A twentysomething John Cassavetes stars as Frankie, a troubled 'teen' struggling between furthering his life of crime or heading down the less certain straight and narrow path a social worker is trying to lead him down. Siegel's direction in this is fairly workmanlike, a step backward from his taut BODYSNATCHERS though still quite effective. He tends to mostly work in the mastershot in this movie and it packs a serious emotional punch at the end as Frankie must decide the course of his future over one fateful event.
Satanic Rites of Dracula (1973): This is notably the last movie the amazing Christopher Lee played Dracula. Peter Cushing continues delivering his top-notch work as Van Helsing (this time a descendant of the
original) and I believe this is the second 1970s era Dracula movie after DRACULA AD 1972. Lee only appears in three or four scenes as Dracula (clearly growing tired of the role), though none of that comes through in his work. Van Helsing and Dracula share one final showdown in a murky nighttime scene, filled with Lee's real blood as he fights his way through a thornbush and it's really quite fabulous.
See No Evil (1971): Definitely not the movie starring Kane from WWE. The adorable Mia Farrow plays a blind woman in this nail biting thriller; clearly made off the success of 'Wait Until Dark'. Richard Fleischer knocks it out of the park in a terrifying sequence featuring Farrow wandering through a remote, countryside mansion and being oblivious to the fact that everyone inside has been brutally murdered while the killer is still in the house.

The Ambulance (1990): Holy shit, this movie is incredible. I saw this on a whim at the Egyptian as part of a Larry Cohen retrospective doubled with 'Special Effects' and I'm quite glad I did. The movie centers
around a Marvel comic book artist played by the master Eric Roberts who becomes obsessed with a girl seemingly kidnapped by an ambulance in the middle of the city. The whole thing turns into a bit of a shaggy dog story but it's got some amazing stunt work from my hero Spiro Razatos and Cohen's writing is airtight as usual. This movie deserves a huge cult following.
Nightmares (1983): An intense 1980s horror anthology film initially intended for release as a TV movie but deemed too intense by wussy television executives and put out in all its R-rated glory for us cinefiles.
Each segment has its own strengths, though the opener 'Terror In Topanga' really ratchets up the tension. Interestingly, Joseph Sargent directed all four segments, which might explain why it doesn't
suffer from the usual unevenness most anthologies do.

Criterion Collection- THE GRADUATE on Blu-ray

THE GRADUATE (1967; Mike Nichols)

There a few very special films out there that make use of a single artist as the driving force on their soundtracks. Hal Ashby's HAROLD AND MAUDE immediately comes to mind with it's excellent application of Cat Stevens throughout its running time. There's a certain organic cohesiveness that comes from this kind of uniformity of music and voices that really pulls everything together in a lovely way. I have a similar feeling about music in film trailers. By this I am speaking of when a single song is used throughout the trailer (as opposed to cutting between lots of different pieces of music). It really allows the viewer a more immersive experience. The same goes for using a single artist in a film. Once you have entered the world of THE GRADUATE, the Simon and Garfunkel music helps maintain that universe. From the beginning shot of Benjamin Braddock moving through in LAX whilst Simon & Garfunkel's "The Sound of Silence" plays, we immediately get a sense of the tone of the film. There is melancholy to the music, but even amidst that, Mike Nichols continues to keep the sounds of the airport and the voice from the loudspeakers there going throughout the song. He could have dropped all the sound out except for the song, but he doesn't. It's a very specific and interesting choice and Nichols makes masterful use of sound throughout the film. The music often carries between disparate scenes, marrying them together in the same dreamscape of a cinematic space. THE GRADUATE was also one of the earliest movies that showed me the importance and effectiveness of elegant transitions from one scene to the next. Film is of course a visual medium, so it only makes sense that one of the great things you can do with it is to make interesting jumps from one scene to another. I always find it the sign of a classy filmmaker when I see the time and effort put into nice transitions. I was just watching Steven Spielberg's most recent effort BRIDGE OF SPIES the other day and I was certainly aware of the way he moved from one scene to the next. THE GRADUATE is, as I said, ground zero for this kind of thing for me and I always come back to is as it contains so many nice examples of what a filmmaker can do in terms of this kind of thing. Nichols is in excellent form though as a director throughout THE GRADUATE and he exemplifies so many neat and stylish choices with his camera placement (and general use of a widescreen frame), editing, and music. It's really a movie that all film students should certainly be shown as a potential point of inspiration when they are thinking of directing a movie. 

Vanity Fair ran a fascinating piece on the making of THE GRADUATE back in 2008. I highly recommend reading it:
Disc Features:
-New 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
Optional 5.1 surround remix, approved by director Mike Nichols, presented in DTS-HD Master Audio on the Blu-ray.

-Audio commentary from 2007 featuring Nichols in conversation with filmmaker Steven Soderbergh.
-Audio commentary from 1987 featuring film scholar Howard Suber.
-New interview with actor Dustin Hoffman.
-New conversation between producer Lawrence Turman and screenwriter Buck Henry.
-New interview with film writer and historian Bobbie O’Steen about editor Sam O’Steen’s work on The Graduate.
-Students of “The Graduate,” a short documentary from 2007 on the film’s influence.
-“The Graduate” at 25", a 1992 featurette on the making of the film.
-Interview with Nichols by Barbara Walters, from a 1966 episode of NBC’s Today show.
-Excerpt from a 1970 appearance by singer-songwriter Paul Simon on The Dick Cavett Show.
-Screen tests
-PLUS: An essay by journalist and critic Frank Rich

Dustin Hoffman and Anne Bancroft in a publicity still for THE GRADUATE.

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