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Friday, February 24, 2017

Pure Cinema Podcast - Movie Recap - Episode One: "Handshake Five"

Okay, so I'm going to try to do a weekly post that at least summarizes the lists that Elric and I are doing on Pure Cinema. I'm usually going to wait a week or so after the episode has been out there so folks get a chance to listen for themselves, but I thought it'd be nice to see our lists in some kind of posted format in case you want to check out any of the movies we recommend. 
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In episode one, we did our "Handshake Five" films and this is what those lists look like:

Brian's "Handshake Five":

5. THREE O'CLOCK HIGH (1987; Phil Joanou)
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4. AFTER HOURS (1985; Martin Scorsese)
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3. ROCK 'N' ROLL HIGH SCHOOL (1979; Allan Arkush)
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2. DUCK SOUP(1933; Leo McCarey)
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1. RIO BRAVO (1959; Howard Hawks)
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Elric's "Handshake Five":

5. THE SHINING (1980; Stanely Kubrick)
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4. THE 'BURBS (1989; Joe Dante)
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3. POSSESSION (1981; Andrzej Zulawski)
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2. A PLACE IN THE SUN (1951; George Stevens)
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1. BLUE VELVET (1986; David Lynch)
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Film Discoveries of 2016 - John S. Berry

Attempted positive guy on Twitter @JohnSBerry1 (I am not high on quantity of followers but overflowing with quality), occasional wise cracker on Gonzo Guys podcast and guy that saw Alien on HBO at way to young of an age. I still actively hunts down VHS tapes and am constantly taking notes to seek out films. It is near impossible to describe how happy I am after watching a gem of a film, often I have to go walk it off in the cool night air. Viva la cinema!
See John's 2015 Discoveries list here:

This last year was, uh… interesting in many ways. I didn’t see as many movies in theaters it seems, but connected to a lot of VHS and oddities in a personal one on one way. Sometimes the journey and the hunt can be just as fulfilling (or better) as the movie. I have found some of these gems in Goodwill .25 bins and $1 on vacation at a rare video rental store, it adds to the philosophical feeling of true discovery.

I found the bright spot in getting the flu for a week. What better time to make some discoveries while breaking a fever, tired from antibiotics with your best cat buddy by your side? While making this list I realized I included a lot of fun films this year. Nothing too heavy or taxing which reminds me that films can be pleasant during unpleasant time.

Positive I.D. (1986; Andy Anderson): I hit the equivalent of a hot hand in cards with St. Vincent Goodwill for a few months this year. I found Mafu Cage and some other great VHS tapes. I wonder who is this guy donating these bonker films here? Is it me from a parallel universe or my potential new best friend?

This 1986 movie was a great find and had one of the best tie it all together endings I have ever witnessed. Without giving too much away it is a slow burn for sure and very procedural film (I can’t say how it is procedural because that will give it away). At first some of the acting feels a little stiff but it gets better and I really got into the story and felt the characters were believable, especially the bartender.

The movie feels very earnest and how do you not love a movie where director Andy Anderson (I will check out his few other titles for sure) puts in the credits:

"Above all this film is dedicated to the crew. They made it....the hard way."
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The Sadist (1963; James Landis): This movie was recommended by the charming Rebekah McKendry on Killer POV now Shock Waves podcast. It sounded familiar and then I realized I had it on an amazing find of a double DVD paired with The Killing Kind (may be best bargain bin DVD ever, thanks Dean’s Books in Topeka, KS.)

I popped it in late on a Sunday night thinking I would watch a little before bed and was totally pulled in and paid for it at wake up revelry at 4AM. I agree with Rebeka in Rob Zombie has probably seen this one a time or two as it has that dusty and dirty Devils Rejects feel.

Arch Hall Jr. is tremendous in this and I always thought he was a goofy guy thanks to Joel and the Bots but here he is unhinged and unpredictable and you feel like no one is safe and will get out alive. I am a sucker for small self-contained single settings and this one is a true dusty masterpiece. It reminded me of the dangerous and eerie feeling of junkyards I ran around in as a kid.
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Sweet Trash (1970; John Hayes): I realize I am becoming a crusader for the films of John Hayes. It seems like the last two years I have watched a film of his not knowing it is one of his and it has made my favorite discovery list. I watched this one afternoon on a sick day and it probably made me feel worse with the grimy locations and William Conners’ constant denim soaking pit stains.

This feels like an R Rated take on a year in the life of ole’ Gil from The Simpsons. There are a lot of eccentric characters and it feels every few scenes the ante is raised (gambling analogy?) with random weirdness. It is a unique film that I may have to revisit soon without being ill. Gotta love the range of John Hayes.
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JD and the Salt Flat Kid (1978; Alexander Grasshoff): I found out about this film from the amazing Trailer Trauma Blu-Ray (which I cannot champion enough) and sure it looks like a Smokey and the Bandit rip off and even tried to cash in with one title being Smokey and the Good Time Outlaws. But it is kind of its own thing and hey any movie with Slim Pickens is worth seeing once, even though he and his pursuit storyline sort of just fade out. Worth the $13 VHS? I think so.

Jesse Turner and Dennis Fimple play loveable losers who want to make it big time in the country music world. The tone of the movie is all over the place like a lot of movies from this wheel house. It is part caper, part comedy with a ventriloquist dummy with some ham fisted drama with a sad harmonica playing the theme song. But hell, it is a lot of fun and the song “Finally Made it on my Own” will be stuck in your head for commutes and treadmills for life.
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Delta Force 3: The Killing Game (1991; Sam Firstenberg): I picked this up for a sweet buck at the amazing VHS cathedral of Captain Video in San Mateo. I hold the owner Ira in high regard and love hearing him chat with his regular rental customers and informing me of a new haul of VHS goodies.

This is another just fun popcorn movie, sure Kobe beef is amazing but sometimes a Big Mac is just what you need on that day. This is super cliché and stars the sons of other actors. Extra bonus on my VHS copy intro by Mike Norris talking about the new generation’s turn to kick butt.

Delta Force ends up teaming up with their Russian counterparts and the war buddy bond, we are more alike than we thought is in full bloom. It takes an interesting detour into a TV studio with a fairly clever attack foil. I understand why they don’t make movies like this anymore but I am sure there are plenty more of these Big Macs to be enjoyed.
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Revenge of the Living Zombies (1988; S. William Hinzman): Another movie not traditionally good but fun as hell. I unearthed this VHS at a record shop in Niles, CA., city famous where Charlie Chaplin made a few films. I grumbled about the $3 price tag for a tape that was collecting dust but later found this tape was worth a lot as it is original version, later released as Flesh Eater.

S. William Hinzman wrote and directed this one and it feels like watching the movie version of a cover band. It hits a lot of classic zombie notes and there are some moments when you see wires etc. But there is a fun DIY Let’s Shoot this in the woods feeling that makes this one pretty fun.
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Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man (1991; Simon Wincer): I had been wanting to re visit this one as I remember not liking it when I saw it on a sick day when I was younger. I could not pull the trigger on the Blu-Ray as it was zero on extras but knew it was a keeper at a thrift store in Lake Tahoe for $1 on my birthday. It was mean to be (sing this phrase like Vanessa Williams please).

Turns out I must have been on meds as this movie is a ton of fun. The opening is hilarious and made me remember the kind of things a lot of guys at my school thought was bad ass. The characters are all very comic book and never seem to have to answer to damage and destruction caused in this one. Big John Studd has a great role as Vanessa Williams’ man and Don Johnson is pretty damn charming in his gruffness. Mickey Rourke is Mickey Rourke mumbling his lines and smoking and what else more do you need. Maybe I should go get that Blu-ray, hmmm?
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Los Plomeros y las Ficheras (1988; Victor Manuel Castro): I feel like this would not be a list for me without at least one zany 80s Alfonso Zayas comedies. The .99 cent multi disc I picked up at Vintage Stock has not let me down yet. My Spanish is not getting any better but I do now occasionally use Google translate for titles (this one is a little rough).

It involves a goofy plumber, a health spa with zany problems, the mob, night clubs and a confusing Lynch item of a struggling woman as a performer who is a woman but impersonates a man who is a female impersonator who falls in love. I said it last year and I stick by it that not knowing the language it lends to a serious art house interpretation to what is really probably just a screw ball comedy.
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Lola (1970; Richard Donner): On a whim I picked up a Bronson collection, I think mainly due to it having Man with a Camera episodes. Also, because Bronson rules and I wanted to see him in a different kind of role.

It shocked me that this was a Richard Donner film, so that is another out of the norm role. This film starts out silly and has some truly funny lines and moments. Once it moves to the states it gets a little more bleak. Susan George is charming in this and you can never be too irritated with her. The film’s second half changes tone and it kind of hurts to see things go the way they do. But never fear it closes with a feeling of optimism that only the young can give you (me as an old man am still sad though).
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In A Lonely Place (1950; Nicholas Ray): For some reason, I usually stay away from Bogart movies thinking it is the movie equivalent of Frank Sinatra songs. I don’t trash it but just have a feeling it is not my thing, no disrespect Chairman. I for some reason had some spare funds and lo and behold Barnes and Noble was for once living up to their last name and putting Criterions on sale for half off (the joke being now they are priced what they should always be priced).

Pure Cinema co-host Elric Kane was kind of enough to help me narrow down my selection (also got Night of the Hunter whoo wee top 20 of all time for sure) for the sale. This great guy Shawn runs the movie section at Barnes and Noble and orders a lot of great stuff and once said he tries to recreate the video store feel in this corporate store and gave this the second nod.

This movie really moved me, it is a masterpiece for sure. It has so much charm and I love the scene regarding Bogart’s “Interesting” face. It is complex in the whole feeling of the duality of man and how situations can get escalated and change lives in a flash. There is a sense of mystery in it but for me the real draw was the realism of a man trying not to mess up a really good thing in his life in a self-destructive way. I think at the end I had the same expression as the cover, ouch.
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Also discovered and truly enjoyed: Jason Goes to Hell, Ticket of Leave Man, The Basement Collection DVD: Video Violence and The Pool (collection has amazing TV shows with random goodness as well), Blue Eyes of the Broken Doll (I watched a lot of Paul Naschy this year).

Film Discoveries of 2016 - Jon Spira

Jon Spira is a documentary filmmaker based in London, England. Between 2013 and 2016, he was the in-house documentary maker for the British Film Institute. Jon's most recent feature documentary 'Elstree 1976' is about the impact of the global success of Star Wars on the lives of the film extras who were hidden by masks and helmets in the background of the first film. It's currently available on iTunes, Amazon and US Netflix. Jon also used to own a chain of indie video stores called Videosyncratic - he's written a book about the experience and anyone nostalgic for video stores and VHS, should check out the Kickstarter campaign at:
Never Cry Wolf (1983) - 2016 was the year I discovered Carroll Ballard. All of his films deal deftly with man's relationship with nature, never dipping into the saccharine and usually with a black edge one wouldn't expect in films nominally marketed as being for children. Never Cry Wolf is a film I had never once heard discussed and had to track down after seeing Ballard's best known masterpiece The Black Stallion. NCW, based on Farley Mowat's autobiographical book of the same name, sees Charles Martin Smith in a rare lead – if not practically solitary – role as a biologist dropped (by Brian Dennehy, in a classically charismatic cameo) in the arctic wilderness to study wolves and their potential role in declining caribou numbers. It doesn't sound thrilling, but this is a rare, sparse, beautiful film. It's dark in its truths about nature and human nature. The cinematography is humbling, the performances nuanced and awkward. It entertained, enthralled and haunted me.
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Ruggles of Red Gap (1935) – Having read Elsa Lanchester's autobiography 'Herself' (and as a voracious reader of film autobiographies, I have to tell you it's one of the very best and you should find a copy right now), I found myself on a Lanchester/Laughton quest for a few months. Ruggles is a shade above your standard comedy movie. It tells the story of an English manservant (Laughton, in the titular role) who is accidentally lost in a card game by his employer and finds himself moving to a Western boomtown to serve his new nouveau riche hillbilly owner. It's rich with thought and reflection but is fantastic for it's marriage of very broad and very subtle humour. Laughton juggles both effortlessly. It's really, really funny and a very touching film.
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Roar (1981) – The only film I can think to compare Roar to is the Jackass film Bad Grandpa – in that, yes, the film has a nominal story, but that is merely a thin veneer of respectability when we all know what we're really here to see. People putting themselves in genuine peril in front of rolling camera. Legendarily, as many as 100 members of the cast and crew on this film were injured – bitten and mauled to various degrees by the film's cast of 110 lions, tigers, leopards and other big cats. Cinematographer Jan De Bont – who went on to direct big movies such as Speed and Twister, was scalped by a lion on set and required 220 stitches to put his head back together. All the more bizarre is the genuine star talent in this movie – Tippi Hedren and Melanie Griffith (who almost loses an eye in an on-screen mauling) suffer through this bizarre vanity project of Hedren's then-husband. It took 11 years to complete and is hard to categorise in narrative or cinematic terms above the fact that it's the craziest, most dangerous idea for a film and you watch it in a constant state of slack-jawed amazement.
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A Generation Apart (1983) – Elstree 1976 got released in the US in the summer and we went out to do some press. There, I met Jack Fisher, the president of our distributors FilmRise and learned that he had directed documentaries. I got hold of a copy of this, his first film. It just blew me away. I have an enduring fascination with the baby boom generation – in many ways, Elstree 1976 is a portrait of that generation – and Jack's film was pure insight. Made in '83, it examines relationships between Holocaust survivors and their children who have grown up as first generation in the U.S. It's an issue which doesn't get talked about much – the Holocaust's impact upon the generation that followed it and I found it both moving and philosophical. As soon as the film finished, I stuck it on again. There's a lot to chew on.
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Sapphire (1959) – The BFI has been hosting their incredible Black Star season through the last few months and I got to see Earl Cameron, now 99 years old, interviewed onstage about his acting career. He was insightful and fascinating and it inspired me to check out this 1959 film by Basil Dearden (available on the Criterion Basil Dearden's London Underground) set. In large part, the film is a 'whodunnit', a beautiful girl is found dead on Hampstead Heath and a couple of police investigators set out to piece together her story. It's only when they realise that she was a light-skinned Black girl passing for White that all of their helpful witnesses start to look like potential suspects. It's brilliantly plotted and rammed full of great character actors at the top of their game. It challenges the audience's own prejudices and is still an incredibly relevant film about race and identity.
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