Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Favorite Film Discoveries of 2012 - Ariel Schudson ""

Friday, December 28, 2012

Favorite Film Discoveries of 2012 - Ariel Schudson

Ariel Schudson is the Student Chapter President of the Association of Moving Image Archivists (AMIA) at UCLA. She programs a cool series at the New Beverly Cinema called "Something Old, Something New", check it out! She also has been writing a great series for Crave Online called "The Myth of Macho" which is highly recommended:

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1. Silent Running(Douglas Trumbull, 1972) – Digital - 40th Anniversary Screening, Billy Wilder Theater. Screening. Douglas Trumbull, in person for a Q&A
Every year I decide to do something special cinematically for Valentine’s Day. This year, it was Silent Running. I’d never seen it before and I was terribly excited. I started out my evening getting a coffee in the café right by the theater, and who was sitting there going through his notes, but Trumbull himself! I politely went up to the gentleman, told him how much I enjoyed his work, he shook my hand and smiled, and I went to wait in line. SR blew my mind. I kept thinking: I should watch this every year for Valentine’s Day. I cried like a baby and Bruce Dern was amazing. If you’ve never seen this film, I highly recommend it. While the Q&A got a little strange towards the end, it was well worth it, and I was enraptured.

2. A Boy & His Samurai(2010) and Fish Story(2009) – Yoshihiro Nakamura
Both of these films come from the same director (Yoshihiro Nakamura) and so I’m putting them in the same space. Maybe that’s cheating, but so be it. They are both so incredibly awesome that I could not quite imagine my life without having seen them, especially B&HS. I’m pretty sure that Fish Story can be found on Netflix, but I don’t know about B&HS. All I have to say is that if you know any Japanese stores in your area, GO THERE and see if they have a copy. B&HS is a movie that has cooking, samurais, time travel, love, children and sooooo much more that it’s crazy. It may be one of my desert island flicks. Fish Story has punk rock, apocalypse, science fiction, paranormal threads and superhero discourse. These descriptions don’t begin to cover it. Go and discover this guy’s stuff. I love him terribly. I want to hug his movies like a cinematic stuffed animal.

3. Hollywood or Bust(Frank Tashlin, 1956) – IB Tech print – 35mm- New Beverly 
I got to see this as part of New Beverly’s IB Tech festival this year and it was GREAT. First of all, as I said to a friend a few months ago, you don’t like Tashlin, you and I may have some issues to work through. In my mind, though, how can you not like Tashlin? What’s not to like? And if you haven’t explored his work, go. Seek it out. Let me tell you something: Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? is a genuinely solid blind buy. I got to see Tashlin’s Artists & Models on the big screen this year too and that basically made me go into fits of ice creamy happiness. What I mean by that is that Tashlin is my Willy Wonka, minus the scary boat ride and Oompa Loompas. His color decisions (he used to be a animator/cartoonist, so, well, that explains it) are glorious and his eye for structure and shape makes my eyes think they are eating visual candy. It is the only way I can describe his work. Hollywood or Bust was great because it was Martin and Lewis (who I adore) and it was about…Hollywood. The IB Tech made it pop, even if the print wasn’t in the best of conditions, and I was a happy camper all around. *sigh* If only every day was a Tashlin day…

4. Fear is the Key(Michael Tuchner, 1972) – IB Tech Print – 35mm- New Beverly
Realistically, you could just watch this for the Roy Budd music and be perfectly content. But I recommend it for the high-range sex appeal of Suzy Kendall (who was in a truly great Italian Giallo that I love, Torso, amongst other films) alongside Barry Newman, a neat appearance by the remarkably Ben Kingsley, and the great John Vernon (well, I think he’s pretty nifty). Also, helllllo, cool car chases, underwater sequences, and CRIME. Lotsa crime stuff. I’m pretty much a junkie for crime films from any country, era or subset of things, so crime-drama, crime-comedy, mafia-crime, and revenge-crime films…I’ll at least look into them. What can I say? Bad boys are so much more interesting and fun! At least on-screen. This was a lovely IB Tech print as well, and I really urge you to look into seeing this (or anything, really) that is advertised as being an “IB Tech” print. The way an IB Tech print is created looks saturated by color, since it was done with a special 3-strip printing process that helped create that look. I could go off on that, but I won’t bore you. I have a few more films to get to! Find and watch Fear is the Key!

5. The Connection(Shirley Clarke, 1961) – 35mm- New Beverly – Restored print 
Shirley Clarke was an amazing filmmaker and this is an amazing film. I’d seen some clips and a short of hers in undergrad in Santa Cruz, but never anything full length, let alone anything that had been so carefully restored and taken care of. The company that worked on this, Milestone Film and Video, is an amazing company that has worked on releasing several films to the public that are highly under recognized and were in need of full restorations. If you look into their catalog, you’ll see fantastic pieces like Charles Burnett’s Killer of Sheep or Kent MacKenzie’s The Exiles. Plus…they’re super awesome people who really believe in preservation and artist’s work. The Connection is nothing short of phenomenal. It’s based on a play by the Living Theater, which was a theater group in New York during the time that the film was shot. Not only does this film showcase drug addiction and jazz in a manner that audiences are completely unaccustomed to seeing, even in 2012, but also the structure, as avant-garde as it may be, is accessible. I can’t always work within the experimental film circuit. Not everything grabs me, but I know it’s all important and why. Shirley Clarke’s stuff ALL grabs me. It deals with race, it deals with socio-political issues, it deals with economics, and it has entertainment value. Plus, the restoration that Milestone did in association with UCLA Film and Television Archive and a few other assorted people looks just amazing. Do yourself a favor- see this film. Experience its glory. Or see one of her other films, because they are really just as fascinating and amazing. But this was the one that hooked me. And now I’m a Shirley junkie.

6. Hickey & Boggs(Robert Culp, 1972) – New Beverly – MOSTBEAUTIFUL35mmPRINTEVER 
So this is kinda cheating because I looked at the dates that I turned my last list in and I had already seen this by that time but…I’m including so much discussion on this list about actual 35mm prints that I couldn’t exclude this one, plus…I’m writing this when it’s still December and I saw it in December. Excuses, I know, but…feh. When I saw Hickey & Boggs last year at Edgar Wright’s “Movies Edgar Has Never Seen” fest, I wasn’t sure what I was in for. In the first 10 minutes, as a film preservationist/archivist, I wanted to lick the screen. Let me tell you why: the print was a recently struck print (as in, within the last 10-15 years, I think), and it had been played so few times that there was a scene where a person puts their hands (no worries, not a spoiler) into some dirt, and you can see every single particle of dirt on their hands, each grain of soil sticking to their skin, in addition to the minute skin details. The print was as clean and detailed as though I could reach out into the screen. Such rich flavorful colors and shadows. I fell in love with that print and I wanted to marry it. It was on my top five 35mm prints I have ever seen. However, that was also because the film was so. Damn. Good. But what do you say about a Walter Hill film? I love Walter Hill. He’s just my type. I don’t think I’ve seen anything of his yet that I haven’t liked, and he works in the areas that I enjoy the most: dark, broody, smart with some light and totally off the wall stuff thrown in every so often. But it makes sense, as long as you follow. And as an Angeleno, seeing my city in that time period? Pure heaven.
Seek this out, watch it. While the print was the thing that first attracted me, it was the content that kept me there.

7. No Man of Her Own(Wesley Ruggles, 1932) – UCLA Billy Wilder Theater – 35mm – Restored 
I’m just going to make this easy for you: you see Carole Lombard get mostly undressed, into lingerie, and it is very apparent that she has no underthings on. Then she has a very sexy fight with the man who will later become her husband, Clark Gable. If that description does not grab you, I…don’t know what to tell you. I saw a beautifully restored print. Pre-code films alongside noir and crime cinema in general are pretty much my heroin, so this had me from the first frame. Plus, CAROLE LOMBARD. This is Lombard and Gable’s only picture together, they were not married at the time. But man, this film is HOT. Really. I think that the sexiest films are pre-code films and you can pretty much see the attraction between the two in this film. In fact, I was quite afraid that the lovely new restoration print that they had made of this was going to burst into flames even though it was not nitrate! Don’t miss it.

8. Last Action Hero(John McTiernan, 1993) - DVD 
So when I was working on my piece about Arnold Schwarzenegger for my Myth of Macho column on CraveOnline, I decided to do a bunch more research and see all the films that I had never seen before. Long story short, I saw this film and genuinely enjoyed it. I was extremely saddened by the fact that there was no Widescreen disc available, nor was there a Blu-ray (at least when I was searching) but I found the film to be really really fun and I like FUN. I’m totally unconcerned about any criticisms that I may receive about how this is a bad film, and I have heard a range of people talk about how problematic it is. I refuse to call it a guilty pleasure because I don’t believe in guilty pleasures. I found this film completely pleasurable, I own it, I love it, and I may even find cause to write about it in more detail in and of itself since I was not able to use it for the actual “Austrian In The Room” article. Plus, Shane Black and John McTiernan. The end.

9. Design for Living(Ernst Lubitsch, 1933) – DVD 
Once upon a time, I was living a life that was only partially full. I had experienced only a few things. I THOUGHT I was doing okay, but I was dead wrong. Then I saw one of the best movies known to this world, To Be or Not to Be (Ernst Lubitsch, 1942) intro’d by Joe Dante and Leonard Maltin. My world changed. The sun came out. Birds sang. It was the final scene of Blue Velvet (David Lynch, 1986) with all the rainbows and beautiful new life appearing. So, the next time Criterion had one of them there 50% sales, I bit the bullet and ordered what I could: the Lubitsch box set (IT RULES), and Design For Living. I’m just not sure I can say enough things about how much I love Miriam Hopkins. Or Edward Everett Horton. And I don’t think there are enough words in the universe for how much this storyline got me going and how much I want to watch it in a theater. Some day, I hope to do so. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that I love it, considering that it was based on a Noël Coward play and Noël Coward is…well, spectacular. But the Hecht script is wonderful, the back and forth is great and I bless the day I saw my first Lubitsch and curse it at the same time since there is just not enough and I will have to watch and rewatch what I have. Cie la vie!

10. Reds(Warren Beatty, 1981) - Netflix – Warren Beatty
In the first 10 minutes of watching this film, I had thrown a pillow at my TV, scared the bejesus out of my cat and decided that it was quite possibly one of the most romantic movies that I had ever scene, aside from The Fly (David Cronenberg, 1986). Yes, I have a really strange sense of romance. Sue me. I’m not certain what made me decide to spend 3 hours and change in front of my television that day. But I’m desperately glad that I did. I’m a history nerd, a feminist politics nerd, a theater/literary nerd and cinema scholar so…put all that together in one film? I have fallen in love with your work, Mr. Beatty, oh yes, I have. Your intermittent oral histories? Sexy time. Your involvement of real events and fantastic actors I adore like Jerzy Kosinski and Gene Hackman? Now we’re talking. And a score by Stephen mf’n Sondheim? I wish with everything that I had that I could have been at the TCM Film Festival screening a few years ago. This would have been absolutely incredible. For now, I will rewatch it every so often. Because Nicholson is great. Because Stapleton is great. Because Keaton is great. Because Beatty did a damn fine film.

11. Roadhouse(Rowdy Herrington, 1989) – Cinefamily – Heavy Hitter Midnites – 35mm 
There are so many ways in which I would like to thank Sir Phil Blankenship. I know he hasn’t been *technically* knighted, but if I could knight him, I really would. He has shown me so much fantastic 35mm goodness and his love for cinema and the film viewer is really grand. Plus, beyond all that, and the fact he showed Ghoulies II (Charles Band, 1988) which made this carnival gal very happy, he gave me the gift of Roadhouse, which has now become part of my (almost) daily life. I have seen a good chunk of things at his Heavy Hitter Midnites series this year, but this one was my favorite. The character that Patrick Swayze plays in the film, Dalton, has a very good approach to many things in the world. The one that I like the best- “Be nice until it’s time to not be nice.” Roadhouse has an amazing ethos. While it sounds cheesy, once again, I’m not concerned. I love this movie more than I can tell you. Not only is it fun, silly and perhaps a little ridiculous at times, but the moral of it is totally there and something you can work with. I dig the Zen of Dalton. If more people were like that, we’d have fewer problems. But who am I? Just a crazy film archivist girl. What do I know?

12. Night Shift(Ron Howard, 1982) – New Beverly – Summer of ’82 – 35mm 
So I saw this as part of the Summer of ’82 series that was put on at the New Bev a while back, and I had no clue how thrilled I was going to be after watching it. I’m pretty sure that this film had me going for a good couple of days afterwards since I had never experienced it before. A comedy about a morgue. That involves hookers, and has Michael Keaton and Henry Winkler. I AM SO IN. And it is truly great. It’s one of those films that remind you how good movies can be with simplicity. It’s not overly complex and it reminded me a little of the easy enjoyable frustrations of Martin Scorsese’s After Hours (1985). With a fantastic soundtrack (seriously great!) and wonderful characters that we don’t get to see anymore but we got to see in films back then, this film was such a refreshing treat for me. I remember having shelved it a lot when I worked at Amoeba and other places and really enjoying the cover. In a way, I’m glad that I never saw it before this point, since I enjoyed it for the first time on 35mm with an audience and just after a Q&A with Carl Reiner for the other feature that was Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid (Carl Reiner, 1982).

13. Coogan’s Bluff (Don Siegel, 1968) and Two Mules For Sister Sara (Don Siegel, 1970) – 35mm – New Beverly
I’m putting these in the same category because I saw them on the same mind-blowing double-bill and they’re by the same director. The prints were absolutely beautiful and I was floored. CB is a film that truly should be seen theatrically. The psychedelic visuals splashing across the landscape of a big screen is really the best way to witness this film. While I had no idea what I was in for, I was so thoroughly entranced by CB from start to finish. This film fascinated me and continually surprised me, two things I love in a movie. Depictions of hippie culture, the criminal element and gender dynamics.Yep, I was sold. Two Mules goes in the camp of “MAN, I’m glad I have eyes!”category. I love young Shirley MacLaine beyond reason. She’s just gorgeous.And with a story written by Budd Boetticher and screenplay by Albert Maltz,this film is darn near heaven. It’s fun and funny, it’s romantic (in my weird off-beat sense of romance, anyways), and it’s just SO GOOD. It’s one of those films I came out of the theater energized after having seen. This was a damn fine double feature. Thank you New Beverly.

14. Last Summer (Frank Perry, 1969) – 16mm – Egyptian Theatre/ American Cinematheque – Q&A w/Barbara Hershey & Larry Karaszewski
So I work in the world of film preservation/archiving/etc. Being able to see an example of how it “works” is pretty special. Even better when it’s a film as astonishing as Last Summer. I’m a Frank Perry fan to begin with. If you haven’t seen David & Lisa or The Swimmer, do yourself a favor and check them out. Not fun or happy pieces of cinema, but they are excellent works. Last Summer was, apparently, thought to be a missing film but then a 16mm print was located at the National Sound and Film Archive of Australia. It was rated X upon release, not unlike films like Midnight Cowboy or others of the era, and it is a rough film. But Barbara Hershey has the kind of beauty and acting presence that causes periodic sharp intakes of breath. Whileit has some of the leanings of a “coming of age” film, you might read it as “beach-film-meets-Lord-of-the-Flies.” But even that is a poor description. It is layered and complex, challenging and horrifying, and altogether amazing. I feel lucky that I got to see it, and even as a slightly worn 16mm, it was not that bad looking. I was really thrilled. Even better, before the show, I got to talk to Barbara Hershey about the horrors of Los Angeles traffic just as we were entering the theater. And if you were curious…yes. She is really exquisite looking in person.

15. Edge of the City (Martin Ritt, 1957) – 35mm – Egyptian Theater/ American Cinematheque 
I go to the Film Noir Fest every year and it never fails to provide me with at least a few delightful and brilliant “scores.” This year, my unquestionable favorite was Edge of the City with John Cassavettes and Sydney Poitier. I wish that I could’ve watched this movie three more times that night. While the film isn’t what one might consider 100% noir, it’s so good that if you had slung it in a film festival all about musicals or horror cinema I wouldn’t have cared. Edge centers on dockworkers, racism and the incredible relationship between Poitier and Cassavettes, and is based on a teleplay that was written a few years previous to the film’s production called “A Man is Ten Feet Tall.” The acting and writing in this film are above and beyond almost anything you see today. The worst thing I can say about this film is that there are no more like it. When I walked out of the theater, I was so impressed because it was not like anything I’d seen before. Aside from the fact that it stars two of the most impressively good-looking men in 1957 (holy guacamole! It’s a wonder that the screen doesn’t just burst into flames at how hot these men are! SHEESH!), the film is required viewing for anyone who enjoys good drama, fascinating films that explore issues of race and masculinity, and well-made motion pictures. Man, I cannot wait for the Film Noir Fest this year…I hope it brings me more like this!


Phantom of Pulp said...

Great choices, Ariel.

I must catch LAST SUMMER again. I always loved it.

Will Errickson said...

I felt the same way about REDS when I first saw it!

Ned Merrill said...

Several of my all time favorites on this list. I wish someone in NYC would have programmed Night Shift for its 30th! As you're probably aware Hill wrote Hickey & Boggs while Robert Culp directed. Best part of a recent Shock Cinema interview with Bruce Davison was his recollection that Frank Perry told the young actors auditioning for Last Summer that they were "the children of the Swimmer."

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much! Yeah, these films were really great additions this year. And to Ned- I didn't know that Davison quote, makes sense though!

Hal said...

LAST SUMMER will be back on TCM February 5th. I lost my DVR of it in mid-review for my blog, so I'm looking forward to finishing that draft. :)