Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Favorite Film Discoveries of 2012 - Jake Cole ""

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Favorite Film Discoveries of 2012 - Jake Cole

Jake Cole writes regular reviews for his site Not Just Movies ( as well as other outlets
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He writes a Netflix column at Movie Mezzanine, here's the latest round(including Michael Mann's THIEF):

L’Argent (Robert Bresson, 1983)
Bresson’s final film is his most disturbing, a horror film in which the monster, as its title suggests, is money. Like some of the best horror films, it achieves a more visceral terror for cutting over its gore than showing it. Not because it lets us imagine what will happen, but because it denies us the release we need, even if it comes from seeing a slaughter.

Dangerous Game (Abel Ferrara, 1993)
Since casting himself as the the title character in his debut, “The Driller Killer,” and as the first rapist in “Ms. 45,” Abel Ferrara has directly implicated himself in the exploitation of his characters. With “Dangerous Game,” he makes a movie about movies that eschews the self-congratulatory tone of most such films and instead posits exploitation as a fundamental aspect of filmmaking, in which actors, and, according to the Werner Herzog clip, even directors must give up a piece of their soul for the sake of the story.

Early Summer (Yasujiro Ozu, 1951)
David Bordwell cites this as his favorite Ozu film. I needed no other prompt.

End of Evangelion (Kazuya Tsurumaki and Hideaki Anno, 1997)
Hideaki Anno retcons the fascinating but much-criticized finale of his seminal anime series with a feature-length streak of nihilism that compounds the depression exhibited in his writing on the show with the pain and rage of his fans’ apostasy. The result contextualizes the small-scale psychological and catechismal finale of the show’s last two episodes within the biomecha eschatological framework of the rest of the program. It also shows off Anno’s gift for composition, evident but not stressed in the show but here paraded in a cataclysmic mash-up of of styles, texts and media. It’s all part of the primordial soup to which we all return.

The Flowers of St. Francis (Roberto Rossellini, 1950)
Rossellini is held back by those who praise his realism. It is the lyricism he draws from that realism that makes him a master. If more highlighted the poetics of work like this, he might seem less like a historical footnote for a stylistic period than an enduringly fresh and influential voice.

The Green Ray (√Čric Rohmer, 1986)
I don’t know that a film has ever hit me so personally. I could not elaborate beyond that with less than a few thousand words.

Gremlins 2: The New Batch (Joe Dante, 1990)
When the merchandising critique of the first film led to enduring merchandise in its own right, Dante learned he could never beat the system, and also that he could at least stretch it until something dislocated with this all-consuming consumer satire. The last film of the ‘80s.

Heaven’s Gate (Michael Cimino, 1980)
One of the great works of cinematic modernism, in which the frame attempts to capture everything. Watching foundational elements of the plot fall into place not within the space of minutes but literal hours is paradoxically the film’s most absorbing feature. A masterpiece, regardless of people’s bitching about length.

Hatari! (Howard Hawks, 1962)
Hawks languishes with gorgeous views of the savannah and one of his most naturalistic and instantly believable collection of men and a few crucial ladies. I’ve never intended “It looks as if someone packaged behind-the-scenes material as the actual film” to be a compliment, but damn if that isn’t this film’s greatest charm.

How Green Was My Valley (John Ford, 1941)
I actually agree that this should have won Best Picture over “Citizen Kane,” and I am flabbergasted that a work of such subtlety (it may be the quintessential display of what “Fordian” means) won it in the first place.

In a Year With 13 Moons (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1978)
Fassbinder’s tragicomic overview of a transsexual’s misery is the most distilled vision of the director’s power. Is as powerful at two hours as “Berlin Alexanderplatz” is at 16.

Ivan the Terrible (Sergei Eisenstein, 1944/1958)
Eisenstein’s unfinished trilogy is nevertheless a culminating work, a dance of sight and sound that collects everything of the director’s work. Ideological faith slightly eroded by too much abuse, capped off by yet more censorship. The camera, with its formalist mastery, is the lapsed believer’s final protest.

A King in New York (Charlie Chaplin, 1957)
Rossellini was right: this is indeed the film of a free man. Not as lacerating as “Verdoux,” but only because the disgust has been replaced by the sadness a family member has for seeing a loved one fall to crippling addictions and illness.

King Lear (Jean-Luc Godard, 1987)
The densest, funniest, most evocative Godard I’ve yet seen. I want to see it at least twice more before writing a full review of it.

Mauvais Sang (Leos Carax, 1986)
Absolute poetry. Every line and every shot an expression of ecstatic agony.

Mikey and Nicky (Elaine May, 1976)
May’s delayed, subtle punchlines at last become full asymptotes, making for a comedy in which the joke never quite leads to a payoff. A sickly funny tragedy of masculinity’s dying gasps, and certainly the best acting gig John Cassavetes ever got outside one of his own films.

The Naked Spur (Anthony Mann, 1953)
A vision of the West as chilling and complex as any made by the revisionists.

Sansho the Bailiff (Kenji Mizoguchi, 1954)
Pretty sure you could power an entire four-year film degree on this film alone. Painterly compositions, searing narrative gut-punches and some of the rawest-but-still-theatrical acting ever put to film. The sort of movie I could see not only making my top 10 but becoming my all-time favorite.

Some Came Running (Vincente Minnelli, 1958)
Somewhat of a stand in for all the Minnelli films I’ve seen this year, for I had previously be unfamiliar. Haven’t seen that many, but I’m already prepared to call him one of the greats, and this could be the best American film of the 1950s.

The Strawberry Blonde (Raoul Walsh, 1941)
Like Hawks, Walsh managed to make “masculine” a valid aesthetic description of a filmmaking style. And like Hawks, Walsh might save his best work for relationship comedies.

They All Laughed (Peter Bogdanovich, 1981)
Bogdanovich’s greatest ode to screwball, which is saying something. I cannot accurately say whether the thread of melancholy running through it was always there or if it is something that exists now because so many in it are no longer with us, and they look so alive here. One of the great New York movies.

Through the Olive Trees (Abbas Kiarostami, 1994)
Kiarostami caps off the dimension-hopping Koker trilogy with simultaneously his most intellectual and his most emotional work to date. Its enigmatic, moving finale is the final proof that Kiarostami can never expand wide enough to capture all of life, though he seems to come closest when he pushes in on just one or two people.

Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (David Lynch, 1992)
This is David Lynch’s masterpiece, a sharp rejoinder to the notion that he is a glib and cruel ironist even as he plunges into his cruelest work. But the pain and sympathy he feels for Laura Palmer, and for the town that will be ripped apart and raggedly sewn back together to protect its secrets when she dies becomes Lynch’s purest vision of the horrors lurking under small-town America and the small ways in which we find our peace.

Wavelength (Michael Snow, 1967)
The most brilliant film to ever give me a splitting headache.

Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? (Frank Tashlin, 1957)
Oh, Frank Tashlin, where have you been all my life?


Ned Merrill said...

Several on here that remain inexcusably unwatched by me...

SANSHO remains one of my most moving viewing experiences, since seeing it in Bordwell's class when I was still a young whippersnapper. GREEN RAY was one of the best reissues of recent years...thank you, Jake and Film Desk! NAKED SPUR is, I think, the best Mann and Stewart collaboration. Look out for my friend Bill's doc on THEY ALL LAUGHED and Bogdanovich, hopefully to be completed soon.

Jake Cole said...

I think my blogger friend Sheila O'Malley is in that doc! She's mentioned being interviewed for it and even talking to Bogdanovich after he saw some of the footage and recognized her. She's the one who put it on my radar.

Ned Merrill said...

Yes, she is. I'm in there somewhere as well.

Alex Withrow said...

Damn, so much great stuff here. Dangerous Game is so fucked up, isn’t it?

Your words on Twin Peaks make me want to watch that again. Been years.

Early Summer, St. Francis, Ivan the Terrible – you had a fine year!