Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Favorite Film Discoveries of 2012 - Jeffery Berg ""

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Favorite Film Discoveries of 2012 - Jeffery Berg

Jeffery blogs about various obsessions at jdbrecords (
He can be found on twitter @jdbrecords.

1. the magnificent ambersons(1942)
Orson Welles's darkly operatic portrait of the economic downfall of a prominent Midwestern family. I read the Booth Tarkington novel as well which is rife with odd details of the time period. Welles's films have an unusual way of revealing characters not just by dialogue and the performances of the actors but through directorial style (their positioning, the way they are photographed) that few filmmakers have been able to capture as eloquently. I wrote about Agnes Moorehead's wrenching performance here.

2. the heiress(1949)
In what may be one of my favorite performances of all time, Olivia deHavilland burns through the potential stodginess of William Wyler's Henry James adaptation. I love the way she changes throughout the film, the ambivalence of the storyline and its characters, and its brutally satisfying ending.

3. charade(1963)
Cary Grant and the indelible Audrey Hepburn have fantastic chemistry together in this cute cat-and-mouse tale. Luminous sets, photography and Givenchy costumes. Henry Mancini's infectious title song was in my head for days.

4. paris is burning(1990)
Vivacious and melancholy, this is an invaluable document of the late 80s / early 90s NYC drag ball scene. It's pretty criminal that it took me so long to see it.

5. sherman's march(1986)
A planned Civil War doc goes astray as Ross McElwee finds himself filming some fascinating women of the rural South instead. A sprawling work that vibrantly captures the mood and environment of its time and place.

6. 2 or 3 things i know about her(1967)
Godard mixes the garishness of Vietnam era consumerism with the fragile lives of his characters. Everything is captured in a mesmerizing scene of coffee.

7. close-up(1990) & the traveler(1974)
I became interested in Abbas Kiarostami after seeing his mysterious Certified Copy. I love the complexity of his work and was especially haunted by The Traveler, essentially a day in the life of an Iranian boy and his misadventures.

8. flamingo road(1949)
I watched a slew of Joan Crawford flicks this past year, and this rags-to-riches murder melodrama is now one of my favorites of hers. Some slick noirish atmosphere from director Michael Curtiz; the heated scenes between Crawford and Sydney Greenstreet (in a flat-out hateful role) are a riot.

9. best worst movie(2009)
Former aspiring child star Michael Stephenson of the reviled Troll 2 takes on the genesis of the pic, its cult following and gives a clear-eyed look at the oddball pastiche of actors and filmmakers associated with it. One doesn't have to be familiar with Troll 2 to experience the humor and surprising emotional depth of this doc.

10. body double(1984) & american gigolo(1980)
Hello early 80s palm trees & coke-fueled L.A. neo noir. Neither one are that super as films (American Gigolo in particular falls flat with its flimsy plot and weak characters) but are killer in aesthetics: the on-location sites and lavish sets, the styles (Gere's Armani suits; Melanie Griffiths's bleach blond shock of hair) and the music (Blondie's anthemic "Call Me" and Giorgio Moroder of Gigolo; Pino Donnagio's synthy dreamscapes in Body Double).


Ned Merrill said...

Your top 2 rank high on my "all-time personal favorites of the '40s" list. I've also read the Tarkington book, though it's been years, and loved the minute details it gave about the inner workings of the typical Midwestern factory town at the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution. It's Indianapolis in the novel, not sure it's mentioned in the film.

As for your bottom 2, those rank highly on my favorite "sunshine / neon noir" list:

As for the music in those films...Moroder, Donaggio, Blondie all absolutely vital...but, what about "Relax"?!

Karen said...

I absolutely LOVE this selection! I have seen them all and really need to revisit! Thanks for sharing! This brought back some wonderful memories.

D said...

Interesting Body Double fact, after finding the locations for the two homes near one another in the Hollywood Hills, De Palma had both homes built in their entirety on a WB soundstage so that he had more flexibility while shooting.