Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Favorite Film Discoveries of 2012 - Trevor Schoenfeld ""

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Favorite Film Discoveries of 2012 - Trevor Schoenfeld

Trevor Schoenfeld is an awesome dad/teacher as well as being a rabid film fan. He runs the excellent Schofizzy Movie Review site ( and can be found on twitter @Schofizzy. Also, his podcast TOP 5 FILM is highly recommended(!


2012 Film Discoveries

This list of films are not in order of importance or ranking. Instead they are listed in the order I discovered them. Well kinda, the first movie is that last movie I discovered in 2012 and the last movie is the first movie I discovered in 2012. Confused? Good. As for 2012, I only viewed 345 films, 200 of which were first time views. How many of those were non 21st century releases is pretty underwhelming, but for what it is, here are 20 discoveries I made and recommend for others to also discover or perhaps rediscover.

Ice Station Zebra (1968)
Quentin Tarantino recommended this film to me. Not like directly one-on-one, but during his March Madness programming at the New Beverly Cinema in 2011 he recommended this film while doing a Q&A in between one of them many double features. As a fan of Tarantino's vision, of course I added this title to my Netflix queue. The disc actually sat on our media center from January of 2012 to December of 2012. I could have bought the damn VHS, DVD and Blu-Ray for how long it sat and Netflix happily charged me my monthly fee. Anyways, enough setup, "Ice Station Zebra" is a strong period thriller (mostly) confined to a submarine. The cast is top tier including Rock Hudson, Jim Brown, Patrick McGoohan, and Ernest Borgnine. If you're a fan of Cold War drama/thrillers, this is one you'll want to seek out.

Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 (1987)
There are a few films in this list I am surprised I had not previously seen, and this gem is one of them. The Silent Night, Deadly Night films are something that I remember from the era of VHS and cover art. These titles always stood out but I guess not well enough because I never ended up renting one of them. This last Christmas that changed. My wife and I sat down to a double feature of "Silent Night, Deadly Night" and "Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2." Truthfully, there is no need to ever watch both of them back-to-back because 2 spends close to 30+ minutes re-telling the first film. The film itself is pretty awful, but in that kind of way that so many of us find pleasure in. For instance there is a ridiculous sequence where our killer Ricky goes on a spree firing off every round in a six-shooter into innocent victims. If you are like me and have not previously had the joyous pleasure of viewing "Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2" do partake.

Vincent Price Octoberthon
I usually try to find some sorta fun theme to movie watching in the month of October, I mean what self-respecting Horror fan doesn't? This last October my wife and I settled on Vincent Price. An actor who I'd seen a heap of his films but realized that there were a number of his more "memorable" films that I hadn't.

Comedy of Terrors (1963)
"Comedy of Terrors" really tickled my funny bone, in it Price and the iconic Peter Lorre play undertakers who haven't had much work, so they decide to create some work for themselves by killing. Boris Karloff and Basil Rathbone also make appearances in this Comedy-Horror that is well worth a look. Plus it is currently available on Netflix Watch Instantly.

House of Usher (1960)
"House of Usher" was one of three Roger Corman and Vincent Price collaborations that I viewed throughout October but it is the one that really stood out. "Pit and the Pendulum" and "The Masque of Red Death" were good but left little impact, while "House of Usher" really stayed with me afterwards. Chilling tale and I love seeing those old sets and costumes that seemed to be rotated around from production to production.

The Tingler (1959)
"The Tingler" wins first place for my Vincent Price Octoberthon by a mile. A kooky horror sci-fi that follows a pathologist who discovers a killer creature that rests within all of us. Price takes LSD in this film and that is just the tip of the iceberg, if you've never seen it, track it down and get ready for some side-splitting laughs.

The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971)
"The Abominable Dr. Phibes" is a film that I didn't necessarily like but I found it wildly entertaining. It follows Dr. Phibes (a mummy looking dude who wears prosthetic skin to look like Vincent Price and talks through a tube in the side of his neck) who when he is not playing on his fantastic organ is seeking revenge on nine doctors who he believes responsible for his wife's death. The film trudges along but luckily everything that you are looking at will keep you astonished and scratching your head.

House of Wax (1953)
Last but not least from my dive into Price films is "House of Wax." This is one I couldn't believe I'd not seen. Hell, I'd seen the crappy remake with Paris Hilton before seeing this. This is one of those movies that fully embodies when people say they just don't make them like that anymore. A total back lot film that effectively uses and re-uses the same locations from different angles only to make a tiny corner feel like a maze of cobblestone streets. Price is exceptional as is the old school waxworks. A definite must see.

The Gauntlet (1977)
This was a blind buy on Blu-Ray because of Frank Frazetta's stunning cover art and a super cheap price tag of $8. As a pretty big fan of Clint Eastwood and with a few recommends from trusted voices I felt this purchase was not only warranted but necessary. I was right. While "The Gauntlet" isn't the top tier of Eastwood's earlier work, it has plenty to offer in the Action, Crime, Drama category. Plus it is a road movie and I generally adore road movies. One final note on "The Gauntlet," the gauntlet in the third act of the film is something genre fans must see.

Studio Ghibli Retrospective
I claim to be a big fan of Studio Ghibli except there were six or seven films I had not seen from the illustrious studio. Having missed a recent theatrical run of all the Studio Ghibli films here in Los Angeles I decided to fix that on my own at home during the month of June. I watched every single Studio Ghibli film currently released, of the films I'd not seen, here's what really stood out. First things first, I love how Studio Ghibli films are able to give their audiences female characters who are not princesses and while they may dream about or become wrapped up with fantasies most are centered in real life emotions girls and boys, women and men have dealt with. Not that other animated films don't also deal with similar themes, but Ghibli films in general have a much stronger foothold in reality even if they are playing in the fantasy sandbox. I should note all of the Ghibli viewings were in original Japanese language with English subtitles.

Whisper of the Heart (1995)
"Whisper of the Heart" is sweet coming of age story about a junior high girl living in Tokyo who falls in love. The story falls together very easily but the message is clear. This is a powerful story to both boys and girls to follow through with their dreams and aspirations. Teaching children to use and apply their talents. There is also a strong sense of responsibility and preparedness that is also expected throughout this film. It is brilliant how this film weaves elements of fantasy into a story that is heaped in reality.

Only Yesterday (1991)
"Only Yesterday" knocked me on my ass. After seeing it, it is easily my second favorite Studio Ghibli film after "Grave of the Fireflies." The adult drama follows a twenty-something female who decided she needed a break from her job and city life takes a trip to the country to visit distant relatives and help with the safflower harvest. The trip ignites memories of the past and questions for the future for Taeko. There's no denying this Isao Takahata feature is made for adult women, but that doesn't mean it can't hit home for male audiences just as easily. Most of the emotions Taeko goes through in "Only Yesterday" are things we all struggle with as we age. We look back nostalgically at our choices and also look to the future. We question our views of the world and re-evaluate ourselves from the inside and this film plays to that in tremendous fashion. Tracking this title down will take some work, it has never been released in the US or Canada, but it is available in other countries in both DVD and Blu-Ray.

Kiki's Delivery Service (1989)
This is one most of my friends herald as their favorite Studio Ghibli feature and I can see why, it has a massively powerful message of becoming who you are and being okay with that. Similar to "Whisper of the Heart" with the nature of talent and creativity and not allowing that to slip away. It is all about seizing what is yours and finding your confidence to do so. This is such a better message to send our children (daughters), than one day her prince will come and fix everything.

Laputa: Castle in the Sky (1986)
Studio Ghibli's first animated feature certainly set the watermark (many now consider Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind the first Ghibli film but in actuality it was completed under Top Craft before Ghibli was founded). Hayao Miyazaki certainly has a knack for making an epic adventure and 'Castle in the Sky' is another top notch example of that.

Something Old, Something New

The lovely Ariel Schudson and the UCLA Chapter of Association of Moving Image Archivists host a titillating screening series at the New Beverly Cinema in Los Angeles called Something Old, Something New. As you can probably guess from the name the screening series pairs an older title with a more recent one. The films, of course, have similar themes. Being at the New Bev, the screening format of the titles are most definitely 35mm and there is usually a terrific Q&A in between films along with some raffle prizes. Here's two films from Something Old side of Something Old Something New I'd not seen that made my film discoveries list.

Seconds (1966)
The second film of Rock Hudson's to make my list! "Seconds" is sci-fi thriller following a man who undergoes a operation to start a new identity except when the new identity isn't exactly what he planned he forced to face the reality that the Company offering him new identities is dead set of methods of his conform. The film plays plenty with paranoia, assimilation and conformism. It has a very heavy tinge of counter culture to the Nuclear family of the late 50s and 1960s trenched in the fear of the ongoing Red Scare. "Seconds" unfortunately wastes a little too much time, then again the impact is great enough I found myself willing to forgive any of the meandering the film does.

To Catch a Thief (1955)
One of a rare few Hitchcock films I have not seen and happy I did. Cary Grant and Grace Kelly. Yeah this is like butter on toast.

Children of the Corn (1984)
This is another horror movie I have no clue how I missed growing up. Courtney Gains, that guy just pops up in everything in the 80s! In "Colors" he's a gang member, in "Can't Buy Me Love" he's a nerd, and here he's Malachai! I love him. Anyways, "Children of the Corn" is pretty bad, however I can see why it spawned a string of sequels, the hook is there. Cults are freaky already and you add corn fed children to the mix, that is a recipe for disaster. One last thing, Peter Horton, you will forever remain Zack Barnes the volleyball sensei of "Side Out" to me.

Blind Date (1987)
This title was the only Bruce Willis movie I had not seen, so I figured I might as well get it out of the way. It just so happens to also be his breakout role into film, I remember my mom watching this movie and telling I wasn't allowed to view it. Regardless, now I have seen it. As a fan of Blake Edwards and "Night in the Life of" themed movies, I can easily recommend this title. It is a totally serviceable downward spiral comedy where everything can go wrong. Side note I recently discovered this film was scripted for (at the time) newly wedded Sean Penn and Madonna but the couple backed out at last minute.

Westworld (1973)
Here's a movie I've heard a lot about. It is a movie that plenty have recommended. After seeing it, this is a perfect example for needing a remake; it is terribly dated. It has a incredible premise and I am honestly surprised this hasn't been remade already. Today's technology, this movie could easily top the original. The only aspect that would be hard to top, Yul Brynner as the Gunslinger. Brynner is so damn good here.

Fahrenheit 451 (1966)
I saw this film paired with "Never Let Me Go" at the New Beverly Cinema. Director Mark Romanek chose it as a pairing to his 2010 film and did a Q&A in between the films. Having never seen it and being paired with a film I love endlessly I was a bit underwhelmed but as an adaptation of a marvelous novel, it certainly is classic cinema. I think for its time the film sets a horrific vision of a dystopian future. The acting leaves something to be desired but it is nonetheless an engaging film that certainly leaves a walloping impact.

Vanishing Point (1971)
This is essentially a really long commercial for Mopar (or more specifically the 1970 Dodge Challenger R/T) and I loved every revving minute of it. This was a blind buy for me on Blu-Ray. I'd heard nothing but positive about the film from other auto enthusiasts so I took the risk and the result is positive. The story is fairly standard, good enough to propel the story along, this one is all about the car and watching it move. The cinematography is stellar. Everything from the mounted camera work to the medium and wide shots are breathtaking for auto fans.

The Apartment (1960)
This is the movie that is responsible for people loving Shirely MacLaine. My entry point to MacLaine was that of an older woman, but here in "The Apartment" she is a portrait of a woman who would 'catch your eye'. I'd also never heard a negative word about the film. After seeing, I won't be the first. This is tender film that I will certainly be re-watching plenty in the years to come.

So that wraps up my Film Discoveries list for 2012, hope you enjoyed reading as much as I did watching!


Anonymous said...

Nice choices! Glad to have made another fan of SECONDS and THIEF! :)

Anonymous said...

Having seen WESTWORLD in the very early 80s, believe me, it wasn't any great shakes even then. It's not the technology as much as Crichton's inexperience as a Director. The cheapo sequel FUTUREWORLD is actually more fun.