Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Favorite Underrated Dramas - Todd Liebenow ""

Friday, June 21, 2013

Favorite Underrated Dramas - Todd Liebenow

Todd has is a regular contributor here and always brings good list. He runs the wonderful Forgotten Films Blog which I am a big fan of: He also does the Forgotten Films podcast which I was honored to be a guest on. Here is the 1st episode, where Todd and I discussed THREE O'CLOCK HIGH(see below also!):
In his most recent episode, he covered CONDORMAN(a favorite of mine):

also, follow Todd on twitter!

Streets of Fire(1984)
I never saw this film back in the 80’s. Somehow, every time it was on cable tv (which was often) I always managed to see the same 10 minutes each time. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I finally got to see it in its entirety. Now, I just can’t get enough of this film. I love the look, which is part 80’s part 50’s. Michael Pare’s performance has it’s moments, but isn’t without some problems as well. But I love the supporting cast from Rick Moranis to Amy Madigan to the creepiest Willem DaFoe ever (and that’s saying a lot). It calls itself a “rock ‘n’ roll fable,” which actually makes a lot of sense. There’s a princess, she’s stolen by a dragon, a knight tries to save her, he’s helped by a collection of strange characters. This is a fairy tale through and through. Plus, it’s got an amazing 80’s soundtrack that was a much bigger hit than the film itself ever was.

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (1997)
I rarely connect with a book the way I connect with movies, but John Berendt’s look at the unique people of Savannah, Georgia was unlike anything I had experienced before. It’s an amazing book and there is no way the movie could ever live up to its high standard. Clint Eastwood’s film version falls short of capturing the magic of the book, but it is still a film I enjoy immensely. I’ll admit, the casting is a bit uneven. Kevin Spacey is great as Jim Williams, as is Irma P Hall as the voodoo practitioner Minerva. The casting of The Lady Chablis (a real-life character from the book playing herself), however, is a huge drag (no pun intended) on the proceedings. The real star of the film, however, is the city of Savannah which, along with the soundtrack full of Johnny Mercer songs, gives the film a wonderful atmosphere. 

The Landlord (1971)
FIlms that try too hard to say something deep about social issues always bug me a bit. Hal Ashby’s debut film “The Landlord” manages to say a lot about racial and societal issues without ever being heavy-handed. The story just unfolds in a very natural and honest way. Beau Bridges is great as a rich young man who gets more than he bargained for when he buys an inner city tenement building. Lee Grant (who earned an Oscar nomination) and Pearl Bailey also manage a few scene stealing moments. These performances partnered with Bill Gunn’s wonderful screenplay and Ashby’s skilled direction make for true 70’s gem.

Stand and Deliver (1988)
This was a movie that was not only based on a true story, but was also about math. So is it any surprise I first saw it when one of my high school teachers had us watch it in class? It tells the story of a new math teacher at a predominantly hispanic LA high school attempting to teach a group of basic arithmetic students advanced calculus. Ultimately, the film is not so much about math as it is about how the students overcome prejudices and prove themselves capable of more than anyone expects. Edward James Olmos earned a well-deserved Best Actor nomination, and his fellow triple-named co-star, Lou Diamond Phillips, is also excellent as a gang member turned math wiz. Though the film is on the National Film Registry, it is one I never hear talked about anymore and deserves to be rediscovered.

Nothing in Common (1986)
Coming on the heels of films like “Splash” and “Bachelor Party,” many moviegoers probably thought this Tom Hanks film was going to be another laugh fest. But the film tells the difficult story of a somewhat childish advertising executive who has to become the grown-up as he deals with the separation of his elderly parents. This is an interesting film to look at in light of the more serious roles Hanks would take on as his career progressed. Jackie Gleason is also very good as a man who is now truly lost as he tries to live his life without the woman who has cared for him for decades...and has to depend on a son who has wanted almost nothing to do with him since leaving the nest. With Garry Marshall in the director’s chair, there are still a number of light-hearted moments for Hanks, but don’t be fooled...this is no comedy.

White Dog (1982)
The premise of this Sam Fuller film sounds like an exploitation flick through and through. A girl adopts a dog which she soon learns has been trained to attack, and kill, black people. Though it has moments that are disturbing and violent, this is an intriguing and thought provoking film. Kristy McNichol does a great job as the dog’s owner, but it’s Paul Winfield who is the real standout of the film. He plays an African-American animal trainer who becomes dangerously obsessed with curing the dog...seeming to feel that if he can cure this dog of it’s racist behavior that there is hope for ending humanity’s prejudices. A controversial film even before it was released and still as thought-provoking as ever.


Will Errickson said...

I watched STREETS OF FIRE on a whim last year - never saw it in the '80s either - and was completely charmed by it! So much fun!

Robert M. Lindsey said...

I've got Streets of Fire in my queue. I saw it many years ago, but don't really remember much about it.

Stand and Deliver is one of our favorites.

Ned Merrill said...