Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Favorite Underrated Dramas - Noah Lee ""

Friday, July 12, 2013

Favorite Underrated Dramas - Noah Lee

Noah Lee is a part time contributor to Film Threat ( focusing mostly on coverage for SXSW and Fantastic Fest and also one of the HorrorsNotDead team ( He also watches hundreds a movies a year and keeps track of them with the Tallyteers, a group of fanatical movie watchers. Check him out at Twitter at @noahphex, his personal website ( or at his movie logging website (  
His is a longtime contributor here at Rupert Pupkin Speaks and we are always happy to have his lists!
Presenting a list of underrated comedies seems so easy now that I’d been asked to do one for dramas. While trying to come up with my favorites I kept having to ask myself and others if a particular movie was a drama or a thriller or an action film. All of them always have a level of drama to them and can even feature character development as they’re put through a rite of passage, but once I reflected on it I decided to go with movies where the conflict, or drama, was a central focus.

These are movies I’ve stumbled across in my movie watching or had recommended to me by others but are certainly films I don’t feel anyone really talks about or lauds in other lists. Basically they’re not only underrated but also underseen and I think deserve to have more people give them a chance and ones I’m certain that some people will very much enjoy and get something out of.

1. Bucktown (1975)
This souther fried drama features two incredible stars of Blaxploitation films of the 70s, Fred Williamson and Pam Grier. When Duke Johnson (Williamson) rolls into a small town to bury his brother he’s immediately confronted with racist redneck cops who are ruling the town and running ramshackle over the locals. Duke gets convinced by friends of his brother, including a wise cracking kid, an old drunk and the beautiful Aretha (Grier) to open up his brother’s old bar while he waits the requisite 60 days for the courts to process his estate. During this time he finally has it with the redneck shenanigans, beating up of the local black population and decides to call in some heavy pipe hitting mother fuckers. The consequences are quick and fierce and he ends up with more trouble on his hands. What makes Bucktown so great is the performances from Williamson and Grier and just how gritty the whole thing is. There’s some shocking stuff that comes out of people’s mouths, only to have them have those same mouth shut later in bursts of ultra violence. It’s not a deep movie by any means, but is well worth a watch if you want to see a ripped Williamson kick the crap out of baddies.

2. The Boys Next Door (1985)
Penelope Spheeris is easily one of my favorite directors. Not only has she made an amazing series of documentaries with the Decline of the Western Civilization series but also kept her punk rock roots with early films such as Suburbia and Dudes. Hell, I even like Wayne’s World, which is easily one of the best Saturday Night Live adapted films ever made. The Boys Next Door was made after Suburbia, a well known and loved punk rocker cult classic, and stars Maxwell Caulfield and Charlie Sheen, back before Sheen had gone crazy and after Caulfield had shown off his singing skills in Grease 2. It tells the story of two close friends who go on a road trip to L.A. (much like Dudes) and it’s during this time on the road that their psychopathy grows and they start lashing out at people they encounter. This isn’t an upbeat film but is anchored by its seriousness and frankly by the intense characters portrayed by Caufield and especially Sheen. Nobody really ever talks about The Boys Next Door but its a fascinating flick and one I was happy to show at our annual BTSNAT film festival and it was well received, as it should be.

3. Somers Town (2008)
Shane Meadows really can do no wrong. I hear people talk about the excellent Dead Man’s Shoes and his even more superb This Is England movie and TV series but very few people bring up Somers Town, which was made after both of those. It’s basically a two person character study of two very different teens in Northern England who come together and form a friendship. Thomas Turgoose, who got on the radar from Meadow’s This Is England, is back here and is really the anchor of the film. Shot in black and white and a film that runs the gamut of emotions as it explores political, emotional and even the funny side of being a teenager and having friends, this is an outstanding movie.

4. Grand Hotel (1932)
We’re lucky enough in Austin to get to see some classic films on 35mm and the Drafthouse presented this as part of their Cinema Club series. I’ll admit that a lot of classic cinema has never made it on my radar and this could very well not be that underrated at all, but I think among my peers this isn’t even a movie that would ever come up. And it should. The cast is amazing for starters: Greta Garbo, John Barrymore and Joan Crawford for a start, alongside many other amazing actors. It’s a film that takes place in a posh hotel and intertwines the stories of several of the guests, some who know of each other and some not, as it unfolds. There’s love, deception, exploration of wealth inequality and even some humor, all pretzled into a ball of entertainment. It has since been the basis for several movies since in this style and was a heavy influence for the likes of Neil Simon. For the star power alone, as well as how well the storytelling works, this is a movie that is worthy of even a modern movie goer.

5. Confessions (2010)
I’m always hesitant to pick more modern films for my list but Confessions is just so damn good that I think everyone needs to see it. Directed by Japanese filmmaker Tetsuya Nakashima, and awe inspiringly beautifully shot, Confessions tells the tale of a teacher of a middle school class that is beyond rawkus. As the tale unfolds we find that the children are part of something more sinister and that the beautiful, quiet teacher, has some heart wrenching and dark issues to explore as well. I actually don’t want to go into more detail because this is a movie where if you go into it knowing less about the plot, the more you will get out of it, but it’s not all about story either. While that part is very well told, its the direction from Nakashima that makes the movie shine. Every frame of this movie could be freezed framed into a stunning portrait. His use of slow motion, CG and the way he intricately unfolds the story are so deftly handled that it elevates the movie beyond just a simple book adaptation (which is it). I rarely hear people talk about Confessions but it’s a film a friend was anxious to show me when he heard I hadn’t seen it (“we’re going to watch this now!”) and now it’s one I show people when I hear they haven’t seen it and they becomes fans of. So go see this now, if you haven’t.


Hal said...

BUCKTOWN is a big favorite of mine and a solid action flick. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. Surprisingly relevant message in addition to the satisfying old-school action. As always, Pam Grier helps.

noahphex said...

Yeah I stumbled on it as a random pick with some friends, based purely on the cast alone. It's a real winner.