Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Favorite Underrated Dramas - Spenser Hoyt ""

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Favorite Underrated Dramas - Spenser Hoyt

Spenser Hoyt works at Scarecrow Video, the Seattle Public Library and helps out at The Grand Illusion Cinema. He contributed a bunch of reviews to Destroy All Movies!!! and sometimes does stuff on the internet when he’s not busy watching movies or listening to records.

Fat City (1972 Director- John Huston)
Stockton, California’s grim world of apartments, hotels, vegetable fields, bars, and, most importantly, boxing rings provide the backdrop for several dead-end lives. Stacy Keach plays an over-the-hill boxer who contemplates a comeback after several years of heavy drinking. After helping a promising youngster (Jeff Bridges) get his career started, booze, jealousy, bad luck and smashed dreams bring their personal and professional lives crashing to the ground. Expertly directed by Huston, Fat City features some of ace cinematographer Conrad Hall’s best and bleakest photography and a strong supporting cast includes future Cheers coach Nick Colasanto and Susan Tyrell as one hell of a drunk.

Cinderella Liberty (1973 Director- Mark Rydell)
Sleazy, seedy, seventies Seattle is well represented in this story about an introverted Navy sailor named John Baggs (James Caan) who gets stuck in the Jet City after his paperwork gets lost. Baggs spends much of the film passing time, doing sundry mundane Navy work and tries to build a family (albeit a dysfunctional one) with a pool hustling hooker named Maggie (Marsha Mason). The plot indulges in predictable melodrama but the proceedings are elevated by the lead actors’ fine performances, a cast packed with unique faces and a bounty of seamy sights from my hometown.

Heart Like A Wheel (1983 Director- Jonathan Kaplan)
I don’t normally care for biopics and car racing movies usually leave me cold but I really got into Heart Like A Wheel. It’s the true story of Shirley “Cha Cha” Muldowney and her efforts to make it in the “dudes only” world of drag racing. Contrasting her risky performance on the track is Muldowney’s complicated personal life. Once again it is the actors that really lift the material into something special and, in particular, the underrated and underused Bonnie Bedelia must be singled out for her outstanding work here. Speaking of outstanding and underrated, this is another terrific movie directed by Jonathan Kaplan.

That’ll Be The Day (1973 Director- Claude Whatham)
Set in England during the late 50s when early rock and roll provided the kids their kicks That’ll Be The Day presents the story of a wannabee rock star (David Essex) who dumps school and family for a series of odd jobs and misadventures. Along the way he ends up employed at a carnival and is befriended by a carnie (Ringo Starr giving the best performance of his acting career, which maybe isn’t saying much but he is really good in this!). The film never glamorizes the rebel lifestyle and the movie’s one “rock star” is a jerk. A lot of people come into this film expecting some sort of rock musical and end up disappointed that it is another working class drama. Me? I totally dig this kind of stuff!

Nunzio (1978 Director- Paul Williams)
I’m going out on a limb here because I haven’t seen this movie in over 25 years but when it aired on cable back in my high school days it was quite the sensation. Nunzio is a mentally handicapped young man (played by David Proval of UHF and The Sopranos fame) who works at a grocery store in a tough, blue collar New York neighborhood. He dreams of being Superman and tussles with some neighborhood thugs. I don’t remember everything that happens in Nunzio but I really liked it then and I imagine I’d still like it now (if I could find a copy of this elusive movie!).

Bonus Road Trip Round:

Goin’ Down The Road (1970 Director-Donald Shebib)
This Canadian film is pretty well known in its homeland and maybe @paulcorupe will write about it. I first became aware of it after an SCTV spoof. It’s another excellent look at the disenfranchised working class and would make a good double bill with The Whole Shootin’ Match.

Route 66
I’ve recently been turned on to Stirling Silliphant’s wonderful early sixties television drama thanks to my wife’s obsession with her secret boyfriend Martin Milner. The show follows a couple of restless young men as they travel around the US in a convertible. The format makes the program more like an anthology series as the individual episodes focus on the other people encountered along the way. The guest stars are incredible and the scripts regularly deal with heavy themes and complex subjects. One of television’s best dramas.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

"Goin' Down The Road"! HELLYEAH!