Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Favorite Film Discoveries of 2013 - Brian Kelley ""

Friday, February 14, 2014

Favorite Film Discoveries of 2013 - Brian Kelley

Brian Kelley is a friend and a massive movie fanatic on a scale few people could comprehend. He has always been a place for me to go to get recommendations for the weird, wacky and wonderful corners of cinema.
He's @BTSJunkie on twitter and he's also on Letterboxd (a highly recommended follow):
In no particular order, here are the movies I saw for the first time in 2013 that made me happy to be alive.

FURIOUS (Tim Everitt, 1984)
A lot of people use the word "indescribable" to describe movies that are actually fairly describable. It's an easy word to fall back on when other words are a bit too complicated to string together (similar to the outdated and meaningless word "quirky").
FURIOUS is a truly indescribable movie because in order to accurately outline the plot, you'd have to explain the completely unexplainable connection between random chickens, questionable Kung fu, dime-store sorcery, suddenly-appearing assassin chefs, an unmentioned/unacknowledged electro band, an office building fortress and more.

Ounce for ounce this may be the most entertaining movie I've seen in a decade.

BEAU TRAVAIL (Claire Denis, 1999)
Not even taking into account the rest of the beautiful film that comes before it, the final moments of Denis Lavant dancing in an empty club are as invigorating as cinema can be.

LAST SUMMER (Frank Perry, 1969)
When people ask me why I still bother with VHS, I could just give a laundry list of statistics about how many movies aren't available in any other format. It's more helpful, though, to point to specific movies like LAST SUMMER, genuinely great films that can be seen no other way. (Ok, other than a TCM screening here or there or via a recently uncovered 16mm print, but you get the idea.)
LAST SUMMER is a dark and fairly shocking tale of unchecked and misplaced teenage sexual frustration. It works due to the near-perfect cast. Barbara Hershey, Richard Thomas and Bruce Davison are all superb as the tight-knit threesome on which the movie mainly focuses but it's the relatively obscure Catherine Burns as the outsider Rhoda that really nails the necessary emotional landing.

There are so many intertwined themes at work here, all of them handled with deft nuance. The focus is so narrow and pinpointed that the only two adult characters we really meet are themselves guilty of sexual perversions/hangups, a glimpse into the not-so-promising futures of these privileged-yet-repressed teens.

A splendid film in need of rediscovery.

THE MATCHMAKER (Joseph Anthony, 1958)
Whereas modern romantic comedies' insights on the difference between men and women boil down to little more than "Hey! Women fart too!", a movie like THE MATCHMAKER (based on a Thornton Wilder play which is also the basis for HELLO, DOLLY!) turns the nuances of the variances of the sexes into comedy gold built on smart observations.
What's great about this movie is the brilliant characters brought to life by a stellar cast. Shirley Booth is phenomenal as Dolly, Shirley MacLaine is beyond adorable, Anthony Perkins is an irresistibly hopeful and totally handsome little troublemaker and Paul Ford is great as the curmudgeonly Horace Vandergelder. The real standout for me, though, is Perkins' sidekick-in-adventure, Barnaby as played by Robert Morse. I immediately looked up his filmography after the movie as I'm dying to see more of his goofball shtick and was shocked to learn he is none other than Bertram Cooper on "Mad Men"!

Everything clicks here, it's hilarious and smart and full of characters with whom you'll absolutely love spending time! It's the opposite of everything I hate about modern romantic comedies.

A BULLET FOR THE GENERAL (Damiano Damiani, 1966)
A truly thrilling Spaghetti Western that manages to beautifully capture the spirit of revolutionary ideology while never failing to entertain.

SPARROWS (William Beaudine, 1926)
Engrossing and sinister silent film features a baby farm, man-eating swamps and infant-hungry alligators. Pickford is a delight and the balance between terror and unexpected comedy feels modern and charmingly dated at the exact same time. A real treat to see on the big screen.

THIS MUST BE THE PLACE (Paolo Sorrentino, 2011)
It's hard to make a movie so relentlessly weird and still expect audiences to connect with it on an emotional level. Yet, THIS MUST BE THE PLACE turned out to be one of the most truly invigorating movie experiences I've had in a while. Sorrentino's characters and constantly surprising scenes are crafted with such sincerity it's impossible to not get caught up and invested in them. This is a beautiful film on every level- every shot is alluring, every feeling it evokes is true, Penn (and everyone else) is top notch and the soundtrack (featuring David Byrne and Bonnie 'Prince' Billy) is expertly chosen.

THE ASTROLOGER (Craig Denney, 1975)
If ever there was a movie made for me and my deep love for singular visions brought to life despite the lack of any ability to so in any fashion resembling standard ideas of "correct", this is it!
It does little good to describe the plot of this movie and doing so would only ruin the fun of the constant string of surprises that is THE ASTROLOGER. It's the kind of movie where an abrupt change in time and location makes one think either a.) the reels are out of order or b.) a reel from a completely unrelated movie has slipped in. But then you realize HOLY SHIT! THAT WASN'T EVEN A REEL CHANGE and your mind is blown. As soon as you learn to expect the unexpected from this movie it does something to defy your expectations of "expected"!

It's the kind of movie where the main character makes a movie that is basically THE ASTROLOGER within the movie and then we get to watch The Astrologer watch THE ASTROLOGER inside the movie THE ASTROLOGER for like 5 minutes!
It's the kind of movie that inexplicably has songs by The Moody Blues.

It's the kind of movie where someone says "Uranus explodes".

It's the kind of movie where long passages of clinical astro-babble are considered to be moving the plot forward.

It's the kind of movie that has an entire dynamic dinner scene shot entirely in slow-motion.

It's the kind of movie where someone shouts, "You're not an astrologer, YOU'RE AN ASSHOLE!"

It's the kind of movie where the story is propelled by newspaper headlines which are mostly in FOREIGN LANGUAGES!

And it's all done without an ounce of irony. It's all genuine, it's all passion, it's all GOOD.

This movie is only available on 35mm (there's an unconfirmed report of a 16mm print in the possession of Something Weird) and I won't die happy until thousands of people have experienced this incredible film.
Another Nakamura/Isaka winner. It broke my heart then put it back together again.

FINAL SCORE (Arizal, 1986)
A lot of movies claim to be non-stop action... and there's FINAL SCORE which barely takes 10 minutes total out of its plot to stop the killing and exploding. Chris Mitchum takes on the whole of Indonesia and leaves everything dead and on fire. The body count is well into the triple digits. A total blast.

PRAY FOR THE WILDCATS (Robert Michael Lewis, 1974)
A fascinating and immensely entertaining ABC Movie of the Week boosted by an incredible cast. You've got the sleazy dickface Andy Griffith, the pushover ninny William Shatner, the pleasant and level-headed Robert Reed, the supremely gorntey Marjoe Gortner and devoted and loving wife Angie Dickinson. The film is full of loud bikes, conspiring hippies and Mexico and features probably the best last line in all of TV movie history. Or history of the world, maybe.

CLEOPATRA (Cecil B. DeMille, 1934)
DeMille's CLEOPATRA is too grandiose and striking to be bad but too goofy and out-of-its-mind insane to be "good". Therefore, it's GREAT. This is seriously loony stuff with plenty of laughs that don't feel super out-of-place, just part of the nutso, glue-sniffing bonkers experience. Colbert is wicked gorgeous as usual.

Girls torture and kill each other, engage in torrid lesbian affairs (both forced and consensual) and, when not distracted by those academic pursuits, gang rape their principal. The Japanese are SO CUTE!!!

Other great stuff: PLAYING DANGEROUS (1995), ORIGINAL GANGSTAS (1996), THE MIRACLE WOMAN (1931), VIVA MARIA! (1965)

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