Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Favorite Film Discoveries of 2013: Chris Stanton ""

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Favorite Film Discoveries of 2013: Chris Stanton

Chris Stanton is a writer and artist based in Los Angeles. His two favorite films are Poltergeist and North Shore, and his favorite actor is George C. Scott. You can find out more at
The Possession of Joel Delaney (1972)
Shirley MacLaine plays a wealthy, spoiled NYC matron whose black sheep younger brother (Perry King) gets possessed by the spirit of a dead Puerto Rican serial killer. (Yup, you heard me right.) Based on a novel by Ramona Stewart, this paranormal drama is infamous for its last 15 minutes, which become pretty cringe-inducing in their poor taste. Up until then, there is much to enjoy, including outstanding Manhattan location shooting, all kinds of social commentary and a typically on-point performance by MacClaine.
A Fish Called Wanda (1988)
I saw this when it was first released 25 years ago and didn’t “get” all the hype (nor did I remember much of the story.) This time around, I was pleased to find it a well-paced, tightly structured caper with a committed cast (including Oscar winner Kevin Kline) and an amusing subplot involving thief Michael Palin trying unsuccessfully to murder the only elderly witness to his gang’s heist.
Director Lars Von Trier’s clear hatred of the United States has grown tiresome, but the ultra- minimalist staging and stark performances in this bleak film fully immerse you in the world of its tragic story so that the director’s personal feelings aren’t its main focus. Its extreme (three hour) length is never a burden on the viewer, and the work of the impeccable cast (including narration by John Hurt) creates a lasting impression. 
The Great Muppet Caper (1981)
Considering I couldn’t get enough of The Muppet Show as a child in the late 1970s, it’s amazing that this postmodern flick passed me by. It has a truly bizarre plot, involving newspaper reporters Kermit and Fonzie (who play identical twins) traveling to London to catch a jewel thief. Along the way they meet the other Muppets and Miss Piggy for the first time, meaning this story exists in some parallel Muppet universe where the characters don’t have shared histories! Among the highlights: the Swedish Chef riding a bike in a park, a spectacular Esther Williams-style number starring Miss Piggy (of course), and a truly hilarious cameo by Peter Falk. The plot stops and starts, but any film that ends with Miss Piggy crashing a motorcycle through a stained glass window is definitely worth your time.
Battle Royale (2000)
I finally caught up with this wild cult classic that has undoubtedly influenced everything from Slashers (2001) to Series 7: The Contenders (2001) to The Hunger Games series. It’s a bit of a challenge to keep the huge cast of teenage contestants straight at first, but that becomes less of a problem as they’re pruned down quickly. The script gives each of the students just enough backstory to lend the story emotional depth, despite its outrageous premise.
Amusement (2008)
Three young women are terrorized in separate ways this truly suspenseful, low-budget horror film that pays homage to Joy Ride(2001), the killer clowns of It and Poltergeist, and the torture porn funhouses of Saw. The villain has a penchant for perverse theatricality, which provides numerous surprises throughout.  This flawed but consistently interesting sleeper unspools like an anthology at first – along the lines of Creepshow – then it links the story threads together in the final sequence in a pretty satisfying way. 
Victor/Victoria (1982)
I typically don’t go for musicals, but I finally gave this Oscar-winning Blake Edwards film a try. Julie Andrews plays a struggling, destitute singer in 1930s Paris who hatches a plan with gay cabaret performer Robert Preston to halt her downward slide. She’ll pretend to be a man who’s a female impersonator and pose as Preston’s lover! Featuring excellent production design and costumes as well as sterling performances, the film feels too unstructured and bloated at times, but still entertains as it twists ideas of gender and sexuality in interesting corkscrews. Alex Karras steals the show as a gentle bodyguard with a secret.

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