Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Favorite Film Discoveries of 2014 - Sean Wicks ""

Friday, December 12, 2014

Favorite Film Discoveries of 2014 - Sean Wicks

Sean is a good friend of mine and he runs the Cinema-Scope blog (http://cinemascope-blog.blogspot.com/) which is very much a sister blog to my own (we often do series in conjunction with each other). An all-around social media lover, he's very active on twitter (https://twitter.com/wixpix), tumblr (http://seanwicks.tumblr.com/) facebook (https://www.facebook.com/WicksFlicks), and letterboxd (http://letterboxd.com/wixpix/). I recommend following him anywhere you can! 
Check out his discoveries list from last year here:
http://www.rupertpupkinspeaks.com/2014/03/favorite-film-discoveries-of-2013-sean.html
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This has been solid year of movie watching for me.  I made an effort to finally catch up with films that have been on my ‘want/need-to-watch’ list for a while and most of those did not disappoint (those that did, well...they just didn’t make the cut) and discovered others that seemed to come out of nowhere.

Consider this part 1 of my discoveries as I always make sure to provide the Rupert Pupkin Speaks blog with a few, then will carry this over to my own blog, CinemaScope with two more segments closer to the New Year.  I make sure this one is a little different than the ones I post on my own blog as there are titles that I know appeal to Rupert’s sensibilities because I know they will make him proud.

So without further delay…here is the first batch of titles!

THE BABY (1973; Directed by Ted Post)
The minute I started this movie (I discovered it in February on Netflix) I knew it was destined for my discoveries list and for sure one to make the Rupert Pupkin Speaksedition.

THE BABY is quite possibly one of the most disturbing and creepy movies I have ever seen. It’s like this, a grown man (aged 21) has the mental capacity of a baby – yep, you read that right. His domineering mother and two daughters keep him diaper-clad in a cradle and he acts exactly like…a baby! Their treatment of them is abusive (in one sequence, we even see one of the daughters go into his room and sleep naked with him – no, not creepy at all!) and you can read between the lines of whether this movie is trying to say something about women keeping men in their place, or ran with a bizarre plot just to shock audiences. It’s hard to say.

A social worker takes an interest in the “baby’s” case. She wants to help “baby” and get him away from his awful situation. She has had some recent tragedy in that her husband was injured in a nasty car accident. It end up that her interest in “baby” is more than just finding him a better life – but I can’t reveal what because it is a HUGE spoiler for what is a shocking twist ending.

THE BABY is indeed creepy and it takes getting used to watching a full grown 21 year old act and sound like an infant, and be treated poorly by his mother and siblings. It works though because after a while you feel sympathy for this bizarre creature. This almost feels like  some sort of scene you might see at an S&M dungeon, but the movie plays it so straight that it starts to win you over after a while. There are many uncomfortable scenes, including a very creepy sex scene that takes this movie beyond the category of exploitation picture.

If you want to see something so bizarre and so completely different than anything else you’ve ever seen…THE BABY is for you.  However be aware, it is definitely NOT for all tastes.

RUNAWAY TRAIN (1985; Directed by Andrey Konchalovskiy)
This selection is what BLACK SUNDAY (1977) was to me last year, a movie that I kept seeing in various stores and thinking “wow, I really need to see that.” I had acquired it on Laserdisc from a friend 11 years ago, and somehow never got around to seeing it – that is until now.

It’s also a late entry to the list as I just saw it a few days ago when it was added to Netflix streaming. It’s a tense, smart action picture with several layers of conflict that make it intriguing.

It opens with hardened convict Jon Voight, who along with the not-so-smart yet eager Eric Roberts escapes from a maximum security prison in the middle of nowhere during a fierce winter storm (“it’s 30 below out there” someone warns them) run by a brutal warden played by John P. Ryan. They manage to get away, yet find themselves in the second conflict of the picture when they hide aboard a train blasting down the rails at full speed after the engineer dies of a heart attack. “That’s the one I want” Voight says passionately as the engine appears out of the snow and fog. Little did he know that it is the worst possible train he could have chosen.

As the train company tries to find a way to bring this thing to a halt before it crashes at a nearby chemical plant (oh those conflicts, they just keep coming), the warden is obsessed with bringing Voight and Roberts (especially Voight) back into custody, and you can tell once he gets his hands on them he isn’t going to be treating them humanely. He calmly beats up one of the people dealing with the train crisis (shoves his face in a toilet bowl filled with urine) demanding that they help him even while this train barrels forward putting countless lives at stake. This guy has one objective and he plans to complete it no matter what.

Oh yeah, I should also mention there is also a woman on the train, Rebecca de Mornay, an employee who was fast asleep in one of the front engines when the whole  thing begins (there are 4 engines, the convicts are in the fourth one). The handlers in “mission control” think that because she’s a woman, she’s useless but she proves to be anything but.  They also can’t fathom why their technology has failed them, and there are countless debates as to whether they should just derail the train and kill those aboard, sacrificing the few for the sake of the many (Spoke would be proud).

This is a different type of action picture which is evidenced by the way the director handles the ending (which I won’t spoil). You are definitely on the side of the convicts right from the opening over the warden who is such a towering jerk that you just pray that bad things will happen to him. Voight’s character is so clearly a hardened and vicious killer and makes this great speech on how he doesn’t want to be, but just can’t help himself. It’s a very emotionally heavy and well written moment (the picture is adapted from an original screenplay by Akira Kurosawa) in what could have been just a brainless action picture.

Eric Roberts reminds me of Matthew McConaughey with his performance, very energetic and a perfect opposite to the grisly Voight.
It is a rough yet intelligent picture.

TESTAMENT (1983; Directed by Lynne Littman)
As a child of the 80s I remember the constant threat of nuclear war very clearly. In TESTAMENT it is not only a threat but a reality as the bombs drop and a small Northern California town is cut off from the world.

TESTAMENT is a real downer of a picture, but so emotionally gut wrenching it’s hard not to get caught up in it. There is no apocalyptic future, or saviors, or heroes or even hope, there is just death as the town slowly crumbles and the residents die off one-by-one over time.

Look out for a very young Kevin Costner in a supporting role.

JUST ONE OF THE GUYS (1985; Directed by Lisa Gottleib)
For a portion of my elementary school years (4 total), I attended a really strict school in a Canadian town that is exactly like the prudish one inFOOTLOOSE (in fact, I think I probably know someone who was suspended for dancing…maybe not but smoking for sure, and that would be someone who was smoking on their own private property on aSaturday night. Yeah, this place was BAD.) Once during a field trip, I came across this film (on VHS) in a 7-11and one of the chaperones ordered me to stay away from the “smut”. Of course that instantly put JUST ONE OF THE GUYS at the top of my “must-see” list. I finally got around to it this year while stranded overnight in the San Jose airport waiting for a connection when it was added to Netflix streaming.

Joyce Hyser plays a high school student with dreams of becoming a serious journalist. She’s written a story that she believes is certain to land her a summer internship at a newspaper but gender politics get in the way and she is passed over for submitting her piece in favor of two male students. Not liking the word “no”, she goes undercover at a rival high school as a boy in order to resubmit her article. Of course she doesn’t account for one of the girls falling in love with her, and a friendly relationship with a boy that she falls for. Of course neither one know that she’s really a girl in boy’s clothing.

A charming movie that relies on some smarter 80s teen movie elements as well as some tried-and-true ones (in that you know exactly how things are going to end up) that sets it apart from other comedies of the decade. It is an underrated picture to be sure, but definitely not smut.

MADHOUSE (1974; Directed by Jim Clark)
MADHOUSE is an great little horror picture starring Vincent Price as a movie star who after suffering from a breakdown and spending time in an asylum returns to the role that made him a star – he’s appropriately named “Dr. Death”.  Things aren’t going to be easy for him though as members of the cast and crew begin dying in the manner of the victims from Price’s older movies making him the primary suspect!

This is a solid, old-fashioned horror movie that I found extremely entertaining.

EASY MONEY (1948; Directed by Bernard Knowles)
EASY MONEY begins by informing the audience how important a role the football pool (that would be soccer to us North Americans) plays in Postwar Britain. In this picture, everyone plays it and the odds of winning it are extremely low. However if you do manage to win it, it’s a life-changing sum and this film is a collection of fictional and entertaining vignettes that show just how life-changing it can be.
The first involves a happy family who becomes incredibly unhappy once the promises of riches are introduced into their lives. Everyone argues, everyone bickers – it’s a mess.

The next was my second favorite (we’ll get to my favorite in a minute) given that had this been an American setting, the dilemma wouldn’t be one at all.  A clerk with an overbearing boss has won the lottery and goes to great lengths to concoct a plot to quit because he just can’t find it within himself to come out and do it. So, he plans on faking a heart attack and that doesn’t go so well at all.

The third is a Film Noir with a night-club singer (the Femme Fatale of the piece) and a pool employee devising a scheme to cheat. Yeah, nice try!

The final episode is my favorite. A bass player in an orchestra is fed up with a new conductor and upon discovering he wins, immediately walks off the job. However he grows to miss his old position and quietly buys the orchestra and eventually ends up right back where he started – playing bass.

1 comment:

joestemme said...

TESTAMENT was on one of the most bizarre double bills I ever sat through. It played at a rundown suburban $2 theater with..............


NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN! Yup, the Sean Connery Bond "comeback" feature!

Can you get two more different movies as far as audience expectations and tone??!