Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Favorite Film Discoveries of 2014 - Patrick Cooper ""

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Favorite Film Discoveries of 2014 - Patrick Cooper

Patrick Cooper is an Orlando-based writer and member of the Florida Film Critics Circle. His reviews appear in the Orlando Weekly and on Bloody Disgusting. His crime fiction has appeared in Spinetingler Magazine and ThuglitFollow him on Twitter and Letterboxd.


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Devil in a Blue Dress (1995)
I’ve been an unabashed Denzel fan since 1999’s The Hurricane (talk about being robbed of an Oscar), but it wasn’t until this year that I watched Devil in a Blue Dress. I have no excuse. This seedy, sexy crime drama is based on the Walter Mosley novel of the same name, which introduced the world to “Easy” Rawlins, the black WWII vet making his way as a P.I. in the Watts neighborhood of L.A. While Denzel wholly embodies the character of Easy,Don Cheadle chews scenery like it’s going out of style. Cheadle is edgy and scary in this film as the trigger-happy sociopath “Mouse,” who backs up Easy (for better and worse). Smoky atmosphere and solid direction from Carl Franklin, Devil in a Blue Dress is a damn near hypnotizing. It’s a shame this film didn’t make enough waves to spawn an Easy-Mouse franchise. I could watch two hours of these characters putting together IKEA furniture.

A Simple Plan (1998)
There are plenty of movies where progressively worse crimes are piled on top of one another in order to cover up the initial, seemingly innocent crime (Quicksand comes to mind). But none may be as utterly heartbreaking as SamRaimi’s A Simple Plan. Based on the Scott Smith novel of the same name, the film takes viewers slowly through the consequences of crime and shows how it unravels all of the players involved. Billy Bob Thornton and Bill Paxton play brothers who find a bag full of money inside a crashed plane buried in the snow. They decide to hang on to it for awhile, waiting until after the plane is discovered to see if anyone comes looking for the dough. What follows is anoverwhelmingly tense, twisting, and brutally honest look at crime and punishment. And it’s set around Christmas to boot - a wonderful season for wrongdoing.

The Killer Is Loose (1956)
This is one I randomly watched on Netflix streaming - one of those films buried at the end of the “film noir” category. I went in with no expectations and The Killer Is Loose wound up impressing the pants off me. Made 10 years after WWII, Budd Boetticher’s film presents a different type ofpsycho, more traumatized by war than he is simply mad. In the evolution of cinema psychopaths, Leon “Foggy” Poole (Wendell Corey) is an interesting case. He doesn’t stalk the city streets at night, searching for prey. Even more terrifying, he walks unnoticed down suburban sidewalks. In the film’s most chilling scene, Poole breaks into someone’s house and just sits there at the kitchen table with a gun for like 10 minutes. It’s a really edgy, almost dreamy bit. The movie is fulla ace stuff like that.

Ossessione (1943)
For his first film, Luchino Visconti, the godfather of Italian neo-realism, adapted James M. Cain’s seedy masterpiece The Postman Always Rings Twice. This was actually the first time Cain’s novel was adapted, though the subsequent versions (1946 and 1981) have more of a following. For hisfilm, Visconti shaved the story of most of its hardboiled elements and went with a stripped down approach thatplays way more like a tragedy than the other versions. With the exception of an additional character (the gay tramp LaSpagnola), Ossessione holds true to Cain’s core story of lust, murder, and doom. Sparse in dialogue and wet with expressionistic gestures and stares, this one will throw you right in to a deep ditch of depression (in a good way, of course).

Fun fact: the film was banned by the Italian Fascist government and Church leaders at the time due to its depiction of murder and infidelity. The film’s negatives were rounded up and destroyed, but luckily Visconti had a spare hidden away. The filmmaker never secured the rights to the novel, however, so the film was never shown in the U.S. until 1976.

Dead Pigeon on Beethoven St. (1973)
The late, great Samuel Fuller’s sole effort in the 1970s, Dead Pigeon on Beethoven Street is a made-for-TV spin-off of the popular German detective show Tatort. I have no idea how Fuller’s film fits into the Tatort series, but man I don’t care. It’s a snappily paced, wickedly tongue-in-cheek crime flick loaded with Fuller’s whiz-bang filmmaking and dog-eat-dog sensibilities. Glenn Corbett stars as Sandy, ahardass gumshoe with questionable morals out to avenge the murder of his partner - the titular pigeon shot down on Beethoven St. by an international gang of drug dealers.Lots of satirical intrigue and ridiculous beats follow. Leave it up to Fuller to stage a gunfight in a maternity ward with bullets buzzing over babies’ bonnets. Here’s hoping this sucker gets a solid home video release ASAP.

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