Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Favorite Film Discoveries of 2014 - Josh Johnson ""

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Favorite Film Discoveries of 2014 - Josh Johnson

Josh Johnson directed a wonderful documentary all about VHS called REWIND THIS! and it is available digitally with extras here(including the soundtrack which is awesome): It is also now available on DVD and VHS here: 

Josh is also a longtime friend of RPS and has contributed quite a few great lists over the years. Here are his Film Discoveries lists from 2011, 2012 and 2013:

Follow Josh's exploits on twitter here: 

This is certainly the most inscrutable film I witnessed this year. What begins as a tale of a carnival huckster with psychic powers takes detour after detour until you can't fully remember where you started. Ambitious, sprawling, and totally unhinged. This is the kind of discovery that turns one into an evangelist.

Ishiro Honda, best known for launching the GODZILLA franchise and the kaiju craze, focuses on human scale sci-fi with this oddity. A man who can transform into gas is robbing banks, with no clues left behind. What makes this film stand out is that it not only humanizes the villain to a surprising degree, it also gives him as much screen time as everyone else.

3. STREETWISE (1984)
Emotionally devastating portrait of street youth in early 80's Seattle. One of the most skillful documentaries I've encountered at drawing you into the private lives of its subjects. Always gripping, occasionally shocking, and completely moving.

The second most inscrutable film on this list. It is difficult to even explain it in a way that could indicate what the experience is like. There are insect farmers, freedom fighters, vampirism, desert sexcapades, and enough oddball shots of confusing facial expressions to fill an atomic bunker. Essential viewing for fans of outsider art.

5. SHRECK (1990)
Teenage horror fans dabble in Nazi occultism with life-shattering results. Shot on camcorder in Wisconsin with surprising professionalism, the atmosphere that permeates the proceedings is consistently effective. A well-observed combination of teen angst and slasher mysticism.

6. THE MASK (1961)
A classic of early Canuxploitation, THE MASK inhabits the same paranoid alternate reality as many of the best US horror movies of the late 50's. Canada's only contribution to the first wave of the 3D fad boasts some of the most startling 3D sequences ever captured on film. Each time someone puts on the ancient ritual mask referred to in the title, the 2D film shifts into a 3D nightmare landscape as vivid as anything to hit screens before or since.

Les Blank has a knack for capturing the best in people. In this case, those people are passionate lovers of polka music and the culture that surrounds it. The best documentaries of niche groups can allow us to understand the joy and fulfillment to be found within communities we wouldn't otherwise interact with. I had a smile on my face throughout this film, despite having no particular interest in the subject matter, because Blank's camera breezily captures the sincere love on the faces of everyone it encounters.

8. STAR TIME (1992)
I've changed my mind about this straight-to-video art-horror curio several times since seeing it, and that staying power is what convinced me it belongs on this list. It's an inconsistent combination of serial killer thrills and Hollywood satire, with a strong appearance by cult actor John P. Ryan. There is a strong vision at work, one that can't be ignored. There are obvious budgetary limitations, but the stronger moments call to mind later 90's arthouse horror efforts like HABIT or THE UGLY.

New York City has been depicted in movies since the earliest days of American cinema, but many of the most interesting portrayals have come from foreign directors who bring a different perspective to the city. Jean-Pierre Melville brings the same cool, hard-boiled style of his French films to this yarn about a newspaper reporter and photographer on the trail of a missing UN delegate. In typical Melville fashion, each character has to navigate their own morally ambiguous path along the way.

My favorite discovery of the year. Alan Rudolph constructs a tightly wound thriller around the sort of trauma that shapes all of our lives and defines all of our relationships. The whole thing moves with a peculiar rhythm, never letting us know more than we need to at any given moment. The result is both emotionally and intellectually thrilling.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Nice list. "In Heaven There is No Beer" is on my viewing queue via the Les Blank set, but based on the 8 or so I've seen already, they are all great discoveries. Looking forward to this one and "Gap Toothed Women."