Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Favorite Film Discoveries of 2014 - Scott from Married with Clickers ""

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Favorite Film Discoveries of 2014 - Scott from Married with Clickers

Scott and his wife Kat run the Married With Clickers podcast. It's a great show and you should listen. They basically watch movies together and then talk about them on the show. They have themed months and whatnot and always seem to choose interesting films to watch. This is Scott's 5th (!) year doing a discoveries list - see his old ones: 
2013:
10. Drive a Crooked Road (1954)
A great little noir directed by Richard Quine, who became better known for light hearted comedies including Bell, Book and Candle and Paris When It Sizzles. Mickey Rooney plays a variation of his character from Quicksand(another top tier noir) who falls for a dame and is lured into a heist. Rooney is an underappreciated actor and he's a great fit for this kind of role. It is well written (Blake Edwards co-wrote with Quine), superbly paced and drips with early 50s SoCal atmosphere. Best of all, Kevin McCarthy is in top form as the smooth talking villain.

9. Nim's Island (2008)
Yes. Nim's Island. I watched this with my family and was floored by the mixture of suspense, humour and humanity in the script and was amazed by the talent they were able to assemble for the cast (Hello, Jodie Foster!). This is the kind of film that combines all of the elements you need to keep the entire family engaged. It's a shame that the earthbound family adventure film has become and endangered species. This was very, very charming and I'm very happy I pulled it off the video store shelf to check it out.

8. Mannequin 2: On the Move (1991)
My wife and I have taken the very controversial stance that this film stands heads and shoulders above the original in terms of romance, pacing and comedy. Who knew? I certainly did not, as I have no memory of this ever hitting theatres, video or TV. We only watched it by virtue of the fact that it came as a two-pack on DVD with Mannequin. Where the original pulled its punches and relied on weak slapstick, this movie goes for broke. While the result may be messy in parts, it is infinitely more entertaining. This was one of the most pleasant surprises of the year – just pure, goofy fun.

7. Ministry of Fear (1944)
Wait, did you say that there's a Fritz Lang film starring Ray Milland based on a Graham Greene book? Did you also say that Criterion put out a great looking, well-priced Blu Ray? I was thrilled to find this wrapped under the tree for Christmas 2013 and it was one of the first films I watched in 2014. I actually watched it twice this year and that does not happen very often any more. The film features some great visuals, a terrific turn by Milland, a nifty séance scene and a sinister appearance by Dan Duryea. I do not think it is generally considered to be among Lang's best works, but should be!

6. Opera (1987)
I am no Argento expert, but I have now seen four of his most revered films and this one stands above the rest. It looks beautiful, assisted greatly by using an operatic version of MacBeth as the backdrop. Argento is known for his kills, and they are elegantly choreographed and very original. The theme of voyeurism, whether voluntary or involuntary, flows through the film from and helps keep the viewer engaged.  Of course, it falls apart in the end with a clunky reveal but that's splitting hairs, if not heads.

5. Dance or Die (1987)
Las Vegas choreographer/recovering cokehead Jason may be the blandest action hero of all-time. Lucky for him, he's facing the blandest villains of all-time. This film (video?) is an absolute mess, combining inept camera work, lacklustre editing and wooden acting. What sets it apart and propels it to the top tier of 'So Bad It's Good' pyramid? One word: dancing. It's everywhere, it's amateurish and it's very, very 80s. This is a fun, fun ride and I recommend it to anyone looking for an undiscovered turd.

4. Nightmare Alley (1947)
A sweaty, drunken noir starring the great Tyrone Power.  I have always enjoyed noirs that step outside the city and/or dabble in the occult and the circus side show setting helps to emphasize the film's dark tones and cynicism. As a bonus, it is always a treat to see Mike Mazurski pop up in a film. A true noir classic.

3. Fair Game (1988)
For 80 minutes you get to watch a giant snake chase Sting's wife, Trudie Styler around an 80s apartment.  That's about it. At the same time, Gregg Henry is sitting in his car with his personal 'snake tracking' computer, sweating and cackling. It is a fun romp propelled by a Giorgio Moroder score and a lot of snake P.O.V. camerawork. Director Mario Orfini keeps the viewer engaged by working as much creativity into such a confined space as possible and obsessing over Styler's behind. It is by no means a great film, but it is a great viewing experience.

2. Mildred Pierce (1945)
2014 was the year of Mildred for me. I saw the Michael Curtiz film after watching the Todd Haynes miniseries and reading James M. Cain's book. You would think I would be sick of Mildred, Veda and pies by then, but I was not.  Curtiz and screenwriter Ranald MacDougall take a very different approach with this film, inserting a crime-driven framing sequence, but I think it works wonderfully and helps establish the atmosphere of the film. The supporting cast is all relatively strong, but Joan Crawford and Ann Blyth are in charge here and that is certainly to the viewer's benefit. To be perfectly honest, though, I could live without Butterfly McQueen being dropped into the story as she really gets on my nerves.

1. Naked Prey (1965)
This is a weird hybrid of National Geographic travelogue, Most Dangerous Game and 60s art film. I loved every second of it. Some people may find Cornel Wilde to be a bit stiff, but he's in so many of my favourite films (The Big ComboLeave Her to Heaven), that he must be doing something right. This is simply 95 minutes of adrenaline; shot in beautiful colour on location is Zimbabwe. The nasty, nasty violence in the first act adds kicks the film into gear and Wilde's direction and performance ensure that the foot never comes off the pedal.

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