Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Favorite Film Discoveries of 2014 - Kevin Clarke ""

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Favorite Film Discoveries of 2014 - Kevin Clarke

In the words of Kevin Clarke: "I'm a guy who works at Scarecrow Video in Seattle and loves HOWARD THE DUCK and the POLICE ACADEMY movies, despite knowing better."
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Girl Walk // All Day (2011)
This was absolutely my favorite discovery of 2014. Some insanely talented dancers turn New York City into their own playground/dance studio, to the tune of Girl Talk's mashup "All Day." A pure joy from beginning to end. 

Highball (1997)
It's unfortunate, but not surprising, that director Noah Baumbach has disowned this cheap, scrappy, spare, broad, charming, sometimes stupid little hangout comedy, yet (most likely) clings tenaciously to the "Jennifer Jason Leigh poops her pants" hatefulness of MARGOT AT THE WEDDING.

FRANCES HA gives me hope that he's not a complete monster, though.




Altered (2006)
So, this is what (one of) the directors of THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT were up to. Crafting a tight little, gory, low-budget alien invasion movie. Perfectly paced. And the "little-green-man" space-monster, when he finally shows up, is great.


Running on Karma (2003)
Finally, the violent romantic comedy/meditation on karmic retribution about a bodybuilder ex-monk and a precocious lady cop I've been looking for!

Who’s That Knocking at My Door (1967)
Bursts with energy from the get-go. The blueprint for Scoresese's career, with its dual obsessions with Catholic guilt and cinema. For the most part it's just a great hangout movie, with long digressions on why Robert Mitchum and John Wayne are great, lots of scenes of guys driving around aimlessly, without incident, and tender scenes of young love. There's even a hiking scene that made me think of the SOPRANOS episode, "Pine Barrens," minus the murdering and whatnot.
It is also about a guy who blames his girlfriend for getting raped, and all the gorgeous shots of crucifixes and weeping Madonnas don't make the dude seem like less of a piece of shit. Which is maybe the point, but it seems we're supposed to feel his conflict, while I just feel sorry for the girl, and could care less about his inner turmoil.

Wild Style (1983)
This film was brought to my attention by Ed Piskor's brilliant comic book series "Hip Hop Family Tree" (volume 1 and 2 available from Fantagraphics!). And he, in turn, said that the inception for that series was this film. Full circle, man.
Rough, raw, sometimes amateurish, but never anything but earnest. Belongs on a list of great American independent movies like Linklater's SLACKER, Burnett's KILLER OF SHEEP and Spheeris' SUBURBIA, that perfectly capture a specific time and culture.


Sidewalk Stories (1989)
I'm not sure we deserve movies this wonderful. A warm, loving, funny, sad character study and a tribute to the power of silent cinema. Stumbles a tiny bit when attempting to make a larger social statement about the chasm between rich and poor. But, I can't hold it against the movie for having something to say. Especially when the rest of it is so lovingly made.


Chrystal (2004)
A great understated Southern drama from a master of the genre. Ray McKinnon lets the setting and characters inform the story, instead of the other way 'round. And what a deep well of empathy and respect he has for these lost souls.

And Precious (as played by Clifford) jumped straight to # 2 on my list of favorite dog performances of all time.


The Tiger of Eschnapur (1959) and The Indian Tomb (1959) 
A pulp adventure painting come to life. Recalls Lang's silent masterpiece Die Nibelungen in scope and looks forward to Indiana Jones' exotic escapades.

Also, Debra Paget's epic snake dance. That is all.



Shock! Shock! Shock! (1987)
"Of all the places, the universe is the biggest."
Whatever the hell this is (ironic slasher film, ironic superhero comedy, non-ironic handmade effects showcase,), it's for me. 
Jim Gandolfini's first credit as "Orderly".

Moment to Moment (1975)
If you're looking for a bizarre, stream-of-consciousness experimental film/showcase for Elise Downey in which Robert Downey, Jr. pops up as a little boy, then this is the movie for you!

If not, you will hate this "movie."

Death Run (1987)
Surprisingly well made hour-long 'backyard post-apocalypse' 16mm epic. A guy and his girl are put into cryosleep by some scientists, and wake up in a ravaged Hellscape, full of punks, cannibals, rapers, and the titular "Death Run." 

Alone Across The Pacific (1963)
A matter-of-fact account of how one man traveled on a tiny yacht from Osaka to San Francisco. Ichikawa certainly finds poetic moments in his hero's journey, but is able to avoid any ponderous 'man vs. the elements' pretensions (e.g. LIFE OF PI) and the hero worship of Sean Penn's INTO THE WILD. The film is also not afraid to point out the absurdity of his endeavor, and his relative stupidity in attempting such a thing in the first place; he's not an entirely unskilled sailor, but not skilled enough that his survival is certain, and his boat's hull (shown being constructed in flashbacks) is far from optimal. In, what I suppose is a commentary on Japanese youth at the time, his reasons for making the journey are equally vague, he just wants to, end of story.


Header (2006)
Nobody can simply be told what a Header is, one must see it for oneself.

Sometimes a "discovery" is not the same thing as a "recommendation." This is such a case. I in no way endorse this movie. But, for some reason, it does exist, and it's my solemn duty to let the rest of the world know this. I am not proud of this. Nobody should be. There was maybe a somewhat decent movie hidden deep inside this thing. Maybe its a hidden treasure. I leave it to smarter people to write the future HEADER thinkpeices. My job was simply uncovering it. Sorry.  

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