Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Favorite Film Discoveries of 2014 - Mitch Lovell ""

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Favorite Film Discoveries of 2014 - Mitch Lovell

Mitch can be found and read at The Video Vacuum:
also on twitter @TheVideoVacuum.

His 2011, 2012 and 2013 discoveries are here:

 This is the best time of year to be a movie fan.  No, I’m not talking about awards season; I’m talking about Rupert Pupkin Speaks’ Favorite Film Discoveries lists.  I love coming to this site and reading everyone’s lists of the best films they saw all year.  So many movie sites are cynical and snarky when it comes to cinema, but Rupert Pupkin Speaks is all about pure unadulterated love of film.  To be able to share my discoveries list with everyone over the years has been a real treat, and I am ecstatic that I can do so once again.  So without further ado…

Years after he starred in Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla, Duke Mitchell produced, directed, and starred in this gory Godfather rip-off that will have your jaw dropping more often than not.  It’s full of bloody shootouts and is filmed in a grimy, grindhouse style that makes the violence feel more realistic.  The flick is kinda choppy in places and some of the dialogue is stilted, but what Massacre Mafia Style lacks in polish, it more than makes up for in sheer awesomeness.  Mitchell wears his heart on his sleeve, and his passion and love for what he is doing shines through in nearly every scene.  And of course, the violence is primo.  Guys are shot, electrocuted (in a urinal, no less), and hung up on meat hooks.  Guns are hidden in loafs of bread.  It’s glorious.  It’s nuts.  I loved it.

9. THE LONG GOODBYE  (1973)  
Elliott Gould is great as Phillip Marlowe in Robert Altman’s freewheeling, often exhilarating adaptation of Raymond Chandler’s novel.  I loved the way that Altman assigned his iconic style to the hardboiled detective genre.  There are several other little Altman touches that I just loved.  The way John Williams’ title song changed and mutated to fit each scene was simply awesome.  I also dug that Marlowe didn’t have any of the usual detective narration you’d normally see in a picture like this.  Instead, he mumbled his thoughts out loud, which to leads the purely Altman motif of multiple vocal tracks. A lot of fun also comes from spotting DavidCarradine and a soon-to-be-famous Arnold Schwarzenegger in small roles.

Zatoichi (Shintaro Katsu), the Blind Swordsmancauses trouble for himself when he slashes the leader of a vicious gang in the eye in self-defense.  The clan goes out looking for him and old enemies come out of the woodwork to take him down.  The Tale of Zatoichi Continues is a worthy sequel in every regard.  The action is typically great.  In fact, there’s even more action here than there was in the first movie, and since the running time is noticeably abbreviated (it’s only 72 minutes long), the flick moves at a lightning pace.  Shintaro Katsu once again essays the role of Zatoichi with authority.  He excels in the action sequences, but does some rather fine work exploring the more romantic aspects of the character too.  Overall, The Tale of ZatoichiContinues is another excellent entry in the series.

7. TO BE OR NOT TO BE  (1983)
Mel Brooks stars in, but did not direct this remake of the Ernst Lubitsch classic.  However, his gifted comic touch can be felt throughout this film, which is a classic in its own right.  It would make a perfect double feature with Brooks’ The Producers as both films deal with Hitler and the theater, but in very different ways.  It’s great to watch Brooks and his wife, Anne Bancroft play off each other.  They have effortless chemistry together, and they get lots of laughs.  

The Centerfold Girls is a great, surprising, and nasty ‘70s exploitation movie.  You can’t get much more ’70s than Andrew Prine, Aldo Ray, and TiffanyBolling in one movie.  It has a terrific set-up, an irresistible hook, and several unexpected plot twists.  Plus, it also features an amazing amount of nudity.  Seriously, a nubile female takes her top off practically every time they enter and/or exit a scene.  It’s truly a sight to behold.  The cool thing about The Centerfold Girls is that it’s told as an anthology movie.  Each half-hour tale follows three different victims of Prine’s lunacy.  Each tale contains its own peculiar set of circumstances around the crime.  Some will be put off by the rampant sleaze found throughout the picture.  However, fans of exploitation and grindhouse cinema will be impressed by the pull-no-punches, take-no-prisoners attitude the filmmakers adopted.  The Centerfold Girls is definitely one for the books.

 I watched the entire Guinea Pig series this year and they were all wildly uneven.  These two films were by far the most entertaining chapters.  Devil Doctor Woman alone has enough hysterical moments to qualify it as a cult classic. Mermaid in a Manhole is downright disturbing and has some dare I say, beautiful scenes.  It also has a bizarre Fairy TaleTheatre Gone Wrong feel.  I only wish the rest of the films in the series were as memorable and nutty.  

4. WATER POWER  (1977)  
Okay, so if you’re like me and you’ve think you’ve seen just about every crazy movie imaginable, you begin to get restless.  Before long, you start to wonder if you’ll ever be shocked by a motion picture again.  The last movie that really made me squirm in my seat was Let Me Die a Woman.  Water Power makes Let Me Die a Woman look like a Disney Channel flick.  The incredible Jamie Gillis stars as a lonely pervert who sets out to cleanse “dirty” women by giving them enemas against their will.  Before long, he’s stalking more helpless victims (including a pair of sisters) and the local papers label him “The Enema Bandit”.  Gillis gives an amazing performance.  His fearlessness is what elevates Water Power from merely porn to a harrowing, horrifying work of deranged art. He’s scary and demented and gets a lot of great monologues too.  

Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ caused quite an outrage at the time of release, but whatever your religious convictions are, you have to admit that the film is undeniably daring and powerful. Willem Dafoe is not the first person you would think of to play Jesus, however, he is awesome.  It is Harvey Keitel who steals the movie as Judas.  He is by far Jesus’ most critical follower, but also his most beloved.  Many critics dismissed him as the weak link (mostly because of his accent), but to me, he’s the glue that holds the movie together.  It’s definitely an underrated performance that’s among his best.

The Power of Aikido is not only a great Kung Fu movie, but a great movie; period.  It is full of rich characters, terrific fight scenes, and an involving plot line.  In fact, it has more plot in its 82 minute running time than most television shows have in a season.  Plus, Sonny Chiba is a sheer treat to watch in this.  He exhibits a physicality here that few of his peers possessed.  There’s just this violent poetry to his movements that is fascinating to watch.  Even in a simple scene, his movements are just breathtaking. If you’re a fan of Sonny Chiba, drop whatever it is you’re doing and go watch The Power of Aikido; you can thank me later.

1. SUNSET BLVD.  (1950)  
Sunset Blvd. is one of those movies that I have seen clips of all my life, but had never actually sat down and watched.  I knew all the big moments in the film (“All right, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up”, “IAM big… It’s the pictures that got small”, the famous opening scene, etc.), and yet for one reason or another, I just never got around to seeing it.  Seeing them in their proper context really packs a wallop. When our local theatre, The Clayton played the filmas part of their “Classic Movie Mondays”, I jumped atthe chance to check it out.  It did not disappoint.  Sunset Blvd. is a classic.  It’s a near-perfect film full of heart, laughs, and heartbreak.  I can’t believe it took me this long to see it.

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