Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Film Discoveries of 2015 - Austin Vashaw ""

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Film Discoveries of 2015 - Austin Vashaw

Austin is a writer and editor at Cinapse, and loves to talk film onTwitter and Letterboxd!

Here are some of my favorite discoveries of 2015. Not necessarily the "best" or most obscure ones so much as the ones I'm simply the most eager to share with you fine folks.

Medium Cool (1969)
It doesn't get realer than this. Haskell Wexler's Medium Cool isn't a great narrative in the traditional sense, but its blurring of truth and fiction is absolutely riveting. The film has a narrative about an investigative reporter, but the real star is the backdrop - it's filmed against the actual 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, and most of what's on the screen is a real, unscripted maelstrom of rage and violence. Daring, experimental, must-see guerrilla filmmaking.

Captain Apache (1971)
This Eurowestern's instigating event seems pulled right from Citizen Kane. A murdered Indian Commissioner’s cryptic dying words are “April morning”, and a Native American Union officer known as Captain Apache is assigned to investigate. Meanwhile, he must contend with various unsavory characters who have also gathered in hopes of discovering what's believed to be a valuable payday. Western legend Lee Van Cleef loses his trademark mustache, kicks ass all over town, and even sings the opening theme song (which is amazing).

Maniac Cop 3: Badge Of Silence(1993)
Far better than the "Alan Smithee" directorial credit and troubled production would suggest. It's a lesser film than the previous two in the series, but still a thoroughly enjoyable sequel. Roberts Z'Dar and Davi both return in their roles and the second film's jaw-droppingly incredible fiery finale is actually one-upped here in an even more insane sequence.

The Beyond (1981)
A super stylish creeper from one of the Italian masters. Fulci delivers intense, nightmarish visions of death and evil that aren’t quickly forgotten. Each scare is crafted with for maximum creepiness, style, and violence, with no attention to reality or rationality. The film’s style is not only creepy but often surrealistic and hallucinatory, creating an unsettling and sinister vibe. Grindhouse Releasing put out an absolutely amazing Blu-ray release that's probably my favorite disc of the year.

The Meteor Man (1993)
This might have been my biggest surprise of the year. I wasn't expecting much more than a 90s comic book parody, but the very funny and star-studded The Meteor Man is a surprisingly conscientious film that steers clear of certain superhero cliches, thanks to the vision of writer-director and star Robert Townsend. Rather than bust heads, this pacifist hero de-escalates violent situations and even plants a community garden. Most films with strong social messages come from a place of rage, but Townsend seems to be coming from a place of love, and delivers this powerful message in a gentle PG-rated superhero parable.

The Cinapse gang watched this for our Two Cents column based solely upon Peter Dinklage's starring role, and we weren't disappointed. It's a deliciously quiet and low-key film about a few lonely, misanthropic people who sort of run into each other, learn to trust again, and develop a very understated friendship. It's an incredibly compelling and moving film, even if I'm at a bit of a loss to explain exactly why I loved it so much.

Cooley High (1975)
Black, young, and poor in 1964. Cooley High is so much more than just the "black American Graffiti", exploring themes of friendship, poverty, race, delinquency, and accountability in the context of teenagers growing up in the ghetto. The characters and urban Chicago setting feel authentic and wonderfully captured.

I've also posted a longer version of this list on Letterboxd if you'd like to see some more of my picks.

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