Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Film Discoveries of 2015 - Jeffery Berg ""

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Film Discoveries of 2015 - Jeffery Berg

Jeffery is a longtime contributor here at RPS and also runs his lovely blog JDB Records:
Check out his 2014 film Discoveries here:
and 2013 here:
and 2012 here:
and look for him on twitter here:

1. MODERN TIMES (1936)
The amusing forces of Chaplin’s wispy physicality and the mechanical grinds collide gorgeously and splendidly in this timeless film.

2. THE VERDICT (1982) 
Finally sat down with this one and was transfixed. Impeccably directed by Sidney Lumet and well-played by lead Paul Newman and stoic moll Charlotte Rampling; this is a movie in a classy, well-tailored suit out of a good ol’ boys, smoke-filled bar. 

3. CURTAINS (1983)
Curtains… Curtains… I finally saw CURTAINS! The Synapse DVD buy was a blind one for me but I have no regrets. The ice skating sequence featuring Burton Cumming and a hag-masked hacker is staggeringly good.

Back when Clint was cool, he made this impressive feature of whispery-voiced light jazz disc jockey hunted down by crazed Jessica Walter. The cinematography by Bruce Surtees is gorgeous and elegant creating an atmosphere of kitschy, pine-paneled seaside 70s with suspenseful unease.

5. MANIAC COP 2 (1990) / FEAR CITY (1984)
I think these films would make a solid double feature! Throw logic out and binge on the junk food! The lights and colors are extraordinarily dazzling in Ferrara’s seedy stripper-strewn Manhattan.  Melanie Griffith is a platinum knockout and the mixed martial arts finale is bonkers.

I found the grimy camp of MANIAC COP 2 super and much slicker and effective than its predecessor.  The highlight is the handcuffed-to-the-steering-wheel scene—it made me gleeful in how ludicrous and exciting it was.

I watched all the Oscar-winning docs from the 2000s as part of A Fistful of Films’s 4-Way A Best Picture series, and this was probably my favorite. It’s no-frills, dated in an early 2000s “Dateline” way but still an immediate, effective look at our flawed justice system; a clear-eyed document of a wrongly accused black teen put on trial for murder. It helps that rumpled, chain-smoking defense attorney Patrick McGuinness emerges as such a beguiling character. Wrenching in its simplicity.

7.  NEWS FROM HOME (1977)
This is the first film I’ve seen from Chantal Akerman (who passed away earlier this year) and I found it stunning. It’s a haunting document of neatly composed shots of 70s Manhattan with her voiceover narrating letters from her worried mother in France. The camera’s uncomfortably long stares at bell-bottomed subway commuters, of buildings (many businesses and diners now long gone) and vacant streets elicit an elegiac sense of separation, isolation, and time’s passage.

The power of a bitchy teen peer pressure gag-gone-wrong double feature!

In SORORITY ROW, soap star Eileen Davidson is a standout as the devious sister who accidentally shoots the house mother (Lois Kelso Hunt). Richard Band provides the unexpectedly gorgeous orchestral score.

Affecting as usual, Meg Tilly plays a quiet young woman who spends the night in a mausoleum as part of an initiation ritual. I don't feel like I hear of this one often in horror circles but I enjoyed the spooky setting and atmosphere and the cast (love me some Elizabeth Daily).

9. GOD'S COUNTRY (1985)
Louis Malle’s documentary is a sobering look at a farming community in Minnesota. It’s a quietly blistering account of the devastating effects of Reaganomics to farming industry.

10. DON’T GO IN THE HOUSE (1980)
Grim, late 70s into '80 drive-in fare filmed in New Jersey; this was a particularly unsettling horror film to watch (the child abuse, the gruesome blowtorch deaths). The use of disco epic "Boogie Lightning" adds some levity but also perfectly sinks into its grimy, seedy vibe.

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