Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Film Discoveries of 2015 - Josh Johnson ""

Friday, February 19, 2016

Film Discoveries of 2015 - Josh Johnson

Josh Johnson directed a wonderful documentary all about VHS called REWIND THIS! and it is available digitally with extras here(including the soundtrack which is awesome): It is also now available on DVD here:

Follow Josh's exploits on twitter here: 
See his Film Discoveries from last year here:
Heat and Sunlight (1987)
The majority of shot-on-video movies fall into the horror genre, but there are plenty of examples of moviemakers using camcorders in pursuit of other visions, from mayhem-packed action to zany comedy. This art film uses the video aesthetic to capture the rawness of emotion being hurled around between a war photographer and his dancer girlfriend during the collapse of their relationship. Largely improvised and achingly vulnerable, this experiment brings the SOV style into the school of Cassavetes. Soundtrack selections are pulled from the 1981 album "My Life in the Bush of Ghosts" by David Byrne and Brian Eno.
Smooth Talk (1985)
Most coming of age films chart a familiar trajectory for their protagonist. We watch as they undergo a sexual awakening, begin to explore the possibilities of engaging in adult activities, and end up fundamentally changed by the events that transpire. Smooth Talk touches on all of those bullet points, but does so in a strange and rather oblique way. Some of the key developments happen offscreen, and otherwise banal moments are fraught with inexplicable tension. The cumulative effect is that the audience engages with the emotional truth of the film, even when certain details of the plot remain ambiguous. A teenaged Laura Dern turns in a performance that is nothing short of heroic.

Andy (1965)
An early feature from director Richard C. Sarafian (Vanishing Point), shot in a neorealist style, chronicling the lives of a mentally challenged adult and his parents in NYC. Filled with empathy for it's characters, but unafraid to show their many flaws, this movie hit me far harder than I expected. Bonus points for its occasional detours into more stylized, vaguely nightmarish territory.
The Living Skeleton (1968)
This ghostly tale has all the elements of a fun horror matinee, from ghost ships to mad science. Director Hiroshi Matsuno imbues it with a surprising elegance though, using each set piece as an opportunity to employ expressionistic lighting and surreally beautiful special effects. The black and white imagery washes over you, casting a spell that lasts until the credits roll. One of the very best 60's horror movies to come out of the Japanese studio Shochiku.
Bird on a Wire (1979)
Leonard Cohen meanders through Europe on his 1972 tour and makes for a compelling subject in this 16MM artist profile. His comments are always candid and he seems to be alternately amused and concerned by his unlikely fame. Cohen maintains a relaxed disposition throughout, but the viewer remains gripped despite the lack of drama as the story unfolds. The primary reward is the opportunity to witness an artist in his prime, trying to make sense of it all.
Seventeen (1983)
The most accurate and insightful portrait of youth ever captured on celluloid. High school life is explored with compassion and unflinching honesty through the experiences of a handful of students at Southside High in Muncie, Indiana. The intimacy the filmmakers cultivate with their subjects is unparalleled. Of all the films I watched for the first time in 2015, the experience of watching Seventeen is the one I cherish the most. Emotional, hilarious and profound in equal measure.
Patti Rocks (1988)
This was the biggest surprise of the year for me. I knew very little about it other than the ridiculous VHS box art that I'd glanced at many times in passing. I was expecting a broad comedy, and it could be described as such, but it's also a small-scale character piece which comes across as a biting takedown of traditional masculinity in all its misguided fragility. Chris Mulkey plays a reprehensible cad who has no qualms about cheating on his wife and frequently describes having sex with women as "chopping beef". A significant portion of the film is spent on a road trip he takes with an estranged friend to visit his pregnant mistress and convince her to have an abortion. Around this simple plot, the film spirals out into conversational tangents that are both horrifying and amusing, often at the same time. Above all else, the whole enterprise reverberates with the kind of sincerity more films should aspire to. An overlooked gem.

1 comment:

beamish13 said...

These are terrific recommendations. The only one I've seen before is PATTI ROCKS, which is indeed excellent. I rented it
because I went to school with Chris Mulkey's daughters (it was quite a shock to hear their names being used when his character cries and discusses his offspring!), but I was taken aback by how frank and honest it is. The protagonists are casually misogynistic shits, but we're drawn into their world because of their honesty and the film's refusal to offer cheap lessons. It played at the BAM Cinematek in Brooklyn last year as part of a series on independent American films from the 80's, and I wish I could've seen it in 35mm.