Ariel Schudson has been a passionate woman in film for over 15 years. She holds two Master of the Arts degrees from UCLA- one in Cinema & Media Studies and one in Moving Image Archive Studies, where she became addicted to media archival work and the joys of film preservation. She is a regular writer for the New Beverly Cinema Blog, and is dedicated to the preservation of 16mm TV commercials and PSAs. She likes coffee, comic books, short walks to the movie theater, LPP and Kodachrome stock and readable edge codes. Has two best kitty-cat friends- a ginger named Wallach (as in Eli) and a black and beautiful gal named Eartha Kitten.
Hey all! Welcome to my top 10 Film Discoveries of 2016. Two things I really enjoy in the cinema are social discourse and brutal honesty. Tragically, the US has been consistently uneven at this. But the UK (amazingly enough) has been pretty good ever since the brilliance of John Grierson’s documentary movement in the 1930s (after which he up & offed to Canada which benefitted immensely) and then the Social Realism & British New Wave Movement in the 1960s. So, many of the films on here are British because they are the ones that I can find to be truly honest and fair about race, gender & many other things we tend to…pussyfoot around. Some are hard to find but SO DAMN WORTH IT. They will blow your mind.
So half of these are UK titles. The other half…my usual wackiness.
1) The Wind of Change (Vernon Sewell, 1961) – My review for this was: “Jesus. This movie blew my mind. David Hemmings is practically a zygote here and Donald Pleasance is...bald as always. But the racial tensions and the content are like nothing else.This is an insane film and the last scene will rock you.” However it is SO MUCH MORE than that. I saw this film in September 2016 & I thought about it & talked about it for the rest of the year. It’s an extremely brutal film – emotionally & verbally – but it’s probably my #1 find of 2016 (and I NEVER rate these things). I just can’t stop thinking about it.
2) The Whisperers (Bryan Forbes, 1967) – OH JESUS THIS MOVIE. Just be ready. It’s heavy duty. It’s like…a heavy rain with bullets. Good lord. I was not ready & it crushed me. My brief review was: “Bleak, depressing, dynamic and utterly exquisite. Just BRILLIANT. Dame Edith Evans is IMMENSE. This is a rare film & so ahead of its time.” I still mean every word of that but this is a really special film and cannot be given more applause. Never seen anything like it.
3) The Woman in Question (Anthony Asquith, 1950) – Want a mix of noir and Rashomon starring the fabulously beautiful Jean Kent & featuring the handsome-as-hell Dirk Bogarde? THIS MOVIE. Guys! It’s soooooo great!!!! It has a woman at the center, there’s a carnival, and Hermione Baddeley is there too! Oh, Rank- you fabulous film company. You made a great film happen with this one. I wish more folks knew about it. It’s now one of my all-time fave noirs.
4) Turn the Key Softly (Jack Lee, 1953) – We’ve seen plenty of Women In Prison films, but what about women just getting OUT of prison flicks? Not too many and even fewer starring an incredibly young Joan Collins, Yvonne Mitchell and the absolutely compelling Kathleen Harrison. What’s it like to get out of the pokey in Old Blighty? And as a criminal woman in the 50s? This is a truly original and fabulous film. Another one I can’t stop thinking about. Just amazing.
5) Looking for Eric (Ken Loach, 2009) – Basically everything Ken Loach does is GREAT. If you haven’t seen his 1966 teleplay/film, Cathy, Come Home, stop reading this, watch it, and come back. It’s on YouTube. In fact there’s a whole Ken Loach Channel on YouTube. Highly recommend spending some time there. Watch Up The Junction. It’s my favorite. But Looking For Eric is genuinely a wonderful example of one of his newer films. It was between this and Æ Fond Kiss so either one were great discoveries.
6) Flame in the Streets (Roy Ward Baker, 1961) – My thoughts on seeing this (as on seeing many of these early UK films that deal head-on with race) were: so the UK has been confronting racism in media this blatantly since the 60s, and not stopped (look at their television programming which has had inclusive and diverse representation in more of the shows and for longer than we have)? I was shaking my head. A lot. Weird cultural differences and histories have made very different methods of addressing social issues in film.
7) Who Killed Teddy Bear? (Joseph Cates, 1965) – I’ve wanted to see this film for YEARS. Unlike films that you get your hopes up over, this one totally delivers. It’s absolutely great and ultimately rewatchable. I actually want to see it again. It’s haunting and the performances (obviously Sal Mineo’s, in particular) are striking. The cinematography really got me and it just makes me hope that, someday, new filmmakers will start watching older films again.
8) Murder By Contract (Irving Lerner, 1958) – OH HOLY NOIR GODZ. Vince Edwards. So that voice could talk a nun out of her garb. I’m sure of it. But this film pinned me down, held me for the full run, and then left me for dead through the credits. And I loved every damn minute. Irving Lerner and Vince Edwards also made City of Fear, which is glorious in and of itself, but the gender ethics of this were…kinda a turn-on. I won’t lie. This is a delicious triumph. Oh- and Herscel Bernardi is genius.
9) The Shootist (Don Siegel, 1976) – While I haven’t decided if I like John Wayne films other than Rio Bravo I am a huge Don Siegel fan. And this film was awesome. The cast alone – Ron Howard, Lauren Bacall…Harry Morgan rocking it. This movie is really good. I wasn’t sure what to expect and I got an incredible work that I really hope to see on a big screen one day. There is a LOT in there. It was a real pleasure to watch. Loved it.
10) Lolly-Madonna XXX (Richard C. Sarafian, 1973) I have no idea why this film isn’t better known or loved. Ed Lauter is incredible, Gary Busey, Jeff Bridges, Robert Ryan, Rod Steiger, Season Hubley…It’s definitely a country 70s film, but wow! Such a hidden gem! Another one I’d give a whole lot to see on a big screen!