Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Film Discoveries of 2016 - Joe Gibson ""

Monday, January 2, 2017

Film Discoveries of 2016 - Joe Gibson

Joe is one of the most veteran of all RPS contributors and has done oodles of lists over the years. Check them out!

2016: The year I discovered that everyone cool is doomed to die, that American democracy is horrifyingly vulnerable, that Vulcan Video actually does not have Larry Cohen's The Ambulance on DVD. But I saw a few pretty great movies - here are 23 of the best of them. 
One of the best cinematic discoveries I made in 2016 was thanks to the Austin Film Society, who ran a 4-movie retrospective covering Blake Edwards' collaborations with his wife Julie Andrews. Not in that series was this earlier effort from the two, but I almost certainly would not have watched it otherwise - who wants to watch some studio system WWI dinosaur from 1970? Here's the thing, though: This is the exact opposite of that, fleet, fast-moving, exciting, hilarious, romantic, beautiful. Definitely on the top of not just this list but my own mental list of movies I hope to see on film someday.
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MATINEE (1993)
I mentioned 2016 being a horrible year in the intro, and of all the movies I've watched this year this is the one that seems to reflect the current national mood the best. It's set during the Cuban Missile Crisis, another instance of the world being kept on the edge of terror thanks to the got dam Russians and the prospect of nuclear annihilation. This has the comforting glow of nostalgia around it for sure, but it also pulls no punches about what it's like to be terrified of things you have no control over, and to seek comfort in scary movies (or any cathartic art, really) for the sake of your own sanity.
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I don't know what "A Time for Consequences" refers to, but I do know this was the best action movie I saw in 2016 - I apologize for including something of such recent vintage on this list, but I couldn't leave this out. It does not matter if you haven't seen SPL, it does not matter if you haven't seen any other movies ever, watch this one.
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A NEW LEAF (1971)
I feel like I was the very last person to see this movie, but it speaks to its value that it lived up to its universal high praise. Elaine May, national treasure and comedy goddess, makes a romantic comedy about murder and the privilege of wealth, not really in that order. Funny funny funny.
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Truck Turner! I'm far from a blaxploitation scholar but I've seen my share, and this is the best - better than Black Caesar, better than Foxy Brown, better even than Coffy. And yes, better than Shaft. I embarrass myself when I gush so I'll just stop here.
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This is another gem I saw courtesy of AFS, part of a Chantal Akerman retrospective that really blown me away, having only previously seen Jeanne Dielman previously. This is one of Akerman's signature art/doc hybrids, with a lot of gorgeous verite 70s NYC cinematography and letters from her mother in Belgium on the soundtrack. This hits an absolutely perfect emotional tone for me, and the cinematography has some real camera wizardry to it, particularly in the stunner of a final shot. Essential viewing for anyone who ever left home.
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SUPER KRIME! In the summer of 2016, Alamo Drafthouse programmer and secret uberfiend Tommy Swenson created what is in my opinion his masterpiece: A 30-film retrospective devoted to all masked men of the night who commit dastardly crimes and steal audience's hearts simultaneously. There was enough good stuff in this series to fill 3 or 4 Pupkin lists, but this was probably my favorite, a pulp crime thriller from the director of Eyes Without a Face that's like a concentrated, distilled shot of everything pulp supervillainy is about in one dose. This is important shit!
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Forgive me, this is another relatively new movie, but I'd be remiss not to include it. This is Olivier Assayas attempting to do a cheap and dirty action movie, and it somehow exemplifies as satisfying a combination of those two sensibilities as I can imagine. Asia Argento, goddamn!
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One of the very best rock documentaries ever, such a perfect picture of not just Madonna's personality but her place within pop culture in 1991. But it's mostly her personality that I treasure in my memory, along with the excruciating scene between her and Warren Beatty, a compelling study of two different kinds of celebrity: The introvert, hiding behind sunglasses and awkwardly lurching in front of the camera, and the extrovert, craving the spotlight and audience adoration at all times - and how these two types are absolutely CREATED EQUAL, possibly even co-dependent on one another.
"Neat!" - Kevin Costner
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I had one of those cold splashes of water in the face experiences after Prince died, and I realized that even though I considered myself a pretty big fan there was so much of his work that I was completely unfamiliar with. One of the big blind spots was this, a concert movie based on his double-album masterpiece Sign O the Times, the existence of which I hadn't been more than vaguely aware despite the fact the album is maybe my favorite of all time. The movie, directed by Prince, is a comic-book-colored cine-concert the likes of which other artists would have probably had to hire a filmmaker to help them out with - but Prince did the whole thing himself. With Sheila E's help, of course.
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BOUND (1996)
Hey, how about those damn Wachowskis? This was one I inexplicably took until this year to see, despite the fact the neo-noir Postman Always Rings Twice riffs are my favorite thing ever, even when they don't have sex scenes between Gina Gershon and Jennifer Tilly, good lord almighty. Now I think it's probably their best movie, immaculately constructed and able to find new angles even on such well-traveled generic territory. Lotta fluids, if you're into fluids.
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Walter Hill's first movie is a Depression-era bare-knuckler with one of the greatest of dark horse buddy pairs: Charles Bronson as a strong but silent hulk, and James Coburn as his motormouthed partner. Hill is fully formed here, strange that this isn't talked about more.
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This is a short ... well, I actually don't know what it is, but it's about 20 minutes long, begins as a documentary about pinball and video game enthusiasts in England, and goes in a direction that I don't want to spoil for fear of ruining the surreal effect of witnessing it play out. What is this, why is this, and why was it never turned into a feature film?

Searing Technicolor Japanese creature feature boasts one of the all-time great titles, and it's pretty great even apart from that. All the best monster movies have some kind of social conscience, and this one is no different, but even as a simple late night thriller-chiller it satisfies. I think I watched it in the morning, though.
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Ida Lupino! This is another movie I tracked down thanks to an AFS retrospective focusing on Ms. Lupino's screen work, about a basically decent guy who goes and marries two women at the same time. It's fascinating to see how such a subject was handled in 1953, and Lupino manages to go through the whole movie without demonizing anybody.
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Another one of my seemingly endless film projects this year was to acquaint myself with more of the films of Wilson Yip, director of the Ip Man movies among other things. This is his only Golden Harvest joint, a kind of MIssion:Impossible riff with supercriminals instead of superspies, and I loved it. Yip has a knack for depicting physical action so you feel it even if it's wildly implausible, and this makes fine use of it with its completely over-the-top set-pieces, including a rollerblade sequence I'd love to see Tom Cruise try to pull off.
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Or: I Don't Wanna Be A Swinger Mama I Don't Want A Pie

This is an extremely funny group sex romp from Joe Sarno, not afraid to go into some pretty wild psychological territory for the sake of sexual exploration/audience titillation, with dialogue that sounds like it was written with the aid of the world's filthiest thesaurus. If my rating seems high, it's because I'm still smitten with Chris Jordan, who plays the constantly-eating cool wife Anna with more personality than I have ever seen from any performer in my (admittedly limited) viewing of these kinds of movies. IMDb tells me she was in Is There Sex After Death?, which I was not particularly into, I'll have to see if I can find a copy of Massage Parlor Murders.

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Here's a confession: Although I firmly believe Frank Tashlin to be one of the most talented and inspired filmmakers to ever make movies in Hollywood, I don't think he ever got to make a true blue stone masterpiece, not even The Girl Can't Help It or Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? quite make it there for me. This is probably my favorite of the Tashlin features I've seen, and the closest he came to making a true live-action cartoon, even though he hadn't teamed up with Jerry Lewis yet. You don't have to see The Paleface to enjoy this one, but it's okay.
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Forever enchanted with Tobe Hooper's unique brand of batshit insane horror, here mixed with a heady dose of nuclear-powered government conspiracy. Brad Dourif plays perhaps the most Dourif-y character of all time, a guy who gradually loses control of his own latent pyrokinetic abilities and eventually becomes a Christlike atomic-age martyr for love. This is supposedly the beginning of Hooper's drop-off following the Cannon years, but I refuse to believe it's so.
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I got to see this at a Drafthouse event with John Landis in person, and before I showed up I'd never even heard of it before. Like all of Landis' best movies it can make you scratch your head and wonder exactly what kind of audience he was looking to please, and being a 1992 vampire movie we're looking at the absolute peak of practical effects before they began to give way to CGI. Lots of good performances here (save for a weak leading man whose name I'm not even going to look up, out of feminism), but Robert Loggia chews heretofore unprecedented amounts of scenery as a gangster-turned-vampire.
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Gene Wilder is another one we lost this year, and I'm representing him here with this movie even though it's not as good as Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother because I figure everyone would want to watch that movie anyway, while this is a harder sell. It's Wilder going for sexy romantic comedy vibe about a married man and his adulterous urges, and it's extremely awkward but with a deceptive storeroom of charm underneath - kind of like Wilder himself, now that I think of it.
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Someone is killed during a magician's stage show, and the killer is somewhere in the audience - maybe even next to YOU. That's the premise of The Spider, adapted from a play of the same name that I assume had a strong metatextual component owing to that premise but unfortunately I can't find any information on how a forgotten mystery play from the 1930s was actually staged (go figure). The movie is a swell enough substitute, with some great magic routines providing much of the fun - and no 1930s murder mystery is complete without a seance.

I watched all three of Albert Pyun's Nemesis sequels this year, and I can say that while none of them come close to the majesty of the original movie, the first sequel is the best of the three. It's inspired by The Naked Prey, and is essentially a 90-minute chase through the desert between Alex Rain, time-traveling descendant of the first movie's protagonist/DNA mutant/clone/I don't fucking know, a bunch of bounty hunters from the future, and the Nebula, basically a Power Rangers monster with a laser gun that creates explosions so big there was no money left over for Nemesis 3. If you only watch one Nemesis sequel, first of all, you suck, but second of all, make it this one.
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1 comment:

Craig J. Clark said...

The Alamo Drafthouse series where you saw Nuits Rouges sounds like it would have been right up my alley. Wish I could have seen it.