Rupert Pupkin Speaks: My Favorite Film Discoveries of 2017 ""

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

My Favorite Film Discoveries of 2017

I feel like I might have done a tiny bit less "discovering" this year and it may have something to do with starting two new podcasts (Pure Cinema and Just the Discs), which required a lot of extra movie viewing overall. That said, both shows led to a few first time watches in their own right so 2017 wasn't a bad year for me in that regard. As I've said, many times, this is my favorite series that I run here at Rupert Pupkin Speaks and I hope you enjoy these lists as much as I do and use them to help seek out new and interesting films to watch in 2018!

I talked about several of my picks below on our year-end episode of Pure Cinema if you're interested:

Also, one neat thing about these lists is that they are evergreen, so check out the ones I did for 2016 and 2015:

This one snuck in like some kind of hail mary pass to steal the crown as my favorite film discovery of 2017. I was turned onto this movie via director Paul Thomas Anderson after I heard him mention it as a kind of influence on his amazing new film PHANTOM THREAD during this Q & A with Rian Johnson:
Having never heard of it, but being a fan of David Lean's early work (especially BRIEF ENCOUNTER), I had to check it out. I happened to watch it the same day I saw PHANTOM THREAD and I couldn't have found a better chaser movie. Not that the movies are so much alike exactly, but they do compliment each other. Also, it was this movie that made me finally realize that Claude Rains is absolutely one of my favorite actors of all-time. I won't go into the plot too much, but just know it is an amazing sister film to BRIEF ENCOUNTER - so if you enjoy that film, you should really see it. It is currently streaming on Filmstruck.
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DEAD AND BURIED (1981; Gary Sherman)
My second favorite discovery of the year and I had to look no further than my ow Blu-ray shelf to find it (as I had bought the Blue Underground Blu-ray a few years back at least and hadn't cracked it open for one reason or another. I think it was finally the mention it got on 80s All Over that pushed me over the edge, so a tip of the hat to Scott Weinberg and Drew McWeeny for their delightful show. Guillermo del Toro is also a big fan of this one if you need any other convincing:

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Discovered this one thanks to our Twilight Time Episode of Pure Cinema and our policy of trying to watch at least one new film from the label we are covering when we do a label-centric show. This film was an absolute delight and the cast made it eminently more watchable as it includes not only James Garner, but also Bruce Dern, Jack Elam, Walter Brennan, Gene Evans, Joan Hackett and Henry Morgan. It was directed by the great Burt Kennedy - who wrote some of Budd Boetticher's best westerns - so the film is in good hands and much funnier than Boetticher's stuff.
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As much as I love NIGHTMARE ALLEY and a few other Tyrone Power movies (WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION, ABANDON SHIP), I must admit to have really not given him a proper shake as an actor prior to this year. He always seemed more disposable than substantial outside of those movies I loved, but I feel now that I made a mistake. As with a guy like Gary Cooper, there's just something about Power's earnestness as well as his ability to convey emotion in a powerful way that makes him truly stand out. What I still can't reconcile about this one is the ending and how it is meant to be triumphant (and it is - to a degree) and yet it is definitely celebrating some dark stuff.
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HARVARD BEATS YALE 29-29 (2008; Kevin Rafftery)
Director Kevin Rafferty also did the cult documentary ATOMIC CAFE back in 1982, but this may be my favorite among his films. It centers around a notorious college football game that was played by the Harvard and Yale on November 23rd, 1968. The final score is in the title, but what makes this game unique is that Harvard was a serious underdog and came back from a 22-0 deficit by game's end through some craziness that really must be seen to be believed. The documentary consists of interviews from players on both sides (including actor Tommy Lee Jones who was playing on the Harvard offensive line for this unforgettable game) and archival footage of the contest itself (which adds a lot to the overall impact). I found this one because of an interview I heard a while back on the Nerdist podcast between Chris Hardwick and Tom Hanks. Hanks got off on some tangent and it concluded with him going on a bit about how he had recently seen the doc and how much he had enjoyed it. A Tom Hanks recommendation is always good enough for me!
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INSIDE MOVES (1980; Richard Donner)
More props to 80s All Over here. Though I had seen this title listed in the checklist in the back of Danny Peary's Guide For the Film Fanatic, I had never pulled the trigger. It's one of those ultimately inspiring but melancholy character pieces and there's a lot to like about it. First and foremost, it's the story of a group of misfits and I tend to respond in a big way to that particular type of thing. The film features a man who attempts suicide in the opening minutes and instead ends up crippling himself. He then finds himself starting to hang out a local tavern frequented by a charming group of locals who all have their own ailments (blindness, prosthetic limbs etc) and he is taken in by them. The bartender (played by a youthful David Morse) at this establishment (who has one leg that is shorter than the other) gets a tryout for an NBA team and makes it and this changes the dynamics at play within the group. These shifting dynamics and the characters themselves are what makes this one feel more like a lost 70s gem and less like a Richard Donner movie - but I loved it. I watched it on Filmstruck.
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SOLE SURVIVOR (1984; Thom Eberhardt)
My Pure Cinema podcast partner Elric Kane has been championing this movie for a while and I was finally able to see it in 2017. This comes from the same director who did NIGHT OF THE COMET and some of the ideas in the film seem to precede what would come about in the FINAL DESTINATION series. It is a really remarkable little horror film that has and incredible sense of unease and dread to it - despite being a lower budget affair. Really excellent and ripe for discovery. Also - it got a serendipitous Blu-ray release from Code Red this year and can be purchased via Ronin Flix:

PLUNDER OF THE SUN (1953; John Farrow)
This was a wonderful little noir surprise that stars Glenn Ford (who I really like a lot in hard-boiled roles). The movie has elements of THE MALTESE FALCON and maybe a little OUT OF THE PAST (in my mind) and really hooked me from the early scenes. I like the ancient Peruvian treasure stand in for the Falcon and there are a few nice twists and turns.
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THE SCAR (1948; Steve Sekely)
Another noir favorite for me this year and one I had absolutely no knowledge of whatsoever before getting my hands on the Kino Lorber Studio Classics Blu-ray. Paul Henreid plays a man on the run from a gambler that he stole from. In his efforts to escape, he tries to take on a a new identity to disappear, but it doesn't quite go as planned (in the best possible noir kind of way).
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SEEMS LIKE OLD TIMES (1980; Jay Sandrich)
Yet Another 80s All over-induced discovery. Scott Weinberg professed his affection for this one on the show and got me on board (as did seeing the cast - which had a great deal of appeal). Written by Neil Simon, this film features one of Chevy Chase's best performances and yet another charming turn from Goldie Hawn. It also reminded me how much I miss Charles Grodin in movies these days and that I love that there was a time when he was the kind of high profile actor that headline.
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Got the tip on this lesser-known Raymond Chandler adaptation from a list that Classic Film Blogger Laura G did for this site a while back:
Took me too long to finally see it, but I found it to be a very lively and enjoyable Philip Marlowe tale with lots of moving parts and devious parties. Director John Brahm is no slouch and also did the excellent thrillers HANGOVER SQUARE and THE LODGER (1944).
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SCORCHY (1976; Howard Avedis)
This film was a flat out riot from beginning to end. Normally wholesome (ish) actress Connie Stevens plays a very R- rated undercover narcotics detective who is trying to bust open a ring of drug smuggling ring that has been infecting Seattle. There's wild seductive moments as well as crazy action and a pretty interesting ending that all kept me quite entertained while watching this one. Hats off to Shout Factory for putting it out on Blu-ray (though I have heard tell of some musical rescoring that was done on this disc).
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THE GORGON (1964; Terence Fisher)
I am by no means a Hammer movie devotee. In fact, I find many of their most beloved horror efforts to be a tad on the dull side if I'm being completely honest. One thing I cannot argue with though is the on-screen dynamism of both Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. I love them both and love them even more in scenes together. This movie doesn't have a ton of such scenes, but it has enough to grab me and it also has a Medusa-like monster that ends up turning a bunch of folks into stone and that's pretty badass. Also, Terence Fisher directed and he's one of the better Hammer director's in my opinion. Saw this one via the first Hammer Blu-ray Box set from Indicator (who had a banner 2017 in terms of their great releases by the way).
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SHADOW OF THE HAWK (1976; George McCowan)
It should be known to the world that I have a great affinity for Jan-Michael Vincent a decent portion of his 70s output are some of my favorite movies (BIG WEDNESDAY, THE MECHANIC, BUSTER AND BILLIE, WHITE LINE FEVER) so I was very pleased to see a new gem from him this year. Is is on par with my all-time favorites? No, but I still think it has a good deal to recommend and a lot of it has to do with the atmosphere and the near-horror elements. Basically, it's the story of the grandson to a Native American Shaman (Vincent) who has taken up a life in the big city - away from his home tribe. When his grandfather starts to have awful visions - he comes to get Jan-Michael and bring him back to help. JMV has some horrible visions of his own (of a creepy dude in a ghostly white mask) and he and his new love interest (Marilyn Hassett) encounter some seriously evil spirits and some drastic measures must be taken to halt the badness. I think I just appreciate the supernatural aspects of the film a lot even though it has some slower spots. Jan-Michael also has one of the best sweaters in movie history in this flick and that alone is worth something.
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MY SIDE OF THE MOUNTAIN (1969; James B. Clark)
Kind of a nutty movie about an odd kid who runs away from home to live in the wilderness by himself "like Thoreau". Seems like maybe Wes Anderson is a fan and this was a possible influence on MOONRISE KINGDOM.
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1 comment:

Robert M. Lindsey said...

Always a fan of this series!

Robert aka Retro Hound.