Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Film Discoveries of 2017 - Dan Gorman ""

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Film Discoveries of 2017 - Dan Gorman

Dan Gorman is the co-host of the podcast See You Next Wednesday, and co-creator of the Toronto-based podcast network Modern Superior. When not rolling dice to see what movie he gets to see in theaters that week on his podcast, he can also be found writing about music and movies at his blog Helical Scan, co-running online screenings with C.H.U.D. Buddies, or finally just sitting around on Twitter as @yckmd.

Feds (1988)
I feel like I loved this movie for all of the same reasons that it received middling to bad reviews at the time; there's not much conflict here, outside of needing to graduate, plus Rebecca De Mornay and Mary Gross' characters don't hate each other and learn to become friends over the course of the picture - instead they recognize their differences, but become great friends anyway - realizing they both share a determination to get through school.

These things actually go a long way into giving FEDS its easy-going charm; there's not a lot of huge laughs here, but the small and very funny moments that are peppered throughout feel like they come from Rebecca De Mornay and Mary Gross' solid handle on their characters. Yes, one is the go-getter and the other a bookish nerd-type, but each is allowed to retain their core personality while growing over the course of the running time to reach their goals, which was a delight to see.

I loved this, and I know that a lot of people probably don't/won't, but this was a total delight to watch. It never talks down to the characters, it never insults their intelligence or abilities, it's just a smart little comedy that has charm to spare and the good sense not to rely on some pulse-pounding, outrageous and inane action scene to cap off the picture. There's something so wonderful about that to me.
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Housekeeping (1987)
Bill Forsyth's drama Housekeeping - about two sisters living with their Aunt Sylvie in Idaho during the 1950s - is the kind of quiet, softly humorous but increasingly sad film that we don't quite get enough of these days.

Though it touches upon it, Housekeeping never becomes the "I guess the kids are taking care of her" drama that you may expect. Though Sylvie is clearly at the very least a thoroughly depressed and emotionally distant woman, much of the focus of the film is Ruth and Lucile, who are similarly growing more and more apart as they deal with Sylvie - much like their mother and sister before them. Lucile desperately wants to be "normal" (or not "trashy," as she puts it) and Ruth slowly becomes awkward and aloof.

There are some very small, very funny moments of comedy sprinkled throughout Housekeeping (the situation in the poster leads to my favourite, as they "sweep" floating debris into the closet with a broom,) but more often its tone remains melancholic.

Christine Lahti's performance as Aunt Sylvie is stunningly rendered, both quirky and achingly human. Sara Walker and Andrea Burchill are phenomenal as the kids, and really the only sour-note (if you can call it that) in the whole picture is the narration, which just feels a pinch off overall - it doesn't detract much.

An astonishing little drama full of human moments and emotion.
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Old Enough (1984)
Quietly dramatic and contemplative NYC-set coming-of-age film from director Marisa Silver (Permanent Record.)

A young, rich girl meets an older, street-wise girl and their friendship blossoms over the summer; shoplifting, sexuality, class divides, religion, and more is touched upon throughout the meandering (not at all in a bad way) script.

A small delight and a definite gem.
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Memories of Me (1988)
For most of its running time, Memories of Me is a terrific, sharply written and performed comedic-drama; Crystal co-writes here, and most of his scenes with Alan King crackle thanks to their chemistry and way with words.

Henry Winkler directs with a pinch of flair, allowing the material to be the real star; he manages a few nice flourishes - like Crystal in the hospital room that turns into his childhood room with a pan of the camera - and shouldn't be criticized if some of the visual elements play as sitcom-esque. His direction here doesn't show-off, and the movie doesn't call for it to.

It's unfortunate then, that a couple key scenes in the film's final half really whiff it; what should be a penultimate confrontation between the two as they drive through a tunnel in L.A. smacks of bluntly written, overly-simplistic exposition.

Regardless, Alan King's old-Hollywood Extra character steals the show; a hilarious and sad portrait of fatherhood, it helps Memories of Me reach some nice depth despite the aforementioned scenes that let the rest of the picture down a bit.
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The Bride aka The House That Cried Murder (1973)
The Bride aka The House That Cried Murder is a sharply written, well-executed and often darkly-comedic picture that is positively dripping with 70s atmosphere.

Oddly overlooked - likely due to the lack of gore, I'd assume - this one has more in line with sleazy pictures like You'll Like My Mother or Julie Darling.

Despite the PG rating, this one builds to a nicely twisted finale, and wraps its narrative in a nicely tense-n-twisty package that wouldn't be unexpected on an anthology television series like Tales from the Darkside or Crypt.

This one is really begging for rediscovery, the performances all work well, it has a great soundtrack, and a few creepy moments that help maintain the pace throughout its fairly short running time. What more could you want?
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