Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Film Discoveries of 2017 - Joe Gibson ""

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Film Discoveries of 2017 - 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!

2017 was a horrible year, but at least (at most?) I watched a lot of cool movies. Here are a few of the highlights.

One pattern that began to emerge in my movie watching towards the end of the year was that I finally sat down and watched a few of the movies literally everyone else in my life had already seen. By far the most obscure (and, perhaps incidentally, the most vital) is Emperor of the North, which I first started hearing about in Austin 2 or 3 years ago. This is a super-movie, starring Lee Marvin and Keith Carradine as two hobos trying to ride a train overseen by the evil, sadistic Ernest Borgnine - smarts 'n' stunts brought together like only Robert Aldrich could.
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MEAN GUNS (1997)
Another year, another solid slate of Albert Pyun. This time I only had 2-3 to choose from, and this is definitely the purest of the bunch. It's basically 2 hours of nearly unrelenting mayhem inside a soon-to-be-operational prison, where a crime lord played by Ice T has gathered hundreds of his enemies to participate in a massive fight to the death. Some of the loudest gun shots I have ever heard in a motion picture.
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2017 was the year everybody was talking about what's his name, the Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit guy, as Poirot, but personally I found Tony Randall's turn behind the mustache even more entertaining. Like Branagh, director Frank Tashlin is just going completely wild behind the camera - wish there was more for Anita Ekberg to do, though.
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THE BLADE (1995)
I love Tsui Hark, but his filmography is so dense and so much of it isn't really widely available here in the States that there's so much I haven't seen yet. That's why it took me til 2017 to see what might actually be his masterpiece - The Blade, a remake of The One-Armed Swordsman that is a masterclass in staging beautiful, nearly abstract action for the screen.
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BELOVED (1998)
We lost Jonathan Demme last year, so I spent a good part of it skipping around his filmography. I can't say Beloved was my favorite of the bunch - it's a strange, sometimes deliberately off-putting viewing experience - but it was definitely the biggest surprise. I don't want Oprah to be president, I just want her to be in more movies.
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John Woo directed what was originally a TV pilot starring Dolph Lundren as Blackjack, a sleight-of-hand expert mercenary who, not kidding, has a Marnie-like fear of the color white. But it inexplicably wasn't ordered to series, so it became a TV movie that most people don't know about. If you're pressed for time just watch the big shootout at around the 20-minute mark and the milk factory fight.
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Elaine May GOAT.
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Tobe Hooper remade the infamous 70s slasher The Toolbox Murders as 'Toolbox Murders' (someone should really correct the title on Letterboxd) and to my complete surprise it's actually GREAT, packed full of little details and background that add up to a wholly unique and satisfying neo-slasher. I am being completely sincere when I say it makes a great pairing with Mark Frost's The Secret History of Twin Peaks.
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Consider this a stand-in for all the Universal Inner Sanctum movies, which I watched over the course of about a week - a glorious week - in October. Perfect Halloween stuff, old-fashioned creepy mystery, all six films anchored by Mister Lon Chaney Jr in the leading roles.
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This is billed as a comedy in some places, made for Australian TV by Peter Weir, but it felt totally vital to 2017's renewed hyperfocus on the sexual violence faced daily by women. It's still kind of funny, though.
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GIRL 6 (1996)
This has to be one of Spike Lee's most underrated joints, but besides his typical no-rules adventurousness behind the camera the thing that really makes it work is Theresa Randle in the lead role. The soundtrack is wall-to-wall Prince, by the way.
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Eddie Murphy attempts a Blake Edwards-style romantic comedy and ... mostly succeeds? In case you didn't believe that there could be space in one movie for both Eartha Kitt and Grace Jones.
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This is a product of Johnny To's Milkway production company, and it's basically a riff on The Conversation, only instead of surveillance the central organization elaborately stages murders that look like accidents. What more do you need to know?
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My only regret is that Carl Reiner evidently hadn't seen any David Lynch stuff at the time this was made. 
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I gather this is considered a minor work by Walter Hill fans, but I really think it might be his best movie. Imagine if Jean-Pierre Melville made a Dick Tracy movie and you're not too far off.
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David Chase wrote the screenplay for this absurdly grimy 1970s vamp movie supposedly based on his novel, I came across it thanks to the big role the central vampire Caleb Croft has in Kim Newman's Anno Dracula series, but stayed for William GOD DAM Smith as a half-human, half-vampire bent on killing his evil vampire father. Highly recommended.
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Some primo southwestern noir starring Bill Paxton and a totally transcendent Cynda Williams who should have become the biggest star in the world after this. Written by Billy Bob Thornton, too!
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1 comment:

beamish13 said...

Great list. I discovered THE BLADE at a New Beverly screening a while back, and it absolutely floored me. A terrific story, and some of the most graceful and beautifully composed action scenes I've ever witnessed.