Rupert Pupkin Speaks: December 2018 ""

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Film Discoveries of 2018 - Lars Nilsen

Lars is a programmer at Austin Film Society and there he curates repertory series in addition to midnight movies, new releases, independent films and classics.

The Austin Film Society can be found here:
and Lars excellent AFS Viewfinders Facebook group can be found here:

Here's Lars List from last year:

And the year before:

After his expensive musical (and legit masterpiece) DARLING LILI failed at the box office, Blake Edwards wandered in the wilderness for a few years, making interesting flops, before he had to retreat to the safety of the PINK PANTHER movies again. This was the last of his so-called misfires during that period, and, no surprise, it's pretty interesting. Julie Andrews and Omar Sharif have chemistry together and they make this gorgeous piece of paperback espionage pulp feel substantial. Andrews, particularly when she essays risk-taking roles like this one, has steadily become one of my very favorites.
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THE RITE (1969)
AT AFS, we did a Bergman centennial series called "The Darkness" focusing on his most existentially despairing films. Brian Belovarac of Janus Films suggested that we might add this one to the series so I checked it out, and we did. It's the story of an inquisition, in modern times, of a trio of theatrical performers by a petty bureaucrat. At first, he holds the floor, and, with governmental precision, he makes inquiries about their morality, sources of wealth, and sexual histories. Then they are called upon to re-enact the "obscene" performance that landed them in trouble in the official's chamber. It's pretty uncompromising, and pretty purgative. Bergman must have been completely fed up with censors at this point, and he makes it plainly clear.
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Kusturica's almost unbelievably vast epic of the history of Yugoslavia and its constituent nations during and after WWII is violent, funny, heartbreaking and triumphant. As irreverent as a Warner Brothers cartoon and as perceptive in small details as a Fassbinder melodrama, it's really like no other movie. Most incredibly, it was made during the war that tore the nation apart. I have to respect a filmmaker who can make a movie with SCOPE, and this is that movie.
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Grumpy, handkerchief-chewing, eye-patch wearing old John Ford could be a terror to work with, as any number of sources corroborate. He was also one of the greatest poets the screen has ever known. This film, which was a big hit, but is now considered a minor Ford, doesn't feel all that minor as a work of Hollywood craft. We know it's hokum at its base level, but Ford transmutes it all into such beautiful compositions and uses the scenery to such great effect that we can hardly mind too much. And when Ford sets out to show you a hurricane, you better believe he is going to show you a Hurricane.
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George Stevens' comedy about a wartime housing shortage in DC shows us the formation and maintenance of a cozy but otherwise unthinkable household consisting of single young woman Jean Arthur, who offers to take on a roomer, only to have an incorrigible old troublemaker Charles Coburn force his way into the room, and - the nerve of this guy - sublet one half of the room to a younger man, played by Joel McCrea. You might guess where it goes from there but you'll only be half-right, and most of the fun is in the performances, especially Jean Arthur, who was never lovelier or better.
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SALOME (1922)
A great team of very smart people put together a series of restorations that have been collected into a Blu-Ray set called PIONEERS: FIRST WOMEN FILMMAKERS. One of the films to be found in this really interesting batch is this one, made by stage star Alla Nazimova in 1922 with her husband Charles Bryant. I have heard it is Kenneth Anger's favorite film, and this will surprise no one who sees it. Baroque, beautifully designed, and extraordinarily transgressive in matters of gender and sexual orientation, it still manages to surprise audiences today.
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It's easy to tell that this late Hal Ashby movie was a troubled production. It has all the neon-noir touches of a film like TO LIVE AND DIE IN LA, but something is slightly off about it. It lacks cohesiveness, and it sometimes feels that the actors are just messing around. After a while, this becomes an asset. The creeping tone of ridiculousness becomes unmissable by the time Jeff Bridges and Andy Garcia have a tense standoff over a pair of snow cones. Nothing works here, but somehow it all does. I can't explain it. I won't try.
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RUBY (1977)
I had always avoided this, even though I love Curtis Harrington because I heard it was just a clumsy EXORCIST ripoff. Partly true, but what a movie. Piper Laurie goes all out in this as a former gang moll who owns a drive in theater (and a mansion on a hill overlooking the theater) who has a possessed daughter. It's pretty discontinuous, and pretty baroque, but I liked it a lot. With Stuart Whitman, of course.
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This comedy/mystery just hit me the right way. It's a formula movie but the formula gets a little extra help from the cast, particularly Carole Landis, who should have been a bigger star. Pat O'Brien, no longer a big star by the time this was made, is still very good at playing the exasperated tough guy, whose friends Landis and George Murphy blithely drag him through inconvenience after inconvenience.
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This is something very special - a pitch-perfect parody of classic serials made by a team of film collectors and scholars, including the legendary William K. Everson and Alan G. Barbour. It's about a masked bad guy, the master duper, who, along with his henchmen, the film pirates, is making duplicate negatives of rare films (like Von Stroheim's complete GREED), and using them to corner the film market. But don't worry, Captain Celluloid and his team, the Classic Film Society, are on the case. Tremendously well done. These filmmakers have watched a lot of Republic serials.
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Wednesday, December 12, 2018

My Favorite Film Discoveries of 2018

2018 wasn't a great year for some things, but discovering new movies is always one of the bright parts of my life even during the darkest of times. Throughout the past year, I've continued watching tons of films for both of my podcasts (Pure Cinema and Just the Discs) -- some of them tried and true gems that I've known for a long time and others that I sought out to fit certain podcast topics in hopes of finding a few new favorites. I found some interesting stuff (for me anyway) ranging from higher art to lesser, but all of it enjoyable for what it is. In this case, you can actually hear me talk about my discoveries on this episode of Pure Cinema if you'd like:

Also, check out the Discoveries lists I did for 2017, 2016 and 2015:

And so, away we go with my 2018 list:
THE GLASS KEY (1942; Stuart Heisler)
The Coen Brothers borrowed liberally from this one (or at least the Dashiell Hammett source novel) for MILLER'S CROSSING and I'm totally fine with that. MILLER'S is one of my favorites of their efforts and thus I was of course drawn to this noir starring the wonderful pair of Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake. It's amusing to see just how many scenes and plot bits from this ended up in the Coen's gangster gem, but it won't take away from your enjoyment of this delightful film noir. Top notch and coming to Blu-ray from Shout Factory in January.
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THE STORE (1984; Frederick Wiseman)
Wiseman is easily one of the great documentarians of the twentieth century and this is among his best work. His ability to drop the camera into specific institutions, be it governmental or public, never ceases to return fascinating results. In this case, we are treated to a look at the inner workings of the Neiman-Marcus flagship department store and corporate headquarters in Dallas, Texas. The film not only gives us a peek into the marketing meetings and backrooms of the place, but it also shows us how the employees interact with customers and how things are done by different departments. Watching the gents who sell high end clothing and jewelry is particularly enlightening. All in all, a great documentary - one of the best I've seen in a while. Can be seen for free (along with a ton of Wiseman's other films) via the library streaming service Kanopy:
I was lucky enough to have my dad in town right around the time this Blu-ray came out from Warner Archive and couldn't have been happier to watch it for the first time with him. He was the one who introduced me to Paul Newman in the first place and a couple of his favorite films include THE VERDICT and NOBODY'S FOOL, so it was quite neat to show him this lesser-seen offbeat western from Newman's filmography. Supporting cast includes Anthony Perkins, Ned Beatty, Jacqueline Bissett, Roddy MacDowall, Richard Farnsworth, Ava Gardner and John Huston. Includes lots of odd declarations from the title character (Newman) and a trained bear. Written by John Milius.
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This one rocketed to the top of my Hammer Horror favorites immediately and was such a pleasant surprise. It first came to my attention via this Underrated Horror list from the great Dennis Cozzalio (of SERGIO LEONE AND THE INFIELD FLY RULE):
It is an interesting combination of vampire hunting, swashbuckling and western elements (a great bar scene that is one part western and one part samurai) that come together just wonderfully and this movie needs a Blu-ray right now. Seriously, right now.
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WALKING THE EDGE (1985; Norbert Meisel)
Revenge/vigilante flick that shares cast members and a few story elements with Bill Lustig's VIGILANTE, but this one features Robert Forster as a cab driver who unknowingly chauffeurs a woman (Nancy Kwan) to execute some seedy low-lifes that killed her husband and son in one fell swoop. One of the baddies is the great Joe Spinell and he has some good scenes of him being scummy (though not enough, as any film with Joe Spinell could use MORE Joe Spinell). Underseen and not talked about nearly enough, I was glad to finally get to this one as part of our "Late 80s Cult Movies" Episode of Pure Cinema this year:
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AN ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE (1978; George Schaefer)
One of the most underrated and underseen Steve McQueen films and that's a shame considering his performance. Here, he plays a small village doctor who's brother the mayor (Charles Durning) has gotten him a better position via his position and influence. When McQueen finds that the medicinal springs that the town has made it's main financial draw are actually poisoned with huge amounts of bacteria from the water supply flowing into them (due to a money saving measures as to where the springs were built), he is forced to basically go to war with his brother and the whole town to stand by his convictions and go against knowingly causing harm and sickness to others. The film is a slow and emotional build of tension and certainly plays as hauntingly and frighteningly well today as it did when it came out.

NUMBER ONE (1969; Tom Gries)
Charlton Heston plays Ron Catlan, an aging NFL quarterback at a crossroads in this rare sports effort for him. Not sure why, but Heston as a football player amuses me for some reason and though there's not enough on-the-field action in this movie, it's still fun to see him in the later scenes where he has to emerge from the huddle and play at being a pro athlete. Another film with pretty solid supporting players including Bruce Dern, Jessica Walters, John Randolph and G.D. Spradlin.
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WHO'S THE MAN? (1993; Ted Demme/Suzanne de Passe)
Billed as "The First Hip-Hop Whodunnit" and based on this one, I wish there were more. I'm not sure why I wrote this one off at the time - it may have had something to do with being ambivalent about Yo! MTV Raps' Ed Lover and Dr. Dre, but I must admit I was mistaken. In the hands of a director whose work I enjoy (Demme also did THE REF and BEAUTIFUL GIRLS), this ends up being a modern day urban take on Abbott and Costello which I was very much amused and entertained by. Tons of cameos too, including a very funny turn by Dennis Leary as a police sergeant who is the direct superior to Lover and Dre when they join the cops.
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BLACK DOG (1998; Kevin Hooks)
Remarkably underrated little Patrick Swayze actioner that feels like WHITE LINE FEVER meets THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS. Swayze is joined on the drive he is forced into making by singer Randy Travis who does a decent job as blue collar trucker type. Archie Han and Meat Loaf make good villains and Charles S. Dutton and Stephen Tobolowsky entertain as FBI & ATF Agents. Tobolowsky gets maybe his only “take a dude out” with gunfire moment in a movie too, which is kinda fun. The movie also has a decent amount of truck and driving stunts that make it a blast to watch.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Just The Discs - Episode 84 - Warner Archive Love with Rob G!

Rob Galluzzo returns to discuss some favorites from the wonderful Warner Archive label (just as we did with Kino Lorber not to long ago)! 10 picks each between Brian and Rob here so you get a nice sampling of the good stuff Warner Archive has to offer.

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A few of the Discs we talked about in this episode: