Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Film Discoveries of 2018 - Andy Ross ""

Monday, December 24, 2018

Film Discoveries of 2018 - Andy Ross

Andy Ross is a humorist and film writer, whose weekly column “Batteries Not Included” has been a staple of the Tri-Cities, TN regional arts magazine “The Loafer” for almost 13 years. He’s also a member of the board of directors for the historic Capitol Theater in downtown Greeneville, TN--where he also serves as a film programmer heading up their “Classics at The Capitol” series. Andy is also a contributor at The Retro Set and an improv performer. He can be found blogging from time to time at his blog Andyland, USA and can be found on Twitter @ThatAndyRoss.

“Cleopatra Jones” 1973
A few films on this list were discoveries that happened thanks to the much lamented and much missed FilmStruck (Why can’t we have nice things?). I was house sitting this Summer and passed the time by binge-watching their Blaxploitation section they had just added. I went into this film with no expectations and had an absolute blast watching it. It’s fun, funny, there’s some cool as hell stunt work, plus you have the powerful force that is 1970s Shelly Winters. I haven’t seen the sequel to the film yet, but I hope to soon.

There’s some James Bondian kind of moments going on in this movie, it’s really fun to see them turned on their head a little bit here. Rated PG, this is sort of a tamed down “Foxy Brown” meets a proto-superhero film if you ask me. Tamed down in violence, but not tamed down in terms of coolness. Really cool movie, love to see this one get a blu-ray.
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“A Matter of Life and Death” 1946
Talk about a movie that floored me in every possible way. A movie that is so absurdly perfect in every detail that it reminds you why you fell in love with movies in the first place. I’ve not seen a lot of Powell and Pressburger, much to my shame, but as I’ve begun to discover their work it just blows me away. For starters, not only is there an amazing cast in this film--and for the record, I’ll watch anything with David Niven--but the whole look of the film and going from this black and white deco heaven to this gorgeous, saturated Technicolor of the earth is stunning.

The love story at the center is so beautiful that I had a sort of double emotional reaction to the film. I cried over both the story and then just the quality of the film itself moved me to tears. Being washed over by this wave of glee, and joy, and delight, and gratitude for seeing the movie that the only way I could react to it was by crying. This is a film that I could go door to door with to convince people to watch it.
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“Middle of the Night” 1959
I have a certain interest and fascination by these directors who began in live TV prestige dramas of the 1950s and then transitioned to film. This was directed by Delbert Mann, and I’m a big fan of if 1967 Christmas comedy “Fitzwilly,” but this is a film that is in a completely separate ballpark from that and I always like to see when you have a director that can make films of quality on different ends of the scope. You’ve got a Paddy Chayefsky script, for one thing, a hell of a supporting cast that has Martin Balsam and Lee Grant, but front and center you have this phenomenal combination in Fredric March and Kim Novak.

I’ve really developed an appreciation for Fredric March over the last two years, and he’s really wonderful in this film as he is in anything I’ve seen him in. What do you need to say about Kim Novak? I think in lesser hands than theirs, this material and this story wouldn’t have the weight that the two of them bring to it. This is a really great movie that more people should talk about, and another I discovered on FilmStruck.
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“Ride the High Country” 1962
I’ve never really been a big fan of Westerns, and I say that with no disrespect meant to the genre, it’s just something that rarely clicked with me or that I felt a need to explore. I’ve started to wonder if maybe I only ever saw really bad Westerns, as “Ride The High Country” is a great, great movie. I caught part of the film on TCM one day when I was cleaning my house. I’ll sometimes put TCM on while I clean to have something in the background, and I kept stopping to watch it. It was about mid-way into the film when I turned on my TV and then when I saw this was added, once again, to FilmStruck, I jumped to watch it from start to end.

Much like David Niven, I’ll watch Joel McCrea in anything. He and Randolph Scott are absolutely fantastic in this film. I think I read Scott decided to retire from acting from this movie as he felt he’d never top this performance. I didn’t realize this was Sam Peckinpah as it’s not a violent type of film he’s associated with. The visuals are wonderful, there’s some beautiful outdoor photography, and again the story and the acting just grabbed me in a way that I wasn’t expecting and I enjoyed the hell out of this movie. Plus, the ending just hits in every possible way. Plus, you’ve got some great actors in the supporting cast: R.G. Armstrong & Edgar Buchannan.
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“Follow Me Quietly” 1949
Another case of having no expectations with a movie, this one I caught recently when it aired on TCM as part of “Noir Alley.” I get really excited over those films from the ‘30s and ‘40s that are in the 80 minutes and under ballpark. Most of them are B films that were shot in just a week or two plus, and I love it when it’s a great hit it and quit it, in and out movie. This runs just 60 minutes but it packs a lot into those 60 minutes. We’ve got a serial killer named “The Judge” killing people he deems morally inferior, and this really fascinating police tactic involving a faceless dummy--the reveal of which is quite damn spooky.

This one grabbed me quick and I just went right along for the ride. It’s 60 minutes, you don’t have to make an epic commitment to this movie, and it pays off two to one in enjoyment than films twice as long. Plus, it’s got a great look to it by Rober De Grasse who would later go on to work in TV as the DP for “The Dick Van Dyke Show.” Really made an impression on me.

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