Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Film Discoveries of 2018 - Kevin Maher ""

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Film Discoveries of 2018 - Kevin Maher

KEVIN MAHER is the host of KEVIN GEEKS OUT, a live video-variety show in Brooklyn. Follow @KevinGeeksOut or visit to see his award-winning short films and video essays.

In an era of film-podcasts and YouTube channels, I host an old-fashioned variety show where guests talk about movies and media. Each month we dive deep into a particular sub-genre. My research requires me to watch a lot of uneven, sometimes forgettable films. But occasionally I’ll stumble upon a standout. Here are some of the favorites I encountered during my research (plus a few films I watched for entertainment purposes.)

PUSHED TO THE LIMIT (1992) dir. Michael Mileham.
“Magnificent Mimi” Lesseos was a professional wrestler who wanted to break into movies. Nobody gave her a chance, the way they did with male wrestling stars. So, Mimi wrote and produced her own starring vehicles, a.k.a. The Mimi Kick Ass Collection. Is her BLOODSPORT rip-off any better than the films her male contemporaries made? No. It is JUST AS BAD. And that is what equality means to me. I have a lot of fondness for this plucky, low-rent action film, which deserves a bigger following.

THE BAREFOOT EXECUTIVE (1971) dir. Robert Butler.
This light romp might be one of the most savage criticisms of television ever made. No one’s going to confuse a live-action Disney monkey movie with a Paddy Chayefsky script; but I’m convinced it’s like STARSHIP TROOPERS, where audiences didn’t notice the subtle satire: a chimpanzee successfully predicts what TV programs human viewers will like. All that – plus excellent use of Joe Flynn and Wally Cox!
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THE BRAIN THAT WOULDN’T DIE (1962) dir. Joseph Green.
It should be titled, “The brain that WASN’T ALLOWED to die” – a male scientist keeps his fiancĂ©e’s severed head alive, despite her expressed wish to move on. Watching the film today, it’s less about mad science and more about toxic masculinity. This is a title people might know from MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER, but if you dare to take it at face value, you’ll find a thoughtful, little tragedy. With monsters!
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AN ALMOST PERFECT AFFAIR (1979) dir. Michael Ritchie.
Can someone love you – REALLY love you – if they don’t enjoy your art? This impossible riddle is at the core of a rarely-discussed rom-com from the director of THE BAD NEWS BEARS. Not a great movie, but it explores a question that I’ve never seen considered in a film.
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PROM NIGHT II: HELLO MARY LOU (1987) dir. Bruce Pittman, Ron Oliver.
You ever see a tiny dog barking at larger dogs, and the owner says, “He thinks he’s a big dog!”? PROM NIGHT II thinks it’s a big dog. This Canadian, name-only sequel swings for the fences and delivers some wild gags, some clearly “inspired by” A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET but forced to be more imaginative due to the budget constraints. And then there’s a no-budget effect that delivers one of creepiest moments in the entire film: a (possessed) teenager gives her father a big, juicy incestuous kiss – and he doesn’t resist it.
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THE GONG SHOW MOVIE (1980) dir. Chuck Barris.
This plays like a coked-up SULLIVAN’S TRAVELS, with a trash-tv producer trying to escape his own success. (Finally, a film that reveals how hard it is to be Chuck Barris!) It’s a mess, but I found myself feeling for Chuckie Baby. What the film lacks in an emotional arc, it makes up for with jokes from The Unknown Comic. Fun-fact: THE GONG SHOW MOVIE marks the second time Roosevelt Grier appears in a film containing a thing with two heads.
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A NEW LEAF (1971) dir. Elaine May.
One of the secret perks about getting older is you gain an appreciation for all things Walter Matthau. One of my favorite performances is Henry Graham – a character that’s not the boilerplate Matthau, while still meeting all of your Matthau needs. As delightful as his performance is, the true star of A NEW LEAF is Elaine May, who wrote, directed and acted opposite Matthau. She crafts masterful comic scenes that move with confidence. She’s also hilarious in her starring role.
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