Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Film Discoveries of 2018 - Stephanie Crawford ""

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Film Discoveries of 2018 - Stephanie Crawford

Stephanie Crawford is a co-host of The Screamcast and frequents only the best podcasts, including Just the Discs. A columnist at Dread Central and contributor to places like F This Movie, all of her work can be found at House of a Reasonable Amount of Horrors ( ).
Check out her discoveries from last year here:

Since time immemorial, hard times have produced great art, and 2018 was no exception. It wasn’t the easiest of tasks to schedule seeing exciting new films with the exciting older films I was dying to get to (not to mention finding time for writing, reading and… life), but it was my favorite personal juggling act. The list below is all killer, no filler, but boy oh boy was it not easy coming.

Werner Herzog tackles the heart-warming-as-it’s-breaking tale of a Jewish folk hero on the cusp on World War II. Sumptuous visuals are balanced with some of the most down-to-earth performances put to film: After seeing what Herzog was going through with the untamable Klaus Kinski, seeing his work with ultra-professionals (Tim Roth in one of his best and most complex and emotionally exhausting roles) and sincerely green yet wonderful talent (star Jouko Ahola, a two-time World's Strongest Man winner, whose first acting appearance was this film) reminds us that his sensitivity and love of characters will be a legacy that endures as long as his prolific output, artistic bravery, and distinctive voice do.
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MIRACLE MILE (1988) and CHERRY 2000 (1987)
Like kid-centric adventure movies with overly complicated plots from the 1980s, the stylish apocalyptic/post-apocalyptic genre-bender is a sub-genre I’d love to see make a huge comeback: But only if it’s done with the imagination and heart that Steve De Jarnatt brought to this double feature. From a last night in (then) modern-day Los Angeles (including lots of film real estate at the La Brea Tar Pits, which is my cinematic happy place) to a futuristic world where our embarrassing failures at managing technology are laid bare and littered throughout a wasteland, each film starts small and personal before opening up to pure carnivalistic madness. These movies understand that, once you give us some rich characters with a solid backstory, audiences will follow you anywhere. These take us everywhere, and I want more.
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Hey, I got more! Kind of. While “How I Live Now” falls into a more subdued, coming-of-age angle, it manages to be one of the most unique approaches to a film that uses a fake war and its immediate aftermath to tell a story. Its beginning is straight out of a YA novel—grumpy yet tough teenager, new romance and all—but soon the world opens up before collapsing in on itself as a mostly child and teen cast navigate a suddenly torn society that’s sloppily manhandled, mismanaged and massacred by adults who feel increasingly immaterial as the film plays on. If I was being reductive, I’d call this “The Children of Children of Men,” but it’s absolutely its own little world and worth your time.
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Ah, one of those big discoveries that I'm embarrassed I didn’t get to beforehand. I knew this was a respected film with a stellar cast and my beloved William Goldman (may he rest in peace) and the diabolically clever Donald Westlake behind the script and story, but I didn’t get around to it until 2018. Well, it holds up and then some: In a high-performance plot of stealing (and re-stealing) a gem, “The Hot Rock” manages to use the best heist movie and comedy of errors conventions, polishes them to a high shine, then sets them with hilarious scenes, sparkling dialogue and so much charm and chemistry that you’ll remember why we all still revere those cool-guy casts that throw people like Moses Gunn, Robert Redford, and George Segal together. (Doesn’t it feel like Elliot Gould should have been in here somewhere? Ah well.) It’s also timely: The gem was taken from its African country during the colonial era, and these guys are taking it back from a museum. Time is a circle!
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Recently brought back to life thanks to the UCLA Film and Television Archive and Cinelicious Pics, “Private Property” is a noir steeped in emotion and inaction rather than its setting or place. Hell, most of it is centered around a sunny swimming pool, where the well-to-do stay-at-home wife, played perfectly by Kate Manx, becomes an object to criminals played to nervy high-art by Corey Allen and Warren Oates. They take up residence in the empty house next door to wrap their days around spying on and eventually engaging with her, and she represents everything in sexuality, womanhood, empathy, and class structure that these men can’t understand or abide by. I admit I was afraid to see this film right away as it sounded like it’d be centered on sexual violence. Instead, the brutality came from the cages we keep ourselves in and try to force others into. This is suburban disturbance at its most elegant and painful, with pacing that feels like you've been woken from a half-sleep by a shotgun blast.
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THE SECT (1991)
While “The Sect” has had its devoted fans since its original release, it seems like an “almost” revered horror picture that takes up a tiny corner of a niche crowded by much more well-known Italian horrors rather than a full-blown cult classic like it deserves. It has bugs, but it’s no “Phenomena.” It has a beautiful daughter from the Curtis family, but it’s not Jamie Lee (rather, her sister Kelly.) Dario Argento co-wrote it, but he didn’t direct it, so it’s left off of a lot of Italian horror starter kit lists. Michele Soavi is an incredible talent, though, with experience honed by working with masters that he then used to create his own unique, concept-packed nightmarish visions. Like “The Church” (both were released on region 1 Blu-ray this past year), this is a labyrinthian film that rewards you the more you surrender yourself to it. While it doesn’t have the gonzo humor of “Cemetary Man,” it does have a similar dare to your perceptions, and it’s a weird, creepy blast.
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Is it Dennis Hopper versus a killer mermaid? No. Is it a romance about a siren and an innocent young man? … kind of. Is it a classic horror film? Not really. Instead, imagine if that scene in “A Hard Day’s Night” where Ringo bums around town was a drama instead of a comedy, and he’s replaced by Dennis Hopper, and he fell in love with a mysterious local woman instead of engaging in gentle hijinx. It’s a weird analogy, but Hopper’s hyper-naturalistic acting anchors a plot that teases at some gothic, deep sea horrors, but it pulls back before committing to anything. In short: This is a film that takes the time to walk a character silently around a town. It’s not a perfect movie, and the stunning posters promise more than they deliver. Still, I find myself haunted by this movie. In its bones, it’s a story of first love, the danger of assumptions, and accepting the differences in others in adult relationships. It’s also gorgeous and sexy in an intoxicatingly restrained, chaste way. “Night Tide” sings you into a quiet lull while you drown instead of holding your head under the water, and I can’t stop thinking about it.
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