Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Film Discoveries of 2018 - Cole Roulain ""

Friday, March 8, 2019

Film Discoveries of 2018 - Cole Roulain

Cole co-hosts a podcast with his wife, Ericca Long, called The Magic Lantern in which they discuss the films in their personal canons and their enduring cinematic memories.
Here is his Discoveries list from last year:

As usual, we did our annual round up of film discoveries on The Magic Lantern too and, once again, I wanted to take the opportunity here to focus on a few films that we didn't feature in that list. Every year provides me with more films than I can fit on any one list, so I am grateful for this opportunity to highlight a few more deserving titles:

The Smiling Lieutenant (Lubitsch, 1931)
This is a pre-code gem and one of the best of Ernst Lubistch's early sound films. Played with a wink both literal and figurative, Maurice Chevalier charms his way through a romantic triangle with both Claudette Colbert and Miriam Hopkins and the sauciness is through the roof on this one. There are exposed gams, bloomers, sheer gowns. The local newspaper is even called The Wiener Journal, for pete's sake. They were getting away with as much as they could and it is a sheer delight. It also further cemented my belief that Miriam Hopkins was one of the smartest, funniest actors of her day or any other. She could do it all and deserves a place among the all time comedy greats. If you walk out of this without a huge crush on her, then I just don't know how to help you.
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Tomorrow I'll Wake Up and Scald Myself with Tea (Polák, 1977)
You have never seen a Nazi conspiracy time travel comedy quite like this. I don't know that I've seen another one, period. By default, I suppose that makes this one the best. Even if it weren't the only one, though, I would say it rates highly. This oddity from the Czech Republic walks a fine line with its satire that threads a pretty fine needle of fraternal love/disgust, historical figures as human beings, and the usual tricky time travel logistics. The most amazing thing is that it manages to do all that and still be funny. And it's a very particular type of Iron Curtain funny, preoccupied as much with bureaucracy and the cost of living as it is with rewriting the course of history. It's a clever and poignant reminder that the fate of humankind can hinge on a breakfast roll as much as any doomsday device.
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The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith (Schepisi, 1978)
This was pretty gut wrenching. One of the terrible legacies that is shared between the U.S. and Australia is the exploitation of our indigenous populations. In this case, a man of Aboriginal ancestry has been pushed to his breaking point and his plan to exact a measure of revenge spirals out of control, resulting in multiple murders and no escape. This is complicated moral ground to navigate. No one (except maybe the child victims, and that does happen, so be warned) is wholly innocent. No one is wholly sympathetic. It forces the viewer to look a lot of things square in the eye about how Australia and, by extension, the U.S., has treated the people that occupied these lands before anyone else. How much are people supposed to take? What is a reasonable, acceptable response to centuries of oppression? Is there a greater law that governs all of these ideas? A landmark of Australian cinema. Highly recommended for those that like things thorny and having knots in their stomach.
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Poison for the Fairies (Taboada, 1985)
This would make a great addition to anyone's annual Halloween rotation. It fits snugly in that subgenre of childhood games gone diabolically awry, making a good companion to films like Alucarda and Don't Deliver Us from Evil. The strength of this one is that it is so earnestly committed to the world of the children. Everything is shot from their height. The few adults we see are from the girls' perspective, seldom showing their faces. It very subtly puts us in a frame of mind that makes it easy to believe the girls' world is the whole world, so that when the mayhem ramps up, fueled by the dark imagination of children, it makes as much sense as the floor is lava – which is to say complete, perfect sense. Taboada doesn't pull any punches with the ending either. You hear it said often that kids can be cruel. You haven't seen anything yet.
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Cure (Kurosawa, 1997)
Unnerving to the core, this is ostensibly a procedural about a serial killer, but this series of murders is less about satisfying one man's uncontrollable urges and more about the unfulfilled spaces in all of us. This unknowable void that Kurosawa presents is relentless. You feel it in the cold, dead spaces of a decaying Tokyo. You feel it in the quiet, but persistent fluorescent light hum of the sound design. You feel it in the hollows of the characters that are filled up with inexplicable murderous impulses. Hypnotism is both theme and method for Kurosawa, quietly, insistently guiding us to the inescapable conclusion that we are both witness to and participant in. This is horror of the most affecting kind, the kind that is made just enough of real things, amplified by what we are most afraid of in ourselves.
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