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

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Film Discoveries of 2018 - Kevin Sharp

Kevin Sharp is a Jack of many writing trades, master of some. A blog about comic books: A podcast about movies:

AT CLOSE RANGE (1986, written by Elliott Lewitt and Nicholas Kazan, directed by James Foley).
While I remembered this poster from back in the 80s, my first viewing didn’t happen until 2018… in less than ideal conditions. I was in an Anaheim hotel room, exhausted after a day at WonderCon, and needed something to just unwind with on my laptop. I’m not sure why I chose this — maybe thinking it was more of a traditional thriller? — but for the next two hours I didn’t get up, didn’t pause, may not have even blinked. Every element is flawless: Walken, Penn, Masterson, et al., James Foley’s direction, the music. The music! I don’t hesitate here to use the word masterpiece.
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GOD TOLD ME TO (1976, written & directed by Larry Cohen)
Um… whoa. I knew the title and artwork from seeing the video box way back in the day (this and C.H.U.D. used to sit near each other on a certain store’s “horror” shelf). I also knew the basic premise of the story; from there, I was woefully unprepared. There’s a straightforward version of this to be told, the kind Dirty Harry or members of the Law & Order cast might find themselves in. Then there’s the Larry Cohen–Tony Lo Bianco version. Horror movie? Yep. Police thriller? Check. Science fiction too? Hell yeah. The disparate elements are all blended together on high speed for a brain-bending cinema experience I had to watch twice in 24 hours.
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JEREMIAH JOHNSON (1972, written by Edward Anhalt and John Milius, directed by Sydney Pollack)
Given than 1970s Robert Redford is one of my favorite movie stars ever, it’s inexplicable how this slipped by for so long. The movie is made up of two different stories — adapted by screenwriters Anhalt and Milius — and the seams where they were stitched together really show. I much prefer the “quieter” section, and I’m using that term loosely, with Redford learning his way around his new environment and its denizens; fortunately that’s the majority of the film’s run time. Exciting, joyous, dangerous, beautiful, elegiac. My biggest regret here? Not having had the chance to see this for the first time on a big screen.

“Jeremiah, maybe you best go down to a town, get out of these mountains.”
“I’ve been to a town.”
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THE LOVE GOD? (1969, written & directed by Nat Hiken)
Or: Don Knotts essentially playing Hugh Hefner. That alone made it a must see for one particular viewer. There’s no argument for this being a great movie, or even a very good one, but I’m a fan of films that function as time capsules of their particular eras — in this case 1969 mid-sexual revolution America. I watched most of this slack-jawed, not for the rampant misogyny, or the dirty innuendo delivered with the subtlety of a flame thrower, but in awe that it was ever actually produced by a major studio. Oh, and did I mention Don Knotts as Hugh Hefner?
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THIS SPORTING LIFE (1963, written by David Storey, directed by Lindsay Anderson)
I’m reminded of Peter Bogdanovich describing how his mother never wanted to watch sad films because she had enough of her own problems, that movies should be an escape from the grind of real life. I’ll extrapolate from there to say she probably wasn’t a fan of British “kitchen sink” dramas. This one is certainly sad… and bleak… and dreary… and also totally engaging, pulsing with a vitality that makes it hard to look away. While a story about rugby wouldn’t normally be my bag, baby (TM Austin Powers), Anderson’s direction + Storey’s script + an off-the-charts Richard Harris performance = a movie I’m still thinking about 10 months later.
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VAGABOND (1985, written & directed by Agnes Varda)
Speaking of sad films, this one certainly announces itself from the start: a young vagrant woman’s frozen body is found in a ditch. The highest compliment I can pay is that it doesn’t feel like a movie, but rather like an incredibly intimate documentary — as far as traditional notions of story, not a lot “happens.” Yet it’s so compelling, so well-realized that — even knowing the ending up front — I felt as fully engaged as if watching prime Cassavetes, Altman, or Ashby. Sandrine Bonnaire comes off less as an actress and more as some incandescent spirit that happened to be caught on film. Varda’s oeuvre had been a blind spot for me before this; I’m now working to fully catch up.
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Other notables for me from the year that was: WOMAN IN THE DUNES (1964), MORVERN CALLAR (2002), THE NINTH CONFIGURATION (1980), VANYA ON 42nd STREET (1994), and the majesty that is ZARDOZ (1974).

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