Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Film Discoveries of 2018 - Troy Anderson ""

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Film Discoveries of 2018 - Troy Anderson

Troy Anderson runs AndersonVision. While observing Film Twitter through a telescope, he invites every film writer/enthusiast/critic/reporter/gourmand to share their latest findings with him on Twitter. He repeats that he doesn’t want to join Film Twitter; he just wants to read your stuff.

Also, he’s open for a series of collaborations, guest spots, whatever in 2019. The reclusive Anderson has a notebook of ideas that he wants to give away. It doesn’t matter how big or small your outlet might be, God’s high-powered mutant wants to share his word vomit with you.

For details: scream into the void or contact @AVCentral or the contact spots on AndersonVision.com

It’s not a set-up, a joke, whatever. Troy Anderson wants to get know you, the doctors call this outreach.

ON WITH THE SHOW!
Report to the Commissioner (1975)
Dir: Milton Katselas
Michael Moriarty and Yaphet Kotto play cops on a wild-goose chase that manages to out Serpico anything else in the early 1970s. What happens is a conspiracy breaks out involving a drug dealer and the Commissioner’s daughter. Unbeknownst to Moriarty, the Commissioner’s daughter is an undercover cop helping to move vice through the seedier parts of NYC.

While Moriarty tries to be a hero and save the day, the Commissioner’s daughter gets killed and our hero has to decide if he’s going to expose everything going on in the NYPD. Yaphet Kotto plays a far worldlier cop who makes Moriarty realize that the upper echelon of city government isn’t going to allow for this conspiracy to be unmasked.

Watching a well-meaning hero cop try to unsuccessfully be the better person is disheartening. What makes this film so special is that it’s not a last reel development. The second half of the film effectively puts Michael Moriarty through Hell because he wants to do the right thing.

The foot chase through 5th Avenue with the drug dealer only clad in his boxer shorts never gets mentioned when people praise crime movies. But, watching these men draw down on each other in the hot enclosed spaces of Urban NYC makes for quiet the visual punch. It took me awhile to get Moriarty’s panic stricken face out of my mind. There’s something about an actor who can display pure shock and paralysis through his angered face alone.

Fun fact: I’m purposefully hiding a plot detail to entice you into watching the film. Please do it! Kino Lorber just released a wonderful Blu-ray of the film.
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Die Feuerzangenbowle (1944)
Dir: Helmut Weiss
Die Feuerzangenbowle is a German comedy that was adapted three times with its most famous adaptation being filmed during the middle of World War II. The story is about a home schooled writer that gets jealous of local kids getting to live a normal life.

After going undercover and spying on them as a fellow youth, the secret teen writer decides to begin a new life as a fully enrolled public school student. The undercover student falls in love, plays pranks and gets used as a pawn by two teachers. One teacher represents Liberal values, while the other favors Conservative policies.

It is a German film after all, so there is a degree of sadness to the production. The film had a lengthy production period due to War shortages and the filmmakers’ attempts to provide work for able-bodied young men that were going to be drafted into the German Army. Unfortunately, some of the actors got drafted and were killed during the film’s lengthy shoot.

Eventually, German government pressure forced the production to wrap and submit for inspection. The film was initially going to be banned for mocking Nazi Germany education standards, but the producers took it directly to Herman Goring who was a fan of slapstick comedy. He approved and it became the last comedy released during the Nazi Germany cinema era.

I live for fringe cinema, but learning about the bizarre history behind this film while watching it…just endeared the movie to me. Hell, I was stunned to learn that the Potsdam bombings were the initial reason for the production delay. They shot a fourth of the movie and then Allied bombing runs destroyed their sets. The film now has a Rocky Horror Picture Show style following in Germany.
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Corrupt (1983) aka Copkiller aka Order of Death
Dir: Roberto Faenza
This one was a blind buy from the fastest shipping Independent group on the Internet. That’s right, kids. Banana Bill and the majestic Dark Force turned me onto this one. I’m a huge Johnny Rotten/Lydon fan and I had never seen this one before. When travelling, I’ve seen the edited Copkiller cut sold in various flea markets. But, I passed.

What I didn’t realize was that I was missing out on a film about two cops that commit crimes so that they can have a secret cop bungalow where they can hide from their significant others. Read into that what you will, but things go south when Johnny Rotten finds out where they’re hiding.

Rotten plays a clearly insane man that confesses to being a cop killer. Keitel and his partner don’t know whether they should believe him or not, but Rotten makes a clear case that he should be held in custody until they can sort out the facts.

I’m not familiar with Faenza at all, but I appreciated how he would just linger on a scene and let Rotten play it out with Keitel. At times, it felt like watching a stage show. A stage show where the leads could murder each other at a moment’s notice. But, I guess that’s the only kind of dinner theater I’ll pay to see anymore.

While watching it at AV Central, I had a fellow viewer change my first view on the film. What was once a cat and mouse caper became a look at mental illness and domestic relations. Johnny Rotten clearly isn’t a cop killer, but he knows how to play a situation to get free room and board. What makes the film crazy is how Keitel engages this behavior just to have a full-time criminal to beat up.

Naturally, I showed this one at Christmas.

Suspense (1913)
Dir: Lois Weber
Suspense is a film I always knew about, but never saw completely until 2018. That’s the problem when you’re exposed to a certain kind of film by its technical merits or in-class dissection. Thankfully, Flicker Alley put this short out as part of their Women Pioneers in Film release. I know I’m butchering the title, but the film is in the public domain now. You can watch multiple Creative Commons scored versions on YouTube.

What makes the film so special is that Universal’s favorite lady director creates a movie that some would argue created the Suspense Film. Tweaking Griffith’s views on editing and film grammar, Weber directs and stars in a movie that forces you to feel the full weight of a home invasion at the dawn of the 20th Century.

Why didn’t we see more from Weber? Well, she was entering her 40s at the time and Carl Laemmle had plans to push her into more mainstream movies. The thing is that while being a pioneer for the era, Weber was still being made to wait for that next career leap. At one point, Weber was promised the world by Laemmle as Griffith and Von Stroheim fell out of fashion. But, life happens.

They couldn’t agree about whether she would keep make 1-reel shorts or feature films. If they were going to be features, then they had to be mainstream fodder. During this time, Weber became Mayor of Universal City, California. Also to be noted, Universal nearly went bankrupt during the Market Crash and general economic malaise killed Lammle’s best efforts to be progressive in the 10s and 20s.

If you want to see the Suspense footage and read my initial thoughts, click here!


Rediscoveries of 2018 


Black Moon Rising (1986)
Dir: Harley Cokliss
John Carpenter used to write movies that he didn’t direct. In the same year that he created Big Trouble in Little China, he wrote a car movie for Tommy Lee Jones. Basically, Jones is a thief who steals a disc from an evil company to help the FBI. Unfortunately, he hides the disc on an experimental super car that just got stolen by Lee Ving, then Linda Hamilton.

The rest of the film is Jones taking this tap water-fueled rocket car through two complex buildings while winning Linda Hamilton over. A major set piece of the film is how Jones can successfully run over Robert Vaughn with the supercar. The problem is that Vaughn is on the 85th floor of a skyscraper with short ramp space.

Of all the movies that get revisits, lame YouTube video essays and dude bros guffawing over it…no one discusses this film. I guess that’s because streaming and home video continually ignores this treasure from 1986. If it wasn’t for a random premium cable channel showing it last year, I never would’ve received the chance to rediscover my favorite film to watch when I was sick back in my younger days.

Plus, Bubba Smith plays an FBI Agent in it. I treat the cast of Police Academy the way that sports fans treat the 1992 Dream Team. I will cut you for saying a negative word about Hightower.
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Back to School (1986)
Dir: Alan Metter
Why is Back to School a rediscovery? Why did I watch the film 21 times last year? Well, that’s because Sally Kellerman is an alien. Hear me out! When an older actor plays a character of a certain age, they always contrast against the young people of said college/workplace/whatever. It’s lazy, but it’s the easiest way to show who’s cool or square to a mainstream audience.

But, Sally Kellerman takes the act to a new level. She acts like someone just Under the Skin’d her and they’re kinda realizing that they could’ve picked a better form. Dressing somewhere between Blossom’s grandmother and Gertie dressing up ET, Kellerman is never intimidated by Dangerfield’s presence.

That being said, Kellerman has kinda ruined the movie for me. Not all rediscoveries are positive or even fair. I still enjoy Kinison’s rant about Vietnam in the film, yet I watch the film only for Kellerman now. Well, Kellerman and the Oingo Boingo scene. But, that works together as that scene allows to see Kellerman groove to the hip sounds that 1986 youth were grooving to when not getting bulled by William Zabka.

I now want to see a follow-up film about Kellerman’s life after Thornton Melon left. It would be a serious movie about educational standards in the university system. Everyone else gave Thornton the Ds he deserved, yet she gave him an A. If he does anything bad in his life, does her academic boost provide validity for his failures?

I mean, what does a free pass for shitty behavior in the 1980s have to do with modern NYC based millionaires? Studio execs, hit me up for my extended pitch. You know the email.
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Flesh for Frankenstein (1973)
Dir: Paul Morrissey
The last 18 months has seen me getting involved with horror types on a level I never saw coming. As such, a lot of discussion led me to trying to figure out where I saw this visual stunt I was trying to pull off. There is this gut rip scene that I couldn’t remember until a foreign friend kept explaining that it was Warhol. That’s when I said the stupidest thing possible…when did Warhol do horror?

This bit of stupidity was said in front of a DVD shelf where Warhol’s Morrissey horror flicks were right behind me. So, I watched the film and realized the scene I was trying to remember from my early college days of consuming the entire Criterion Collection. I watched it and got nothing out of it. I watched it again and again and again. Nothing.

But, then Udo Kier made his naked monsters kiss on the mouth. I don’t want anything about that scene to sound romantic. Kier screams in a heavy accent for the monsters to kiss, and then he starts lifting the female to keep kissing the unresponsive male. But, that’s not what makes it funny.

The assistant Otto keeps looking down at the monster’s penis to see if the kiss gets any response. It’s all unspoken and pure stage direction. But, Udo Kier is in his own world while the dimwitted Otto is checking for dick sign to see if this Frankenstein plan is working. While laughing during that scene, I jostled a piece of legal pad paper loose from behind the case booklet.

A note dated November 2nd, 2000. “The lady monster disemboweling isn’t as clever as you think it is. But, I think the dummy lab assistant is really into checking for boners.”

Time is a flat circle.
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Gilda Live! (1980)
Dir: Mike Nichols
To know Gilda Radner is to love her. If you still know Gilda Radner and are mildly indifferent, then you’re inhuman. It’s OK, I’ll give you time to make peace with your lack of a soul. One of the PR firms sent over a digital screener for Love, Gilda and I spent a generous portion of December watching it. While 2018 was a legendary year for documentaries, I felt like that documentary was more of a highlight reel than declarative statement. Even the talking heads segments seemed to rise and fall whenever the filmmakers ran into a corner.

Yet, the Gilda Live! Chapter hit me right in the gut. Bill Murray wouldn’t commit to her, Lorne Michael was seriously going to kill off SNL and Belushi & the boys were the only ones getting major breakthrough films. So, Gilda decided to go her own way on Broadway.

Gilda Live started as a showcase of her character work allowed Gilda to open up and share stories about her life. In between busting out Candy Slice, Roseanne Roseannadanna and more classics…things slowed down. There is something so heartfelt and pure about Gilda Radner singing Honey (Touch Me With My Clothes On) that makes me stop in my tracks.

After losing my sole copy of the movie to a departed friend over a decade ago, I deprived myself of having this movie in my library. I demand that certain films work as treats that I can keep rediscovering by accident, purpose or convenience. By depriving myself of easy access to films, I can attempt to recreate how hard it was to hit those special moments. There is a pleasure in actively seeking something out instead of instant gratification.

That’s the importance of discoveries and rediscoveries as film fans spend year after year revisiting and expanding those treasures that enrich their artistic education. Every person that shares one of these lists on this site will have films that trigger those moments. The same goes for each reader that visits this list.

Hold onto those moments. When people bemoan, pander or treat what we love with indifference…those moments are what keep you caring about this thing that all of us empower.
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