Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Film Discoveries of 2019 - Samuel B. Prime ""

Friday, March 13, 2020

Film Discoveries of 2019 - Samuel B. Prime

Samuel B. Prime is an LA-based freelance writer, consultant, and moving image advocate. He's presently working with director Erick Ifergan on his latest feature. He spent the last two years at Annapurna Pictures and has previously been a contributor to MUBI, The Village Voice, and LAist.
1. S1M0NE (Andrew Niccol, 2002)
A dark, foreboding, and hilarious satire on the studio system. An exquisite and high concept warning shot fired into the future. From its very first moments, the lampoon is clear: when Catherine Keener’s studio exec character says “let’s go for a walk” to defuse the palpable tension in a smoky and stuffy screening room, of course in the next scene she and Al Pacino are not walking, but scooting across the lot on a golf cart. Nobody walks in LA, as they say...
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2. BRIDGET (Amos Kollek, 2002)
I watched more Amos Kollek films in 2019 than any other director and, what's more, I hadn't seen a single one of his films until 2019. I enjoyed each one immensely, but BRIDGET stood out as the most outlandish and wildly fantastical. It asks a lot of its audience, despite ostensibly having a rather mundane, terrestrial plot (a recovering alcoholic woman seeks to reunite with her son in foster care), but if you give yourself over and go on the journey, it's a hell of a ride.
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3. SHELTER ISLAND (Geoffrey Schaaf, 2003)
The only movie I watched this year that literally made me scream out loud because of the pure joy it gave me. A sleazy island tracksuit romp. A lesbian love triangle thriller feat. Ally Sheedy as a former golf champ / current motivational speaker. where the devious blondes have all the fun.
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4. THE YO-YO GANG (G.B. Jones, 1992)
G.B. Jones is another filmmaker whose work I began to watch in 2019, despite wanting to see her films for the past few years. They're all remarkable, but THE YO-YO GANG is my favorite. These sexed-up, foul-mouthed, and violence-inclined gals - the titular gang and their rivals The Skateboard Bitches - are the baddest of the bad, the queens of rage, deadly dykes born to die. I can't help but (re)imagine it as a feature-length remake. Punk rock as hell, no doubt. Jump me in.

5. PANIC (Henry Bromell, 2000)
A low-key turn-of-the-millennia (sub)urban LA noir with odd flourishes like a scream-shouting Donald Sutherland upset at guttering a ball while out with the boys and not one, but two scenes of children being shown how to shoot a Walther PPK. Beautifully-shot, sweeping takes of easily recognizable LA locations such as the PDC turn the usually bleak, simultaneously dense and empty urban sprawl into something worth remembering. A little old-fashioned, perhaps, but nothing is simple or taken for granted in this familiar, but exceptional take on the ‘one last job’ yarn.
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6. THE MOTH DIARIES (Mary Harron, 2011)
Missed out on this at TIFF 2011 and regret it, but so grateful that I finally caught up with it. Basically, as close to a horror version of BOOKSMART as will ever exist (for reference). My take: #TFW your friendship necklace-level bestie gal pal disappears into a covert, rapturous, and possibly even toxically supernatural lesbian relationship (and you can’t admit to yourself how you didn’t even know the most important thing about her and how it will almost certainly alter, if not end, the friendship as you know it). Highly recommended. Hugely underrated.
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7. THE BLUE TAPES (Kathy Acker and Alan Sondheim, 1972)
2019 was also the year in which I fell in love with the work of Kathy Acker - and incidentally so. I found a book of hers - Great Expectations - at the Beverly Hills Library book store and was won over by the laudatory William S. Burroughs pull-quote on the front cover. I read it, loved it, and have since read and seen plenty by Acker. THE BLUE TAPES is one example. An intellectual exercise with a playful softcore vibe, you'd be hard-pressed to find more meditative art-porn.

8. THE VELVET VAMPIRE (Stephanie Rothman, 1971)
Sometimes, a film is less about plot and story and more about the deliberate and poised use of color(s), an awe-inspiring dedication to glam, an allegiance to otherworldly lens flares, gooey impressionist opticals, and the notion that the right kind of glance can convey everything without actually saying anything. This one’s gonna grow on me, I can tell. Where'd I park my dune buggy?
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9. SINGLE WHITE FEMALE (Barbet Schroeder, 1992)
I spent as much time this year with Barbet Schroeder as I did with Amos Kollek. While the results were more of a mixed bag, SINGLE WHITE FEMALE stood out as a fully-realized motion picture, if not a masterpiece. Hard white stone, polished spiraling mahogany, and pale blue moonlight covering everything like a silk sheet. A small, interior film, but darn near perfect.
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10. FOXFIRE (Annette Haywood-Carter, 1996) 
Another girl gang picture. An absolute all-timer full circle emotional gut punch of a final shot. Those who live the outlaw life are usually subject to someone else's idea of consequences, unless they decide to live lone wolf-style, on the outskirts and in the back alleys of society. That's no way to live. This Joyce Carol Oates adaptation hits hard. Stick-and-poke my soul.
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