Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Film Discoveries of 2020 - Samuel B. Prime ""

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Film Discoveries of 2020 - Samuel B. Prime

Samuel B. Prime is an LA-based freelance writer, consultant, and moving image advocate who specializes in lost and forgotten films. He most recently worked at Annapurna Pictures and has contributed to MUBI, The Village Voice, LAist, and others. Kindly follow him on Letterboxd. :-)

1. CHROMIUMBLUE.COM (Zalman King, 2002)
An exhaustive distillation of the early aughts CD-ROM / diskmag / web 1.0 aesthetic. An unblockable pop-up ad of a movie filled with precognition, digital sex, impromptu cage fights, lots of rabbits (for some reason), and even a sassy, mischievous gay ghost. Film as ultrachaos.

2. MADAME WANG'S (Paul Morrissey, 1981)
A curmudgeonly scowl at freaky west coast subcultures from infamous grumpus Paul Morrissey. Even Morrissey's disapproving eye can't sour the considerable charisma of his subjects. As a result, he's the butt of his own joke: the foul architect of this post-Warhol midway of LA ghouls.

3. SUNSET MOTEL (Eckhart Schmidt, 2003)
From the man who gave the world DER FAN (1982), something completely different: a loosey-goosey no-budget feature shot fast 'n dirty, probably on extremely short notice, on Sunset Blvd. In spite of its obvious cheapness and improvisatory feeling, there is an echo of MULHOLLAND DR. (2001) here insofar as capturing endemic loneliness and sadmadbad hetero relationships. Its ultra-cliche dialogue is undoubtedly a barrier to entry, but also its master stroke. Shabbily great.

4. ABANDON (Stephen Gaghan, 2002)
A thoughtful, effective take on untreated mental illness and cycles of abuse / violence, but about dipshit college students. In other words, (almost) nobody takes this film at all seriously because of how it looks on its surface. I urge you to take another look. It ain't perfect, but it's a wild, successful first feature. The recovering boozer detective subplot is its weakest element, but forgivably so. Full disclosure: I love trashy thrillers no matter what, but this is one of the greats.

5. LOVE MASSACRE (Patrick Tam, 1981)
A bloody, brutal tightly-constructed slasher with a visible formal appreciation of 60s Godard. It is desperately in need of a restoration, re-release, or at least a new scan. This is gonna be one of those films that everyone's suddenly talking about a year from now, given its due resurrection. 

6. HAVOC (Barbara Kopple, 2005)
Imagine deciding to risk alienating any potential audience in favor of accurately depicting rich, clueless, shitbag teenagers. That's what Kopple did with this film. And, like ABANDON (2002), it has more or less been dismissed because people can't see beyond its surface. Look deeper.

7. TOKYO POP (Fran Rubel Kuzui, 1988)
Warm, earnest, and wholesome. Underscored by watercolor backdrops. It's not rock 'n roll. It's Tokyo pop. I needed this one this year. Maybe this will give you the same lift that it gave me. :-)

8. BLOODSISTERS (Michelle Handelman, 1995)
Seen from the outside, an intimidating niche within a niche. From the lips of those who identify as leatherdykes and the like, rendered human, relatable, and wonderfully charming due in part to its candid testimonies boasting a frank, adorable video dating service vibe. Be safe. Be sane.

9. BOTH (Lisset Barcellos, 2005)
A deeply personal fictionalization that captures the paralysis of instinctively knowing something without intellectually knowing it. Once a child, now an adult, told a lie for a whole lifetime in an effort to somehow "save" them from the truth: from who they are. Vastly, devastatingly moving.

10. BETTY TELLS HER STORY (Liane Brandon, 1972)
Tell me a story. OK. Now, once more, with feeling. Sometimes a dress is more than a dress.

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