Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Film Discoveries of 2020 - Kevin Sharp ""

Sunday, March 21, 2021

Film Discoveries of 2020 - Kevin Sharp

Kevin hosts the comic creator interview series “Between The Panels” at Fanbase Press. You can find more of his work at, and find him on Twitter @thatkevinsharp.

Here’s how I introduced my 2019 Discoveries list: “Ranked in order of the point on the calendar — which felt about five years long — at which I saw them.” For 2020, just change that “five” to “fifty” and off we go…

DUEL (1971, Steven Spielberg)
A textbook example of the power of editing. This is mostly made up of Dennis Weaver’s grimacing closeups, spinning tires, a speedometer, etc. But all put together, it really is a solid thrill ride — though funny to see the “holy shit” moment of a needle going over 70, when today it would take about 120 to get an audience nervous. Biggest takeaway? I’d love to see the current Spielberg try a lean, stripped down project like this.

SHACK OUT ON 101 (1955, Edward Dein)
After watching this in the wee hours, I awoke later that morning unsure if it had actually happened or whether it was all a divine vision brought on by first class edibles. Without the proof via IMDB, I might still be wondering. Lee Marvin is a character named “Slob” and if you’re not already on board just knowing that, this may not be the flick for you. The directing is first-week-of-film-school level, the set probably cost $1.98, the screenplay probably cost less than that… and yet, I still grin in happy disbelief that the movie even exists.

ST. ELMO’S FIRE (1985, Joel Schumacher) / ABOUT LAST NIGHT… (1986, Edward Zwick)
These two have been so ubiquitous in my life, I just wasn’t sure which one of them I’d actually seen before this year. When I started SEF and didn’t recognize any of it, I realized that would be my first time watch. Then, a few days later, when I didn’t recognize any of ALN either, I realized they were both first timers. While Zwick’s is probably the better movie overall, Schumacher’s is so full of bright, bubbly 80s energy I think I preferred that one. Ask me in a year whether I could pass a matching quiz on which events happened in which of these.

THE LAST SEDUCTION (1994, John Dahl)
We’ve been living with a Linda Fiorentino-shaped hole in the movie business for a long time now.

ISHTAR (1987, Elaine May)
The notorious bomb. The big budget turkey that finished Elaine May’s directing career. I won’t say I sat down to watch with arms crossed, but I was ready to bail at any moment. But surprise, surprise! Hanging with Beatty and Hoffman’s lounge act was some good, low-key fun. And Charles Grodin is a welcome sight in anything. Unfortunately, once the “plot” started and the guns came out, the whole thing got a lot less interesting. I understand why a studio wouldn’t support the amiable, ambling movie this started as; I only wish it had somehow been possible for May to sneak it through.

DESPERATE HOURS (1990, Michael Cimino)
Remember when god Mickey Rourke held mountains in the palm of his hand? On paper, this is a can’t-miss: a remake of a decent, not-great Humphrey Bogart vehicle, now starring Rourke, Anthony Hopkins, Mimi Rogers, et al. It unfortunately never rises above the level of “fine.” Yet it’s hard to look away from what madman Cimino has wrought: Kelly Lynch’s multiple (pointless) topless scenes… Lindsay Crouse’s accent… criminal mugshots that look like they should be hanging in a modeling agency lobby. More than anything else, this feels like a sad snapshot from when it all started to slip away from Mickey.

URBAN COWBOY (1980, James Bridges)
My first ever mechanical-bull-centric movie. The milieu feels so authentic: the bars, the trailer park, the supporting players. But John Travolta just… doesn’t fit. I kept wishing for someone like Dennis Quaid, Kurt Russell, or co-star Scot Glenn in the lead. Or even better, center the whole movie around Debra Winger and show what it’s like for a woman to put the men in their places while navigating this (literally) rough and tumble world.

SOYLENT GREEN (1973, Richard Fleischer)
I feel like I’ve known the “punchline” all my life without ever seeing the movie itself, so what better way to wrap the year than with some prime 1970s cheese featuring Charlton Heston in all his clenched-teeth glory? Then I pushed play. From the opening montage — pollution, famine, environmental collapse, people in the streets wearing surgical masks — this was so unexpected, surprising, and rewarding. Other than the technology in their version of 2022, the story could pretty easily be transposed to the world outside our windows right now. It’s a hell of thing for a nearly 50 year old movie to make one realize that we’ve let both a utopia and dystopia form around us simultaneously.

As a tearful Edward G Robinson asks, “How did we come to this?”

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