Episode 3: Cut and Print!
As a listener to both Killer POV and Shock Waves, and a reader of the blog Rupert Pupkin Speaks, I was thrilled to hear that Elric Kane and Brian Saur were teaming up for a new podcast named after Elric’s catchphrase. The beauty of podcasts such as these is that they feel as if you are in the room with the hosts, engaged in an intimate conversation among friends. Of course, the downside is that you’re not engaged in the conversation, and if you speak, you’re speaking to yourself. Well, that’s true no more. With this series of Pod-Commentaries, I’m pitching in my two cents, starting at the very first episode and playing catch-up from there. I hope you’ll lend these fellows your ear, and then lend me your eye.
In the third episode, our hosts discuss their “alternative Oscars” for films released in 2016 before moving onto their “Five Films Because…” lists on the subject of movies about moviemaking.
There’s nothing like crafting a list of this variety to make you realize how many movies released in any given year you still have left to see. Coupled with the fact that I try to never replicate Brian’s or Elric’s answers, tweaking this list turned out to be a difficult proposition—but I’m never one to shy away from a challenge!
Brian: THE NICE GUYS (2016)
Elric: ELLE (2016)
My award for Best Picture would go to THE WITCH (2016), or THE VVITCH, if you want to be pretentious about it. This atmospheric period piece had stunning performances, creepy situations, folkloric vibes, and one mean goat. What more can you ask for? The debate over whether or not THE WITCH is a horror movie is absurd (of course it’s a horror movie), but it’s also moot. This was not only among the best genre outings of the year, it was among the best films of the year, in my humble estimation.
Brian: Richard Linklater, EVERYBODY WANTS SOME (2016)
Elric: Paul Verhoeven, ELLE (2016)
In my ceremony, Robert Eggers would be awarded Best Director for THE WITCH (2016). Why? See above.
Brian: Julian Dennison, HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE (2016)
Elric: Ryan Gosling, THE NICE GUYS (2016)/Ralph Inerson, THE WITCH (2016)
My choice for best actor would have to go to James McAvoy for his performance in SPLIT (2016). He portrays not just a single character, but multiple characters, all trapped within the same body. With each emerging personality, he doesn’t simply don a silly accent or a new mannerism; he practically transforms into a completely different person right before the audience’s eyes, whether it be a young boy, a middle-aged woman, or something else entirely. Hell, if I had it my way, McAvoy would have been the first to receive numerous Best Actor nominees for a single film.
Brian: Hailee Steinfeld, THE EDGE OF SEVENTEEN (2016)
Elric: Krisha Fairchild, KRISHA (2015)/Rebecca Hall, CHRISTINE (2016)
My choice for best actress comes from a film that seems to be criminally underseen, and if not for Elric discussing it on the air, I never would have heard of it. In THE FITS (2015, premiered in the US in 2016) from director Anna Rose Holmer, Royalty Hightower plays 11-year-old Toni who attempts to join a dance troupe. As she struggles to make the cut and fit in with those around her, the other girls begin succumbing to mysterious seizures. It is a haunting and abstract film that manages to be about something, even if that something is up for debate. Hightower delivers an amazing performance that relies more on expression and action than dialogue, alerting us to what is unfolding within her without ever having to say it out loud.
Brian and Elric: Shane Black, THE NICE GUYS (2016)
I’ve enjoyed most of Ricky Bates, Jr.’s output on some level, but with TRASH FIRE (2016), he’s firing on all cylinders. This dark, dark comedy-horror follows Owen as he reconnects with his severely dysfunctional family after years of estrangement, bringing his girlfriend Isabel along for the ride. These are unlikable characters saying and doing unlikable things, but they do so in such smart and witty ways that you can’t help but kind of like them after all. And in my eyes, that’s the mark of a damn fine script.
Brian: Nicolas Winding Refn, THE NEON DEMON (2016)
Elric: Sean Porter, GREEN ROOM (2015)
THE NEON DEMON would have been a shoe-in for this award, if not for the fact that Brian already chose it. Instead, I’ll give it to my (very close) second choice, M. David Mullen for THE LOVE WITCH (2016). This supernatural thriller, about a beautiful young witch who manipulates the hearts and affections of men with her magic, is a lush and vibrant visual experience. It takes a stylistic cue from the cinema of the 1960s without lapsing into parody or rip-off territory, maintaining a flair all its own. It’s a fantastic movie, but even if I had not cared for it, it would still remain something amazing to behold.
Brian: NERVE (2016)
Elric: JACKIE (2016)/THE NEON DEMON (2016)
Full disclosure: I’ve never seen the film MIDNIGHT SPECIAL (2016), but David Wingo’s score shot to the top of my list the moment that I stumbled across it on Amazon Prime. It’s moody and magical, bringing a sense of familiar 1980s-influenced wonderment while still remaining fully original. Not convinced? Just give Midnight Special Theme a listen, and you will be…
Best Holy Fucking Shit Moment
Brian: The corpse scene, THE NEON DEMON (2016)
Elric: Riding the farts, SWISS ARMY MAN (2016)
My Holy Fucking Shit Moment comes from a movie that kind of came and went without making much of a splash. William Brent Bell’s THE BOY (2016) had an inherently creepy premise: a young nanny is hired to care for a child, only to find out that the child is actually a porcelain doll. It hit all of the expected notes as it went along, but all of that changed with the reveal at the end, which was as unexpected as it was polarizing. Seeing it in the theater, it was a true gasp-worthy moment.
Films About Filmmaking
Brian: THE ERRAND BOY (1961); SON OF RAMBOW (2007); CQ (2001); LIVING IN OBLIVION (1995); MODERN ROMANCE (1981); [Also: THE BIG PICTURE (1989); HOLLYWOOD BOULEVARD (1976); HOOPER (1978); INSERTS (1975); ALEX IN WONDERLAND (1970); NICKELODEON (1976)]
Elric: ROAD TO NOWHERE (2010); BLOW OUT (1981); ED WOOD (1994); THE LAST MOVIE (1971); STARDUST MEMORIES (1980); [Also: BOWFINGER (1999); SHADOW OF THE VAMPIRE (2000); VIC (2006); THE MOST IMPORTANT THING: LOVE (1975); MULHOLLAND DRIVE (2001); HOLY MOUNTAIN (1973); CECIL B. DEMENTED (2000); CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST (1980); PLAY IT AS IT LAYS (1972)]
ED WOOD is one of my favorite films—it was even one of my Handshake Five from my post on episode one—and definitely would have been included on my list if not already mentioned above.
1) NEW NIGHTMARE (1994) – Wes Craven wrote and directed this seventh installment in the A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET franchise, which ran the series through a postmodern blender and gave us a fresh and wholly satisfying product. NEW NIGHTMARE takes place in our world, where the previous NOES films were simply that—films—and as the studio sets about crafting a new entry, things take a bad turn. Bad dreams, accidents on the set, and seemingly-supernatural murders all indicate one thing: Freddy Krueger isn’t fictional, and he’s ready to stake a claim on the real world.
2) THE HILLS RUN RED (2009) – This underrated horror flick follows a passionate blogger who is obsessed with a lost horror film that shares its name with this one. When he catches wind of a lead that may take him to a copy of the long-lost masterpiece, he and his friends venture off into the woods where it was shot. They quickly discover that the movie was not as fictional as they believed, and what’s worse, they may be starring in the sequel, which is filming now…
3) CURTAINS (1983) – This Canadian slasher film from Richard Ciupka is about some of the earliest stages of making a movie—the audition process. A group of hopeful actresses gather at the remote mansion of the director to get the casting couch treatment, and to be killed off one-by-one. Although slow-moving at times and occasionally a bit of a slog to get through, when the movie moves, it really moves. It’s the infamous ice skating murder sequence that gets discussed the most these days, but in my eyes, it’s all about the head-in-a-toilet scene. If a film is thought of as a series of moments, then CURTAINS has some amazing moments that deserve to be seen.
4) CREEP (2014) – I know that the found footage movement has its fair share of detractors, but when it’s done properly, it can be an effective device. In my eyes, CREEP does it right. This is more of a story about making a home movie than a narrative one, but screw it, I’m counting it anyway. Cinematographer Aaron (Patrick Brice) is hired by the oddball Josef (Mark Duplass) to record a video message for his unborn son. Neither Josef or the job are quite what they initially appear to be, however, and things go from awkward to dangerous at the drop of a hat. Simultaneously chilling and amusing, CREEP is a memorable viewing experience that leaves you feeling uncomfortable and untrusting. Forget everything you’ve ever been told about the kindness of strangers.
5) S&MAN (2006) – This low-budget horror film is an interesting one, even if it’s not always completely successful. It’s both a documentary and a fictional narrative, two separate films disguised as one. J.T. Petty begins with a documentary about the voyeuristic nature of the horror film, but as the movie unfolds, it seems more and more likely that the work of one particular filmmaker is utilizing actual snuff footage. It offers a rare glimpse behind the curtain of the ultra-low budget horror movie industry, with an emphasis on shot-on-video fetishism.
That wraps up my un-asked for contribution to the conversation for episode 3 of the Pure Cinema Podcast. I’ll return soon with thoughts on episode 4!