Monday, February 6, 2012

10 Best Older Films I Saw in 2011

Some of my favorite bloggers (and blogs) are currently digging into their memories to unearth some of the best older films they saw in the last year (rather than the best of last year's rather bland selection). Having decades to chose from (and being inspired by a sad line-up of passings in 2011), I have discovered that my own list has an average date around 1975, which is part just catching up (while the archives are still unearthing and releasing legacy and catalog material) and part pure coincidence.

Harry In Your Pocket (1973)

A smart and low-key caper film about a cool-as-nails pickpocket (James Coburn) written and directed by Bruce Geller (creator of "Mission: Impossible"), I tracked this down because of Michael Sarrazin, who plays the kid with an agenda. Nice Seattle locations too.

Russell at the BBC (1962-1968)

In the year that also saw the passing of this great lion, it was great to catch up on Ken Russell's earliest work for the BBC during the '60s, released in 2008 on a 3-DVD set. He was as mad and as willing to test the bio-pic boundaries and good taste as he was to the end. His first pairings with Oliver Reed are already ripe with promise.

Murder a la Mod (1968)

While all the belated love seemed to flow to De Palma's initially dismissed "Blow Out" (1981) after a 2011 Criterion release, the real revelation was this "extra" included almost as an afterthought. A seminal and early mystery puzzle-box shot in black and white with a fractured narrative, sometime overbearing art-house pretension, and a game William Finley, it demonstrates De Palma's enthusiasm for film's playful power and his willingness to stretch narrative for the sake of effect.

Get Carter (1971)

The original (and I really have nothing against Kay's 2000 remake) captures a crime-soaked London and the corrupt and defeated early '70s mentality invading films on both sides of the Atlantic at the time. Michael Caine is opaque, tough, and mesmerizing in what comes across as a street-punk "Point Blank."

Variety (1983)

Bette Gordon's neo-noir/ feminist indie film follows a young woman who gets a job in a porn theatre near Times Square and starts delving into the lonely men's personal lives, as well as her own awakening sexual curiosity. Written by Kathy Acker and with a jazzy John Lurie score, the film rocks an early Luis Guzman and Will Patton; this snapshot of NY is deliberate but ultimately haunting.

The Chapman Report (1962)

This little-seen melodrama from George Cukor based on an Irving Wallace bestseller occasionally airs on TNT (thanks for the heads-up, Joe B.) and has the best elements of the time - middle-class suburban malaise, sex kittens, over-the-top psychological mumbo-jumbo dialog, and a great sense of design. Delicious trash.

The Stabilizer (1986)

I also have the Gentleman's Guide to Midnite Cinema (GGTMC)'s efforts to thank in directing me to this amazing Indonesian gem of crazy action, nonsense plotting, and non-stop stumbling fun. This is the kind of thing that makes me miss the straight-to-video days more than anything.

The Driver's Seat (1974)

Speaking of delicious trash, I caught up with this mid-period Elizabeth Taylor Euro-thriller which has Andy Warhol in a cameo and features Liz in full histrionic glory muddling through this existential trainwreck.

Alex In Wonderland (1970)

Paul Mazursky's follow-up to his "Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice" (1969), released through the increasingly essential Warner Archives, is his inside-Hollywood sophomore effort with a delightful Donald Sutherland as an independent film director struggling with being co-opted by the studios. It also out-"8 1/2"s Woody Allen's "Stardust Memories" (1980) in part by scoring a cameo of Fellini himself.

Sex Drive (2008)

A cult film in the making, this hilarious, rude and (of course) sweet-hearted raunch comedy reminded me of the old days of "Savage" Steve Holland and David Wain's "Hot Wet American Summer" (2001). Directed by Sean Anders (co-writer of "Hot Tub Time Machine" (2010) among others), I enjoyed Seth Green as an Amish mechanic and the film's effortless ability to go for the joke - and stay on it far past the limits of taste when it's working.


Rupert Pupkin said...

Great list! Closing out my series for the year, but will totally hit you up next year. Thanks very much for the link to my blog btw!

Roger L. said...

Cheers, Rupert, and thanks for the inspiration to get this together for myself this year!