Mar 27, 2017


My poor neglected blog, time to give it some love.  Yes, at the beginning of the year I threatened to get back to regular posting - well, it didn't happen so much. If at first you don't find you have time, try, try again.

For the record, my promised Love Affair with Los Angeles series is coming.  I have it all mapped out, and just have to get it down on "paper".

There has been a social media trend of people posting their favorite films from every year they have been alive.  I learned of it from the editor of the James Bond Social Media Project blog and since Saturday I aged another year, it feels like perfect timing for me to jump onto this bandwagon.

So here it is, my favorite films, by year, for the past 44 (yikes) years.

1973 - PAPER MOON (Dir: Peter Bogdanovich)

1974 - CHINATOWN (Dir: Roman Polanski)

1975 - BARRY LYNDON (Dir: Stanley Kubrick)

1976 - (tie) NETWORK (Dir: Sidney Lumet) / ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN (Dir: Alan J. Pakula)

1977 - ANNIE HALL (Dir: Woody Allen)

1978 - THE DEER HUNTER (Dir: Michael Cimino)

1979 - ESCAPE FROM ALCATRAZ (Dir: Don Siegel)

1980 - RAGING BULL (Dir: Martin Scorsese)

1981 - RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (Dir: Steven Spielberg)

1982 - THE VERDICT (Dir: Sidney Lumet)

1983 - THE RIGHT STUFF (Dir: Phillip Kaufman)

1984 - A PASSAGE TO INDIA (Dir: David Lean)

1985 - THE PURPLE ROSE OF CAIRO (Dir: Woody Allen)

1986 - SHE'S GOTTA HAVE IT (Dir: Spike Lee)

1987 - RADIO DAYS (Dir: Woody Allen)

1988 - DIE HARD (Dir: John McTiernan)

1989 - DO THE RIGHT THING (Dir: Spike Lee)

1990 - GOODFELLAS (Dir: Martin Scorsese)

1991 - JFK (Dir: Oliver Stone)

1992 - THE PLAYER (Dir: Robert Altman)

1993 - REMAINS OF THE DAY (Dir: James Ivory)

1994 - THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION (Dir: Frank Darabont)

1995 - (tie) BRAVEHEART (Dir: Mel Gibson) / CASINO (Dir: Martin Scorsese)

1996 - FARGO (Dir: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen)

1997 - L.A. CONFIDENTIAL (Dir: Curtis Hanson)

1998 - BULWORTH (Dir: Warren Beatty)

1999 - THE INSIDER (Dir: Michael Mann)

2000 - WONDER BOYS (Dir: Curtis Hanson)

2001 - THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS (Dir: Wes Anderson)

2002 - CATCH ME IF YOU CAN (Dir: Steven Spielberg)


2004 - FINDING NEVERLAND (Dir: Marc Forster)

2005 - SYRIANA (Dir: Stephen Gaghan)

2006 - THANK YOU FOR SMOKING (Dir: Jason Reitman)

2007 - THERE WILL BE BLOOD (Dir: Paul Thomas Anderson)

2008 - THE DARK KNIGHT (Dir: Christopher Nolan)

2009 - UP (Dir: Pete Docter, Bob Peterson)

2010 - THE SOCIAL NETWORK (Dir: David Fincher)

2011 - MIDNIGHT IN PARIS (Dir: Woody Allen)

2012 - SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK (Dir: David O. Russell)

2013 - ALL IS LOST (Dir: J.C. Chandor)

2014 - EDGE OF TOMORROW (Dir: Doug Liman)

2015 - MAD MAX: FURY ROAD (Dir: George Miller)

2016 (tie) MOONLIGHT (Barry Jenkins) / ZOOTOPIA (Dir: Byron Howard, Rich Moore, Jared Bush)

2017 - (so far...) GET OUT (Dir: Jordan Peele)

Jan 1, 2017

Happy New Year!

2016 was a rough one for celebrities, and for a while it looked like it was going to be a rough year for the movies.  While it wasn't the best of cinema years, the picture business is far from dead.  Star Wars expanded its' cinematic universe with great success and Marvel continued their hits streak while the DC Comics films succeeded financially, but failed creatively in an epic fashion.  Career-wise, I personally did alright starting the year as part of the VFX team for Ghostbusters (un-credited), moving onto Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV then ending the year on a super high note with my involvement on Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (note - all posts are my own personal views, and do not reflect those of my employers, nor are they associated with them in any way,  I steer as clear as possible from commenting in-depth on any of the projects I am or have been associated with).

Here we are in 2017.  President Trump is only a few weeks away from becoming an actual thing (for some that is good and others bad - nothing political intended, just stating it as a fact) and some big new movies await us such as Spider-man Homecoming, War For The Planet of the Apes, Wonder Woman, Dunkirk, Alien: Covenant and Star Wars: Episode VIII to name a few.

With a new year comes resolutions, and one that I have to re-do from a few years back is to get my blogs back on track.  That includes this site, Pop-Cult-Binge (a site I contribute to), my personal Tumblr page as well as my continued work for the American Cinematheque (an organization who will always get the most amount of love from me, and is the one area I did not slack on in 2016).

For this blog, Cinema-Scope, look for a series I am calling my "My Love Affair with Los Angeles - L.A. In Print and on Film", as well as my annual "Film Discoveries" list(s) (which will appear after the first one is published on the Rupert Pupkin Speaks blog), continuing my periodic "Film Re-Visits" and "Last Films Viewed" columns (the latter inspired by Film Comment), and hopefully a lot more.

So let's get down to the serious business of watching and discussing those wonderful picture shows that bring us all together.  Here's to a happy - and movie-full - 2017!

Oct 9, 2016


We are living in a wonderful time where there is so much content available, it's hard to keep up.  If you work in the Entertainment Industry, or even if you're just a cinephile who likes to watch as much as humanly possible, it has become nearly impossible to see even a large percentage of all that is out there for viewing.  With so many streaming services, new movies in theaters, cable TV (although many are opting out on this one, and the number continues to grow) as well as Disc purchases (another number that is falling), Film Festivals...the list goes on, keeping up with content has become almost work.  Needless to say this is a First World Problem indeed.  Many people worry about important things like where their next meal is coming from, looking for work or keeping a roof over their head.  Those are real problems, this one is not.

I used to pride myself on at least sampling every TV show and seeing as many movies as possible (on the big screen of course), but now with 3 streaming subscriptions, a full DVR, and the purchase of at least 2-3 discs a week (some of them box sets) not to mention books, video games and a full-time job that often demands overtime, I almost find myself panicking with the amount of content I keep piling up and intending to watch.  It became so overwhelming at one point I had to finally sit down and pull some shows of my list just so I could watch more films than TV (I have always prioritized cinema over Television), and keep up with what I felt was important not only for my industry passion, but my professional involvement as well.

A TV business podcast I listen too entitled "The Spin-off", an offshoot of "The Business" on KCRW (both must listens) frequently delves into the issue of this being the era of Peak TV a phrase coined by FX Network Chief John Landgraf, lamenting how thanks to weekly offerings of full shows from Netflix and other services, the glut of TV is out of control.  The show announced that at the beginning of 2016, there were 409 scripted series in some sort of production.  If critics who spend all their time watching (and I'm including movie critics as well) can't keep up, it becomes even tougher for those of us whose days aren't all about watching and critiquing content.

So what is the point of this post you may ask?  Frankly, I'm not sure myself.  It is almost a way of me airing my frustration at not being able to watch everything that I want, a problem that I'm not too upset at having.  I am sure others are in the same boat, and what it could mean is a further splintering of audiences as we become more and more curators of our own entertainment experience rather than letting others do it as we have in the past.

Oct 2, 2016


I once had a Twitter user get hostile with me when I mentioned that I had read Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep three times.  His point-of-view was that we should only watch or read things once because the time would be better spent with new material.  While his point is valid, there are times when revisiting content has its advantages such as something that may have been brushed off or misunderstood at the time of release.  With that in mind, I love to mix my new film viewing with random titles from the past that I may have forgotten, or feel the need for a re-evaluation.

Warning: SPOIILERS ahead.

Punchline is a picture that would not come to mind as film that must be re-seen, and indeed, upon revisiting that assessment is dead on.  I first saw it in 1988 or 89 (whenever it was released on VHS) the only elements I remembered going in were that Sally Field is a housewife who wants to be a comic, she befriends Tom Hanks, the truly funny regular at the Gastown comedy club (in the movie) and a big sequence where Hanks has a massive emotional breakdown on stage and ends begging for someone to come on stage and save him from sinking himself even further.  The scene screams NOMINATE ME PLEASE, THIS IS AN IMPORTANT PICTURE, and indeed in 1988, Tom Hanks was nominated for an Academy Award for his role in BigBig went on to be a modern classic and launched Hanks’ career into superstardom.  Field was already there career-wise.  The two stars would later reteam for Forrest Gump, a picture that went on to win the second of back-to-back Oscars for Tom Hanks (while not consecutive, Sally Field is also a double award winner – for Places in the Heart and Norma Rae).  Punchline by comparison has gone relatively forgotten with the passage of time.  It is the pedigree of the performers and where they are at in their careers at this time that makes this a picture that I wanted to revisit.

The picture begins with a very “movie” opening.  You can even see the mechanics of “clever” screenwriting occurring as Sally Field meets Paul Mazursky (a director carrying out actor-only duties here) in a diner for a clandestine transaction that plays like an illegal drug deal, but actually she spending her cookie jar money on bad jokes.  That is how we’re introduced to Field the housewife/stand-up comic at a sad comedy club where a group of misfits regularly perform, which includes the very talented character played by Hanks who clearly deserves better exposure.  The owner of the club is Romeo played by Mark Rydell (another director taking on acting-only duties here), a surrogate father figure to this sad group, but one who believes that Hanks has what’s got to shoot to the top, and asks to be remembered who got him there unlike others in the past.

At first glance, Punchline has all the makings of an interesting picture.  You have a mousey, bourgeois housewife who loves her family, but also sneaks out nightly to perform comedy much to the chagrin of her uptight yet loving husband.  Great!  There’s Hanks, a talented yet struggling comic who has just been thrown out of Medical School, a fact he is hiding from his apparently strict father and is on the verge of being homeless unless he hits his stride soon.  Great!  She comes out of her shell and discovers her funny while he hits an emotional roadblock and begins to fall apart.  Great!  It all culminates with a contest at the club where one of the performers will land a spot on the Carson show (this is 1988 after all). Not great per say, but typical movie third act material, and works to keep an audience connected with the characters and their journey. 

All of the above beats get lost in a muddled narrative that seems to focus more attention on Hanks’ struggling comic rather than the housewife out-of-her-element.  Field is the more interesting character of the two, but the picture never really delves deep enough into her reasons for risking her marriage with her extracurricular activities, not to mention we really never see her doing any stand-up – outside of a few snippets (the lion share of this goes to Hanks) until an hour in when it is way too late to get invested in her passion.  That is if it even is passion.  Field never really sells the idea that she loves doing this.  She seems more afraid of displeasing her disapproving husband (John Goodman) who starts off as an overbearing bore then seems to instantly transform into an understanding and loving man when she gets a bad haircut.  I won’t get into the fact that he would prefer her to remain a stay-at-home wife which in 2016 really doesn’t fly.  In this case it dates the picture badly, even if unintentional. 

The real misstep of the picture though is when Hanks has his breakdown on stage when his father shows up at the club (instead of a talent scout he had been expecting).  Hanks doesn’t even try his routine, he just loses it by relaying childhood trauma and begins crying like a baby while his angry Patriarch looks on.  This is where Punchline takes on the pretension of being an important film and gets lost completely.  The focus on Hanks, which may have come out of the fact that he was really coming into his own at this point, and may have directed the focus of a picture that probably was intended to be more of a Sally Field spotlight during the development stage.  The problem is of course that we only get to see Sally be funny briefly, and then when she and Hanks get romantically complicated, well let’s just say that they are both so overly nice and the chemistry is just not there.  They are better suited as friends than lovers, and the idea that he is falling for her never goes beyond an awkward exploratory stage, yet we’re led to believe that his infatuation goes deeper.

Re-visiting Punchline it was easy to see why I had forgotten it, and while viewing it, it seemed just that, forgettable.  Hanks’ talent is on display, and thankfully he got some more serious roles down the line that launched him into the stratosphere.  You can feel Field really trying to do something different here, but not clicking with the material at all.  If anything, Hanks seems more comfortable in his role while she feels completely out-of-her-element.  If anything, take a look at the one-sheet above.  The tagline "it only hurts when you laugh" is punctuated with the word LAUGH larger than the title.  If the marketing campaign has to tell you to not-so-subliminally laugh, you know you have a problem.

Next up for this column: Sidney Pollack’s Havana (1990) with Robert Redford, a near forgotten box-office dud.