Friday, December 19, 2014

FAN GUEST POST: Marco A. S. Freitas Favorite Film Discoveries of 2014



 Each December, we here at TV STORE ONLINE have fans of our blog write guest posts about their favorite movies or whatever is on their mind.  In this first installment, Marco A. S. Freitas shares his favorite "movie discoveries" of 2014.

I hail from Piauí, in the north eastern of Brazil, some of the first memories I have of being engrossed by film include three animals: a dancing mouse (an animated Jerry appearing opposite Gene Kelly in the classic ANCHORS AWEIGH on late-night television); a fake gorilla being beat up by a blond, Italian knock-off of jungle royalty in the unbelievable micro-budgeted, KARZAN-yes, it was spelled right-, and an elephant-sized albino ruminant battling Bronson in Jack Lee Thompson´s THE WHITE BUFFALO (the last two features in no longer-standing movie theaters). First thinking about caricature drawing that would take me somewhere other than the principal´s office in school, I migrated to the advertising field where I was able to try to extract good performances from mostly heavy machinery while directing corporate videos. After taking workshops with veteran filmmakers like Francis Coppola, George Lucas, Ruy Guerra, Giba Assis Brasil, Jack Hill, Carlos Gerbase, Jorge Furtado, etc., I went on to receive a B.A. in film from Columbia as well as complete the Screenwriting program at UCLA. Since returning to Brazil, I have interviewed film luminaries like Brian Trenchard-Smith, David Winning, Sheldon Lettich, Isaac Florentine, Albert Pyun, Guillermo Arriaga, Randal Kleiser, etc and etc for digital magazines in Belgium, Italy, France, Canada, the UK, etc., as have been a frequent guest in one of longest-running radio programs dealing with movies in Brazil (over 11 years!), Cena de Cinema on one of Brazil´s top stations.



Some of my thoughts on Cinema have been published in CEMITÉRIO PERDIDO DOS FILMES B: EXPLOITATION, a pioneering Brazilian tome on some of the world´s most curious so-called b-movies. On another note, my appreciation for Disco Music can be checked out over at  Discosavvy.com.

FAST COMPANY (1979)

David Cronenberg´s least remembered work. An avid fan-not unlike George Lucas and John Frankenheimer who also made movies showing people´s  ´need for speed´ – its story covers a womanizing ex-champion (good acting by real-life world-class weightlifter William Smith, who besides appearing in many biker movies, played the protagonist´s dad in the masterpiece CONAN THE BARBARIAN and used to teach University-level Russian!) who wants to get on the comeback trail but sees he´s being put out to pasture after a near-fatal explosion on the racetrack.  Enter John Saxon, who may have been sent by William´s bosses  to see he gets replaced  by an up-and-coming rival.

Offering plenty of heart-stopping, behind-the-scenes moments in that competitive sports culture, some real, some reenacted. It feels like David was offered--a sort of Canuck variation on a Hal Needham (Burt Reynold´s fave director from his times as The Bandit)--like job but out of his love for what make racers ´tick´  came up with an attempt at an indictment against cutthroat corporate sponsoring (this would make a great double-bill with 1983´s HEART LIKE A WHEEL). Cult-starlet Claudia Jennings´last role.

REACHING FOR THE MOON (2013)

Don´t be put off by the disease-of-the-week title given in English. Director Bruno Barreto´s mature and classy intercontinental drama (after close to 20 movies, this is his best effort next to his ribald DONA FLOR AND HER TWO HUSBANDS, the black comedy STORY OF FAUSTA, the cautionary, yet-sans-sermonizing, tale of lust, CARRIED AWAY and the seedy, underworld drama AMOR BANDIDO) about the culture clash between anal retentive New York poet Elisabeth Bishop and the expansive Parisian-born, Brazilian-raised, self-taught architect Lota Macedo Soares in 1950s Rio. Encouraged by her mentor, warmly played by Treat Williams, Bishop travels to Brazil to fend off her writer´s block and ends up falling in lust and love with Lota, who nonchalantly takes her live-in girlfriend-and also American expatriate-, Mary (beautifully played by Tracy Middendorff) out of the equation (though Mary stays living in a part of the sprawling estate with the new couple). Gloria Pires, one of Brazil´s most popular television and film stars (has been acting professionally since the age of five) is a force of nature; Miranda--finally in a leading role--gives a subtle performance that is at times, moving and tragic.

EUROCRIME! THE ITALIAN COP AND GANGSTER MOVIES THAT RULE THE '70s (2012)

From the early 60s to the mid 70s, the Spanish desert of Almeria became a limestone-colored stand-in for Monument valley as many blue-eyed, Northern Italians-as well as a Americans on their way up or down-career-wise- gave cowboy machismo a run for its money in European-filmed westerns. Once the audience´s interest waned for galloping equines and silver bullet-ridden cowpokes in saloons, these gave way to fast Fiats and machine gun-targeted '70s Roman or Milanese Burroughs defended by horseshoe mustache-sporting antiheroes.

This is not ´just´ a documentary. It is actually a ´cinematic valentine´ to Action Cinema´ reuniting the capi de tutti capi of Italian action stars, reminiscing about the volatile times they faced working on pictures that have resisted the test of time. People like: über-talented/tanned filmmaker Enzo G. Castellari, aka ´The Italian Peckimpah´; stars like Fred Williamson, Franco Nero, John Saxon, Richard Harrison, Michael Forest, Leonard Mann, Henry Silva (all still super-fit), death-defying stuntman Ottaviano Dell´Acqua, etc.  Thanks to Mike Malloy, Eric Zaldivar and Chad Kaplan (among other film buffs behind-the-camera) for this star-studded feast.

McVICAR (1980)

Though It did no caused quite an intense uproar outside England as it did in its home turf -where to this day, its cult following is still growing-, I will take full blame for having watched McVICAR for the first time in 2014. My bad, English folks  reading this ...I´m not a ´bloody tosser´ nor a ´wanker´, alright?!

Regarded as ´Britain´s answer to THE BIRDMAN OF ALCATRAZ´ and loosely based on an autobiographical book from 1974 by the former chess hotshot who became a poster boy for the disenfranchised at odds with authorities in 60s Britain, after turning into armed robbery and subsequently breaking away from a security wing, this was cowritten by the former ´Public Enemy No. 1´  himself who was hired by the frontman of the rock supergroup The Who, Roger Daltrey, to be one of the writers of the movie (intended to be a vehicle for the singer to prove Roger´s acting chops did not require  the tutelage of  a Ken Rusell, his director in both TOMMY and LISZTOMANIA).  Daltrey certainly is convincing and Tom Clegg´s flashy, pre-MTV-style directing, is cynically served but won´t bore you.

THE WORLD'S GREATEST DAD (2009)

One of the darkest, satires of life in suburbia I've ever seen. And it is a near-masterpiece.  Perhaps with Robin Williams´ passing,  you will be tempted not to watch a pitch-black comedy starring the actor, but trust me, if you skip this, you will be doing yourself a disservice. Here, you won´t see the grating Robin of PATCH ADAMS nor the schmaltzy protagonist of BEING HUMAN, but a four-dimensional, fully drawn and realized, character, probably his best work since SEIZE THE DAY and THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP. Considering there is a major plot twist that fully determines what goes on in the movie´s second half, I will just say it has to do with a high school teacher with Pollyanna-ism (infectious optimism to the nth degree), who´s fathered a kid who´s probably   ´the world´s most odious son´.  Director/writer Bobcat Goldthwait presents us with a world full of sycophantic, media manipulation and pseudo-sentimentality-disguised-as-kindness yet the film never sinks into a ´f*ck the world´  nihilistic mode, showing that even in a grim scenario there may be room for genuine hope.