Welcome our newest writer, Shane Singletary, to The Movie Isle. He begins his tenure here with an on-going Column; Shane’s Shelf. First up, his Film Discovery List for 2019.
Many of us spend the waning days of December and the hopeful beginnings of January scrambling to create Best Of lists usually compiled of films from the current year. We’re all competing to create a list worthy of a year spent at the cinema. Unfortunately most of these lists are comprised of the same 10-25 films.
Over the past few years I started creating lists of film discoveries. The lists capture films I watched in the calendar year but were released in prior years. I see this as an opportunity to highlight films that don’t generally show up on the run-of-the-mill end of year lists.
It’s a list of the ten films that really captured my attention and made an impression, not exactly a list of the best films I saw last year
10. Cruising (1980) – Dir. William Friedkin
Cruising is a film that was on my Must See list for quite a while and one that I somehow never got around to watching until 2019. I knew going in that the film had a reputation. It had polarized both critics and the gay community at release. The film, about a detective going undercover in the leather scene of New York to apprehend a serial killer, is a superbly crafted NY slasher film but one that never truly digs deep enough into the material to make any real statement on the culture it seeks to explore. Pacino’s character, Steve Burns, is explored on the surface but we never dive into how the case really impacts his sexuality, his relationship with his girlfriend and his role as a NY cop. Those narrative issues aside, I was engaged by the film from start to finish. And despite its rather intense subject matter, it’s a film that has continued to linger in the back of my mind like the knife wielding killer that haunts the edges of Friedkin’s frame.
9. Hooper (1978) – Dir. Hal Needham
Burt Reynolds plays an aging stuntman in Hal Needham’s Hooper, a film about filmmaking and the rigors of stuntman life in the days when most action films were based on practical effects instead of CGI. The insider view of the stuntman world and 70s action filmmaking in general really worked for me. Reynolds is as charismatic as they come and his role as Sonny Hooper is no different. He’s at the top of his game and seems to be having a damn good time. The final stunt piece is an insane bit of practical stunt work. I wonder how many cars they crashed in that scene. It’s unreal. While it might be mindless action fare, Hooper is thoroughly entertaining and you can never go wrong with 70s era Burt.
8. Body Double (1984) – Dir. Brian De Palma
Brian De Palma is a highly artistic and stylized filmmaker who’s known for being heavily influenced by the work of Hitchcock. In Body Double, he seems to really ape the famed director by way of Rear Window and Vertigo. As simply a form of escapism, Body Double is an entertaining and fast paced thriller loaded with style. As a narrative it’s a bit simplistic and predictable. I knew the mysterious killer almost as soon as he or she appeared onscreen. The lead, played by Craig Wasson, was terribly wooden and lacked the chops to really capture the complexity of the role. I kept thinking how much better Travolta would have been in the role given his incredible work in De Palma’s stunning Blow Out. That being said, Body Double was an incredibly fun watch and one of the best pieces of sleazy escapism I saw in 2019.