2016 As Seen From 2017: The Imperfect Ten / by Samuel B. Prime

                             "Brainsex" as witnessed in Wonder Women (1970)

                             "Brainsex" as witnessed in Wonder Women (1970)

It's that time. The third annual (sort-of, as I kind of forgot to do one of these for 2014) list of The Imperfect Ten*. 

For anyone unfamiliar, this is a list of ten films seen within the past year which contain small, unique, resonant moments in the midst of an otherwise imperfect whole. My love of cinema is most clearly articulated through these tidbits. Even a boring or unsuccessful film can contain something utterly transcendent. Compiling these lists helps me to keep myself open to all sorts of films and always be looking for recommendations - however tacit - from family, friends, or even complete strangers. Not every film, and not every person, is flawless and masterful. My life as a writer, film advocate, and erstwhile film curator/programmer makes a business of investing time, thought, and effort - all united by way of a genuine love - in such weird, marginal, or forgotten esoterica. In ways personal and professional, it is a lonely position to occupy. That said, I honestly would not change a thing.

I was out of work for the first few months of 2016, having been laid off from my job in film distribution at the tail end of 2015. In the meantime, I interviewed with some great companies for some great full-time jobs, but nothing panned out. Thankfully, while not ideal, I had the means to support myself in the extended interim by way of the previous year's income. But nobody wants to deplete all their savings. In February, LAist's Arts & Culture editor Carman Tse contacted me about freelancing as a guest contributor. My first piece for LAist was a series preview for The Cinefamily's expansive Underground USA series. It was an honor and a pleasure. It also gave me an opportunity to highlight films and filmmakers I have loved for decades, such as Ross McElwee and Sara Driver. Later, I contributed a profile of the Ghanaian movie poster historian and 21st Century adventurer Ernie Wolfe III. Then, in March, I was back to work for a short period on the grassroots marketing for an independent feature - Papa: Hemingway in Cuba (2016) - that was unfairly savaged by the critics upon its theatrical release. In mid-April, the Blu-Ray for Sam Fuller's Dead Pigeon on Beethoven Street (1973) - for which I contributed a booklet essay - was released. The long lost director's cut was discovered years earlier by way of a screening that I had curated/programmed at UCLA. Ever since I have been extremely close with Christa (Sam's wife) and Samantha (Sam's daughter) Fuller. At this point, I consider us part of the same family. In May, I started showing some video work at a local monthly variety show in Koreatown, David Huntsberger's The Junk Show, and would continue periodically throughout the year. That same month, after having reluctantly entered the dark web of grey market spirithood buying, selling, and trading, I finally tracked down a Ke$ha spirithood. In June, my marketing work ended and I shifted to complete my edit on my collaborator F.X. Feeney's portion of a book we have been working on re: LA's Z Channel. The process has been slow and even now there is work yet to be done to hone, tighten, and finalize the volume(s), but even gradual progress is still forward momentum. July was a lean month, but August brought with it prosperity in many forms that - with sincere gratitude - I am wholly pleased to say have continued into the new year. By way of example, I began a part-time job that allowed me to keep quite a flexible schedule and near-simultaneously began writing calendar capsule reviews for The Village Voice when contacted by editor Danny King to write about Ensalada Baudelaire AKA Sex & Violence (1978). It's been such a pure joy! Later in August, I rather serendipitously met someone who is quickly becoming one of my closest friends. For me, evidence of a connection and a shared language was instantaneously confirmed upon meeting her on that night. 

Since then, I have jumped from the part-time job to a full-time job and work has been consistent. I have less overall free time, but there are generally increased financial benefits as a result. And - I nearly forgot! - in September the Blu-Ray release of Kamikaze '89 (1982) came out, for which I contributed an essay on Edgar Froese. 2016 has had its ups and downs, but the year has ended on a series of positive notes. I am not where I want to be, exactly, but I am getting there. Even so, I am immensely thankful and look forward to the year ahead.

1. WONDER WOMEN (Robert Vincent O'Neill, 1973) 

Brainsex aside, this film features what feels like a reel-long (approx. twenty-minute) chase sequence - first on foot, then later by car. It is wild, audacious, and thoroughly unbelievable. Also of note: an erotic game of chess.

2. HER BEST FRIEND'S HUSBAND (Waris Hussein, 2002)

The utterly explosive, car door-slamming line delivery of "You are a complete bitch!"

3. STRAY CAT ROCK: MACHINE ANIMAL (Yasuharu Hasebe, 1970)

A mid-movie montage-style sequence illustrated in horizontal split-screen parallel action. Wow!

4. BLAIR WITCH (Adam Wingard, 2016)

The five good minutes, which - of course - come at the very end. The can't look / can't help but look stalking of the main characters by the finally visible Blair Witch. The build-up and cumulative effect are undeniably powerful.

5. PARANOIA (Umberto Lenzi, 1969) + A QUIET PLACE TO KILL (Umberto Lenzi, 1970)

The delirious recurrence and running gag of "Just Tell Me" by Wess & The Airedales in both films.

6. BIRDS IN PERU (Romain Gary, 1968)

At an emotional breaking point, Jean Seberg's performance approaches an "Isabelle Adjani in Possession (1981)"-level of psychosis / transcendence. A complex and uneven film, it aims high and - in this moment - it succeeds.

7. THREE TOUGH GUYS (Duccio Tessari, 1974)

The highly memorable, supremely catchy Isaac Hayes theme song.

8.  MARY JANE'S NOT A VIRGIN ANYMORE (Sarah Jacobson, 1998)

At the Cinefamily screening in August 2016, the audience erupted into spontaneous cheers and applause at the tattooed gutterpunk lesbian Ericka's hilarious line: "Are you kidding? You're a loser if you DON'T masturbate!"

9. LONG ROAD TO GALLANTRY (Tang Tak-Cheung, 1984) 

A hip-level profile two-shot of clenching fists when a pair of twenty-year rivals meet and prepare to do battle.

10. HIGH SCHOOL HELLCATS (Edward Bernds, 1958)

A heart-stoppingly shocking mid-movie twist unlike any other that reflects the random cruelty of everyday life.

- Samuel B. Prime

Founder, LA Ciné Salon

* Technically, eleven. ;-)