The Last Few Movies I Saw: Episode Two – yeah, I did it again.

Sometimes this is just easier and more fun than writing long reviews.

What follows are some of the last several films I have watched. Perhaps, just to show that I do take in a fairly wide range of cinema. Perhaps something more sinister. Perhaps you’ll never know and me and your cat are in cahoots. They are listed in ascending order of what I thought of them. Kindly interact with this post if you feel I have misordered the movies.

Oh No:

“Why are a lot of my movies showing up on this list of disasters?”

This was actually a fairly good bunch of movies so luckily the “bad” will be short. Knowing (2009) is so almost bad it might as well count as bad. It stars the infamous Nicolas Cage (Adaptation, Con Air) and was directed by Alex Proyas (The Crow, I Robot, but I’d say it’s Dark City that keeps him on the radar). The world might be ending and somebody knew all the key dates for major world disasters and recorded them years ago. Knowing has a lot of interesting ideas floating around in it but somehow it can never feel like something more than an improved Left Behind or a not as good Signs (sorry, spoilers, if you’re picking up the clues). It’s mostly almost bad, but more bad than good yet still sort of interesting. Ah, just watch it and you tell me. I don’t think it deserved to be as critically panned as it was. It’s probably on par with most crappy thrillers that get decent reviews.

Meh and/or Misguided:

“Dear Lord, make some better Christian movies.”

So I was a little disappointed with Androcles and the Lion (1952). Perhaps it was partially because I did not realize it was going to be a comedy. Maybe I didn’t think anybody besides Mel Brooks would stage a comedy in a coliseum. Unlike Brooks, however, the comedy is very sweet and there really isn’t any edge. I’m a fan of Alan Young (Mr. Ed, The Time Machine, and the voice of Scrooge McDuck) and he’s okay here. Victor Mature (The Robe, Samson and Delilah) I’ve never been wild about. I think it’s his face. Jean Simmons (Spartacus) is pretty and Elsa Lancaster (The Bride of Frankenstein, Murder By Death) is a hammy annoying wife lady. Robert Newton (Oliver Twist, Around the World in 80 Days) plays the most interesting character…and he’s still fairly simple. Finally Maurice Evans (Planet of the Apes) is Caesar. Decent cast, no? That’s not the problem. This sword and sandal show plays like a bad Sunday school lesson. It has a very juvenile tone. I’d say maybe it’s just a kid’s movie, but then there’d still be really boring parts the kids would want to fast-forward through (the Mature-Simmons romance for one). Ultimately more cheesy than purposely funny and the tacked on spirituality schtick just does not fly or seem believable. In fact, it feels a little insulting. The lion costume at the end is pretty jarringly awful too.

“Any of you clowns seen ‘Dumbland? It’s friggin’ hilarious'”

I am a fan of David Lynch (Elephant Man, Mulholland Drive, Inland Empire) but this one I’ve never fully gotten along with. I re-watched Dune (1984) because I remembered not liking it as a kid, but a friend kept insisting I needed to see it again. I can honestly say I respect it more as an adult, and I really admire Lynch’s guts in making a totally anti-Star Wars sci-fi flick when people were only craving more Star Wars, but I still don’t think it works. This translation of the dense Frank Herbert novel is emotionless, bizarre, murky, and downright incomprehensible. It’s got some great visuals and some killer guitar riffs (particularly when they ride the sandworms into battle. That’s cool), and the cast of Lynch regulars is there, but nothing clicks with the story and the voiceover internal monologues feel really inappropriate. Kyle MacLachlan (Blue Velvet), Virginia Madsen (Sideways), Brad Dourif (Wise Blood), Sean Young (Blade Runner), José Ferrer (A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy), Linda Hunt (Silverado), Max von Sydow (Minority Report), Jack Nance (Eraserhead), Everett McGill (Twin Peaks), Patrick Stewart (Star Trek: TNG), Sting and others are all there, but more just blank faces in wild costumes than characters (except for Dourif who’s always on his own wavelength). Dune is an epic that sports incredible production design and dark tone, but Lynch is better when he’s more focused and intimate I think. Originally Alejandro Jodorowsky (El Topo, The Holy Mountain) was supposed to direct this behemoth with Pink Floyd and Salvador Dalí aiding in the production. What a gloriously surreal trainwreck that would have been! Maybe worse than Lynch’s take, but I’d want to see it.

“Snuffy? Like Snuffleupagus?”

Spike Lee is a talented guy. Malcolm X and Do the Right Thing are masterpieces. I wanted to like Crooklyn (1994) more. It has a lot going for it. The story of a spunky young black girl growing up 1970s New York City directed by Spike Lee should be great. It’s colorful and actually has a gentler charm and sweetness than he’s ever used before and Alfre Woodard (Star Trek: First Contact, The Piano Lesson) gives a wonderful performance as the struggling mother of five rowdy kids and wife to a deadbeat musician (Delroy Lindo, Get Shorty), but it’s also episodic, melodramatic, and contrived at times. It’s a movie I enjoyed in segments, but the whole eluded me. I still have no idea why all the footage when Troy goes down south to live with her awful aunt is squished (because the atmosphere is stifling? We get it, but it looks terrible). Not bad, just so-so and I would be lying if I didn’t acknowledge that despite some contrivances it does seem to have a heart. I’m just sad because it could have been a lot better.

Guilty Pleasures:

“It’s a comedy!” —“No! This is serious!”

I kinda like the old hokey Flash Gordon serials with Buster Crabbe. They’re silly and dated and very cheesy, but there’s a vintage charm and weird energy about them. The film adaptation directed by Mike Hodges (Get Carter) is a weird mixture that is so uneven and odd that I kinda like it. Flash Gordon (1980) is a mess from start to finish. Some of the cast and crew seemed to think it was a comedy, others a very serious drama, and still others just found great camp in it. The production, sets, and costumes (like Dune) are a lot of fun and very in step with the original series, but with a much bigger budget. I was excited when I found out Queen did the theme songs, but it sounds like they were just phoning it in. The acting goes from bad to silly to campy to deadly serious. The tone is all over the map, but that’s the main reason I liked it. Sometimes things not working really makes it work. The cast includes folks like Max von Sydow (The Virgin Spring), Topol (Fiddler on the Roof), Timothy Dalton (The Rocketeer), Ornella Muti (Oscar), and the king of jovial hamminess, Brian Blessed (Hamlet)—here Blessed is a boisterous winged man whose garments seem to consist primarily of strategically placed belts. Still not as good as Barbarella or Starcrash but it’s that type of movie.

“You’re happy. I hate that.” *throws folder at temp*

Today George Huang’s Swimming With Sharks (1994) would be quickly forgotten, but as an early nineties low-key indie type movie it mostly works. Kevin Spacey (American BeautySe7en) plays Meryl Streep’s character from The Devil Wears Prada. He is Buddy Ackerman, a manipulative, megalomaniacal, malevolent dingbat who happens to be an important Hollywood producer. He psychologically and emotionally bullies and abuses his naive bumpkin assistant (Frank Whaley, The Doors and Buddy Faro, remember that show? The one with Dennis Farina?) so much that eventually something must be done. The assistant fights back. Told in flashbacks Swimming With Sharks is half dark comedy and half revenge thriller and it half works as both. I liked it somehow despite it’s cliches…maybe they weren’t as cliche then. It reminded me a little of Suicide Kings with Christopher Walken. It’s a bleak and cynical view of the Hollywood system, but perhaps not entirely inaccurate. Watch it for Spacey’s delightfully wicked performance.

“I know. I know. We’ve all done better.”

I watched this next one because I like Jack Lemmon (The Apartment, The Out of Towners) and I like Walter Matthau (Bad News Bears, Hopscotch). The Front Page (1974) is a double remake (but the first screen version that kept all the swearing) directed by Billy Wilder (Sunset Boulevard, Some Like It Hot) and if it looks and feels like a stage play…it’s because it was (although far better a transition than Rhinoceros). Lemmon is a retiring reporter about to be married to Susan Sarandon (Rocky Horror Picture Show), but his irascible chief editor (Matthau) doesn’t want to lose him. The trouble kicks in when, on his way out, he gets caught up in the story of his career and can’t let his buddy reporters get the scoop so he bounces back and forth between leaving for his woman and staying for his story. After a bumpy first act I must admit the movie picked up after about the halfway point and got more interesting. It’s a lesser Wilder picture and it does feel pretty stagey, but it has a few decent moments that make it worth it. Charles Durning (O Brother Where Art Thou?), Austin Pendleton (My Cousin Vinny), Harold Gould (The Sting), and Carol Burnett (Annie) co-star. Not great, but you could do worse.

“Good-bye, Jeeves. I die. I’ll see you at the finale.”

My last guilty pleasure was The Ghoul(1933). It’s one of those movies that’s hard for me not to like. Boris Karloff (Frankenstein, How the Grinch Stole Christmas) is a dying archaeologist (or something) who has ensured his immortality using ancient Egyptian magic, so long as his faithful butler (Ernst Thesiger, The Bride of Frankenstein) can do what he is told immediately after his death. It’s your typical shadow enshrouded haunted house movie and it moves a little slow, but it’s got fun atmosphere and pretty solid finale. Sir Cedric Hardwicke (The Hunchback of Notre Dame) and Kathleen Harrison (Scrooge) co-star. My only real beef is that Karloff is barely in it.

Officially Good: 

“Paris blows.”

I need to watch more African movies. I say that every time I watch one. America has pretty easy access to European and Asian cinema, but Africa’s a different story. I’ve only seen a few films by celebrated Senegalese director Ousmane Sembène (Xala, Moolaadè) and Black Girl (1966) was his first feature. It’s rough around the edges, but it’s a solid movie. A young Senegalese girl named Diouana is hired by a white French family to be a nanny, but when they relocate back to France everything changes. Diouana was looking forward to seeing Europe, but she is relegated to the house and must be a common servant. Her pride and misfortune make her increasingly despondent and her deteriorating attitude sets her at odds with her employer. Black Girl has some delicate nuances to it that make it more interesting than it might have been. The last act is what got me the most, but I couldn’t ruin it for you.

“Silence. The ‘Munsters’ is coming on.”

Is E. Elias Merhige’s Shadow of the Vampire(2000) a good movie? Some might debate the point, but I sure liked it. It starts with a simple premise: what if German director F. W. Murnau had made a Faustian deal with the devil to make the world’s greatest horror movie and Max Schreck really was a vampire? The reason why this works is because it is treated with a twisted sense of humor in addition to the spookiness. It’s a weird, claustrophobic, and eerily intimate movie and if you know your movie history it’s pretty funny and entertaining. Willem Dafoe (Boondock Saints, Clear and Present Danger) gives a mesmerizing performance as Max Schreck the insatiable vampire and John Malkovich (Being John Malkovich) Malkoviches away as an amoral, crazed Murnau. Udo Kier (Manderlay), Cary Elwes (The Princess Bride), and Eddie Izzard (The Cat’s Meow) co-star. In many ways Shadow of the Vampire is way more interesting than remaking Nosferatu. Besides, Werner Herzog already did a pretty great remake in 1979. This is an enticing alternate history of the making of the definitive vampire movie, Nosferatu. Creaky, spellbinding film even if it does make Murnau out to be a snuff film director. Ironic Murnau made a version of Faust in 1926?

“I agree. Madeline Kahn needs to be celebrated more today. She was a talented and underrated comedienne.”

Peter Bogdanovich made some good movies back in the day. The Last Picture Show, Paper Moon, and such are pretty great. What’s Up, Doc? (1972) is a charming throwback to the screwball romantic comedies of 1930s. Barbra Streisand (Hello, Dolly!) aggressively (yet playfully) tries to get the attentions Ryan O’Neal (Barry Lyndon) who is engaged to Madeline Kahn (Blazing Saddles) while several identical suitcases keep switching hands. Hijinks and hilarity ensue. Plenty of good one-liners, funny characters, slapstick gags, cartoon violence, and a fantastic car chase at the end make this worth a look. Kenneth Mars (Young Frankenstein), Michael Murphy (Manhattan), John Hillerman (Magnum P. I.), Randy Quaid (Christmas Vacation), and Austin Pendleton (Finding Nemo) all make memorable appearances. If you like Doris Day/Rock Hudson comic romances and zany thirties mayhem and chic seventies style then check this one out.

Greatness Beckons: 

“I say, Billy Bob Thornton and John Heder? Well that jolly well doesn’t sound like a good time at all.”

The original School for Scoundrels (1960) is a lot of fun. I mainly watched it for the cast which included the inimitable Terry-Thomas (It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World, Those Daring Young Men and Their Jaunty Jalopies), the illustrious Alistair Sim (Scrooge, The Ruling Class), and Ian Carmichael (I’m Alright Jack). Henry (Carmichael) is a lowly, innocent peon who wants to be a “one-upman” and get a degree from Mr. S. Potter’s (Sim) school of “Lifemanship.” With this degree he will never be behind and always get the girl and the last word and no one will take advantage of him because he is too busy taking advantage of everyone else. If Henry is Donald Duck then Raymond Delauney (Thomas) is Gladstone Gander in this movie. Delauney is a huge tool and master at one-upmanship and when the two of them are after the same girl (Janette Scott, The Day of the Triffids) it will take all of Potter’s tricks to help Henry be the victor, but Henry still has a stronger moral compass. A funny battle to get the girl full of wicked head games.

“Nyet. It doesn’t look like Johnny Weismuller is down there. It’s safe to drink from this stream.”

Sergei Parajanov (The Color of Pomegranates) is a singularly unique voice in Soviet cinema. Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors (1965) was his first big foray into film as a place to truly experiment with what the camera could do. It is an energetically photographed tale of a Carpathian villager who falls in love and is plagued by tragedy and, eventually, sorcery. It is a strange movie, but hypnotic and captivating. We are transported into an almost mythical landscape that begs us to live in the shoes of one lowly man for a spell. Those who see Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors will not soon forget its imagery or its musical rhythms. Watch this before Pomegranates; it’s a much needed stepping stone before entry into the near unclassifiable.

“‘Jurassic Park’ was the ultimate feminist movie.”

I’m a sucker for adventure and despite a slow middle act, the immediately hooking intro and exciting climax make She(1935) a worthy contender in the genre. Produced by Merian C. Cooper (King Kong), She was adapted from H. Rider Haggard’s novel and features some wonderful escapism. When Leo Vincey (nonstop cowboy, Randolph Scott) is given a deliciously enthralling mission from his dying uncle he goes off to search for the lost fountain of youth that his ancestor allegedly discovered 500 years ago. Avalanches and cannibals lead them to a subterranean tribe of people who worship their never-aging female master (“She who must be obeyed”). She believes Leo to be her lover (Leo’s ancestor) from 500 years ago and refuses to let him leave. A fun production with nice sets and fun action. Co-stars Nigel Bruce (Rebecca and frequent Dr. Watson).

“Yeah. I still got it.”

Quentin Tarantino (Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill, Inglourious Basterds) likes being cool and putting cool people in cool movies doing cool things and although Jackie Brown(1997) might strike one as oddly restrained for a Tarantino flick, it’s actually one of his very best. Sexy blaxploitation star Pam Grier (Coffy, Foxy Brown) is Jackie Brown, a poor stewardess who runs illegal money over the border for cocky arms dealer Ordell (Samuel L. Jackson, Sphere, The Caveman’s Valentine, Die Hard 3). When she gets busted by the fuzz she realizes she has been living in an all too precarious situation and hatches a plan to two-time the cops and Ordell and run away with a bunch of money. It’s a fantastically good crime caper movie that also features a touching love story between Jackie and a sympathetic bail bondsman played by Robert Forster (The Black Hole). Jackie Brown also showcases Michael Keaton (Beetlejuice), Bridget Fonda (The Road to Wellville), and a decidedly odd turn for Robert De Niro (Heat, Raging Bull). And the music chosen for this movie is great!

“Do you forgive me for ‘Pinocchio?'”

As long as we’re talking crime, how about Jim Jarmusch’s (Stranger Than Paradise, Dead Man) movie about three men on the lam in Down By Law (1986). Shot in gritty black and white and giving us a really textured look at New Orleans, Down By Law is the story of three dudes who wind up reluctantly teaming up for  a jailbreak. Cool dudes, Jack and Zack, are played by musicians John Lurie (frequent Jarmusch collaborator) and Tom Waits (Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus) and manic Italian immigrant, Roberto, is Roberto Benigni (Life is Beautiful). It’s gritty, funny, and full of lingering shots that force you to look at them. No fast cuts here. Unyieldingly low-key and pleasantly quiet, this is not a movie for everyone. Lurie, Waits, and Benigni are a lot of fun together. “I scream. You scream. We all scream for ice-cream.”

Another Invigorating Apex:

“Don’t do drugs and stay away from The Blue Angel.”

Sam Wood (A Night at the Opera, The Pride of the Yankees) directed what might just be the best teacher movie ever with Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939). Robert Donat (The 39 Steps) is the eponymous Mr. Chips, an aging British school teacher who is being honored for his long years of service. This somewhat sappy movie is told in flashback and hopefully  will make you think differently about all the teachers you had growing up. We see his highs and lows and we come to see Mr. Chips as a complicated person with loves, hopes, dreams, and cares as human as those of his many students. He is a tie to another time. Perhaps it has been my own brief and unexpected experiences as a teacher, but I know you fall in love with schools and kids and you always wonder if you made any difference to them. Goodbye, Mr. Chips feels like a cross between Mr. Holland’s Opus and Kurosawa’s Madadayo, but superior to both of them. It’s sweet and touching and Robert Donat’s performance makes it great. An interesting double-feature with The Blue Angel.

“I hope you like low angles.”

Michael Caine (Sleuth, The Dark Knight) is cool and Britain in the sixties was super-cool. America had westerns, China had kung-fu, and England had spy movies. The Ipcress File (1965) is a deliciously stylish sixties British spy flick with all the right moves from start to finish. It’s not as bleak and hard-nosed as The Spy Who Came in from the Cold but it’s bolder and more believable than most of the James Bond movies. Cold war secrets and double-cross make it a classic tale of espionage, but it’s sumptuous style and kooky artistic angles make it a legend.

“Ah…we had a good run.”

Italian filmmaker Bernardo Bertoclucci (1900, Last Tango in Paris) had the rare opportunity to film an anti-communist movie inside of China in The Last Emperor (1987). John Lone (Rush Hour 2) is Pu-Yi, the last emperor of China. His lifetime saw many great and terrible changes. Crowned when he was three years old he is not allowed to leave the Forbidden City—he also is shocked to learn years later that his rule only extends as far as the city’s walls and that the charade continues chiefly for the servants. It’s a fine historical piece that shows the shifting of allegiances, the desperation for significance, and wild journey through many conflicting forms of government. A grand epic production with lots to look at and Peter O’Toole (Becket) and Joan Chen (Twin Peaks) co-star. Interesting double-feature with Scorsese’s Kundun.

“Not even Bruce Campbell could defeat us.”

This was a good bunch of movies overall. Army of Shadows (1969) was a masterpiece that has eluded American audiences for decades. Directed by the great Jean-Pierre Melville (Le Samouraï, Le Cercle Rouge), this dense and methodically crafted political thriller ranks up alongside Costa-Gravas’ Z and Gillo Pontecorvo’s Battle of Algiers. During WWII the French Resistance is a shrewd and necessarily surreptitious beast, but when one of their chiefs (Lino Ventura) is betrayed it sets a whole new set of tactics into motion. We are forced to examine the harshness and mundanity of life under the big German microscope. By the end of the film you will have questioned everything. It’s beautifully shot but it’s not a glamorous film. It is a dangerous, cold, and clandestine world where you may have to kill your brother. It’s a real life 1984.

“‘Super Mario Bros.’ never happened.”

Finally—not that it is the best movie on this list, but it was my favorite—is Mona Lisa (1986) directed by Neil Jordan (The Company of Wolves, Interview with the Vampire) and starring a personal favorite of mine, Bob Hoskins (Brazil, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Nixon). George (Hoskins) gets a job driving around a beautiful call girl named Simone (Cathy Tyson) and he gradually develops an affection for her and agrees to help her find a missing girl, not realizing entirely what Simone is all about and how dangerous this new job is. Michael Caine (Zulu, The Italian Job) plays a seedy crime boss and Robbie Coltrane (Goldeneye, Harry Potter) plays George’s artistically bent best friend. Mona Lisa is a great drama and character study and I really was rooting for Hoskins’ character (and he gives a fantastic performance—that was nominated for an Academy Award). Hoskins is always fun to watch but he is in superb form here. The film has a grimy, discomforting sexy vibe to it and it really gives the actors room to play. If I didn’t love it so much it wouldn’t be here.

Whew. I am a huge nerd.

What are the last things you saw? Anything good?

Previous list can be found HERE.

Alice in Svankmajerland

I once had a double-feature with this movie and The Happiness of the Katakuris. It was epic, I tell you.

Curiouser and curiouser!

As some held their breath in eager anticipation to see what director Tim Burton (Batman, Ed Wood) would do to Lewis Carroll’s much-celebrated—and oft times committed to celluloid—classic novel, I recalled an earlier adaptation: Jan Svankmajer’s  Alice (aka Neco z Alenky) (1988). If you are like me and hated the Burton incarnation then maybe you should check this one out.

Don't be scared.

Here’s Alice…

I am a huge fan of Lewis Carroll’s work and both Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865) and Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There (1872) and am always excited to see another artist’s take on the strange tale. The earliest film adaptation I’ve seen was Cecil Hepworth’s Alice in Wonderland which was made in 1903. It’s a charming short film with some interesting effects. The most famous version is probably Walt Disney’s 1951 animated classic. The Disney cartoon is full of wonderful colors and imaginative surprises and deserves its slot next to Pinocchio (1940), Dumbo (1941), Lady and the Tramp (1955), and Sleeping Beauty (1959) as some of Disney’s finest animated achievements (those are my personal favorites anyway). Lewis Carroll’s book has been filmed so many times and has employed the aid of such talents as Peter Sellers, W. C. Fields, Kate Beckinsale, Gene Wilder, Johnny Depp, and even once scored by Ravi Shankar, but perhaps the most innovative and fascinating take on this treasured story is from the soil and pipe-filled mind of surreal Czech animator, Jan Svankmajer (Faust, Conspirators of PleasureLittle Otik, and Lunacy).

What are you looking at?

What are you looking at?

As a fan and follower of Mr. Svankmajer and a great admirer of his aforementioned features and short subject works (The Ossuary, Dimensions of Dialogue, Down to the Cellar, Et Cetera, etc.), I can honestly say that Alice (1988) is my favorite of his. Despite the stylistic liberties the jarring and idiosyncratic director takes, Svankmajer stays surprisingly true to the spirit and the plot (or plotlessness) of Carroll’s book—it does lack the poetry and clever wordplay, but Svankmajer employs his own unique brand of humor and wit. Those of you familiar with the story of Alice and her adventures will recall it all began when Alice followed a little white rabbit down a tunnel where she became suddenly immersed in a world of nonsense. By combining live action (mostly the part of Alice played by Kristyna Kohoutova) and brain-bending stop-motion, Svankmajer fashions a dark, near-nightmarish world fashioned from earth, termite-ridden wood, peeling paint, drafty basements, sawdust, animal skeletons, rotting meat and vegetables (all his favorite obsessions).

alice cookies

Magic cookies!

The White Rabbit is a taxidermy beast with bug-eyes, a velvet hat and coat, and a huge rip in his chest that bleeds wood chips and sawdust (so he fastens himself shut with a safety pin, licks clean his pocket watch, and scurries off hastily). Alice pursues the White Rabbit across a barren field of plowed dirt where she crawls into a writing desk and emerges in a dank, winding basement. She tumbles through the floor, takes a dark, ramshackle elevator passing skulls and jars of preserved foods. Alice grows big and small in a tiny, dirty room while she sobs about not being able to get into the beautiful garden on the other side of the door. Alice is harassed by an army of animals sculpted from the mismatched bones and bits of strange creatures, crockery, and other taxidermy critters. She frequently becomes a toy doll during the course of her journey as well. Alice enters a room full of tube socks burrowing through the wooden floors whilst she converses with a denture-wearing “Caterpillar.” She participates in a hallucinatory tea party with the wind-up March Hare and wooden, obsessive-compulsive Mad Hatter. She accepts the Fish Footman’s invitation and is placed on trial before the Queen of Hearts where a most nonsensical proceeding follows.

Bwahahahaha!

Bwahahahaha!

There is no music and almost no dialogue—every spoken word is uttered by Alice herself and the camera cuts away to an extreme closeup of Alice’s mouth reciting “said the white rabbit/caterpillar/mad hatter, etc.”

Did I molt again?

Did I molt again?

Svankmajer does little to alter the story, but his visuals are not exactly inspired by Sir John Tenniel. The oneiric atmosphere is startling and disturbing. It’s a film you can almost taste and feel underneath your fingernails. Watching Alice is like watching a tapeworm choke out a mouse dressed as the pope, it’s disgusting but at the same time immensely unique and sort of funny. Svankmajer is a master of textures (and none of them smooth or soft). He likes the dirt and pine needles strewn about the floor and the coming of the maggots when the meat turns rancid. These are fascinating subjects that he explores in many of his works. Svankmajer seems to like to give every minuscule object a history and past. Every nick in the chair, every bit of mold in the drain, every stain on the wall, or gnawed bit of turnip tells a story and makes the atmosphere alive and dense in an almost too vivid and unsettling way. He is a filmmaker you will either love or hate. His visuals are potent. His comedy is dark and strange. His sound effects are abrasive and tinny. And his take on Alice might be the most original.

"Time's fun when you're having flies." ---Kermit the Frog

“Time’s fun when you’re having flies.” —Kermit the Frog

If you don’t like uncooked steaks scuttling across a shelf or for bread to sprout nails when you try to bite it or if the thought of a mouse pounding spikes into your head and building a fire in your hair bothers you, then perhaps this movie is not for you. If you don’t like the taste of sawdust, ink, or fruit jams filled with tacks then maybe you should watch something else. If dark, enclosed, cold spaces full of bony creatures lurking in the corners aren’t your cup of tea then I suggest you do something else with your time. HOWEVER, if you are bold and adventurous and willing to experience a different type of filmmaking then I hesitate not to recommend this brilliantly bent masterpiece of the surreal. For tickets to live in the wet and warped mind of Jan Svankmajer for an hour and a half, find a copy of Alice (1988). You’ll never forget where he takes you. Consider yourself warned. Now go with my blessing.

Keep your temper.

Keep your temper.

And for godsakes, skip the Burton one.

alice test gif

SHIRT?

Originally published for “The Alternative Chronicle” February 16, 2010.

Everybody Loves Satyajit Ray

Not all Indian cinema is bombastic Bollywood musicals.

Every so often a film or filmmaker reaches us at just the right time in our lives. Thus was my late introduction to Indian auteur, Satyajit Ray, and his films Pather Panchali (1955), Aparajito (1956), and Apur Sansar (1959), together making up the Apu Trilogy. Perhaps it is just the unpredictability of life and apparent insensitivity of fate featured in these movies that make them so readily understandable despite the great cultural gap, or perhaps it is something more. Granted, tragedy plays a huge part in all three films, but I do not think I would love them so much if they were devoid of any hope or redemption.

pather panchali2Ray’s style is almost documentarian in execution and one must pay very close attention to the women in his films. Like Japanese director, Kenji Mizoguchi (Ugetsu monogatari, 1953), Satyajit Ray likes to portray the struggles and plights of women in patriarchal society with compassion and humanity. The Apu Trilogy is a family history. Characters are introduced, but not all will make it to the end. (Warning: spoilers ahead…but I do not think revealing too much can weaken these films’ impact).

The first film, Pather Panchali (a.k.a. The Song of the Little Road) is the story of the Ray family in the provincial village of Bengal, India in the 1920s. The struggling Brahmin family consists of the naive poet father, Harihar (Kanu Bannerjee); the stoic mother, Sarbajaya (Karuna Bannerjee); their daughter, Durga (Runki Banerjee and Uma Das Gupta); Sarbajaya’s elderly sister-in-law, Aunt Indir Thakrun (Chunibala Devi); and soon Apu (Subir Bannerjee) is born.

pather panchali1

The narrative is not forced. Pather Panchali feels like a slice of life and reminiscent of Vittorio de Sica with its Neo-Realist approach and use of non-actors. Things happen. Emotions rise and fall. We see the whimsy of old Aunt Indir and we see the simple ideals of Harihar wax away. We see a poor mother’s internal struggle with her foolish husband (reminding me quite a bit of Mizoguchi’s Ugetsu monogatari) and her strained relationship with Indir and her torment at the hands of the village folk who persecute her for the way her daughter behaves. We see young Durga steal fruit and cause her mother much duress and we thrill with little Apu and his beloved sister when they makeup after a fight and they see the train rush by for the first time as they race through fields of tall grass.

We are introduced to these characters as if they are real people, not mere pawns to move a plot forward. In a way, there is no plot. Satyajit Ray’s character’s are the impotent victims of the unsentimental storm of life and our hearts are broken for them as we witness their misfortunes and we count the lines on their weather-worn faces as the years go by. Death’s sting is especially potent in this film. Sickness, death, and other hardships meet this family and rob them of much, and as the glue that holds them together is rubbed thin we find a melancholy solace in the knowledge that sometimes we must simply press on.

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The second film, Aparajito (a.k.a. The Unvanquished) is just as heart-rending. The dwindling Ray family must continue on. This marks one of the first sequels (for me anyway) where I was really saddened that certain characters would not be returning. I noticed the quiet expressions in their faces when they were thinking about their loved ones who did not make it.

Apu (Pinaki Sengupta and Smaran Ghosel) is growing older and making friends in the city of Benares where they have moved. His father, Harihar, works as a priest, but when he falls sick and does not survive, Sarbajaya is left alone to provide for herself and her young son. They move to the Ray ancestral village of Mansapota and she works as a maid.

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Sarbajaya is my favorite character. Her struggles as a woman, a wife, and a mother in a harsh world that has not done her any favors is mesmerizing and tragic. She is stoic and levelheaded, but over the course of the two films we witness the toll the tough years take on her. She is just one woman who has not ended up where she probably originally hoped or thought, and she must take care of her family despite all her pain. Her portrait, brilliantly played by Karuna Bannerjee, is beautiful, powerful, and heart breaking.

Apu is apprenticed to be a Brahmin like his father, but attracted by some children playing along a road, asks his mother to let him go to school. He discovers the joys of learning. Sarbajaya feels like Apu can learn and bring honor back to the family. Perhaps the next generation of the Ray family will not be as unfortunate, Sarbajaya’s eyes read. Apu proves a diligent scholar and is awarded a scholarship to a prestigious school in Calcutta. At the sudden prospect of being truly alone, Sarbajaya tries to dissuade Apu from furthering his academic career, but realizes how much it would mean to him and gives Apu her savings and allows him to go. Apu grows and learns while Sarbajaya grows lonely and older. She hides her failing health from her son but quietly wishes he would return to see her. When he does return it is too late. Devastated, Apu ignores the urging to stay in the village and be a priest so he returns to Calcutta to perform the last rites for his mother. He will make something of himself even if no one will be there to see it.

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The final installment, Apur Sansar (a.k.a. The World of Apu) shifts all focus onto an older Apu (Soumitra Chatterjee) as a poor graduate living in Calcutta. He sells his books to pay rent and he lazily searches for work to pay for university tuition and works on writing a novel based on his life. He meets an old friend, Pulu (Swapan Mukherjee), who must attend a cousin’s marriage and, not desiring to go alone, urges Apu to join him.

They travel to the village of Khulna for the ceremony where things do not go exactly as expected. As Satyajit Ray continues this exploration of the tragedy and beauty of the unexpected, the bridegroom shows up on time, but has a severe mental disorder so the bride and bride’s mother become extremely upset. The father and elders insist that their daughter, Aparna (Sharmila Tagore), will be cursed if she does not marry on the appointed day. In their efforts to fix the doomed marriage, Pulu and the elders elect Apu as the replacement groom. Apu, disturbed by the sudden idea, finally agrees to marry Aparna (since his life isn’t really going anywhere else). Apu warns Aparna that he is very poor and although she is initially disappointed with their meager wages and shabby apartment, she does indeed fall in love with him.

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The marriage actually gives Apu a wake-up call and he begins working as a cleric. He teaches his wife things that he learned in school. They write letters when they are apart and their love grows, but tragedy (naturally) strikes when the beautiful Aparna dies giving birth to their son while away. Apu rejects everything and runs away from the world. He hates the child he has never seen, but he sends money to his father-in-law to take care of him. Apu lets the wind take his manuscript as he releases it on a mountaintop and weeps. Life without his beloved Aparna is not worth living. Why would fate torment him like this?

After many years of forsaking his fatherly responsibilities Pulu finds him and urges Apu to see his son, Kajal, and father the boy (who is becoming quite wild in his grandfather’s care). After much convincing, Apu goes to retrieve his son from his father-in-law, but the boy does not think Apu is his father, but perhaps he may accept his confidence as a friend. They depart together to start a new life.

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As the saga of Apu and the Ray family comes to a close and we dry the tears from our eyes and take a deep breath at the emotional depths these movies have taken us, we can pause and thank God for directors like Satyajit Ray. Pensive cinematography, shimmering sitar score composed by Ravi Shankar, close-ups loaded with emotion and thought, and the journey of one filmmaker are just a few reasons to find these movies and watch them. We see Satyajit Ray grow as a filmmaker and become more sure of humself with each new chapter in this beautiful trilogy. This experience really whet my appetite for more films of Satyajit Ray.

Originally published for “The Alternative Chronicle” January 30, 2010.

The Movies You Didn’t See

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If you are a true movie lover then you are also a digger, a searcher, an explorer. You seek out movies. Finding the “other films” out there might be your mission. You are daring. You lap up silent cinema and tuck away great foreign flicks under your arm and you mull classics and contemporary titles over in your mind while always maintaining a healthy reserve of schlock and exploitation, but your thirst remains insatiable, unquenched. You must dig. You must search. You must explore that which swims beneath the surface of the mainstream.

Today I give you an assignment. Today I tantalize you with just a few titles that you won’t want to miss. Today I champion some wonderful and strange films that think way outside the box and that have yet to be released on DVD in America* [*AUTHOR’S UPDATE: Criterion has picked up Zazie dans le Metro and there’s a region-free Hour-Glass Sanitorium now currently available through Mr. Bongo. Currently unsure of the other two]. Here we go with Louis Malle’s Zazie dans le metro (1960); Robert Altman’s Brewster McCloud (1970); Wojciech Has’s The Hour-Glass Sanitorium (1973); and Tomas Vorel’s Skritek (2005). WARNING: proceed only if you are into the realm of the zany and awry.

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1. The first film I would like to inform you of hails from France. It is Louis Malle’s (Au revoir les enfants, My Dinner With Andre) frantically frenetic and buoyantly cartoonish Zazie dans le metro (1960). Based on the novel by Raymond Queneau, this unique film feels like some sort of coming of age tale, a burlesque comedy, and “Looney Tunes” hybrid. Young Zazie (Catherine Demongeot) must spend a few days with her lazy and unusual Parisian Uncle Gabriel (Cinema Paradiso’s Philippe Noiret) so her mother can entertain herself in the arms of her new lover.

The precocious girl soon grows weary with Uncle Gabriel’s peculiar habits and schedule and so she runs away to explore the city of Paris by herself. Uninterested in the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, or any other monument or locale of note, Zazie obsesses over just one thing: the metro. . . unfortunately there’s a strike on and the metro is closed. Just like the grownups to block the only thing a little kid wants to do. Zazie is pursued by angry Parisians, cops, would-be perverts, her uncle, and more while the adults fall in and out of love with each other against the manically shifting scenery and bustling cars and shows featuring slight transvestism and more than one man in a polar bear costume. A highlight is an extremely energetic and ridiculous chase scene that plays out like a Roadrunner cartoon on methamphetamines (think that one scene from Stephen Chow’s Kung-Fu Hustle only screwier).

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This is a deliriously hyperactive movie that captures the essence of childhood wonder better than most “normal films.” All the intertwining of plots and unraveling of characters culminate in a psychotic explosion of noise, movement, and laugh out loud comedy that will make your head spin. This movie is just whimsical. I highly recommend this bold and wacky comedy brimming with sass and snark for anyone looking for the craziest most frenzied and absurd trip to Paris they’re likely to find. Or perhaps if you just like good slapstick.

2. Bud Cort (Harold and Maude) stars as the eponymous and quite quixotic Brewster McCloud in Robert Altman’s (M*A*S*HGosford Park) Brewster McCloud (1970). This is one strange film. With the adolescent angst and awkward foibles of the average American youth, the enigmatic Brewster lives in the fallout shelter of the Houston Astrodome perfecting his mechanical wings so that he can fly away. As the tagline winkingly suggests “this might be over your head.” Women find the quiet boy irresistible and the police find him rather elusive as they pursue him for the suspected stranglings of several not-so-upright citizens. There’s a cantankerous old man (Stacey Keach); a nasty old woman (Margaret Hamilton, with more than just a few nods to her work in The Wizard of Oz); a ditzy but compassionate tour guide (Shelley Duvall) who loves Brewster; a mysterious and angelic mentor (Sally Kellerman) who protects Brewster and warns him of the dangers of women and distractions from his goal; a detective (Michael Murphy) hot on his trail; and several other quirky characters mashed together including a narrator who is not exactly on the same page.

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Amidst all the murder, mayhem, car chases, and courtships there is always a cutaway to the narrator, a lecturing professor of ornithology (Rene Auberjonois), who not only is describing the habits and behaviors of many a fascinating fowl (which strangely coincides with the main character’s actions) but he is also progressively transforming into a bird himself until at last he is reduced to a squawking, pecking aviary curiosity. The movie is off-beat and unusual in many ways, but at its heart it seems to really be about being alone yet driven in a world that is preoccupied with other things. Brewster McCloud only wants to build his wings in peace and take flight in the Astrodome. He tries to avoid distraction and distances himself from people as much as possible, but people keep getting in the way and none of them understand him or what he is trying to do. The finale is especially enjoyable. Find Brewster McCloud and take flight. If we share as much in common with birds as the transforming lecturer would imply then perhaps there is plenty to relate to here.

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3. Our next film comes from Polish auteur Wojciech Has (The Saragossa Manuscript) and is called The Hour-Glass Sanatorium (aka Sanatorium pod klepsydra) (1973). Based on the writings of Bruno Schultz, the story unfolds in an old, decrepit, silverfish-nibbled asylum. A man, Jozef (Jan Nowicki), has taken a ramshackle train to this place to see his dying father. The building is crumbling and there seems to be no one in charge (Svankmajer would love it). A ward tells him that Time may not make all the sense in the world here, and lo, it is true. Jozef wanders from room to room in search of answers but is instead greeted by characters and events from history, his childhood, and his more recent past. The story unfolds like a more psychoanalytical Alice in Wonderland for adults. Every room is bursting with Jozef’s lost memories. Jozef re-experiences his childhood and his relationship with his bird-loving father, sees women he once fancied, is pursued by soldiers for having an unpopular dream, observes strange Jewish rituals, and takes command of a room of waxwork historical figures.

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The cinematography is utterly remarkable and the imagery is nothing short of staggering (very evocative of some of the best work of Terry Gilliam). The film has poetry, wonder, curiosity, magic, and humor as we are carried through this dream world of wondrous pageantry. It’s a difficult film to describe, but it is also very difficult to forget. The director of the amazing Saragossa Manuscript (a masterpiece loved by such artists as Luis Bunuel, Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, and Jerry Garcia) has crafted another world from bits and pieces of the past and you will enjoy exploring it as much as the protagonist, Jozef. For a thrilling excavation of the back of the mind, check out the fantastic Hour-Glass Sanatorium. It has also been brought to my attention that the Svankmajer-influenced Brothers Quay (The Piano Tuner of Earthquakes) may be adapting Schultz’s prose to the screen again.

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4. We have been to France to be children with Zazie, come back to America to be adolescents with Brewster McCloud, and hopped over to Poland to rediscover our past as adults with Jozef’s exploration of a strange sanatorium. Now we shall embark on a trip to the Czech Republic to combine all these things with a movie about one dysfunctional family in Tomas Vorel’s Skritek (2005). This magically absurd tragicomedy about the dynamics of a struggling family is unique for many reasons. One is the ubiquitous intrusion of a distracting gnome (skritek is Czech for “gnome”), the second odd thing about this movie is that all of the dialogue is spoken in complete gibberish (so don’t try to look for subtitles). As the plot unfolds the young daughter struggles with her teacher in school and her family at home, so she occasionally is visited by the strange gnome who always finds a way to cheer her up. The pot-smoking, vegetarian, anarchist son is trying to express himself but—ignoring entirely legal means of self-expression—winds up in trouble with his teachers and the police. The father works as a butcher, but weary of the routine which has become his life, begins an affair with a co-worker. Meanwhile the mother works as a cashier at a supermarket, but with the stress of her job, her family going in different directions, and her husband losing interest in her, she’ll try anything to revitalize her life.

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The whole story is set against a rather cartoony version of the Czech Republic with vibrant colors, exaggerated sound effects, vaudevillian action, and a toe-tapping score. As problems befall the family we grow to see them as more than caricatures, but as people and we feel their anxieties and we smile when it all comes together. This is a very original movie with much humor, heart, slapstick, and magic to offer. If you are looking for an unforgettable journey through one family’s crazy life with zero language barrier then I encourage to see Skritek.

Now I know what you’re thinking. Where can I find these movies if they are not available? Why would you entice me this way? Well, here’s where it can get fun. We live in an age of instant gratification and sometimes the search is half the fun. You might have to get creative. Some of these films are floating around online right now. Some have been bootlegged as rentals in cult movie shops. Some might be tricky. Always keep your eyes and ears open and above all: read. You might be surprised by what you find. I’m still discovering movies like this everyday. Sometimes it just takes a little bit of research and a little bit of patience and I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

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Originally published for “The Alternative Chronicle” March 2, 2010

An Arabian Night All Too Often Forgotten

Minarets.

It is widely understood that Walt Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) was the very first feature length animated movie. This is only half-true. It is still believed to be the first cel-animated feature, but there is another film that predates it by more than a decade. I had the good fortune to stumble upon a lost treasure several years ago. This treasure is Lotte Reiniger’s The Adventures of Prince Achmed (1926).

It's a bird. It's a plane. It's...a flying horse.

It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s…a flying horse.

This delightful fantasy is exploding with impeccable visuals and imagination and is really a lot of fun. Prince Achmed has some amazing spectacles; monsters, witches, demons, magic, flying horses, wizard battles, romance, genies, sword fights, etc. So why is it so obscure? Could it be that it’s German? Could it be that it’s silent? Could it be because it was directed by a woman? More likely this hidden gem is often overlooked because of the method of animation that was used to make it all happen. When Snow White came out it spawned a whole movement of cel-animated movies (headed by folks like Disney and Fleischer) that lasted for a good six decades plus, but Prince Achmed was not cel-animated and its style was not much mimicked.

Lotte Reiniger achieved the immensely intricate and breathtaking artwork of Prince Achmed by manipulating pieces of cutout cardboard shapes. Prince Achmed is an amazing technical example of a form of art that never really caught on like cel. Like the rest of Reiniger’s canon, this film was made via stop-motion shadow puppet animation (a style that has been most recently recaptured in Michel Ocelot’s Princes and Princesses in 2000 and the 2005 Anthony Lucas short The Mysterious Geographic Explorations of Jasper Morello). Every object, character, joint, ruffle of fabric, leaf, and curtain is little more than overlapped two-dimensional silhouettes.

A woman's work is never done.

A woman’s work is never done.

This technique (invented and perfected by Reiniger) is fascinating to watch and creates an atmosphere and energy all its own. When you observe stills from Prince Achmed you can get an idea of the complexity of the images, but until you see it in full motion you do not get the full emotive power of Reingier’s creation. And it’s in color too! It’s so captivating that I forget I’m only watching silhouettes whenever I watch it. The Adventures of Prince Achmed is a special treat, not just for animation-enthusiasts, but also for anyone interested in experiencing an epic fantasy adventure in the spirit of The Arabian Nights.

The story is exotic and magical. The evil African Magician deceives the young Prince Achmed and sends him on a harrowing adventure into the heavens on a magic flying horse. The evil Magician is really after Achmed’s sister. Prince Achmed figures out how to maneuver the horse and lands in the Isles of Wak-Wak, where he falls in love with the beautiful Pari-Banu, but the demons of Wak-Wak are very protective of their Princess. Achmed steals the Princess away, but is confounded by the shape-shifting evil Magician (who has escaped from prison). Achmed travels to China, where the Magician has delivered Pari-Banu to the lustful Chinese Emperor. Achmed must rescue his beloved, but again is hindered by the evil Magician’s trickery.

Hero time.

Hero time.

Luckily, Achmed makes powerful allies along his quest. He befriends a wild Witch in the heart of a volcano who is also enemies with the evil Magician. With the help of the Witch, her magic, and her army of monsters he pursues Pari-Banu, but meets an impossible obstacle when the mountains of Wak-Wak close on him, trapping the beautiful Pari-Banu in with the demons.

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Fortunately for Prince Achmed, he stumbles upon Aladdin—who is in love with Achmed’s sister, the Princess—and together they recruit the Witch to battle the evil Magician and get the magic lamp back so that they may enter the gates of Wak-Wak. A spectacular shape-shifting showdown ensues between the Magician and the Witch (in a scene I suspect Disney ‘borrowed’ for Merlin’s duel with Madame Mim in 1963′s The Sword in the Stone because I don’t recall that event from T. H. White’s novel, The Once and Future King). The lamp is retrieved and together Achmed, Aladdin, the Witch, and all of the genies in the magic lamp wage a fantastic battle against the demons of Wak-Wak to save Pari-Banu and return to the kingdom where Aladdin can marry the Princess and Achmed can marry Pari-Banu. Needless to say, it all ends well for our brave hero. The whole adventure is a dazzling, intoxicating journey that never ceases to amaze or fill with wonder. I loved it from stem to stern.

Wizards' cat's cradle.

Wizards’ cat’s cradle.

As the earliest surviving animated feature, the serious film buff cannot afford to miss this one. Not to slight the movie itself, however, I must add that in addition to being a significant piece of film history, Prince Achmed is also first-class entertainment. It’s a visual pleasure and a fun ride with more charm and adventure than you might suspect. The Adventures of Prince Achmed is a beautiful technical marvel that Sheherazade herself would be proud of. It would even make for a great double-feature with 1940’s The Thief of Bagdad. This reviewer strongly recommends.

The DVD release also features a very informative documentary about Lotte Reiniger and the making of this and other stop-motion shadow puppet films from Reiniger.

What are you waiting for?

What are you waiting for?

Originally published for “The Alternative Chronicle” February 5, 2010

Some of the Most Idiosyncratic Movies I Have Encountered (for better or worse)…abridged

For a slightly more up-to-date list click HERE.

What makes a film idiosyncratic or weird? Almost every movie, book, painting, person, or moment can be weird when you stop to think about it, however, some things favor a more common denominator of strangeness. The films listed below, for better or worse, do what they can to deviate from the already abstract norm.

And be sure to check back in on occasion as I am always adding new absurd titles!

200 Motels,” dir. Frank Zappa and Tony Palmer (1971). This film will test your stamina for Frank Zappa’s special brand of crass craziness. The Mothers of Invention, Ringo Starr (dressed as Zappa), Theodore Bikel, and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra star in this surreal farce that truly proves that touring too long brings about insanity. Bizarre and cheap, this musical comedy is perhaps best viewed under the influence of some illicit substances. DECENT

2001: A Space Odyssey,” dir. Stanley Kubrick (1968). One of the most breathtaking, incredible, lyrical and enigmatic science fiction films ever made. We unravel the mysteries of the universe only to discover even more questions in this Kubrick masterpiece. AWESOME

The Adventures of Buckaroo Bonzai Across the 8th Dimension,” dir. W. D. Richter (1984).  “Buckaroo Bonzai” is a strange hodge-podge of every genre you might think of, but for all its luny airs, it fails to excite or entertain…or be coherent for that matter. This cult favorite lacks a lot, but it will please somebody out there (it is a cult favorite, after all). Features Peter Weller (“Robocop”) and a young Jeff Goldblum as well as Christopher Lloyd and John Lithgow. BAD

The Adventures of Baron Munchausen,” dir. Terry Gilliam (1988).  Rudolph Raspe’s fantasy epic of the tall-tale telling Baron Munchausen comes to glorious life. Crammed with imagination and astounding special effects. Famous for being one of the biggest financial flops in movie history, this charming adventure features Gilliam at his most untethered. John Neville (“Little Women”) plays a grand Munchausen. Also stars Eric Idle (fellow “Monty Python” alum with Gilliam) and Uma Thurman (“Kill Bill”). AWESOME

The Adventures of Mark Twain,” dir. Will Vinton (1986). Mark Twain decides to crash his airship into Halley’s Comet. Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn, and Becky Thatcher stowaway and learn a few things of the great Mr. Twain and some of his other stories. Wonderful animation in this very odd story from Will Vinton. GOOD

The Adventures of Prince Achmed,” dir. Lotte Reiniger (1926).   A great silent German film. This unique fantasy based on the Arabian Nights features beautifully detailed stop-motion shadow puppets and color tinted backgrounds. Reiniger’s lush film boasts impressive feats of movie magic, adventure, monsters, shape-shifting showdowns, and it’s just a lot of fun. A feast for the eyes and the imagination. Although this film is considered the oldest surviving feature-length animated movie, both it and director, Reiniger, remain relatively obscure. How sad. AWESOME

The Adventures of Stella Star,” dir. Luigi Cozzi (1978). The awesomest bad Star Wars rip off ever! It’s chaos and I loved it! AWESOMELY BAD

Aelita-Queen of Mars,” dir. Yakov Protazanov (1924).  The communists go to outer space to start an intergalactic social reform in this creaky Soviet silent science fiction fantasy. MEH

After Last Season,” dir. Mark Region (2009). Easily one of the all time worst films ever made. Bow to stern this incompetent and incoherent mess stinks and sinks. Its mindless convolutions are only matched by its artistic and technical ineptitude. BAD

Alice,” dir. Jan Svankmajer (1988).  Czech animator, Jan Svankmajer takes Lewis Carroll’s classic story and runs wild. This dark, ominous, and twisted film features a young Alice wandering around a decrepit house riddled with weird stop-motion creatures that only Svankmajer could dream up. This film is so textured it has a flavor. That flavor is wood and earth.  AWESOME

Allegro Non Troppo,” dir. Bruno Buzzetto (1976). An Italian parody of Disney’s “Fantasia.” It’s an irreverent, silly, dark, satirical, and cynical musical experience. The animation might not be as daringly abstract as some of “Fantasia’s” more bold pieces, but this film has a very special humorous surrealism. An orchestra of decrepit old ladies must play the classic tunes for a tyrannical conductor as an oppressed cartoonist is forced to animate the entire show live. The story of evolution to Bolero is a highlight. AWESOME

American Pop,” dir. Ralph Bakshi (1981).  Once again Bakshi makes innovative use of rotoscoping technology, only this time to tell the semi-fictitious story of the history of American music. This is definitely one of Bakshi’s finest works. GOOD

Angel’s Egg,” dir. Mamoru Oshii (1985). This film is a dazzlement. Gorgeous animation, almost no talking, and crammed with symbolism to leave you with more than enough to talk about.  AWESOME

Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters,” dir. Matt Maiellaro and Dave Willis (2007). If you’ve seen the show you need no explanation. It’s actually very in keeping with the weirdness of the show, but the jokes are too far apart. “South Park” made a much finer transition to the screen. MEH

Arabian Nights,” dir. Pier Paolo Pasolini (1974). Sheherezade’s tales get a trifle kinkier with Pasolini at the helm. There’s magic and exotic locations but you have to squint to see them through all the turgid members. Perhaps overly sexually charged, but the movie is pretty well done. GOOD

Archangel,” dir. Guy Maddin (1991). Only Maddin could pull off a “romantic comedy” this original. Like the rest of his cannon he delicately recaptures 1920s vintage film quality to fun effect. GOOD

Baraka,” Ron Fricke (1992). It’s like the Qatsi trilogy, but perhaps a bit less heavy-handed. An enjoyable tour through other cultures with some absolutely gorgeous photography (Ron Fricke was also the DP for Qatsi). GREAT

Barbarella,” dir. Roger Vadim (1968). Outer space gets a mega does of campy, funky psychedelica…also naked Jane Fonda. AWESOMELY BAD but not as awesomely bad as “Starcrash.” FUN

Barton Fink,” dir. the Coen Brothers (1991).  John Turturro (“Do the Right Thing”) plays a neurotic, one-hit-wonder playwright from New York who moves out to Hollywood and gets writer’s block. This might be the Coens’ weirdest film. Turturro’s weird neighbor (played by “Roseanne’s” John Goodman) never quite makes you comfortable and the finale is something that will be hard to shake off. Also stars Judy Davis (“The Ref”), Jon Polito (“Miller’s Crossing”), John Mahoney (“Frasier”), Steve Buscemi (“Ghost World”), Michael Lerner (“Strange Invaders”), and Tony Shalhoub (“Big Night”). GREAT

Baxter,” dir. Jerome Boivin (1989).  It is nothing like a French “Cujo.” It’s actually probably more comparable to a dog “Taxi Driver.” A dark character study of man’s best friend. Baxter is a sociopathic bull terrier who plots the demise of his owners in search of someone who understands him. When he winds up with a young, reclusive boy obsessed with Hitler that’s when the film takes an even darker turn. A chilling and fascinating French film with a finale that will leave you shuddering but thoughtful. AWESOME

The Bed-Sitting Room,” dir. Richard Lester (1969). One of the funniest and most surreal post apocalyptic films ever made. The “Hard Day’s Night” director delivers comic gold with this fractured and cynical story starring Spike Milligan (“The Three Musketeers”), Michael Hordern (“The Spy Who Came in From the Cold”), Marty Feldman (“Young Frankenstein”), Ralph Richardson (“Murder On the Orient Express”), Roy Kinear (“Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory”), Peter Cook (“Bedazzled”), Dudley Moore (“Arthur”), Rita Tushingham (“Dr. Zhivago”), Harry Secombe (“Doctor in Trouble”), and more! It’s a hilariously warped excursion to radioactive wastelands where people mutate into furniture and even weirder stuff happens. Imagine if Terry Gilliam and Alejandro Jodorowsky made a movie together, but with the humorous illogic of “The Goon Show.” AWESOME

Beetlejuice,” dir. Tim Burton (1988). The story of a haunting gone haywire and the reluctance to cross-over. Michael Keaton (aka “Batman” as the eponymous ghost with the most), Alec Baldwin (“The Hunt For Red October”), Geena Davis (“A League of Their Own”), Winona Ryder (“Little Women”), Catherine O’Hara (“Home Alone”), and Jeffrey Jones (“Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”) star. Wild, weird comedy. DECENT

Being There,” dir. Hal Ashby (1979).  Peter Sellers (“Dr. Strangelove”) plays an extremely infantile man with not a single thought in his head. His conversation consists of the blind parroting of TV slogans and regurgitation of what other people around him say. His simple mind and gentle nature fool everyone into believing he is a great, deep, intellectual genius (largely because he is validating their own opinions through his ignorant repetition of it). A superb film with wonderful performances. Also stars Shirley MacLaine (“The Apartment”), Melvyn Douglas (“The Tenant”), and Jack Warden (“12 Angry Men”). AWESOME

Being John Malkovich,” dir. Spike Jonze (1999).  Charlie Kaufman’s immensely imaginative and bizarre script will be hard to forget. When a gateway into actor John Malkovich’s (“Shadow of the Vampire”) head is discovered behind a filing cabinet it is found that gradually one can assimilate their own mind with Malkovich’s body and control it. There is a lot more going on in this film so you’re just going to have to watch it. Also stars John Cusack (“Hot Tub Time Machine”), Cameron Diaz (“The Mask”), and Catherine Keener (“The 40 Year Old Virgin”). GOOD

Big Man Japan,” dir. Hitoshi Matsumoto (2007). A fun throwback to the Japanese city-stomping entertainment of yore. It’s the story of the mundane life of a regular guy…who happens to fight giant monsters. Some really inspired funny moments, but it’s much slower than you might think. DECENT

The Black Hole,” dir. Gary Nelson (1979). A strange and dark science fiction fantasy from Disney. Floating robots and kooky villains and the answer to what is actually inside a black hole reside in this hokey but charming movie. Features Ernest Borgnine (“The Wild Bunch”), Maximillian Schell (“Judgement at Nuremberg”), Anthony Perkins (“Psycho”), Yvette Mimieux (“The Time Machine”), and the voices of Roddy McDowall (“Planet of the Apes”) and Slim Pickens (“Dr. Strangelove”). MEH

Black Moon,” dir. Louis Malle (1975). If Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland” was about the battle between the sexes and female puberty then it would be “Black Moon.” Bizarre, baffling, grotesque, and gritty this peculiar fantasy features naked children chasing a giant pig, an old woman who still drinks milk from the breasts of women, bugs, gas masks, and a rather motley and rotund unicorn. Malle is one strange director. Shot by frequent Bergman  collaborator, Sven Nykvist. GOOD

Blue Velvet,” dir. David Lynch (1986).  If you haven’t seen any of David Lynch’s films, I’d say start with “Blue Velvet.” A peculiar mystery noir and Dennis Hopper (“Easy Rider”) might be crazier than usual in this one. Also stars Kyle McLachlan (“Twin Peaks”), Isabella Rossellini (“Green Porno”), and Laura Dern (“Jurassic Park”).  GREAT

The Boxer’s Omen (Mo),” dir. Chih-Hung Kuei (1983). Downright deranged. The alternate title for this tripped-out clunky kung-fu horror flick should be “Attack of the Halloween Toys.” Lots of fun though, but I absolutely love this kind of garbage. AWESOMELY BAD

A Boy and His Dog,” dir. L. Q. Jones (1975).  Don Johnson (“Miami Vice”) stars as a man in a post apocalyptic future (kinda like “Mad Max”) who happens to share his adventures with a dog (voiced by Tim McIntire) who he communicates with telepathically. Together they search for food to eat and women to rape until they stumble upon a subterranean civilization that dresses like mimes. Also stars Jason Robards (“All the President’s Men”). GOOD

Brazil,” dir. Terry Gilliam (1985).  Arguably Monty Python alum Terry Gilliam’s most epic, layered, and significant work. It’s like James Thurber’s “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” meets George Orwell’s “1984” with a touch of Franz Kafka. A great cast, spectacular special effects, and classic Gilliam bizarro black humor and welcome swipes at creaking bureaucracy. Features Jonathan Pryce (“Evita”), Michael Palin (“A Fish Called Wanda”), Katherine Helmond (“Everybody Loves Raymond”), Robert De Niro (“Taxi Driver”), Bob Hoskins (“Who Framed Roger Rabbit”), Ian Holm (“Alien”), and Jim Broadbent (“Moulin Rouge”).  AWESOME

Brewster McCloud,” dir. Robert Altman (1970). Bud Cort (“Harold and Maude”) stars as a strange lad who lives like a hermit in the Houston Astrodome. People who accost him keep ending up strangled and he keeps attracting women, but he better not lose sight of his goal: he’s building a set of wings so he can fly away. One weird little film from “M*A*S*H” director, Altman. Also stars Shelley Duvall (“The Shining”), Margaret Hamilton (“The Wizard of Oz”), Stacey Keach (“American History X”), and Rene Auberjonois (“Star Trek: Deep Space Nine”). GREAT

The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari,” dir. Robert Wiene (1919).  One of the classics. This silent German Expressionist film is still bone-chilling and exquisite to look at. Tim Burton especially borrows heavily from this film for character designs, sets, etc. Stars Conrad Veidt (“The Thief of Bagdad”) as the poor somnambulist, Cesare, who is forced to murder by the evil doctor. AWESOME

The Call of Cthulhu,” dir. Andrew Leman (2005). It’s a bold little short film that comes closer to the feel and atmosphere of an H. P. Lovecraft story than anyone has ever done before. Made to look like an old silent film, the style and special effects and expressionist touches work wonderfully well. Fans of Lovecraft will not be disappointed. GREAT

Casino Royale,” dir. Val Guest, John Huston, Ken Hughes, Joseph McGrath, Robert Parrish, and Richard Talmadge (1967). And it feels like it was directed by even more people. So woefully disjointed and fractured and many jokes that don’t land on their targets. This spy comedy behemoth stars David Niven, Peter Sellers, Woody Allen, Ursula Andress, Orson Welles, Barbara Bouchet, William Holden, Daliah Lavi, and whole bunch more and yet so little works together in this madcap psychedelic romp. BAD

Chained for Life,” dir. Harry Fraser (1951). Real life conjoined twins, Violet and Daisy Hilton (“Freaks”) play Vivian and Dorothy Hamilton in this strange tale of vaudevillians on trial. When one of the twins commits a murder how can the court punish her without harming the innocent party? It was made to be a curiosity, but it’s actually pretty good and there are lot of fun vaudeville acts that sneak in to help establish the atmosphere…and pad the thin script. GOOD.

Citizen Dog,” dir. Wisit Sasanatieng (2004)  One of the loopiest and most surreal romantic comedies you are likely to see. This endearing Thai charmer explodes with color, energy, and a decidely off-beat aura. The chain-smoking, foul-mouthed Teddy bear in the abusive relationship with a 6 year old girl is a highlight…then there’s the zombie motorcycle chauffeur. You get the idea.  GOOD

The City of Lost Children,” dir. Marc Caro/Jean-Pierre Jeunet (1995).  Caro and Jeunet team up to give us one of the strangest environments we’ve ever seen. Reminiscent of German Expressionism, this film follows the saga of a young orphan girl and a circus muscle-man, Ron Perlman (“Hellboy”), on quest to find his lost brother who has been abducted by an evil scientist, Daniel Emilfork (“The Tribulations of Balthasar”), who kidnaps children to steal their dreams because he cannot dream himself. Weird characters and crazy chain reactions abound in this visually astonishing French film. Also stars Dominique Pinon (“Amelie”) in multiple roles. AWESOME

A Clockwork Orange,” dir. Stanley Kubrick (1971).  Almost every Kubrick film could make it on this list (from “Lolita” to “Eyes Wide Shut”), but the one I choose to mention here is his dark sci-fi drama starring Malcolm McDowell (“Time After Time”) as a chilling gang lord who enjoys violence, rape, and milk. After being brainwashed by the government McDowell’s character feels increasingly confused and out of place. A nightmarish social satire from master filmmaker, Kubrick. GREAT

Club of the Laid Off,” dir. Jiri Barta (1989). Mannequins old and new come to life and battle for turf in a rundown house. This as well as the rest of Barta’s short films in his “Labyrinth of Darkness” collection are well worth a look. This one also appears on “Cartoon Noir.” GREAT

The Company of Wolves,” dir. Neil Jordan (1984). A nightmarish anthology of various Red Riding Hood Stories. It’s a bit of a mixed bag, but it’s innovative enough to keep you interested. Angela Lansbury (“Manchurian Candidate”) plays granny! DECENT

Conspirators of Pleasure,” dir. Jan Svankmajer (1996).  A series of vignettes about the secret bizarrely meticulous fetishes of 6 seemingly ordinary people. GOOD

The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover,” dir. Peter Greenaway (1989). Halfway between stage play and fantasy this demented peek into the unhappy life of an abused woman and her boorish gangster husband is much more odd than any synopsis could explain. GOOD

Cool World,” dir. Ralph Bakshi (1992).  This curious mess of a movie tries to be a more adult “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” but fails at making any coherent sense. The animation is interesting and maddeningly kinetic, but the story is ridiculous and unsatisfyingly executed that for all the love that might have gone into it, it just doesn’t work. Explosive finale, but good luck to you explaining it. Stars a young Brad Pitt (“Fight Club”), Kim Basinger (“Batman”), and Gabriel Byrne (“Miller’s Crossing”). BAD

Coonskin,” dir. Ralph Bakshi (1975). Extremely controversial cartoon featuring Scatman Crothers and Barry White. Come think of it, a lot of Bakshi ought to be on this list. God help me, I love the opening song! GOOD

Cronos,” dir. Guillermo del Toro (1993). Del Toro does something NEW with the traditional vampire story. Very Lovecraftian. Also stars a plastic-surgery-preoccupied Ron Perlman. GOOD

Cul-de-Sac,” dir. Roman Polanski (1966).  Donald Pleasance (“Halloween”) can’t catch a break when some thugs on the run get lost and camp out at his luxurious getaway home on the beach. Marital problems abound between Pleasance and his wife and their uneasy relationship with the gangsters is strange enough to make this lesser known Polanski flick make the list.  GOOD

Dante’s Inferno,” dir. Sean Meredith (2007). James Cromwell voices Virgil in this odd stick-puppet retelling of “Dante’s Inferno” where hell seems to resemble Los Angeles and various other gutted American metropolitan venues. You got your politicians and you got your pimps and all other manner of hellish entities. Paul Zaloom (“Beakman’s World”) plays the devil. DECENT

Darby O’Gill and the Little People,” dir. Robert Stevenson (1959).  One of Disney’s live-action fantasies. Set in Ireland where an old codger starts seeing leprechauns and he discovers their magic, but not everyone believes him. Nifty special effects, fun Irish lore, and a singing Sean Connery (“From Russia With Love”) in the supporting role that got him James Bond. It’s probably most weird just because of how seemingly forgotten it is. GOOD

Dark Crystal,” dir. Jim Henson (1982). Henson’s darkest dreams unleashed and they don’t exactly resemble the Muppets. Magic and pseudo-zen prophecies and not a human in sight in this all-puppeted film. Nostalgic for many. Nightmare fodder for the too young. A good double feature with “Labyrinth” (1986). GOOD

The Day of the Dolphin,” dir. Mike Nichols (1973). George C. Scott and Paul Sorvino star in one loopy premise: Scott has secretly taught dolphins how to speak English, but the evil government wants to steal them to assassinate somebody somewhere for some reason. As ridiculous as that sounds, I actually kinda like this movie despite its hokiness…or maybe because of it. DECENT

Death Bed: the Bed That Eats,” dir. George Barry (1977). Barry allegedly spent 5 years making this movie and then forgot about it completely. The idea of a haunted bed that eats people sounds ludicrous enough to be fun camp, but this film is epically bad. Only serious MST3K fans need apply. BAD

Death Race 2000,” dir. Paul Bartel (1975). David Carradine (“Kill Bill: Volume 2”) stars as a gaunt, pleather-clad car racer from the future. It is a brutal game of violence and death and only he can stop evil Sylvester Stallone (“Rocky”) from winning the race. Awesome in that cheap undeserving way. FUN

Delicatessen,” dir. Marc Caro/Jean-Pierre Jeunet (1991).  Caro and Jeunet’s first film features more dark atmosphere, fantastic cinematography, and weird characters galore. Dominique Pinon stars as a clownish and hapless new resident in a fishy apartment building where the landlord, Jean-Claude Dreyfus (“The City of Lost Children”), kills tenants at random and sells their meat in the meat-rationed distant future. GREAT

Der Golem,” dir. Paul Wegener (1920). A 16th Century rabbi makes a clay monster to protect the village and do menial labor…then he goes bad and much havoc is wreaked. Like many a great silent epic, the sets are incredible. GOOD

Die Nibelungen,” dir. Fritz Lang (1924). The man who brought you “Metropolis” and “M” delivers a fantasy epic of tremendous proportions. Some great filmmaking and rich atmosphere plus a gnarled dwarf creature and a dragon fight at the beginning. GREAT

The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie,” dir. Luis Bunuel (1972). Bunuel throws every rule of story telling out the window in this bizarre and strangely humorous satire of all that we think society and film should be. It’s oddness is more visually subtle, but it’s deconstructive Dada attitude is truly one for the books. GREAT

The District,” dir. Aron Gauder (2004). This was not fun. Maybe it’s because I’m not Hungarian. I didn’t get it. It’s just grating and unfunny. It’s trying for raunchy satire but it falls so far short of “South Park” that it’s hardly even fair comparing the two. It’s based on a show so maybe it will appeal to fans. BAD

Divine Intervention,” dir. Elia Suleiman (2002).  Palestinians and Israelis (why aren’t they still called Israelites?) living side by side in the pressure cooker known as the Middle-East. This semi-autobiographical work from Suleiman moves slowly, seemingly erratically, and with unabashed redundancy, yet it’s bizarre tone and wit resonate to convey something with a lot to think about. Some scenes are audaciously wild and bizarre and out of the blue so stay awake. Almost no talking, but a lot is said in this Tati-esque Palestinian “romantic comedy” (?). GREAT

The Doberman Gang,” dir. Byron Chudnow (1972). Some two-bit bank robbers think up the perfect crime: have doberman pinschers pull a bank heist! It’s about as pulpy and cheap as it sounds but it’s actually a pretty fun movie with a great ending. They sure get some mileage out of that one theme song, but the biggest problem with this film is that the tone is all over the place. Is it whimsical and quirky or is it violent and cold? Not sure the movie itself knows, but I still liked it. FUN

Dogville,” dir. Lars von Trier (2003). Nicole Kidman (“Batman Forever”) heads an all-star cast in this extremely intentional arthouse film about the nature of mercy and human abuses of mercy. This film is an ethical satire of not only homespun Americana, but also human nature and the insulation of rationalization. The film has some interesting ideas floating around in its none-too-murky pretentiousness, but at 178 minutes I’d say it overstays its welcome. Von Trier did another minimalistic flick that is a sort of sequel to this movie called “Mandalay.” DECENT

Dracula: Pages From A Virgin’s Diary,” dir. Guy Maddin (2002).  This is Canadian avant-garde director Guy Maddin’s highly stylized and energetic film adaptation of the ballet based on Bram Stoker’s famous work. Delirious and dizzying, this motion-filled movie treats not only character movement, but camera work and editing like ballet subjects, moving and juxtaposing with vibrant lyricism. Maddin again uses his trademark of capturing the look and feel of silent cinema, but enfuses it with such frenetic abandon that you might be out of breath yourself by the end. GREAT

Dreamchild,” dir. Gavin Millar (1985). An adult Alice reflects on the inappropriate relationship she had with the real Lewis Carroll as a young girl as she travels to America to honor his legacy. Haunted by nightmarish manifestations of the Wonderland characters (created by the Jim Henson Creature Shop) she fights to forget the way things really were as reporters press her for more information. An interesting film, but sometimes dull. DECENT

Dreams” (aka “Akira Kurosawa’s Dreams”), dir. Akira Kurosawa (1990). As a huge Kurosawa fan, I regret to say that this is one of my least favorites of his, but come on! The guy filmed his dreams. That’s pretty out there. Like all anthology films, “Dreams” is a mixed bag, but the ones that stay with you are quite exquisite. Definitely worth a look. Martin Scorsese (“Raging Bull”) even has a cameo as Vincent Van Gogh. For more Japanese anthology films check out Masaki Kobayashi’s “Kaidan.” GOOD

Dreams That Money Can Buy,” dir. Hans Richter (1947). Ahead of its time in almost every way. This super surreal, experimental collage is a mesmerizing kaleidoscope of Dada wonderfulness. And the music is fantastic! So many great artists worked together to make this strange, strange movie. AWESOME

Dream of a Rarebit Fiend,” dir. Edwin S. Porter (1906). A silent film adaptation of Windsor McKay’s comic strip. FUN

Eax d’artifice,” dir. Kenneth Anger (1953). A wonderfully magical transporting experience. An elegant woman marches through blue-tinted gardens full of water fountains and stone faces to the music of Vivaldi in this avant-garde short. GOOD

Edward Scissorhands,” dir. Tim Burton (1990). Burton’s take on the Beauty and the Beast story and it’s pretty entertaining and strange. Vincent Price (“The Abominable Doctor Phibes”) as a mad scientist making cookies is priceless. Also stars Johnny Depp (“Once Upon a Time in Mexico”), Winona Ryder, Alan Arkin (“The Rocketeer”), Anthony Michael Hall (“The Breakfast Club”), and Dianne Wiest (“Hannah and Her Sisters”). FUN

El Topo,” dir. Alejandro Jodorowsky (1970).  The original midnight movie has lost none of its strangeness or elusiveness. One part classic cowboy western, one part cultic eastern spiritual journey, and all parts very Jodorowsky. Lots of violence, amputees and dwarfs, just like he likes it. Easily the weirdest cowboy movie ever made (yes, I include that awful film, “Blueberry”). GREAT

The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser,” dir. Werner Herzog (1974). Similar to Ashby’s “Being There,” this early Herzog film follows the life a simple man (Bruno S.) who has been isolated in a cell his whole life and he gets dropped into society. GOOD

Epidemic,” dir. Lars von Trier (1987). I kept falling asleep through this. I tried watching it 3 times and I just could not get into it. For some reason or another, von Trier eludes me. MEH

Eraserhead,” dir. David Lynch (1977).  The quintessential Lynch film. His first and one of his weirdest. Jack Nance (“Twin Peaks”) plays a man who experiences the worst of his fears of married life: in-laws, pregnancy, bizarre fetal child critter, and marital squabbles. If that sounds straightforward…it’s not. GREAT

Even Dwarfs Started Small,” dir. Werner Herzog (1969). Proactively peculiar. Dwarf mental patients run amok and create all manner of chaos be it setting potted flowers ablaze, tormenting the blind, setting an old truck in a maniacal circle, or crucifying a monkey. Amidst the bizarre behavior, erratic plot(lessness), incessant laughter, and constant chicken violence Herzog manages something shockingly engaging and somehow tranquilly (if a bit disturbingly so) profound. When the revolutionaries get their way what happens next? AWESOME

The Exterminating Angel,” dir. Luis Bunuel (1962).  Another social satire from Bunuel. When upper class party guests discover they cannot leave the house (nothing is physically stopping them, they just can’t seem to exit) they slowly deteriorate to anarchy as they try to understand why. A brilliant, biting, and baffling film. GREAT

The Fabulous Baron Munchausen,” dir. Karel Zeman (1961).  As a fan of the Terry Gilliam version from 1988, I was eagerly looking forward to what Czech effects guru, Karel Zeman, would do with the story. Zeman’s “Munchausen” is a spectacular visual frenzy with some of the most unique and impressive special effects you are likely to see. AWESOME

The Fabulous World of Jules Verne,” dir. Karel Zeman (1958).  Zeman attempts to place all of Jules Verne’s prophetic gadgets and machinery into one adventure. Stylistically it works very well, but the story probably won’t knock you out. A gently pleasing Czech curiosity. GOOD

The Face of Another,” dir. Hiroshi Teshigahara (1966). A Japanese melodrama about a man with a scarred face would be interesting enough, but Teshigahara’s crazy surreal sets and directing make this awesome. Faces get swapped and relationships get tested. It’s all pretty great. More than a little reminiscent of Georges Franju’s “Eyes Without a Face” (1960). GREAT

Fando y Lis,” dir. Alejandro Jodorowsky (1968).  Jodorowsky’s first feature (caused riots when it first came out!) is as human as it is hard to look at. It’s more than just grotesque imagery at work here. A surreal gut-wrenching and painfully tragic look at the frustration in a romance that has been robbed of innocence yet maintains its characters as perpetually child-minded. Is romance hopeless? GOOD

Fantastic Planet,” dir. Rene Laloux (1973).  Laloux’s animated sci-fi flick is truly a weird find. Humans are dwarfed by huge blue alien giants who treat them like a common infestation until one man can learn their ways and use his knowledge to help the humans overcome their oppressors. My favorite sequences, however, are the non-sequitur creature encounters that have no bearing over the story. Very surreal and imaginative. Reminded me of a serious version of Bob Clampbett’s “Porky Pig in Wacky Land.”  Really good score. GOOD

Fantasy Mission Force,” dir. Yen-Ping Chu (1982). One of the weirdest and wackiest kung-fu movies ever made. Hopping vampires, Amazons, cowboy chaps, the works. Stars a young Jackie Chan! FUN

Fata Morgana,” dir. Werner Herzog (1970). Herzog films mirages in the Sahara desert for about an hour and a half. It’s a loose non-narrative reminiscent of more directionless “Koyaanisqatsi.” GOOD

Faust,” dir. Jan Svankmajer (1994).  Svankmajer tackles the classic tale of a man who sells his soul to the devil, but with a unique visual style, kooky sense of humor, and a few other twists. Lots of puppets in this one. GOOD

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,” dir. Terry Gilliam (1998).  Johnny Depp stars as Hunter S. Thompson, the drug-loving gonzo journalist in this crazy head trip of a film. After the film you will feel like you’d gone to Vegas with Thompson. Also stars Benicio Del Toro (“The Usual Suspects”) and a lot of cameos. Thompson’s own wonderful words make up most of the script so that’s a big plus. AWESOME

Fearless,” dir. Peter Weir (1993).  Jeff Bridges (“Tron”) stars as a man who loses all fears, trepidations, allergies, and seeming mortality after he survives a plane crash. This film may be more subtly weird than some of the others, but it’s still kind of odd. Also stars Rosie Perez (“Do the Right Thing”), Isabella Rossellini, John Turturro, Tom Hulce (“Amadeus”), and Benicio Del Toro. GOOD

The Fifth Element,” dir. Luc Besson (1997). What do Bruce Willis, Gary Oldman, Chris Tucker, Ian Holm, Milla Jovovich, and Lee Evans have in common? Nothing, which is why this kooky space flick from the director of “Leon: The Professional” and “La Femme Nikita” deserves a shout out. It sounds like a sci-fi action adventure, but it’s really more of a human cartoon with cartoony characters, cartoony situations, and cartoony plot. I remember the film fondly, perhaps because it was sort of like “Blade Runner” and “Total Recall” meets “Kung Fu Hustle.” GOOD

Fire and Ice,” dir. Ralph Bakshi (1983). This tepid and tedious flick wants to be so cool so bad. On paper the idea of a filmmaker like Bakshi animating an adult sword and sorcery epic in the style of Frank Frazetta sounds perfect! Unfortunately the execution leaves much to be desired. It’s not just the jarring rotoscoped performances and murky color palette, or shallow characters or even the monotonous throwaway story…it’s that it reminds you that the artwork of Frazetta is just too complex and imaginative to be animated. BAD

For Y’ur Height Only,” dir. Eddie Nicart (1981).  A Filipino little-person action spy movie. Not a great movie, but if you’re into cheesy, schlocky, or low-grade exploitation fare you will enjoy this kooky flick starring Weng Weng as a superfly midget on a mission. I actually really like this movie quite a bit. AWESOME FUN

The Forbidden Zone,” dir. Richard Elfman (1982).  The band “Oingo Boingo” made this film to feel like one of their live shows. This musical movie is a Frankenstein monster of Max Fleishcer cartoons and dirty jokes. The crudity, and rampant absurdity are part of this film’s weird charm. Features some great songs and Herve Villechaize (“Fantasy Island”). Film composer Danny Elfman also appears as Satan covering a Cab Calloway favorite. FUN

The Fountain,” dir. Darren Aronofsky (2006). How far will Hugh Jackman (“X-Men”) go to convey his love for Rachel Weicz (“The Mummy”)? Moreover will it be understood by the audience? Doesn’t matter. The film is gorgeous and fascinating. GOOD

Freaks,” dir. Tod Browning (1932).  It’s amazing to me that this film was even made. “Dracula” director, Browning, uses his past experiences with the circus to bring this chilling and controversial horror yarn of sideshow freaks to life. The freaks themselves (played by real sideshow exhibits) prove their mettle as performers and the finale is memorably frightening. This film was banned for several years. AWESOME

Funky Forest—the First Contact,” dir. Ishii/Ishimine/Miki (2005).  It’s sort of like if David Cronenberg and David Lynch had a baby in Japan and it grew up to be a bafflingly weird sketch comedy with some songs and something to do with aliens. MEH

The Gods Must Be Crazy,” dir. Jamie Uys (1980). It’s a charmer everyone remembers. A tribe of bushmen discover a glass soda bottle and presume it is a gift from the gods, but when it breeds jealousy and violence among the simple family they send N!xau off to get rid of it. Naturally he runs into “civilized” man and many funny things will happen before the happy conclusion. GOOD

Gozu,” dir. Takashi Miike (2003).  Japanese cult filmmaker, Takashi Miike, pays homage to David Lynch in this strange mystery set in a small town. If Freud were alive he would have an aneurysm at the finale. GOOD

Greaser’s Palace,” dir. Robert Downey (1972). A weird combination between the Gospel scriptures and almost “El Topo.” A very strange film indeed. Satan (referred to only, not seen) is named Bingo Gas Station Motel Cheeseburger With A Side Of Aircraft Noise And You’ll Be Gary Indiana. DECENT

Gummo,” dir. Harmony Korine (1997).  That’s right, this film is arbitrarily (perhaps) named after the fifth Marx Brother who ended his performing career with the brothers at vaudeville before they made it into film…but this movie has nothing to do with that. Effectively recreating a pseudo-indie/documentary feel, this film features several vaguely connected vignettes about white American trailer park type folk living (sometimes proudly) amidst squalor, ignorance, and violence. Sort of a stream-of-consciousness tribute to white trash. MEH

Gymkata,” dir. Robert Clouse (1985). The best kind of cheap 80s action garbage: the kind that combines karate with gymnastics. Wait. What?! Also stars a very attractive Tetchie Agbayani to offset the lame pimple-faced protagonist with a mullet. FUN

The Happiness of the Katakuris,” dir. Takashi Miike (2001).  Miike lightens the mood for this rambunctious musical dark comedy. When the Katakuri family tries to open a bed and breakfast and all their guests die horribly and unexpectedly it can only mean that it’s time to hide the bodies so bad publicity doesn’t break them…it also means it’s time for a song. Hilarious and anarchic. You will laugh out loud at its absurdity and your heart will be warmed by the important message of family sticking together through thick and thin. AWESOME

Hausu,” dir. Nobuhiko Obayashi (1977).  One weird and wild psychedelic horror flick (yeah, it’s Japanese). The best movie about a haunted house that eats Japanese school girls. DOUBLE AWESOME

Hawk Jones,” dir. Richard Lowry (1986). An all children cast performing a shoot-em-up cop drama. This goofy premise is so wonderful it’s a shame the movie is so hard to get through. Think “The Little Rascals” doing “Lethal Weapon” but not as fun as you’d think. MEH

Haxan,” dir. Benjamin Christensen (1922). A silent documentary on the history of witchcraft through the ages. GOOD

He Who Gets Slapped,” dir. Victor Sjostrom (1924). Lon Chaney, Sr. (“The Phantom of the Opera”) plays a brilliant scientist whose theories are stolen by his mentor who is also sleeping with his gal. Naturally he becomes a sad, tormented clown and joins the circus. His circus act consists of being repeatedly slapped in the face. GREAT

Hell Comes to Frogtown,” dir. Donald G. Jackson and R.J. Rizer (1988). “Rowdy” Roddy Piper is Sam Hell, the last fertile male in a post-apocalyptic future overrun with grouchy mutant frog people. It’s campy, alright. BAD

The Holy Mountain,” dir. Alejandro Jodorowsky (1973). Jodorowsky’s wildest and most self-indulgent film is also one of the weirdest movies I think a person can watch. A spiritual quest that satirizes everything about modern society, even the quest itself and the fact that we even watched the film in the first place. GREAT

The Hour-Glass Sanatorium,” dir. Wojciech Has (1973).  Polish filmmaker, Wojciech Has, sets his main character to wander about an old sanatorium where his father has been. The building exists in a place that can reorganize time, so we follow our hero as he revisits his past and fumbles through the surreal and wonderful environments that only Has could pull off. GREAT

How I Won the War,” dir. Richard Lester (1967). John Lennon and a fairly big cast of great Brits star in this wobbly satire on war. Lester’s style is so wild and hard to follow that the movie can feel a bit more like an endurance test, but for the innovative comical twists and parodying punches no other director would dare pull, this surreal war film might just be worth checking out. DECENT

How Tasty Was My Little Frenchman,” dir. Nelson Pereira dos Santos (1973). Copious amounts of nudity. Naked people painted to look like natives in this black comedy that failed to give me a chuckle. There’s no tension and not much character to this bizarre little film. Although some might call it a subversive classic I suppose I like my stories a little more storier. BAD

Howard the Duck,” dir. Willard Huyk (1986). So bad it hurts…but it’s so weird you have to wonder how they managed to get the money they did to fund it (*cough* George Lucas). Howard (the Duck) is randomly blasted into outer-space and lands on earth where he befriends rock diva Lea Thompson (“Back to the Future”), science nerd Tim Robbins (“The Shawshank Redemption”), and a slowly mutating demon from the back of the universe who is taking over the body of Jeffrey Jones. Interesting puppetry (that might give you nightmares), but this movie is a chore to get through. Admittedly the monster in the screenshot is cool, but he’s only in it for like a minute. BAD

The Ice Pirates,” dir. Stewart Rafill (1984). This might be the best “Star Wars” rip-off comedy out there. It’s light and breezy and the time warped finale is fantastic. Angelica Huston (“Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou”), Ron Perlman (“The Name of the Rose”), and John Carradine (“Bluebeard”) have minor roles. FUN

The Illustrated Man,” dir. Jack Smight (1969). A mixed-up pseudo science fiction/fantasy anthology piece in which a traveler is told bizarre (very Bradbury) stories by a mysterious stranger, Rod Steiger (“In the Heat of the Night”), who is tattooed from head to toe. Weird and a bit uneven, but not a complete waste of time. MEH

I’m a Cyborg…but it’s Ok,” dir. Chan-wook Park (2006).  “Oldboy” director, Chan-wook Park takes on off-beat romantic comedy. Set in a mental institution a host of oddball characters live out their bizarre lives, but the new girl is convinced she is a cyborg and that eating human food will kill her. When she’s not talking to lights and vending machines or wearing her grandmother’s dentures she’s busy learning the laws of the cyborg and starving to death until one patient with a crush on her breaks out of his bubble in order to help her and save her life. An interesting look at what can make a society works, but this brightly-colored film was just a little too uneven for me so I’d recommend “Oldboy” or “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” first. MEH

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus,” dir. Terry Gilliam (2009). A mess that only Gilliam could dream up. Parnassus (“The Sound of Music’s” Christopher Plummer) makes a deal with the devil (singer/actor Tom Waits) to gain immortality and run a carnival that brings people’s dreams to life, but also they have a choice to choose the devil…also Parnassus’ daughter (Lily Cole) is drifting away and there’s this new guy, Tony (Heath Ledger/Johnny Depp/Jude Law/Colin Farrell), who may be a bad guy…it’s crazy and convoluted, but you will have something to talk about for sure if you make it through. DECENT

Immortal,” dir. Eric Jacobus/Chelsea Steffenson (2006). There are so many levels on which none of this film works that it would be silly of me to try to explain it. Starts with some fairly interesting concepts but outright refuses to be interesting or engaging (for me anyway). BAD

In the Attic: Who Has a Birthday Today?,” dir. Jiri Barta (2009). It’s like if Svankmajer did “Toy Story.” A brilliant and wonderfully imaginative and intricately textured stop-motion adventure from master Czech animator, Jiri Barta. It’s so ridiculously adorable! AWESOME

Infra-Man,” dir. Shan Hua (1975). A super awesomely cheesy knock off of Ultra-Man. A super guy in a robot costume fights giant monsters. Win! AWESOMELY BAD

Inland Empire,” dir. David Lynch (2006).  This Lynch flick looks crude, but there is a lot going on (so much that it takes 3 hours). Laura Dern plays a woman who’s stardom is diminishing and she is losing touch with herself. As with all Lynch, it’s not that simple. This film, I think, works  best as a companion piece to Lynch’s earlier film “Mulholland Dr.” Also stars Jeremy Irons (“The Mission”) and Justin Theroux (“American Psycho”). GREAT

Institute Benjamenta,” dir. The Brothers Quay (1995).  More surreal atmosphere and questions from the Brothers Quay. In all honesty I probably need to see this one again. GOOD

Ivan Vasilievich: Back to the Future,” dir. Leonid Gaidai (1973). A lowly Russian scientist invents a time machine and accidentally switches his landlord with Ivan the Terrible. Comedy ensues. GOOD

Jacob Two-Two and the Hooded Fang,” dir. Theodore J. Flicker (1978). Holy hell this is mind-bogglingly bad and strange. A beloved Canadian children’s book is brought to extremely low-budget life. A young boy dreams of going to Children’s Prison on Smog Island which is run by a fish dude and a bird lady…also a luchador played by Mongo from “Blazing Saddles.” Child power!  BAD.

James and the Giant Peach,” dir. Henry Selick (1996).  Yeah, I know everyone’s seen it, but it’s still really weird. Selick (“Nightmare Before Christmas”) adapts Roald Dahl’s classic tale to the big screen with brilliant imagination and technical wizardry. Young James joins a gang of giant bugs and embarks on a quest to New York City atop a mammoth peach suspended in the air by a flock of seagulls (not the band). Wonderful stop-motion animation and a great voice cast featuring Simon Callow (“Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls”), Richard Dreyfuss (“Jaws”), and Susan Sarandan (“Thelma and Louise”). GREAT

Jigoku,” dir. Nobuo Nakagawa (1960). This movie has one of the weirdest story arcs I’ve ever seen. The first half of the film we see a man (after a fatal hit and run accident) trying to ignore the advice of his friend who is, in fact, a demon. We are introduced to many characters and bad things happen. The second half of the movie all of the characters are killed and sent to hell to be tormented for the remainder of the film’s runtime. Gripping and strange. GOOD

Kin-dza-dza!,” dir. Georgi Daneliya (1986). When two guys from Moscow unwittingly transport themselves to the planet of Pluke in the Kin-dza-dza galaxy, it will take all of the matches and endurance they have to return to earth in this cult Soviet science fiction comedy. AWESOME

The King and the Mockingbird,” dir. Paul Grimault (1980).  Wonderfully imaginative animation. The English dub features the voice of Peter Ustinov (“Topkapi”), but it’s really obnoxious. I have been told that the French version is much better and has footage not seen in the dub. GOOD

Kirikou and the Sorceress,” dir. Michel Ocelot (1998). It’s a delightful animated African folktale full of adventure and many acts of bravery and even more naked people. When a newborn infant in the tribe has more valor and ambition than anyone it’s up to him to go on great quests and battle many dangers to free all the men from the clutches of the evil sorceress and to set her free as well. GREAT

Koyaanisqatsi,” dir. Godfrey Reggio (1982). One of the most astonishing documentaries ever conceived. Reggio proves that a picture is truly worth a thousand words. Carefully and vividly explores mankind’s impact on his world without words. Also check out his sequels, “Powaqqatsi” (1988) and “Naqoyqatsi” (2002). AWESOME

Krull,” dir. Peter Yates (1983). It’s a sci-fi/sword and sorcery b-grade epic with lots of monsters, dopey weapons, and fun special effects. It’s like a brainless “Neverending Story” made for adults. And I still liked it better than “Legend.” FUN

L’age D’or,” dir. Luis Bunuel (1930).  A very early, and I think, still effective surrealist film. Perhaps not as disturbing or controversial as when it first came out, but definitely worth a look. You can really tell which parts Bunuel did and which parts Salvador Dali did. GOOD

The Last Circus,” dir. Alex de la Iglesia (2011). One of the darker and more gross trips to the circus you are likely to ever take. This bleak and nasty film follows the fall and then further fall of a disgruntled clown and a host of grim characters. It’s like an evil Jean-Pierre Jeunet directed it. Very violent. MEH

L’avventura,” dir. Michelangelo Antonioni (1960). Your mind will try to figure out who the main character is too soon, so don’t try. The movie drifts in and out of plots like real life in this Italian neo-realist (or would this one be new wave?) drama from Antonioni. Beautiful to look at. GOOD

Legend of Dinosaurs and Monster Birds,” dir. Junji Kurata (1977). It’s so deliciously bad, but super boring most of the time. The crappy monster effects are only on screen a few times…and this was supposed to be the most expensive movie shot in Japan up until that time. Disappointment. BAD

Lemonade Joe,” dir. Oldrich Lipský (1964). Can a teetotaler and an alcoholic live together in the wild west of Arizona, Czechoslovakia…Egypt…London…wherever they are. A great chaotic spoof of classic Hollywood western musicals. It’s a deranged delight from start to finish. GREAT

Leningrad Cowboys Go America,” dir. Aki Kaurismaki (1989). As cool and hip as a pair of pointed shoes and matching pointed pompadour. This Finnish musical road comedy is truly a bizarre, unforgettable experience and a nonstop delight. The songs are fun, the costumes are wild and hilarious, and the characters are all wonderfully stoic and odd. GREAT

Leningrad Cowboys Meet Moses,” dir. Aki Kaurismaki (1994). Finland’s worst band is back and kicking it all over again when they are reunited with their old manager who has been spiritually reborn. He takes them back to Europe, but not before stealing the nose off the Statue of Liberty. GREAT

L’inferno,” dir. Francesco Bertolini and Adolfo Padovan (1911). An incredibly stylistic silent adaptation of Dante’s “Inferno.” Fairly straightforward if you’re familiar with the poem. Basically it’s a tour of hell. The visuals are inspired by Gustave Dore’s illustrations. GOOD

Lisztomania,” dir. Ken Russell (1975). Ken Russell’s “biopic” about Franz Liszt (Roger Daltrey) is pretty much a cocaine-binge rape of musical history. It’s nearly totally incomprehensible, but not entirely unenjoyable. DECENT

Little Otik,” Jan Svankmajer (2000). An infertile couple pretends a tree root is a baby until, after nine months of believing it, it comes to life…with an appetite for human flesh! As it grows it requires more and more meat (think “Little Shop of Horrors”) until only one person can stop it. Gritty and bizarre (like all Svankmajer fare) but not without humor. GOOD

Lost Highway,” dir. David Lynch (1997).  Very difficult to explain. Identities get switched all over the place and we may never be sure of what it all means, but Lynch knows how to create suspense and atmosphere. Robert Blake (he used be Mickey in the “Little Rascals” but more recently was on trial for his wife’s murder) is terrifying in this movie. GOOD

Lucifer Rising,” dir. Kenneth Anger (1972). OK. So pretty much all of Anger’s films should be on this list. This one is definitely no exception. GOOD

Lunacy,” dir. Jan Svankmajer (2005).  Svankmajer asks which is worse: extreme liberalism or extreme conservativism. We see the dark sides of two extreme positions after the mental patients take control of the insane asylum and lock up their doctors all whilst a steady stop-motion parade of meat dances by. Spooky in its conclusions and darkly humorous for the duration. GREAT

Magic,” dir. Richard Attenborough (1978). Anthony Hopkins (“The Elephant Man”) stars as man slowly going insane from overexposure to his ventriloquist dummy. This has got to be the only romantic thriller that’s centered around a foul-mouthed murder puppet. It also stars Burgess Meredith (“Batman: the Movie”) and it’s directed by, yes, THAT Richard Attenborough. DECENT

The Man Who Fell to Earth,” dir. Nicholas Roeg (1976). Singer David Bowie (“Labyrinth”) stars as an unfortunate interplanetary being stranded on earth. In an effort to find a way home (and with water) he utilizes American industry…but he gets sidetracked with women. A wildly sexual and psychedelic 70s head trip of pseudo-science fiction mayhem. Also stars Rip Torn (“Men in Black”). DECENT

The Man Who Laughs,” dir. Paul Leni (1928).  Famous for being the inspiration behind Batman’s “Joker,” this silent melodrama follows the life of a man who had his mouth carved into a garrish grin when he was a boy. People laugh at the grinning man for his deformity, but the audience roots for him through all his calamities. Conrad Veidt does a great job as the title character. GREAT

The Man With the Movie Camera,” dir. Dziga Vertov (1929).  The closest thing to this movie today might be Godfrey Reggio’s “Qatsi” trilogy. Vertov (extremely abhorrent of narrative film) sets out to put every type of camera technique invented before 1930 and mesh them together to form a fantastically spellbinding and energetic ballet that is a portrait of his contemporary Russia. He succeeds with gusto. AWESOME

Manos: The Hands of Fate,” dir. Harold P. Warren (1966). It’s as incomprehensibly bad as you can imagine and then some. Believe the hype and find the treasured MST3K riff of it. It’s weirdly bad. AWESOMELY BAD

Mary and Max,” dir. Adam Elliot (2009). A young awkward Australian girl becomes pen pals with the first random person she picks out of the phone book. She happens to pick an elderly, obese, autistic Jewish guy in New York City. Their odd relationship develops sweetly over the years. DECENT

Meet the Feebles,” dir. Peter Jackson (1989).  Before “Lord of the Rings,” Peter Jackson made gross-out comedies like “Bad Taste” and “Dead Alive,” but none so repugnant and objectionable as “Meet the Feebles” which is a pervertedly sick send up of “The Muppet Show” with every possible deplorably stomach-churning turn you can think of and then some. Grotesque but rewarding for a lucky deranged minority. GOOD

Men at Work,” dir. Mani Haghighi (2006). An Iranian satire about a group of middle-aged men who can’t seem to get past a rock on the shoulder of a highway. Once they get it in their heads that they’re going to push it over they just can’t give up. GOOD

Meshes of the Afternoon,” dir. Maya Deren (1943). Deren’s work is spellbinding. Where does dream end and reality begin? A wonderful, exploratory avant-garde piece. GOOD

Metropolitan,” dir. Whit Stillman (1990). A movie about preppies talking. GREAT

The Mill and the Cross,” dir. Lech Majewski (2011). Pieter Bruegel’s 1564 painting is brought to life in this captivatingly strange and hypnotic film. Rutger Hauer (“Blade Runner”) and Michael York (“Romeo and Juliet”) star in this truly one of a kind movie. Less bent on conveying a story with rich characters, Majewski immerses us into the world of the painting as we meticulously explore every nook and cranny. Sumptuous cinematography captures the era beautifully if a bit more ethereal and realistic. It won’t be for everybody, that’s for sure. GREAT

Mondo Cane,” dir. Paolo Cavara, Franco Prosperi, and Gualtiero Jacopetti (1962). The documentary that started the whole shockumentary trend. The film takes us all over the world to observe the strange habits, beliefs, practices, customs, and traditions of many different people (some customs with dubious authenticity). All in all it’s more humorous than shocking today. “Mondo Cane” has a real knack for ironic juxtaposition. GOOD

Mulholland Dr.,” dir. David Lynch (2001).  This bizarre nightmare mystery crafted by Lynch has a lot of really good moves. Naomi Watts (“King Kong”) stars. GREAT

My Dinner With Andre,” dir. Louis Malle (1981). Wallace Shawn stars in the film that is literally just one long conversation about different topics. Looks like someone beat Richard Linklater to the punch. GREAT

The Mysterious Geographic Explorations of Jasper Morello,” dir. Anthony Lucas (2005). A shadow puppet short fraught with delicious elements of steampunk. Visually impeccable. GOOD

Night of the Lepus,” dir. William Claxton (1972).  Of all the giant animal/bug horror movies, this one might’ve had the least potential to begin with. Giant rabbits attack people. Move over “The Killer Shrews.” Stars Janet Leigh (“Psycho”) and DeForest Kelley (“Star Trek”). AWESOMELY BAD

The Nine Lives of Tomas Katz,” dir. Ben Hopkins (2000). A strange, surreal black comedy about the end of the world that no one could have predicted (way weirder than “Southland Tales”). GOOD

Onibaba,” dir. Kaneto Shindo (1964).  A quiet Japanese erotic horror flick. An old woman and her widowed daughter-in-law live in the tall grass, hunting samurai to kill and sell their armor in feudal Japan. When a young man steals the heart of the daughter-in-law, the older woman will do anything to keep the status quo, even don a demon-possessed mask. GREAT

The Ossuary,” dir. Jan Svankmajer (1970). So maybe all of Svankmajer’s shorts deserve to be on this list, but this one barely counts as a film so it’s extra weird. A manic ten minute tour of a temple constructed of the bones of the thousands of victims of the Black Death. GOOD

Paris, Texas,” dir. Wim Wenders (1984). A man (“The Straight Story’s” Harry Dean Stanton) who has been wandering the desert for the past several years tries to remember his past and reconnect with his son and fix the mess he made with his ex-wife…if he can find her. Haunting and beautiful. GREAT

Persona,” dir. Ingmar Bergman (1966).  Many of Swedish auteur Ingmar Bergman’s films are weird or puzzling, but this one might be one of the strangest. Two women, an actress and her nurse discover more about each other than they might have counted on. Stars Bibi Andersson (“Wild Strawberries”) and Liv Ullman (“Face to Face”). Also see “Face to Face,” “Fanny and Alexander,” “Silence,” and many other Bergman films. GOOD

The Phantom Tollbooth,” dir. Chuck Jones (1970). Based on Norton Juster’s  novel for children, Looney Tunes animator, Chuck Jones, brings the topsy turvy limerick-filled adventure to life by combining live-action with animation. DECENT

Pi,” dir. Darren Aronofsky (1998). If you like you math gritty and Jewish then this is the movie for you. (I need to see it again). GOOD

The Piano Tuner of Earthquakes,” dir. The Brothers Quay (2005). The Brothers Quay paint a lyrical surreal fantasy with their own rules. This visually sumptuous  and original puzzle is both refreshing and delirious. Gottfried John (“Goldeneye”) plays a nefarious and mysterious doctor. GREAT

The Pied Piper of Hamelin,” dir. Jiri Barta (1986). The classic tale told with very dark expressionistic sensibilities. An incredible feast for the eyes. GREAT

Pink Flamingos,” dir. John Waters (1972).  John Waters (“Hairspray”) does everything he can to gross out the audience. If the grotesque, debaucherous or psychotically perverted act exists, then it’s in this movie. If it didn’t exist, then “Pink Flamingos” invented it. Not the most enjoyable way to lose an hour and half of your time, but you will lose it. BAD

Pink Floyd The Wall,” dir. Alan Parker (1982).  If you like the surreal imagery and you like Pink Floyd’s music you will probably enjoy this at some level. I did. GOOD

Primer,” dir. Shane Carruth (2004). A very technical and very talkie take on the time-travel genre. Much to think about here. GOOD

Puss in Boots,” dir. Eugene Marner (1988). The famed cat of classic folktale comes to life…as Christopher Walken (“The Deer Hunter”) in a mustache. No makeup. Just Walken. The film is bad and hokey and the songs are obnoxious, but for the oddity of seeing a grown man (Christopher Walken no less) trying to keep it all together is worth it. Terrible film, but the Walken bits are fun. BAD

Putney Swope,” dir. Robert Downey (1969). A strange satire of corrupt corporations, black politics, and the advertising industry. MEH

The Rainbow Thief,” dir. Alejandro Jodorowsky (1990).  Although Jodorowsky disowned this project and it was minimally released and critically panned, it’s not all bad. Omar Sharif (“Doctor Zhivago”), Peter O’Toole (“The Ruling Class”), and Christopher Lee (“The Devil Rides Out”) come together for the peculiar tale of wealthy eccentrics and poor vagabonds in their journey to discover which is more important: riches or friendship? DECENT

The Return to Oz,” dir. Walter Murch (1985).  A dark and twisted yarn to be sure and although not nearly as good, magical, or consistent as “The Wizard of Oz” (the films have very little in common) it possesses its own unique charm and fun puppetry. GOOD

Riki-Oh: the Story of Riki,” dir. Ngai Kai Lam (1991).  Hong Kong prison super-gore never looked this ridiculous. Ricky (or is it Riki?) has been trained in a secret (and quite ludicrous) form of martial arts that makes him invincible. Once in prison for murder he takes on the evil and corrupt prison wardens to make the world safe once again (for murderers and rapists?). One crazy splatterfest and it really helps if you’re into the whole campy feel. A bit nostalgic for me. FUN

Robot Bastard!” dir. Rob Schrab (2002). A Robot with an attitude must rescue the president’s daughter from Blood Mamba in this wild tribute to sci fi schlock. FUN

Robot Monster,” dir. Phil Tucker (1953). Everything you heard is true. A gorilla with a fish bowl for a head and antennas kidnaps people and tries to reason with the puny humans as to why he is the superior being. It’s awful. BAD

Rock and Rule,” dir. Clive Smith (1983). Stellar animation and 80s rock riffs  can’t save this creaking half-baked post-apocalyptic saga of mutant mouse folk and their band as they fight an evil rocker guy who wants to unleash demons from hell with their lead singer’s voice. BAD

Rollerball,” dir. Norman Jewison (1975). James Caan (“The Godfather”) stars in this murder-sport version of the future that’s just never quite as entertaining after you’ve seen “Death Race 2000.” MEH

Rubber,” dir. Quentin Dupieux (2010). A car tire roams around the desert and kills people by exploding their heads in the style of slasher revenge flicks. The concept and the trailer is hilarious. The actual execution of the feature is a little too preoccupied with telling you how clever it is rather than actually being clever. The stuff with the tire is funny, the stuff with the people wishes it was “Behind the Mask: the Rise of Leslie Vernon.” It could have been great. A tragic disappointment because a movie about a killer tire will probably never happen again. Sigh…missed opportunity. MEH.

Run, Lola, Run,” dir. Tom Tykwer (1998).  A very popular German film about a girl in a hurry. She must get money to save her boyfriend from the mob and everyone she interacts with along the way will live a completely different life depending on how she runs into them. The film will reach a conclusion and then stop, rewind, and play the same story again only if she had behaved a little differently. We get three shots at a happy ending and you get to pick which one actually happened. GREAT

The Saddest Music in the World,” dir. Guy Maddin (2003).  Guy Maddin is one of the weirdest directors. Styling all of his films to look like vintage silent features he blends the classic aura with his own absurd humor and surrealism. Isabella Rossallini stars as the beer queen who puts forth the international contest to see which country has the saddest music in the world in this unique and unforgettable Canadian comedy-drama…did I mention she has glass legs full of beer? AWESOME

Salo-120 Days of Sodom,” dir. Pier Paolo Pasolini (1975).  Shocking and repulsing (though if you watched all of the films before this you might be deadened to much of the horror). Pasolini’s last film, based on the writings of the Marquis de Sade, chronicles the miserable lives of individuals who have been captured by a four evil aristocrats at the end of World War II in Italy. The gruesome depravity and graphic dehumanization of the victims is profoundly arresting and will leave you queasy, but there is undeniable talent at work. You will most certainly have much to discuss after viewing this film. GOOD

Santa Claus,” dir. Rene Cardona (1959). Up there with “Santa Claus Conquers the Martians” in yuletide derangement. Santa must outwit Satan and team up with Merlin before he can leave his space castle and deliver toys to the good girls and boys. BAD

Santa Claus Conquers the Martians,” dir. Nicholas Webster (1964).  A perennial classic of stinkdom. The Canadian channel used to put this on every year. It’s one of the most mind-bogglingly bad films you are likely to come across. There are scores of weird B movies and some of them I barely recall the titles of. Investigate this genre. Depending on your point of reference, it can be very rewarding. BAD

Santa Sangre,” dir. Alejandro Jodorowsky (1989).  One of Jodorowsky’s most accessible (though that’s not saying much) movies features a man with the ultimate mommy complex. His armless mother makes him stand behind her and be her arms…to either play the piano or kill young women who might be interested in the young man. A powerful and focused film loaded with surreal symbolism. A bizarre, disturbing spectacle. GREAT

The Saragossa Manuscript,” dir. Wojciech Has (1965).  Martin Scorsese (“Raging Bull”), Francis Ford Coppola (“The Godfather”), Luis Bunuel (“Belle de jour”), and Jerry Garcia (“The Grateful Dead”) loved this movie and it really is quite good. This movie, by Has, plays with narrative story telling in so many ways it defies description. A myriad of interlocking tales of humor, hauntings, and horror are spun round and round until we give up trying to understand it all from moment to moment and just let the film take us where we need to go. Beautiful, bold, bizarre, and unforgettable. AWESOME

Saturn 3,” dir. Stanley Donen (1980). Harvey Keitel (voice awkwardly dubbed) plays a mentally imbalanced guy in space who kinda sorta sometimes controls an 8 ft. tall rapist robot. The robot chases a naked Farrah Fawcett and Kirk Douglas around a spaceship thing. It’s terrible. BAD

Save the Green Planet,” dir. Joon-Hwan Jang (2003).  This Korean sci-fi-suspense-drama-torture-mystery-comedy is one for the books. A man suspects his old boss of being an alien so he kidnaps him and seeks to torture him until he admits it, but there is a lot more going on in this emotional and tonal roller coaster from Joon-Hwan Jang. GOOD

Schizopolis,” dir. Steven Soderbergh (1996).  Easily Soderbergh’s (“Sex, Lies and Videotape”) weirdest and most inventive film. I’d try to explain it, but you’ll just have to see it. In addition to directing, Soderbergh plays two of the main characters in this film. Some scenes are laugh out loud crazy funny. GREAT

Science is Fiction,” dir. Jean Painlevé. This exuberant collection of lyrically surreal science and biology shorts is a visual delight all around. From his early silent studies to his later color selection Painlevé’s technique is spellbinding. AWESOME

The Secret Adventures of Tom Thumb,” dir. Dave Borthwick (1993).  Weird doesn’t begin to cover it. Using a process called pixelation (where they stop-motion animate human actors) and blending it with classic clay puppet stop-motion animation, Borthwick creates a film experience unlike any other. Fetus-like Tom Thumb wanders from the land of the bug-eating human giants to the evil science lab, to the toxic wilderness full of gnome-like people who are at war with the insensitive giants, and back again in this wildly imaginative and peculiar fable full of wit and thick with atmosphere. GREAT

Shakma,” dir. Tom Logan and Hugh Parks (1990). A crazed baboon murders med students playing a nerdy role-playing game in a research facility. It also mauls Roddy McDowell (“Planet of the Apes”). Now maybe a murder baboon had more potential than killers shrews or giant rabbits, but this is just a strange set up. The bulk of the movie is people slamming doors and the baboon freaking out and trying to bust the doors open. I think what we can ultimately glean from “Shakma” is that man is the real baboon. BAD

Sita Sings the Blues,” dir. Nina Paley (2008). Director Paley parallels a personal chapter from her own life  with the great Indian epic “The Ramayana” and combines it all with 1920s recordings of Annette Hanshaw singing classic blues tunes. The best part is it’s funny, colorful, and she did it all herself. GREAT

Skritek,” dir. Tomas Vorel (2005).  A wordless Czech screwball comedy set to grunts of gibberish and an exuberant brassy score. A dysfunctional family learns to cope through all the monotony and absurdity of their humdrum lives…with the help of a ubiquitous magical gnome (“skritek” is Czech for gnome). Fun, funny, lively, and surreal. A real treat. Your toes will be tapping by the end. GREAT

Something Wicked This Way Comes,” dir. Jack Clayton (1983).  Ray Bradbury adapts his story wonderfully to the screen with a steady tempo and very classic-feeling moves. An evil carnival comes to a sleepy turn-of-the-century American town in October to tempt people with their longings and regrets. A chilling coming-of-age fantasy with great performances from Jonathan Pryce and especially Jason Robards. GOOD

Son of the White Mare,” dir. Marcell Jankovics (1982). Trippiest cartoon ever. A wild bunch of Hungarian folktales are brought to vivid life in this deliriously colorful and liquid movie. Treeshaker battles dragons with multiple heads and restores the kingdoms. GOOD

Spirited Away,” dir. Hayao Miyazaki (1999).  Miyazaki is one of those rare filmmakers whose talent and imagination seem to have no limit. All of his films are wonderful and many of them are very odd, but “Spirited Away” might be his best and oddest. A young girl winds up in a land of spirits and demons and must be sure to not forget her identity lest she succumb to the magic and be bound there forever. Superb animation. AWESOME

Spooky Encounters,” Sammo Hung (1980). It’s got some fun action scenes and your typical Hong Kong action comedy plot, but the ghost stuff is kinda fun and the battle at the end is crazy town in a hat! (“crazy town in a hat” is the intellectual property of BurrellSubmarine. Anyone wishing to use aforementioned phrase will owe the BurrellSubmarine estate 12 cents per use). FUN

Stalker,” dir. Andrei Tarkovsky (1979).  Ok, ok, ok, so Tarkovsky isn’t that weird (although “Andrei Rublev” was executed rather strangely), but how often do we get to throw this guy’s name around. I stretched to get Kurosawa and Bergman in hear and by thunder, Tarkovsky’s going to have his moment too. This slow-moving Soviet science fiction drama follows the lives of 3 men who venture out into the colorful wilderness in search of a wish-granting room located in the forbidden zone (no relation to the Elfman film). This haunting tale of human hope is both profound, enigmatic, poetic, and stirring. AWESOME

Stephen Tobolowsky’s Birthday Party,” dir. Robert Brinkmann (2005). Busy character actor who most people have never really noticed (he was in “Groundhog Day” and “Memento” and over 100 other films as minor characters) gets his time to shine by just being himself. The whole documentary is simply Tobolowsky telling stories and anecdotes about his life as he prepares for his birthday party. Simple set up, but the man tells a great yarn. GREAT

The Stolen Airship,” dir. Karel Zeman (1967). Once again Zeman dazzles with his imagination, sense of whimsy, and innovative special effects to craft another steampunk flavored adventure on land, air, and sea. GREAT

Street of Crocodiles,” dir. The Brothers Quay (1986). One of the Brothers Quay most famous pieces. This short will dazzle you with its rustic stop-motion charm that feels like it was pieced together from objects found in old suitcases and attics and cellars. Their influence from Svankmajer is quite apparent here, but the Quays devise their own unique style. Also watch “This Unnameable Little Broom,” “The Comb,” “Cabinet of Jan Svankmajer,” “Stille Nacht” and all their other shorts. A mighty collection is gathered on “Phantom Museums: The Short Films of the Brothers Quay.” GREAT

Super Mario Bros.,” dir. Annabel Jankel and Rocky Morton (1993). Bob Hoskins and John Leguizamo (“Ice Age”) star as the iconic Mario and Luigi video game characters. This was a weird idea for a movie to begin with, but that it is so strange and so far removed from its source material its a wonder no one tried to stop it. Also Dennis Hopper plays a dinosaur. BAD

Symbol,” dir. Hitoshi Matsumoto (2009). Matsumoto (“Big Man Japan”) directs, writes, and stars in one of the weirdest and funniest movies about the universe. A Japanese guy wakes up in a doorless, windowless room upholstered in cherub phalluses that, when touched, make different musical notes and toss random objects into the room. As he becomes increasingly frustrated with his surreal prison he gradually learns the rules and unravels the mysteries of the universe. It’s “2001” on shrooms. There is also a subplot about a Mexican luchador. AWESOME

Synecdoche, New York,” dir. Charlie Kaufman (2008).  Almost all of Kaufman’s films deserve to be on this list, but I limited myself to this and “Being John Malkovich.” Definitely check out “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” and “Adaptation.” Philip Seymour Hoffman (“Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead”) stars as a troubled director who, in an attempt to create the ultimate stage reality, winds up becoming the subject of possibly the most ‘meta’ story in the world: his own. Fascinating, dark, and twisted. Also stars Catherine Keener, Dianne Wiest, and Samantha Morton (“Minority Report”). GREAT

Tarnation,” dir. Jonathan Couette (2003). No one ever made a documentary in this manner before and I doubt anyone else ever will. GOOD

Tears of the Black Tiger,” dir. Wisit Sasanatieng (2000).  Sasanatieng’s cowboy-comedy-melodrama is a gaudily saturated with pyschedelic mismatches of color and genre, yet it’s still a pleasure to watch. GOOD

The Terror of Tiny Town,” dir. Sam Newfield (1938). An old-timey cowboy musical with an all little person cast. It’s fairly straightforward and some of the gags might be considered a trifle insensitive to some, but you know what? It’s pretty darn awesome. I just won’t say it’s not silly. GREAT

Testament of Orpheus,” dir. Jean Cocteau (1960).  Cocteau’s (“Beauty and the Beast”) last directorial film is perhaps a bit self-indulgent, but I’d step inside his imagination any day. “Orpheus” flows like a dream (and makes almost as much sense), but it holds our attention through Cocteau’s ever-expanding poetic  philosophies on life and art. Yul Brynner (“The Ten Commandments”), Pablo Picasso, and many others make random appearances. GREAT

Tetsuo,” dir. Shinya Tsukamoto (1989).  Another one of those Japanese Cronenberg meets Lynch type things. This cyberpunk body-horror movie will horrify you and exhilarate you with its rousing energetic finale. A very unique film indeed. GOOD

The Thief and the Cobbler” (re-cobbled), dir. Richard Williams (1993).  If given the opportunity find the “re-cobbled” version of this film (it’s unfinished and features the interspersing of pencil sketches where the animation is not completed). This film, by the great Richard Williams (most famous for “Roger Rabbit”), was over 25 years in the making and if it was completed the way Williams had intended it might have been one of the most impressive animated feats captured on film in history. It dazzles, it tantalizes, and it makes one guffaw unashamedly at its clever wit and spectacular ingenuity. AWESOME

The Thing With Two Heads,” dir. Lee Frost (1972). A wealthy racist played by Ray Milland (“Dial ‘M’ For Murder”) must graft his head onto a big black guy in order to stay alive. It’s like if “The Defiant Ones” was terrible and also wanted to be “Smokey and the Bandit.” Some really lame car chases and bad everything else make for a super ludicrous movie. BAD.

Tideland,” dir. Terry Gilliam (2005).  One of Gilliam’s most debated and misunderstood films. “Tideland” is about the resilence of children and how the imagination is sometimes a child’s only defense mechanism, but that it can ultimately be its savior or its downfall. Young Jeliza-Rose deals with her junkie parents, then her dead parents, and the strange inhabitants of the vast, lonely plains of her new home. Unsettling and complex. Features Jeff Bridges and Jennifer Tilly (“The Bride of Chucky”). MEH

Time Bandits,” dir. Terry Gilliam (1981).  One of my favorite children’s films for adults. A young boy joins a team of dwarves (played by former Oompa-Loompas, ewoks, and R2-D2!) to travel through time to steal the treasures out of historical figures’ hands, until Evil David Warner (“The Omen”) lures them to his lair for the final showdown. Monty Python alums Michael Palin and John Cleese also join Gilliam in spreading darkly weird mirth about the cinema. Also features Sean Connery, Shelley Duvall, Katherine Helmond, and Sir Ralph Richardson (“Murder On the Orient Express”). AWESOME

Time Piece,” dir. Jim Henson (1965). Muppets aside, Mr. Henson was also a brilliant experimenter in the realm of film, storytelling, and special effects. This short abstract little film explores the frightening captivity we are all victim to. You see, we are all prisoners of time…but with occasionally very funny results. AWESOME

Tokyo Drifter,” dir. Seijun Suzuki (1966). Psychedelic Yakuza extravaganza. I don’t know how to tell you all this, but this is kind of the coolest movie ever made. It’s a pop-art super-saturated Japanese flick that explodes with color and action and is almost as incomprehensible as it is cool. This movie is absolutely bananas. The mise-en-scène is like some sort of hyperactive comic book and the plot, although meandering, is one of sly satire. This is James Bond on acid. AWESOME

Touki Bouki,” dir. Djibril Diop Manmbety (1973). It’s a really fascinating movie that combines the essence of French New Wave with the energy and anarchy of urban Senegal. A young couple schemes a way to run away to Paris.GREAT

A Town Called Panic,” dir. Stephane Aubier (2009). Based on the popular animated Belgian television show the film follows the exploits of a toy Cowboy, Indian, and Horse who are roommates as a birthday surprise goes awry and sets the trio on a very strange adventure. It’s a lot of fun if you can deal with how inane it all is. GREAT

Tree of Life,” dir. Terence Malick (2011). A visionary epic that sprawls and reaches for meaning in the universe and searches as far back as it can and then moves forward to Sean Penn on a beach of memories. It may be hard to follow and perhaps unnecessarily cryptic but there is no denying the beauty captured in this peculiarly intimate tale from Terence Malick. GOOD

A Trip to the Moon,” dir. Georges Melies (1902).  Almost everyone has seen the iconic black and white image of the man in the moon with the bullet-like spaceship wedged in his eye. This classic silent film from effects pioneer, Georges Melies, based on Jules Verne’s classic tale is wonderful to behold. Some scientists shoot themselves out of a giant canon to explore the moon, but the aliens aren’t quite so friendly. By no means Melies’ weirdest film (his other stuff might even be too weird for this list), but definitely an important idiosyncratic film. This movie takes you back to a time when there still seemed to be mystery and wonder in outer space. AWESOME

The Triplets of Belleville,” dir. Sylvain Chomet (2003).  One of the most impeccably stylized animated films I have seen. Each cel is breathtakingly wonderful in its caricature and character design. An old woman trains her bike-enthusiast grandson, Champion, for the Tour-de-France, but when the French mafia abducts him for their own weird designs, the old woman and her dog must go on an adventure to America to find him and rescue him. Along the way she teams up with 3 old vaudevillian singers (the eponymous Triplets) who prove that they may be old, but they still have some spring in their step. A delightful caper comedy that’s sure to please anyone with a heart for cartoons. AWESOME

True Stories,” dir. David Byrne (1986).  That’s right, David Byrne of the “Talking Heads” directed and starred in this laid back movie that introduces us to the fictitious town of Virgil, Texas and some of the idiodyncratic residents and their even weirder habits. Gently, comically amusing. Features some good songs and a very young John Goodman. AWESOME

Turkish Star Wars” (aka “The Man Who Saves the World”), dir. Cetin Inanc (1982).  Easily the worst film ever made. In an effort to prove that Turkey could make a science fiction film as good as “Star Wars”, director Cetin Inanc made the worst film of any country, genre, decade, etc. It’s hard to believe that the people responsible for this debacle had seen a movie before. Not only is it bad and incomprehensible, but it steals so much footage from the original “Star Wars” and other films (as well as music from “Raiders of the Last Ark” and other movies and tv shows) it’s ridiculous. That being said, go out and watch it. It’s hilarious! AWESOMELY BAD

Twelve Monkeys,” dir. Terry Gilliam (1995).  One of Gilliam’s most successful and accessible, but it’s still pretty weird. Bruce Willis (“Die Hard”) comes from the future to stop a virus outbreak that will wipe out most of civilization, but psychiatrist Madeleine Stowe doesn’t believe him and psychopath Brad Pitt has other things on his mind. Some very bizarre turns from what might have been your average 90s sci fi flick, courtesy of Terry Gilliam.  GREAT

Twice Upon a Time,” dir. John Korty (1983). An impeccably clever and inventive animated surreal fantasy about the war between dreams and nightmares. Quite possibly the only cartoon as visually imaginative and as joke-filled as “Yellow Submarine”…the songs date the film a little harshly! But I really dig this one. GREAT

Un Chien Andalou,” dir. Luis Bunuel (1929).  One of the first surreal films (second only to “The Seashell and th Clergyman” I believe), Bunuel and Dali team up to bring us a film that was supposed to be little more than a series of scenes and weird imagery. Any similarity between scenes was purely coincidental. Pure Dada. After all these years this film still shocks, repulses, intrigues, and puzzles. GREAT

Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives,” dir. Aoichatpong Weerasethakul (2010). A strangely structured and languidly paced tale of a man dying of kidney failure and several spirits from his past manifesting themselves perhaps to ease him into death. A very slow but beautiful and enigmatic, perplexing Thai film. Whatever you’ve been told about this movie and whatever you’re thinking, it’s not anything you could expect. AWESOME

The Unholy Three,” dir. Tod Browning (1925). Lon Chaney, Sr. plays a circus ventriloquist who also dresses up like an old lady—along with his/her strongman “son” and dwarf (“Freaks” star Harry Earles) posing as a baby—to work out of a parrot store and together form an “unholy three” of jewel thieves. GREAT

The Unknown,” dir. Tod Browning (1927). Lon Chaney, Sr. plays a circus performer who is allegedly armless Alonzo. He’s really a fugitive with double-thumbs. He convinces a pretty bareback rider that hands and arms are disgusting and to be feared so that she will only love him. When Alonzo realizes that she would eventually discover the truth if they were married, he gets a doctor to remove his arms…but as he recovers from surgery the girl gets over her fear and falls in love with another man. Will revenge come swift? Watch and see. GREAT

The Valley of the Gwangi,” dir. Jim O’Connolly (1969). Ray Harryhausen gives us a cowboys versus dinosaurs movie. Finally! Maybe “Mysterious Island” is technically weirder (they fight a giant crab!), but this movie combines two genres that just never went together before. FUN

Videodrome,” dir. David Cronenberg (1983).  James Woods plays a tv executive who is getting confused about reality after watching the newest previews for an upcoming controversial snuff program. So confused, in fact, that he develops a huge vagina on his torso that he must feed beta max tapes, and that’s not even the weirdest of it. Cronenberg again utilizes his penchant for body distortion and mutilation to grimly imaginative effect in this odd thriller. I hear “Naked Lunch” totally has this beat though. James Woods (“Hercules”) stars.  GOOD

Visioneers,” dir. Jared Drake (2008). “The Hangover” star, Zach Galifianakis (who my friends and I have lovingly dubbed an avant-garde comedian), plays George Washington Winsterhammerman, an emotionally repressed man in an emotionally repressed society that resembles our own. When people start exploding at work his wife and he become worried that he is showing some bad symptoms. Despite some fine performances and a few humorous gags this film offers little new to the social satire/dystopia genre and ultimately leaves one feeling a little empty and wishing for Aldous Huxley to bust in the door of the movie and make some stuff really happen. This film lacks the hard bite it needed. Also stars Judy Greer (“The Village”) and Mia Maestro (“Frida”) MEH

Visions of Suffering,” dir. Andrey Iskanov (2006).  The title is an accurate description. This film goes beyond pretentious to the point where you feel as though you are watching the rape of the cinema. Pretty boring and uninspired, although you can tell the filmmakers were in love with it. BAD

Waking Life,” dir. Richard Linklater (2001). A rotoscoped dreamscape brimming with metaphysical and existential conversation. Linklater’s dazzling wonderland is all talk, but never boring. AWESOME

Walkabout,” dir. Nicolas Roeg (1971). Take a look at who the director is and look at the date. What might have been your average story of two dopey Australian kids lost in the outback, gets a huge dose of originality, peculiarity, and sexuality with Roeg at the helm. GOOD

Warning From Space,” dir. Koji Shima (1956). Giant cyclopian starfish from outer space warn Japanese people about stuff! BAD

We Are the Strange,” dir. M dot Strange (2007). A visually psychedelic phantasmagoria that gets incredibly exhausting. I admire the complex artistry at work, but the tedious storyline, characters, and dialogue don’t exactly sing to me for its 90 minute run time. It’s weird alright, but setting it in the world of a video game kinda limits its scope and strips away some of the self-professed strangeness for me. BAD

Werkmeister Harmonies,” dir. Bela Tarr (2000). When a traveling exhibit of a dead whale comes to the small Hungarian town everyone seems to be reacting negatively toward it. Dreamlike, slow, and enchanting. This film will leave you with much to think about. Also interesting that there are very few cuts (like “Rope” only more impressive). GREAT

Westworld,” dir. Michael Crichton (1973). Yul Brynner plays a homicidal robot cowboy in an amusement park gone haywire. An interesting precursor to “Jurassic Park,” but the hokey outlandishness of this one might make it even more fun. FUN

White Dog,” dir. Samuel Fuller (1982). Paul Winfield (“Wrath of Khan”) and Burl Ives (“Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”) team up to retrain a vicious dog that was trained to attack black people. A fascinating commentary on ingrained racism and a good animal performance to boot. GOOD

Wild at Heart,” dir. David Lynch (1990). Nicholas Cage (“Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call, New Orleans”) and Laura Dern star as 2 lovers on the run in what I have been informed is a comedy. This is one of the few David Lynch films that just didn’t appeal to me, but it does have a pretty great ending. Also features Willem Dafoe (“Platoon”). BAD

Wild World of Batwoman,” dir. Jerry Warren (1966). Such a painful experience you had to wonder what they were on when they thought this up. MST3K ripped this one good too. BAD

The Wind in the Willows,” dir. Terry Jones (1996). Terry Jones, Eric Idle, and Steve Coogan (“The Trip”) pretend to be animals for this odd but charming live action adaptation of the British literary children’s classic. Michael Palin, John Cleese, and Stephen Fry also make brief appearances. GOOD

Wings of Desire,” dir. Wim Wenders (1987).  This beautiful poem of a film flows with the richness of a novel. Half black and white and half color, this unique film follows the life of an angel played by Bruno Ganz (“Downfall”) who desperately longs to feel what he cannot: human. It’s a beautifully thoughtful, pensive, and lush film that’s difficult to walk away from without a sense of awe and exuberance about being human. This German film also stars Peter Falk (“Columbo”). AWESOME

Yellow Submarine,” dir. George Dunning (1968).  If you like the Beatles songs and always wanted to know what they would be like on acid, you can’t go wrong with this movie. When the Blue Meanies attack Pepperland, it’s up to John, Paul, George, and Ringo to save the day…but not before some great music and some truly trippy animation. This 60s flick begs unite the world and say, “why can’t we all just get along?”  AWESOME

You, the Living,” dir. Roy Andersson (2009). This film is a collection of 50 interconnected sketches about the tragically humorous lives of several people living in Sweden. This movie is a comedic treasure and a biting celebration of the ludicrousness of our silly, human lives. GREAT

Zardoz,” dir. John Boorman (1974). Sean Connery (007 himself) sports a smashing mustache and bandolier of bullets and a bright red diaper as he runs around in the asexual future. This movie wants to be so important so badly yet it fails so gloriously, collapsing into a chaotic uber-pretentious mess of bizarre imagery and half-baked philosophy, that it’s hard for me to hate. If you like your sci-fi cinema weird and incomprehensible then this is the movie for you. Weirder and more nonsensical than “Highlander” but perhaps more enjoyable. MEH

Zazie dans le metro,” dir. Louis Malle (1960). One of the most energetic and absurd comedies you likely to stumble across. A delightful portrait of childhood and the ridiculousness of adulthood. Features Philppe Noiret (“Cinema Paradiso”). AWESOME

The previous films were only but a few of many. Both good and bad, all are worth further investigation and should be celebrated (perhaps some more than others) and shared and discussed. God bless the power of story telling…especially at its most daring and, yes, idiosyncratic.

To see list: Emperor Tomato Ketchup, Blood Tea and Red String, Liquid Sky, The Apple, Themroc, Begotten, Nasty Rabbit, A Lizard in Woman’s Skin, Arizona Dreams, Swimming to Cambodia, Sayonara Jupiter, Chained for Life, Kooky, Hypothesis of the Stolen Painting, Phantom of Liberty, Yeelen, Robot Carnival, Black Devil Doll from Hell, Raise Ravens, Air Doll, One Night in a City, Tales From the Gimli Hospital, Valeria and Her Week of Wonders, Autumn Spring, Idiots and Angels, Cassandra Cat, and so many more…