Weirdly, this craptastic film has a mini quiz you can play after the movie. Sort of like a comprehension test. The movie is horrible, but the multiple choice quiz almost makes it worth it.
I love Star Wars (circa. 1977-1983). For all the grief we give George Lucas for the “Special Edition,” the prequels, TV spinoffs, etc, one cannot downplay how much influence the Star Wars films have had on culture and the art of filmmaking. Not only has Star Wars influenced subsequent science fiction flicks, it has also been copied quite a bit.
There are a few different approaches one can take when it comes to science fiction.
- You can be enigmatic, arty, and classy like 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968).
- You can be extremely scientific, poetic, and subtle like Gattaca (1997).
- You can be lugubrious, philosophical, and metaphysical like Solaris (1972).
- You can be dark, suspenseful, and horrific like Alien (1979).
- You can be kooky, kinky comedy like Sleeper (1973).
- You can be fast-paced character-driven razzle-dazzle like Star Wars.
- Or (recognizing some of the childishness of space aliens, robots, and super-deluxe-hyper-warp-lightspeed) you can go all-out campy, flashy, trashy like Barbarella (1968).
- There is, however, another sub-genre of science fiction. I am referring, of course, to the blatant knock-offs.
After the release of the first Star Wars movie in 1977 there was a huge sci-fi craze. It seemed almost any movie could be made a better or more profitable movie with the institution of a well-placed spaceship. Movies like The Black Hole (1979), Battle Beyond the Stars (1980), The Last Starfighter (1984), Ice Pirates (1984), and Arena (1988) were cranked out by the bushel. Well, some of my personal favorite worst and also lesser known sci-fi movies made in the wake of the space craze are on my mind today so, naturally, I felt compelled to write about them.
First up is Saturn 3 (1980).
This film is actually a bit more of an Alien rip off. There are essentially only three characters and they are played by (check this out!) Kirk Douglas, Farrah Fawcett, and Harvey Keitel. Before I go any further I must tell you that this film is bad. Really bad. Almost not even so-bad-it’s-kinda-fun-bad. And another thing; I can’t help but feel like the title is even a little oddly derivative of Capricorn 1 (1977).
Kirk Douglas (Lust for Life) is Adam, an older guy who’s been stuck up on a surprisingly spacious and roomy space-base floating around Saturn. We also see him naked and, I gotta be honest, 20 years since Spartacus and the man is still in shape. Farrah Fawcett (Logan’s Run) is Alex, Adam’s blonde, leggy bed-buddy and his only companion. Together Adam and
Eve Alex (I get it!) live quietly in space for no apparent reason (it’s something to do with the government or science or something), until the most evil and warped mind in the galaxy comes aboard. This evil and warped mind belongs to a man named Benson.
Seriously. Benson. Benson is the name of the bad guy. Well, actually he only kills a guy named Benson for some inexplicable reason and assumes his identity, but really now. Benson? Benson is a dim-witted manservant, not a malevolent space villain. Anyway, Benson is played by Harvey Keitel (Mean Streets), but it gets better. Evidently the director was not altogether pleased by Mr. Keitel’s thick Brooklyn accent and so he Keitel awkwardly dubbed by some other robot-sounding British guy (it reminded me of Andie McDowell’s awkward dubbing in Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes).
Benson is revealed to be mentally imbalanced in the beginning of the film (because suspenselessness) and then, once aboard Saturn 3, he puts a giant suppository filled with brains into an 8-ft tall robot named Hector. He gives the robot his own thoughts and then tries to get in Alex’s pants with the most awkward space-future come-on lines since Demolition Man. Adam gets jealous and they talk about killing Benson because he is weird. Then the robot chops their pet dog in half and tries to rape Alex. The movie is a wreck and actually pretty boring despite the presence of a horny, rampaging robot. Saturn 3 also feels simultaneously unnecessarily dark and unintentionally silly. For instance, there is a scene where Hector, the robot, wears Harvey Keitel’s severed head as a hat as a disguise. A very, very bad disguise.
Next up it’s Starcrash (1978), also known as The Adventures of Stella Star. I actually love this movie. It’s near-nonstop mayhem in the same campy vein as Barbarella. But much, much cheaper.
The incredibly hot Caroline Munro (The Golden Voyage of Sinbad) stars as the frequently scantily clad Stella Star—the only hope for the galaxy. This film is more blatant a rip off of Star Wars and it is oh-so-hokey.
Outer space looks like an awkward jumble of bad Christmas decorations hastily assembled by a one-eyed crazy person. Who knew the stars and galaxies were so vibrant and psychedelic? The special effects for the spaceships are actually pretty decent, but again, the colors are more akin to a pinball machine that has lost its mind. The malevolent Count Zarth Arn (Joe Spinell) is the bad guy and his hairdo does for evil exactly whatever the name Benson did for evil. He also has his own version of the Death Star, except his is in the shape of a big, evil robot hand that clutches into a fist when it goes into attack mode.
There is also an extremely sexually ambiguous sidekick for Stella. His name is Akton (Marjoe Gortner) and he apparently has a new and incredibly convenient super power in each instance of peril. He bravely dies sword-fighting a stop-motion robot when his arm gets grazed and briefly caught on fire. The film also has a bald green dude, and a good robot with a Texas accent (half the film I just wanted to give him a ten-gallon hat to go with his Dr. Phil-esque homespun aphorisms). Starcrash also boasts lightsabers and David Hasselhoff (Knight Rider). The costumes are great and I couldn’t help but notice the recurring use of arrows on helmets seemingly pointing to the face of the wearer, and on belt buckles pointing to the crotch.
The movie is crazy and the plot is on crack. We go from an outer space battle to a strange planet to a space jail to the jungle and back into space and then on to another planet with cavemen or amazons and giant robots in like 4 minutes. It’s like the first 60 seconds of the Power Rangers pilot. The film does slow down occasionally. . . for overly long spaceship docking scenes. What you eventually learn is that the film is strategically conditioning you to not care about the characters so you won’t be mad when new characters are randomly introduced and old ones go away or return without rhyme or reason.
The best part of this movie? It’s a tie between Caroline Munro’s outfits (she dresses like Vampirella) and the great Christopher Plummer’s (The Sound of Music) emotionally detached and disenfranchised line deliveries. You can actually see it in his regretful eyes how much he hates that he’s in this movie. All around the movie is awesomely bad and I highly recommend this frenetically-paced, sexist light show. It’s a great bit of 70′s Italian schlock.
Last and most certainly least is The Man Who Saves the World, or as it is known in its home country, Dünyayı Kurtaran Adam, or as it is most commonly referred to, Turkish Star Wars (1982).
Every time somebody mentions the infamous Star Wars Holiday Special (1978) I fire back with Turkish Star Wars. The Star Wars Holiday Special is so bad it makes you wonder how there was a successful franchise afterward. Turkish Star Wars is so bad it makes you wonder why God has not destroyed humanity yet. Seriously, have the people who made this ever seen a movie before? It is film heresy. The whole spectacle is a noisy, raucous, incoherent Frankenstein mess of a film. It is a mind-boggling artistic travesty on all fronts. AND I LOVE IT!!!
A guy and his best pal (Murat and Ali) crash land on an alien desert planet and they meet an impoverished, rock-dwelling civilization that is tormented by a big, nasty, beardy space bad guy, who allegedly is a centuries old wizard who needs a human brain so he can understand stuff and conquer the universe. The two guys decide to help the people and proceed to fight the worst excuses for robots and aliens you will ever see. Toilet-paper mummies, dusty zombies, rubber robots, dudes in skeleton outfits, and great big orange stuffed animals, and even racist-looking (African, Asian, and possibly Jewish or maybe Armenian—it’s Turkey, after all) rubber mask baddies, are only the half of it.
The love story between Murat and woman-who’s-name-escapes-me is also great. You see, occasionally jarringly softer music will play and we get reverse closeups of their eyes as they longingly/indifferently gaze at each other while performing mundane space activities. This unprecedented and clashing change of pace denotes romantic interest. Understand?
I’d be kidding if I said I could explain the rest of the plot of this weird movie. There are mentions of the virtues of humanity and the human brain as the key to all things (something the filmmakers ironically refused to use for the production of Turkish Star Wars), and vague references to Islam and other things, but the story is so convoluted and poorly executed that it hardly matters. One minute our protagonists are fighting monsters, the next minute they’re in space jail, then the bad guy has monsters slaughter a cave full of frightened orphan children and he proceeds to drink their blood through a crazy straw, then Murat is wielding a giant, golden Final Fantasy sword [made of cardboard] and melting it in a huge vat and then thrusting his bare fists into the molten gold only to have them emerge with clunky gold space mittens on. Seriously. Tone! You can’t murder children in a film like this. It’s like the naked suicide in Endhiran.
One particularly memorable sequence is the training montage where Murat ties boulders to his ankles and goes jogging and then works his fist muscles by slapping big rocks. Instead of the Force, Murat has the amazing power to jump kinda high and karate chop things in half (boulders, stuffed animal monsters, robot heads, *SPOILER ALERT* the bad guy…except that they just black out half the screen and show him on the ground with his eyes closed, and in doing the same for the other half—to truly indicate the pure in-halfedness of our antagonist—the filmmakers also accidentally reveal that both halves apparently have full noses, but I digress). The finale is a jarring, headache-inducing mélange of so much incoherent violence, jumping, and explosions that you will be fighting—and fighting hard—your body’s urge to roll your eyes back in your head and halt all blood-flow to the brain. It’s like Vogon poetry really. Your welcome, Douglas Adams fans.
The absolute best part of Turkish Star Wars is how it is edited. I know that sounds nerdy, but let me explain. Not only does nothing make sense, but the film is notorious for ripping actual stolen footage from the real Star Wars—and several other fantasy movies and even a few newsreels—and splicing them into the movie. And the transfers are just terrible, but I suppose that’s nitpicking. Best of all, they do it at inappropriate times. For example, to show space travel they film a character with a stupid hat moving a wheel while scenes from the assault on the Death Star play behind him (except the real Star Wars footage keeps cutting to other shots so the backgrounds don’t make any sense). The music is also stolen from Raiders of the Lost Ark and a bunch of other popular movies as well.
If this movie weren’t so wonderfully, miserably bad and hysterically inept it would have been facing an arsenal of lawsuits. People say I’m crazy, but I have actually watched this wretched film at least 5 times. It takes a certain constitution to enjoy bad movies like this. Turkish Star Wars is really more of an endurance test than a film. Are you ready for the challenge?
There you have it. Saturn 3 you might as well skip as it is the most boring and unimaginative of them all, but it does have a stupid enough plot to keep you with it and the Keitel dub is wondawful. Starcrash is awesome trash and you definitely should see it for Munro’s body and Plummer’s face. Turkish Star Wars you can watch, but this one comes with a warning: it is disorientingly bad and you may not be able to readily relate to people immediately after a viewing, but for Troll 2 and Birdemic fans I must insist you try. At least it’s not After Last Season.
Originally published for “The Alternative Chronicle” Jan. 25, 2011.
I hope you like shapes, paper, and things not making any sense.
After Last Season might just be it. I have searched long and hard. I have subjected myself to much crap. I’ve seen so many wonderfully bad movies, but holy hell, what the garbage is this movie? After Last Season (2009) might just be the worst movie ever made. The sheer volume of cinematic incompetence that is schlopped on top of its own rampant incoherence is indescribable. Let me describe…
I like bad movies. I do. This is definitely bad. Hard to use a word like “like” for it. Normally I would begin a review of a film of this ilk by explaining the plot and characters, etc. and then endeavor to elaborate on the minutiae of why it was so terrible. I am indeed crestfallen that I don’t think I could ever hope to understand the plot or the characters’ relation to it or themselves much less explain it to After Last Season virgins. It truly is hopelessly disorienting and, unlike classic baddies like The Room, Birdemic: Shock and Terror, Plan 9 From Outer Space, Troll 2, etc., this film is almost beyond categorizing into a genre. I think it is supposed to be some sort of science fiction thing, but I found myself in a constant state of befuddlement during the movie. I kept puzzling over what it was all supposed to be; what it might be trying to do or say; what the point was; why it was made; and why oh why is there so much negative head room?
As near as I can tell there are some medical students (one of whom I discovered about 3 minutes before the end credits was named Sarah) and there is also a series of inexplicable freak stabbings…also something about Parkinson’s disease, schizophrenia, and a bizarre psychology test. Any attempts on my part to connect any of these ideas are all wild shots in the dark from this point on.
Almost every scene in the movie for the first 30 minutes or so introduces new random characters we will probably never see again. Everyone communicates in banal pleasantries and innocuous small-talk. It’s not a conscious satirical decision like in Schizopolis. The dialogue is actually just that tepid and monotonous with no discernible explanation beyond ineptitude at the script level. Lines like “What a great radio clock. Where did you get it?” and “No, I have something Wednesday night. How is Tuesday?” are a hallmark of this strange movie. So much of the “action” (I suppose the stuff involving people barely qualifies) is mindlessly interrupted by random and ineffectual “art shots” of the corners of windows, desks, dressers, etc. Another thing that disturbed me and made the overall atmosphere unnerving is that everything is blank. Rooms are largely empty aside from oddly—and rather sloppily—placed chairs and desks. There is no need to have that many boxes and paper shredders crazily festooning the middle of any room. This movie is a feng shui nightmare.
I digress. The story, the story. Well, we follow a “character” named “Sarah” who is a “med student.” Sometimes she is outside, but most of the time she is inside. She puts a science-y thing on her temple so she can share thoughts with her new boss(?). After several unsettlingly tedious sequences involving crudely rendered CG shapes we leave what I dubbed “Questworld” only to reveal that the last 4o minutes of the middle of the movie was a dream from the new boss character’s head…for no apparent reason! In the mind exchange scenes Sarah “discovers” she is predicting the stabbings and knows the identity of the stabber (the stabbing stuff feels so alien and far away that we keep forgetting about it), but none of that even matters because it was all just a dream by another character.
The dream featured an invisible stabber that completely botches the element of surprise by carefully moving the oddly placed furniture around in order to announce his spookiness. When boss man wakes up he starts a different experiment with Sarah and then the stabber returns but for realz. Now the stabber is visible, but some new invisible guy throws a chair at him and saves Sarah and the boss dude. There is far more to the plot, but in a way there’s actually less. It makes far less sense than what I’ve described.
It’s more of a series of hyper-boring red herrings than it is a movie. One of my favorite things is when “characters” will go to investigate something. We see them deciding to investigate, they leave the room, and then they will re-enter the room and say that investigated the thing. This movie out and out refuses to portray action! A film like this needs a freaking Greek chorus!
Peculiar lack of coherence, pacing, momentum, character, and general interest aside, the most glaring misstep this movie makes is technical. Almost every aspect of technical design imaginable and then some is screwed up. I swear, they invented new jobs so there would be more to botch. I honestly thought this movie to be a huge put-on for the longest time…and it still might be. This movie makes more technical mistakes than Ben & Arthur. Fake wallpaper crudely stapled together will just end; lighting equipment will be visible in the background, reflections, and in shadows (and lights are obviously and tragically unnaturally placed directly in front of all “action” thus creating bizarre hard shadows for everyone and everything); sound and sound effects are horrifically amateurish; the mind-numbingly dull and childish soundtrack will sporadically cut in and out and occasionally be replaced with a confusing sort of ambient noise I can only describe as dishwasher traffic; the inept framing for every scene will nauseate you to the point of physical illness; and I could go on. Perhaps the most baffling of all is the incessant use of paper. Walls, doors, books, windows, desks, etc. will all be covered with white paper. I sincerely hope it is not because they felt that whatever was behind the paper looked phoney. How ironic would that be? Weirder and weirder, on the exterior of a house three blank sheets of paper are taped and it is never addressed. You might almost miss it. The first scene even starts out with a paper MRI machine. The whole movie looks like it was filmed in an old gutted office building. And yet somehow it was filmed on film. Not digital. 35 mm. No joke.
The strange, atrociously lit, sterile environments might have reminded one of a hospital (or at least Poland under communist rule) except they are all just so unnatural looking. It’s just ugly and unappealing to look at. All the purposeless science and wooden awkward dialogue and performances would have been tolerable had the film looked like something that wasn’t filmed by a mental patient with an unhealthy obsession with the ceiling. Nothing makes sense. There’s nothing wrong with being enigmatic. Heck, David Lynch and Alejandro Jodorowsky make a living off doing just that, but you still need some semblance of theme or thrust. Clarity does not equal bad movie. Clarity can be a good thing.
Maddeningly of all is that I have failed in conveying what this movie is truly like. It’s more than a poor camcorder recording of a Z-grade VBS skit from 100 feet away. It’s so much worse and all my ramblings don’t add up to much when it comes right down to it. You know what that means? It means that in order to fully understand my brain owies you’re simply going to have to experience After Last Season for yourself. I guarantee you that you will forget every scene as soon as it ends, but you will most assuredly never shake off the feeling that you saw this film. I laughed quite a bit watching this and cannot report that it was wholly unenjoyable. See my review for The Abduction of Zack Butterfield too. I just don’t know if I will be revisiting this one.
After Last Season was written, directed, produced, and shot by Mark Region. He certainly had a vision. And thank God no one shares it. Apparently it took 5 years and $5 million dollars to make. Seriously though, what actor would show up to shoot a film like this, see a paper MRI, and then stick around? But visit the website HERE. Explore this.
I sure hoped they recycled all that paper.
Simplicity still works. Michael Winterbottom has reminded us that sometimes comedies work best when they are slight and intimate. His naturalistic approach to filming two funny men talking at various restaurant tables is a refreshing bit of British humor. The Trip (2010), directed by Winterbottom and starring Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon is a much needed break from typically nauseating and formulaic brainless comedies churned out by big American studios.
If you’ve seen Winterbottom’s earlier film with Coogan and Brydon, Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story (2005) you might have chuckled quite a bit, but if you’re like me then you probably laughed most at the end credits where Coogan and Brydon verbally spar against each other in an empty theater. They’re just being themselves and they’re just goofing off and it is hilarious. While Tristram Shandy is a big in-joke on the legendary voluminous novel rather than a faithful adaptation, The Trip is simply Coogan and Brydon joking with each other in expensive restaurants. In a way it is an extension of the end credits for Tristram Shandy and perhaps a funnier take on My Dinner With Andre.
Steve Coogan plays Steve Coogan, a talented but unsettled actor typecast as a comedy character. Rob Brydon plays Rob Brydon, a stable bit comedy actor and impressionist gently content with his station. Steve has to take a trip up north to sample foods from ritzy restaurants for a magazine. Not wishing to go alone, and his American girlfriend busy in the States, he reluctantly invites Rob to tag along. That’s the setup and that’s all you need.
Coogan inadvertently reveals his insecurities as they jest and dine throughout the film. Brydon acts as a more playful counterpart with less regard for keeping up appearances. I presume the two boys get along better in real life than how they act with each other on collaborations like this. Their snarky jabs and jeers and funny but biting. Coogan chases women and considers plastic surgery and ponders his place in the universe as a man beyond 40. Coogan is not particularly keen on Brydon’s incessantly comfortable mugging and tries to call his agent or his girlfriend any chance he gets. There is much subtlety to this film and it reveals much about manhood, insecurity, and male relationships. In many ways it reminded me of a more subtle Sideways. In a way it is the story of many men who see themselves as charming losers desperately clawing after attention.
Enough delving into the fragile complexities of mandom. What really establishes this film is the comedy element. This movie has some of the best (and most natural and believable and funny) impression battles ever put on film. Michael Caine, Al Pacino, Anthony Hopkins, Woody Allen, Ronnie Corbett, Richard Burton, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Stephen Hawking, Richard Gere, Ray Winstone, Michael Sheen, Wallace (of Wallace and Gromit), Dustin Hoffman, Sean Connery, and more show up in this movie (all expertly channeled through the mediums of Brydon and Coogan). Some who have seen the movie might not remember all of the aforementioned impressions and that is because the movie is actually a cutting from the six episode series that aired on British TV. The series is fantastic and has more wonderful content than could be fit into the film, but the movie works very well as a standalone representation—even if the mirth be truncated just a touch.
Many folks in the United States will be familiar with Steve Coogan from a few American films (Hamlet 2, Tropic Thunder, Around the World in 80 Days, The Other Guys), but in The Trip he is allowed to not only be funny but he may be even more dimensional and interesting to watch. Rob Brydon might be a stranger to most of you American folks, but you will fall in love with him pretty quickly I’d wager. I sure did.
All in all I found The Trip to be one of the most refreshing comedies I’ve seen in years. It was humorous and affecting. I loved it. If you like sly British wit, impressions galore, subtle snippets of human fragility, or diabolically ornate culinary presentations then this might be the film for you. I dare not say anymore, but if you’re sick of cheap, lowbrow flicks that sooner deliver a yawn than a smile then check out Michael Winterbottom’s The Trip starring the hilarious Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon.
“Gentlemen to bed!”
I really love bad movies sometimes. I feel like they get me. I love Plan 9 From Outer Space, Troll 2, Birdemic, Starcrash, The Room, Turkish Star Wars, Night of the Lepus, the whole Godzilla series, you name it. I genuinely like these guys. They get strange and seemingly inexplicable cult followings too. Naturally, I have a dedicated perimeter of friends who are always on the lookout for new potential entries into the pantheon of cinematic crapdom.
There is a new movie. It is the progeny of writer/director/producer/editor (always a dangerous sign) Rick Lancaster. It is The Abduction of Zack Butterfield (aka The Last Days of April) (2011). I saw this film with some friends and fellow Chroniclers on its first run at the Laemmle on Sunset Blvd. It was one of the few theaters we could find that would even screen it. Half of our party was fighting illness, but the trailer had so enticed us. We took a wrong turn getting off the 101 freeway and we were running late as it was, but we simply had to get there. We parked in the wrong structure too and so could not get our ticket validated. The fates bellowed and laughed, but we purchased our tickets anyway and marched into the darkened theater just as the opening credits started. We made it. Take that, fates.
It takes place in upstate New York (ah, me old stomping grounds). The film was the story of a 15 year old boy who gets kidnapped by former mercenary, April, with a sad (and boring) backstory that leads her into insanity. She wants to make the perfect man for herself so she can recapture her lost teen years. . . so get ‘em young, right? April has an explosive necklace attached to Zack so he won’t escape and then she forces him to do chores around the house in some truly nauseating tight bicycle shorts. There is NO need for a codpiece to be that accentuating. They bang a few times (which is extra gross because Zack looks like he’s about 10 years old), but he only does it to lull her into a false sense of security and plan his escape.
The police frequent Zack’s home to remind his parents that there is little hope they will find him. The tubby sheriff was my favorite character. I could almost picture his face after climbing a flight of stairs. You can even see the lav mic peeking around from behind his tie when he sits down. What else, what else…hmm…oh, the acting is terrible (naturally), the characters are laughable, and the dialogue is hilariously awkward. The plot is stupid and completely devoid of tension, suspense, atmosphere and there is little art in the setup of any shot or scene. I get that they’re trying to be edgy and Misery-esque, but nothing works. It’s wall-to-wall awful. I will say only this of Zack Butterfield, it’s definitely wretched and I laughed quite a bit, but I doubt it will have the cult following of some of the classic baddies. The filmmakers had to be either a group of prepubescent boys or else they were criminally irresponsible perverts. I can see a group of 12 year old boys thinking, “wouldn’t it be cool if we like made a movie where there was like a hot chick who like kidnapped you and made you have sex with her? That would be cool, dude.” Anyone beyond puberty should be locked up for this garbage.
One more thing! The theater actually had at least one person who genuinely enjoyed the film as a serious dramatic psychosexual thriller. He mumbled every time we made a joke or laughed at this ludicrous, pedophilic trainwreck. I couldn’t believe someone would view this film un-ironically. Even if someone absent-mindedly wandered into the theater with no pretext you would still think they would eventually realize that what they were looking at was bad. Maybe not. Perhaps there is a real audience for this film and I’m just missing something.
Perhaps the film does have a certain weird realism to it. A lot of real people are this dumb and would probably act and react the way the characters do in this movie’s situations. No heightened drama and no super elaborate plan conjured by unbelievable (but enjoyable) intelligent people. This is real cinéma vérité, ladies and gentlemen! And it’s near unwatchable. To each his own, I suppose. I just don’t see it. You should watch the trailer anyway.
If you love great indie thrillers. . . look somewhere else. Somewhere very far.
I love Los Angeles.
For more Alternative Chronicle questionable movie reviews check out: C.H.U.D.S., The Beast of Yucca Flats, For Y’ur Height Only (although I really love this movie), Endhiran, the complete Planet of the Apes, and more.
Originally published for “The Alternative Chronicle” May 30, 2011.
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
“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
“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
“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
“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
“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
“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
“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
“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
“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
“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
“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
“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
“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…