The Last Few Movies XL – This Won’t Be for Everyone

So here’s the last few movies I saw in the order of how much I liked them.

Spasms

18. Maybe I’m in the wrong here, but Spasms (1983) was the most boring movie I have seen about a giant snake from hell that possesses people. It has a couple fun moments and some decent gross-out special effects and Oliver Reed is always fun to watch, but it didn’t hold my attention.

BASEketball (1998) directed by David Zucker • Reviews, film + cast ...

17. Director David Zucker (part of the brilliant creative team behind Airplane! and The Naked Gun) teams up with the geniuses behind South Park, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, to deliver a truly embarrassingly unfunny comedy. Maybe if I had seen Baseketball (1998) when I was 10, I would have found it at least somewhat amusing. The tragedy is that bad dramas can be amazing comedies, but bad comedies are just tedious cringe-fests. Still love the creative team behind it though. If you have fond memories of this one, maybe just keep those memories without trying to re-watch it.

Paramount Sends 'The Lovebirds' to Netflix | Hollywood Reporter

16. Issa Rae and Kumail Nanjiani star in the romantic comedy, The Lovebirds (2020). The two leads are talented, but the script here just feels kind of lazy and they don’t have believable chemistry. And it’s not really funny either. Or romantic. I like both actors, but it would have been nice to see them in a better movie.

Great Moments in Cinema: Miracle Man (2013) - YouTube

15. Miracle Man (2013) is an awkward retelling of the gospel of Jesus (at least from his Temptation in the Desert to the Resurrection of Lazarus) set in modern day. It’s got everything you want in a bad movie, but also boasts being what may just be the ugliest film I have ever seen. The framing, lighting, editing, after effects, and incessant use of green screen are painfully abrasive on the senses. There’s several laughs to be had, but not a bad movie I’ll be revisiting anytime.

Allan Fish Online Film Festival Day 8: A Thief in the Night (1972 ...

14. I faced one of my fears and re-watched a film that traumatized me when I was a kid. Forget Left Behind, A Thief in the Night (1972) is the O.G. Rapture nightmare story. The Rapture, for those not raised in an evangelical bubble, is the Christian belief that, in the End Times, all the Christians will be whisked up to Heaven in the twinkling of an eye and then the Tribulation will start – complete with Antichrist and Armageddon, etc. The movie lays out their brand of eschatology several times and was designed to convert teens to its flavor of Christianity. But, surprise, a girl gets left behind and has to endure the world turning upside down after almost everyone she knows gets Raptured. Honest reaction on the re-watch: the title song is still haunting and pretty decent and the bulk of the movie is just kind of boring, but it does pick up in the final act and there is a pretty good twist. It’s a bad movie that spawned two sequels (I recall the middle one being the best, although still pretty bad) and several copycats.

Review: Céline and Julie Go Boating - Slant Magazine

13. If you can sit through 3+ hours of meandering surreal French New Wave silliness then Jacques Rivette’s Céline and Julie Go Boating (1974) is the movie for you. I really enjoyed the 70s fashion, interiors, and stylish shots of Paris, but ultimately found it difficult to follow when almost anything can happen and nothing made sense. There is a bit of a ghost mystery plot that becomes the dominant theme towards the end. That’s something. Not bad, but a bit long, drifting, and maybe not exactly my cup of tea.

Ali G Indahouse (2002) YIFY - Download Movie TORRENT - YTS

12. It’s amazing how fast comedy can age. Sacha Baron Cohen stars as hip-hop enthusiast, misogynist chav, and lovable dolt, Ali G, in Ali G Indahouse (2002). Da Ali G Show was legit great; Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan was groundbreaking; and Brüno was pretty funny too. But what made those things great were the real people caught on camera being awful and awkward, whereas Indahouse is a completely fictional carbon copy of the predictable Happy Madison Productions formula. Tucked away behind some passable to fine gross-out humor is some toothless political satire, but it pales in comparison to the series on which it was based. It still got a few laughs out of me and I’m always happy to see Ali G.

Not in Kansas Any More: Movie Musings: The Anderson Tapes (1971)

11. Sean Connery stars as a ex-con assembling a crew in the Sidney Lumet heist drama, The Anderson Tapes (1971). I love me some Sidney Lumet. This is the guy behind Dog Day Afternoon, 12 Angry Men, and Network. And I love me some Sean Connery. He can be 007, a renegade Russian submarine captain, and wear a red diaper in Zardoz. Who else has that range? And I absolutely love a good heist movie. And all in all, the movie is fine. It’s fine. It’s a got a good cast, a couple pretty good scenes, and an interesting examination of the rise of surveillance. It’s fine.

Apollo Cinema on Twitter: "B-Movie Bingo is back with Turkish Star ...

10. Legendary bad movie, Dünyayı Kurtaran Adam aka The Man Who Saved the World aka Turkish Star Wars (1982), is a must see for fans of so-bad-it’s-good cinema. I’ve seen this film maybe 5 times  (because I am quite mad, you know) and it’s always a pleasure to spring on some unsuspecting friends. The film is notorious for stealing footage and music from several other films (most noticeably, Star Wars and Indiana Jones) and cobbling together this nonsensical space adventure that boasts a lot of jumping. Highlights include: silly alien costumes; rock punching training montage; a Darth Vader knockoff drinking blood out of children via crazy straw, thus turning them into mummy slaves; a scene where a man melts a giant, golden, spiky sword into a magical cauldron with a human brain and plunges his bare fists into the molten liquid to have them emerge as power gloves.

House of Self-Indulgence: Killing American Style (Amir Shervan, 1990)

9. I saw a trailer and read “from the director of Samurai Cop” and “starring Robert Z’Dar” and I was in. Killing American Style (1988) is peak bad late 80s/early 90s action schlock. Bad guys hold up in a mansion until the man of the house finally decides to be the main character in the last 10 minutes. While nowhere near as epic as Amir Shervan’s legendary Samurai Cop, this little flick does have a lot of unintentionally funny bits and it is a lot of fun (if you can get passed all the casual sexual assault typical of the era and genre).

Midsommar: what the hell just happened? Discuss with spoilers ...

8. I finally saw Ari Aster’s Scandinavian flavored horror flick, Midsommar (2019). Dani (Florence Pugh) winds up tagging along on a trip to Europe with her boyfriend who is too chicken to break up with her. Sweden, magic mushrooms, and creepy cult antics ensue. It’s an effective bit of folk horror that’s ultimately about a breakup. But in the most messed up way. I tend to prefer slow-burn, soul-shattering horror as opposed to jump-scares and gross-out stuff. It’s got a bit of gore and a bit of dark humor and left me feeling suitably creeped out. If you liked the The Wicker Man (the original now) then check this bad boy out.

Review: In Fabric, Peter Strickland's Sinister Sartorial Satire

7. Director Peter Strickland certainly has a style. In Fabric (2018) is the story of a mysterious (perhaps haunted?) dress and how it effects the lives of those who are unfortunate enough to wear it. Similar in style to Strickland’s other film, Berberian Sound Studio, it’s an atmospheric wind up with horror undertones. Marianne Jean-Baptiste gives a great performance as one of the owners of the dress and I love the zany rituals and mechanics of the wacky department store and their hilariously eerie saleswomen (Fatma Mohamed being the stand out). It’s weird and befuddled me at each turn.

Focus - The Watermelon Woman (Cheryl Dunye, USA, 90 ...

6. A landmark of New Queer Cinema, Cheryl Dunye’s The Watermelon Woman (1996) is a breezy Indie romantic comedy that’s also a love letter to film history. When an aspiring documentary filmmaker working at a Philadelphia video rental store (Dunye) chances upon an old 30s melodrama called Plantation Memories, she finds herself captivated by a mysterious actress playing the mammy type role, credited only as “The Watermelon Woman.” She begins to document her investigation into uncovering the lost history of this person, while also juggling her sometimes rocky relationships with her best friend (Valarie Walker) and her new partner (Guinevere Turner). There is a bit of that clunky exposition-laden dialogue common in indie works of the time, but the film is unique and feels like a breath of fresh air. You can tell it is a singular vision (Dunye wrote, directed, and edited it) and it is proudly black and proudly lesbian.

Le Quattro Volte movie review (2011) | Roger Ebert

5. This wordless Italian film about life and its interconnected-ness may not be for everyone, but I enjoyed Michelangelo Frammartino’s Le Quattro Voltre (2010). Inspired by an idea pontificated by Pythagoras, the film presents metempsychosis, or reincarnation, in a small village. In four phases, we follow an old shepherd until his death and seeming rebirth as a baby goat who is then becomes a fir tree before being converted into a kiln to make charcoal for the people. Quiet and beautifully shot, it will fill you with a resonating appreciation of life and its many forms…if you let it.

DREAMS ARE WHAT LE CINEMA IS FOR...: WALK ON THE WILD SIDE 1962

4. Capucine, Jane Fonda, Laurence Harvey, Barbara Stanwyk, and Anne Baxter star in this steamy Great Depression era melodrama, Walk On the Wild Side (1962) directed by Edward Dmytryk. Dove (Harvey), lonesome Texas wanderer, meets a brash, immoral runaway, Kitty (Fonda), on his journey to find his long, lost old flame, Hallie (Capucine), in New Orleans, where, he will learn, she is working as an artist but also a prostitute in the upscale bordello called the Doll House. The actors really lean into the juicy, melodramatic lines and plot. It’s a particular style and probably a little silly for some, but honestly, I enjoyed this tawdry little flick. I could watch French actress, Capucine, sink her teeth into this over-the-top dialogue like it was nothing all day.

Shoplifters' Review: This Cannes Winner Is a Must-See - The Atlantic

3. Hirokazu Koreeda’s drama, Shoplifters (2018), centers around a poor family somewhere in Tokyo who steal what they can to get by. They have their own codes and rules and are united (despite most of them not being exactly related), but, to the outside world, they are criminals who deserve to be punished for their wrongdoings. Shoplifters is a tender and humanizing story and I recommend it.

Wake in Fright (1971)

2. An uptight English professor (Gary Bond) in the middle-of-nowhere Australia gets a Christmas break and winds up stuck en route to Sidney in the podunk desert wasteland of Bundanyabba (locally known as “The Yabba”) in Wake in Fright (1971), directed by Ted Kotcheff. Initially disgusted by the sweaty, uncouth yokels, the out-of-his-depths school teacher quickly descends into drunkenness, gambling, and late night kangaroo hunting. Co-starring Donald Pleasance and Chips Rafferty, this is one wicked nightmare loaded with debauchery, violence, and philosophy only a scorching hellscape like the Outback could produce. I loved it. Other movies where an uptight city guy gets converted to a looser lifestyle I would also recommend: Dino Risi’s Il Sorpasso and Michael Cacoyannis’ Zorba the Greek.

Pin on Folklore, Myth, Religion

1. If you like your folk horror black and white, Eastern European, and weird as hell, then, please, check out the amazingly beautiful Estonian film, November (2017), directed by Rainer Sarnet. Reminiscent of František Vláčil’s Marketa Lazarová and Parajanov’s Shadows of Our Forgotten Ancestors, November weaves its way through an atmospheric world of folk legend, casual magic, and doomed desire. Oh, and it’s funny too. It’s a wonderfully twisted unrequited love triangle between a simple peasant boy, a wealthy German baroness, and a desperate witch, but it is also about the weird little village of aging oddballs and their ghostly relatives, their various deals with the Devil, their possessed piles of junk that function as slaves, and their battles against the Plague. The cinematography is striking, moody, and utterly sucks you into this dark fairy tale realm that feels extracted from a dream.


BONUS: Animated Shorts

Most of these can be found on Vimeo! Honestly, check some of these out.

Animation: Phenomena Exotica | Broadsheet.ie

Phenomena Exotica (2020) is a Gilliam-esque examination of synchronicity, directed by Jossie Malis. Similar to the intro to P.T. Anderson’s Magnolia, this sardonic short showcases several curious examples of coincidence and hints at the greater sense of overriding existential dread.

Armstrong" Short Film by Russ Etheridge | STASH MAGAZINE

Armstrong (2020) is a hypnotically beautiful story loaded with pleasing shapes, sounds, and colors directed by Russ Etheridge. When the moon disappears, the very fabric of the characters’ reality begins to fall apart and the hero must save herself, her unrequited crush, and the world itself. I absolutely loved the design.

A Cautionary Tale About the COVID-19 Booty Call

Quaranteen (2020), directed by Gustavo Carreiro, is a black and white and red descent into the pandemic paranoia and an ill-fated booty call that culminates in a showdown between a boy on a bicycle and a giant COVID19 virus and, ultimately, a humorous PSA folk ballad.

P'tit Belliveau - L'eau entre mes doigts - YouTube

P’tit Belliveau – L’eau entre mes doigts (2020) is a music video. But I really just dug the hell out of it. Weird and wonderfully Québecois.

The Black and White Body Horror of 'Revenge Story'

Revenge Story (2019) is the story of a ballerina who gets her neck messed up from a chiropractor’s error. Overcome with rage at her unfair misfortune, the ballerina succumbs to the singularly consuming desire for revenge, which ultimately leads to more hurt instead of the catharsis she seeks. Innovative design and great score.

Analysis Paralysis (2016)

Analysis Paralysis (2016) is a pretty accurate depiction of anxiety and overthinking, I’d say. This is what it feels like. But what got me was how the protagonist had to look outward to help other people in order to find some peace with his own obsessive compulsiveness.

Wet City" by Nate Sherman and Nick Vokey | STASH MAGAZINE

Wet City (2019) features music and narration by Sean Wing and created by Nick Vokey and Nate Sherman. It is hopefully not-too-prophetic depiction of a distant future where water now covers the Earth and the survivors cling to any semblance of the familiar they can, even if it is befriending a cybernetic vegetarian shark named Horizon. When bad guys ransack a ramshackle apartment complex and sharknap Horizon, our hero sets out on a journey to rescue her and encounters the remaining splintered factions of humanity in this post apocalyptic comedy.

Superbia by Luca Toth | Animation | Short Film

Superbia (2016), by Luca Tóth, is a stunningly gorgeous, surreal, and gleefully psycho-sexual journey into a land of topsy-turvy gender roles and bizarre ritual.

“Best” Questions from 2013 BIFF Q/A

safe

I recently went to the 2013 Busan International Film Festival in South Korea. I saw several features and shorts, none of which I feel particularly compelled to write about at length. I will undoubtedly mention them in my next installment of “Last Few Movies.” More than the films, however, I was struck by the questions following a short film showcase of five international movies. These questions struck me as, well, rather stupid.

1. “There was an extra in the background in that one scene where the old men are talking. She had white hair and looked very old. Who was she?” (Question asked after the screening of the Chinese film, Three Light Bulbs.)

This was a pointless question [the identity of a single extra in a given scene], however, the filmmaker, Min Ding, did make good use of her time to answer extremely well and provide excellent information. That particular old woman, (in a scene full of old people) who had nothing to do with the story, was not special—nearly the entire cast was made up of non-actors such as herself. Good info. Dumb question.

johnny loves dolores

2. “When the lady sends money to her daughter . . . is it really a front to pay the blackmail of a “coyote” who helped her across the border?” (Question asked for Filipino/American production Johnny Loves Dolores.)

I take this question to be a moment where a cinema novice attempted to use a newly learned term [“coyote”: apparently someone who helps people cross the border, usually from Mexico into the United States]. In any event, crossing the border, I think, is more of a Mexican thing. People moving from the Philippines generally have to arrive via airplane or boat. Either the question-asker was not aware of this or they thought the characters were all Mexican rather than Filipino. Another reason this question is stupid is because I doubt a “coyote” could blackmail anybody—much less a nice middle-aged cleaning lady with no money. And what exactly can a “coyote” blackmail with? “If you don’t pay me more money for helping you then I’ll tell the cops you’re here illegally.” “Okay, but when they ask who you are and how you know that, don’t you think your illegal activities of bringing illegal immigrants into the country and blackmailing them might come to light?” Ridiculous. This question is more absurd when you consider that this film is not about illegal immigrants at all and the fact that the woman sending money home to her daughter is so minor that it is an almost innocuous plot point. It reveals her character and situation, yes, but there are no clues given to assume that she is lying. Filmmaker, Clarissa de los Reyes, took the time to diffuse the question by saying that in all the times she’s screened the movie that this was the first time she ever heard such a peculiar interpretation.

“Look at me! Look at me! I know the term ‘coyote’!”

kilimanjaro

3. “Why were the characters old?” and “Why did they have to work in a factory?” (Questions asked of the Swedish film, Kilimanjaro.)

There were several random detail questions like this concerning many of the films. These were the ones I remembered the most. This movie was a playful comedy-drama about life and death and the main character happened to be an old man working in a factory. That is almost exactly what director, Nima Yousefi, said in response to these questions. It just happens to be about that. No secret meaning necessarily. “Why is Lassie a dog?” “Because that’s the story I wanted to tell.” I will admit the film would be tonally quite different if it was dealing with younger, healthier people and many of the jokes regarding the monotony of repetition might have been lost had the characters not been working on an assembly line. “Why is Gandalf a wizard and Frodo a hobbit?” “Because that’s the story I was telling and I felt that the themes I was trying to convey could be best served by these choices.” I found these questions weird because they kept cropping up and many times the audience would not accept the flippant answers. “No, no. There has to be some deep, specific reason why you made those choices.” “You’re right. There may be. But now that I’ve made it, it’s your job to figure out why.”

three light bulbs

5. “Why was it a relationship between a daughter and father and not a son and father or a son and mother or a daughter and mother or perhaps a close uncle?” (Another question in response to Three Light Bulbs.)

This is an amalgam of several questions asked by different members of the audience. Again, it deals with specifics that the artist (in my opinion) has no business answering. Art is meant to be interactive. The artist creates and the audience interprets (and everyone interprets differently, making every piece of art as variable and personal as can be). The other presumption in these questions might hint that people felt the story might have been serviced better had the genders been different, when that really isn’t the point. This particular drama is about these particular people and they happen to be these genders. Granted, the relationship might look different if it was not a father and daughter, but this story happened to be about a father and daughter. Deal with it. Many people seemed to demand that every single decision made by the filmmakers be extremely intentional and have deep meaning that they could share directly (as if the movie itself was not explanatory enough). Perhaps, most baffling of all was that the director had explained early on that the story was somewhat autobiographical of her relationship with her own father, yet these questions persisted.

desperation

5. “I really liked all the symbolism and powerful imagery and I understood what you were getting at, but could you just explain what it all meant?” (Asked of many of the films. The South Korean Safe, the Filipino/French Prologue to the Great Desaparecido, as well as the others mentioned).

This is another question that was not precisely asked, however, it was expressed many times through various actual questions. Again, my objection comes from an audience demanding their personal experience be validated or corrected and explained by the artists. I wanted to tell them they were all watching movies wrong. I can understand asking some questions like this, but not down to every detail. If you have to probe as deeply as this then, odds are, you probably didn’t get what they were getting at. These questions might make more sense if we were watching the films of Bela Tarr, Alejandro Jodorowsky, or David Lynch…but even then, I don’t want them to spell it all out for me. Art is a co-production. The seer adds as much narrative and context as the sayer. Great films require some work. Great films require immense amounts of chewing. They are not pablum to be swallowed without thought or flavor. None of these five films were terribly obtuse or difficult to grasp and much of the symbolism was simple or open, but this audience was dissecting every nuance like the Holy Grail was hidden away in each second of film.

There were several intelligent questions, but I was far more struck by the abundance of bizarre ignorance. I must credit the filmmakers themselves for taking the time to answer the idiotic questions in such a way that they added information that was both interesting and not even exactly asked for. Kudos.

rocky horror picture show2

BONUS: Rocky Horror Picture Show live performance synopsis fail: For Halloween I attended a live show of the classic cult musical—film shown on a big screen, actors performing in front, and a rowdy decked-out crowd shouting things at the screen. There was a man behind me who knew nothing about the movie, the show, or the midnight performance tradition. I overheard a woman (we’ll call her “Dumb Lady”) delightedly explaining it like this:

Dumb Lady: [paraphrased from memory] “Well, this is one of the shittiest movies ever made and when it first came out people threw tomatoes at the screen it was so bad. Then it became a tradition to watch the movie and make fun of it. I’ve done this like ten times. It’s so much fun to put this old, shitty movie in its place. The acting and everything is just so old and bad. It really is just a bad movie.

Hello, Face. Meet Palm. You know how I said that art is all subjective and the individual assigns the meaning? I almost take it back in light of this striking ignorance. Some people don’t understand comedy or camp.

Originally published for “The Alternative Chronicle” Nov. 21st 2013.