WHAT’S IN THE PIPELINE

Next week, we’ll get some more 2014 reviews out of the way in time for a little holiday indulgence with our office Saturnalia party. (Sadly, this year the health department forced us to shelve the 366 Weird Suckling Pig Sacrifice. We’re having ham sandwiches instead). We’ll check out two very good but only slightly weird movies—the Cambodian genocide diorama doc The Missing Picture and the Studio Ghibli animated fairy tale The Tale of Princess Kaguya—and one very weird but not so good movie, the brilliantly named absurdist indie Buttwhistle. Staff gets Christmas Day off, but we’ll still post a little something for all you weirdophiles out there.

It was a light week for weird search terms used to locate the site, but we’ll spotlight what we saw for our Weirdest Search Term of the Week contest. First up is “spanish film about a kid that’s trying to get some boobs,” which could be read a couple of different ways. Next we have the tautological search, “what movie is there a person where they lost there mind because they r crazy.” And finally, although we don’t like to encourage this kind of searcher, we have to award our Weirdest Search Term of the Week to “nude teengirl in odd clothes”; a search made by a pervert who is somehow completely unacquainted with the concept of “nudity.”

Here’s how the ridiculously-long and ever-growing reader-suggested review queue stands: The Real McCoy; Themroc; Candy (1968); The Fox Family; Angelus; Britannia Hospital; This Filthy Earth; Continue reading WHAT’S IN THE PIPELINE

SATURDAY SHORT: UNICORN BLOOD (2013)

Alberto Vázquez has been featured here before when we highlighted his short Birdboy. I had the pleasure of seeing “Unicorn Blood” when it was featured at Slamdance last year. With the impression it left, there was no doubt it would be shared on this site as soon as it was available. If you don’t speak Spanish, be sure to turn on the subtitles by pressing the “cc” button.

Content Warning: This short contains nudity and graphic violence against unicorns.

WEIRD HORIZON FOR THE WEEK OF 12/19/2014

Our weekly look at what’s weird in theaters, on hot-off-the-presses DVDs, and on more distant horizons… Trailers of new release movies are generally available on the official site links.

IN THEATERS (LIMITED RELEASE):

The Duke of Burgundy: Peter Strickland’s followup to his giallo-tribute Berberian Sound Studio is a strange erotic melodrama about sadomasochistic relationship between an aristocratic butterfly collector and her servant. Rotten Tomatoes lists this as opening this week, but we think they may be wrong… it’s not even up on U.S. distributor IFC’s website yet. Keep an eye out for it in January. The Duke of Burgundy official site.

IN DEVELOPMENT:

The Stranger (est. Summer 2015): A “free” adaptation of Mark Twain’s “The Mysterious Stranger,” done in the style of El Topo and Greaser’s Palace. These guys are British, so hopefully their take on the acid Western will be unusual indeed. The Stranger official site.

NEW ON DVD:

Coyote (2014): An insomniac writer hallucinates. Reportedly contains ian genital/mechanical imagery. Buy Coyote.

Stonehearst Asylum (2014): This Brad Anderson adaptation of an story (Gothic fans will immediately figure out which story, and the twist) boasts a remarkable cast: Kate Beckinsale, , Ben Kingsley, Michael Caine… Critical opinions were all over the map: the Village Voice praised it as a “vintage Halloween treat,” while the New York Times dubbed it a “shockingly flabby effort.” Buy Stonehearst Asylum.

NEW ON BLU-RAY:

Stonehurst Asylum (2014): See description in DVD above. Buy Stonehearst Asylum [Blu-ray].

What are you looking forward to? If you have any weird movie leads that I have overlooked, feel free to leave them in the COMMENTS section.

PEE WEE’S PLAYHOUSE ON BLU-RAY

 was the most forcefully innovative and original television personality since Ernie Kovacs, period.

“Pee Wee’s Playhouse” lasted five seasons, ending in 1990.  It was a show created by artists, and television has not been as bright since. Of course, TV still has clever programs occasionally, but it lacks the pronounced aesthetic that Reubens and company brought to a medium, which  has traditionally been artistically undemanding .

A Wikipedia editor says:

The creative design of the show was concocted by a troupe of artists including Gary Panter (the art director), Craig Bartlett, Richard Goleszowski, Gregory Harrison, Ric Heitzman, Phil Trumbo, and Wayne White. The first day of production, right as Panter began reading the scripts to find out where everything would be situated, set workers hurriedly asked him, “Where’s the plans? All the carpenters are standing here ready to build everything.” Panter responded, “You just have to give us 15 minutes to design this thing!” When asked about the styles that went into the set design, Panter said, “This was like the hippie dream…It was a show made by artists … We put art history all over the show. It’s really like … I think Mike Kelly said, and it’s right, that it’s kind of like the Googie style – it’s like those LA types of coffee shops and stuff but kind of psychedelic, over-the-top.” Several artistic filmmaking techniques were featured on the program including chroma key, stop-motion animation, and clay animation.[1]

Still from Pee Wee's PlayhouseAn erroneous explanation for the show’s demise has entered the ranks of urban legend, as has Reuben’s fall from grace.  Feeling burnt-out, Reubens had declined the option to produce a sixth season and wanted to take a sabbatical. His arrest for indecent exposure in 1991 happened after “Playhouse” had already been canceled. [2]

Despite being tainted by a posthumous scandal, “Pee Wee’s Playhouse” became, and remains, a cult hit. DVD releases were best sellers. In 2004, Image Entertainment announced a special edition collection, which fell through once Shout! Factory picked up distribution. Ten years later, a “Pee Wee’s Playhouse” special edition has come to Blu-ray. A pristine video and audio transfer with extensive supplements justify the decade-long wait.

Accessible, educational and entertaining slapstick surrealism were the tenets of the Playhouse.  Mantling the man-child person originated by , Reubens, along with the cast (both human Continue reading PEE WEE’S PLAYHOUSE ON BLU-RAY

186. MOOD INDIGO (2013)

L’écume des jours

“I like this way of seeing the world, the fact that everything is re-created and everything is possible in this world. It’s not from our time, it’s not the past or the future, it’s just sort of a science fiction of present day.”–Michel Gondry on Mood Indigo

DIRECTED BY:

FEATURING: Roamin Duris, Audrey Tautou, Omar Sy, Gad Elmaleh, Aïssa Maïga

PLOT: Colin, an independently wealthy inventor of gadgets like a piano that mixes a cocktail based on the tune played on it, meets the enchanting Chloe at a poodle’s birthday party, and the couple soon marry. His best friend Chick, meanwhile, is pursuing a romance of his own with his cook’s sister, while simultaneously battling an addiction to the work of celebrity philosopher Jean-Sol Partre. When Chloe falls victim to an unlikely infection—a water-lily grows in her lung—her medical bills bankrupt the couple, and Colin must take a job to pay for her treatment.

Still from Mood Indigo (2013)
BACKGROUND:

  • Mood Indigo is an adaptation of polymath Boris Vian’s 1947 novel “L’Écume des jours” (translated as “Froth on the Daydream,” “The Foam of Days,” or “Foam of the Daze“). The novel was adapted for film in the 1968 French effort Spray of the Days and 2001’s Chloe (from Japan).
  • Among other talents, Vian was a musician and jazz critic, and Duke Ellington was godfather to Vian’s daughter. The movie’s English title, “Mood Indigo,” comes from a famous Ellington number. Although Duke appears on the soundtrack and his ballad “Chloe” actually plays a part in the story, the song “Mood Indigo” is never heard or referenced in the film.
  • Jean-Sol Partre, the writer to whose works Chick is addicted, is, of course, a reference to existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre. Sartre was a personal friend of Vian’s. (You have to be awed by anyone who counted both Duke Ellington and Jean-Paul Sartre among their close confidants).
  • The original version of the film released in France ran 130 minutes. In the United States and Australia, the film was re-cut to run only 90 minutes.

INDELIBLE IMAGE: Trying to disguise the movie’s off-putting surrealism, Mood Indigo‘s U.S. marketers favored generic romantic comedy images of Tautou and Duris making lovey-eyes at each other (including one weirdish scene of them kissing underwater) to make it look like a quirky date movie. In fact, while Mood Indigo is sentimental at the beginning, it’s far more focused on handmade oddities (including a doorbell that scurries about like a beetle) and nonsense gimmicks than it is on romance, which is an afterthought and an excuse to root around in the director’s toy box. We think the most representative image is the inhaled spore that settles inside Chloe’s lung as she sleeps, covering her handmade heart with a coat of stop-motion frost.

WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: Whimsical but weird, set in a peculiar Paris that could exists only in the dreaming mind, Mood Indigo is like Amelie on surrealistic steroids. If had suddenly gone soft-hearted and been given millions of dollars to make a romantic comedy, he might have come up with something like this.


U.S. trailer for Mood Indigo

COMMENTS: Unless you have a high tolerance for whimsical surrealistic excess, you may find yourself overstimulated by Mood Indigo Continue reading 186. MOOD INDIGO (2013)

18TH ANNUAL ONLINE FILM CRITICS SOCIETY AWARDS (WITH OUR VOTES AND COMMENTS)

The 2014 Online Film Critics Society awards awards are out. As usual, weird films were not well represented this awards season. The Society chose to pass on a total of four outstanding acting jobs by  and Jesse Eisenberg in Enemy and The Double. ‘s autobiography earned a total of zero nominations; even urinating on her husband’s chest while singing an opera aria could not get Pamela Flores a Best Supporting Actress nod.

In somewhat more positive news for our favored genre, Birdman, the odd tale of an ex-superhero movie star levitating and hallucinating while trying to direct, star in, and produce a Broadway play, did take three awards.  The apocalyptic train movie Snowpiercer garnered a nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay and one for as Best Supporting Actress. The weirdish alien abduction feature Under the Skin was nominated for three awards including Best Picture, although was snubbed for a nomination as Weirdest—I mean, Best—Actress.

As always, despite the levity in my tone, I take my voting responsibility very seriously. Here is the list of this year’s winners, along with my choices and a touch of personal commentary.

BEST PICTURE

Winner: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Also Nominated: Boyhood; Ida; The Lego Movie; Mommy; Nightcrawler; Selma; Two Days, One Night; Under the Skin; Whiplash

G. Smalley’s VoteWhiplash

Comments: I contend that 2014 has been a year of many very good, but no great, movies. I saw three movies I would consider masterpieces in 2013: The Act of Killing, Blancanieves, and The Wolf of Wall Street. In 2014 I have seen zero, although there are about a dozen films I would consider just a notch below that level. So, I have no problem with ‘s typically twee The Grand Budapest Hotel winning Best Picture, despite the fact that it comes in only at #11 on my personal top 10 list. Had it been nominated, I would have voted for Calvary, the Irish passion allegory in which one priest pays for the pedophilic sins of the Catholic Church. Of the nominees that made the ballot I favored Whiplash, which while conventional in form and content was the most intense cinematic experience of the year (yes, a movie about jazz drumming was intense).

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE

WinnerThe Lego Movie

Also Nominated: Big Hero 6; The Boxtrolls; How to Train Your Dragon 2; The Tale of the Princess Kaguya

G. Smalley’s Vote: The Lego Movie

Comments: Lego charmed even Alfred Eaker‘s cold and cynical heart. Despite its product-placement premise, it was an inspired tribute to imagination, filled with humor, spectacle, shots at pop culture, and pathos. Its only serious competition came from the more artistic The Tale of the Princess Kaguya, an epic Studio Ghibli release based on a traditional Japanese folktale that contains some of the most beautiful hand-drawn cels you’ll see this year (much of the movie looks like Continue reading 18TH ANNUAL ONLINE FILM CRITICS SOCIETY AWARDS (WITH OUR VOTES AND COMMENTS)

CAPSULE: WETLANDS (2013)

Feuchtgebiete

Recommended

DIRECTED BY: David Wnendt

FEATURING: Carla Juri, Christoph Letkowski, Meret Becker, Axel Milberg

PLOT: A sexually precocious teen girl who is virulently anti-hygiene tries to seduce her male nurse when she is hospitalized with anal fissures.

Still from Wetlands (2013)

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: Wetlands proudly advertises itself as “the most WTF, NSFW movie” of the year, and it is unique in that it’s the world’s first art-house gross-out romantic comedy. It’s worth a look for the way it blends cuteness and transgression with a peppering of magical realism moments, but it’s more provocative than weird in the end.

COMMENTS: I recently saw a Dutch study that came to the common-sense conclusion that sexual arousal overcomes feelings of disgust, allowing us to propagate the species despite the fact that the process of sexual intercourse involves a lot of foul smells and exchange of potentially deadly fluid-borne bacteria. So it’s no surprise that Wetlands makes its hemorrhoid-ridden heroine with the crusty panties a) horny and b) hot.  Helen may be unhygienic, but thankfully she’s photogenic. A movie about a fat, homely girl who disdains hygiene and trades tampons with her best friend would be far harder to (forgive me) swallow.

There are more than a few softcore (and some pretty hardcore) sex scenes here, and graphic “ick” moments that will remind you of illustrated versions kinds of stories teenage boys like to swap in locker rooms to make each other gag. There are also a sprinkling of hallucinatory scenes to catch weirdophiles interest, anchored by the moment where an aroused Helen sees a tree sprouting from her vagina. Perhaps even more visually impressive is the opening credits’ psychedelic trip through the rainbow forest of microflora and fauna growing on a filthy public toilet bowl. Helen confesses that she “often mixes up reality, lies and dreams,” which calls into question some of her more extreme exploits, but her hallucinations are always psychologically revealing, and sometimes dead-on satirical (as in the fantasy where her mother faces her greatest fear—being struck by a bus while wearing a pair of dirty underwear).

Wetlands intends to challenge what it contends are our irrational prejudices about the uncleanliness of our own bodies. But in knowingly pushing the audience’s gross-out buttons, it sometimes perforates the wall of absurdity to the point where its legitimate  message is lost. The pizza scene, in particular, seems like something that belongs in a Pink Flamingos sequel. The movie risks sweeping its argument about the irrationality of taboos away in a flood of menstrual blood, mucous, semen, and the miscellaneous fluids that pool on the floor of one particularly unhygienic public toilet. Wetlands is filled with womb and birth imagery that suggests that the process of becoming human is inescapably wet and smelly, and that  perhaps we should embrace that reality as joyously as our heroine does.  Yet, Helen confesses that she’s had herself secretly sterilized. The statement is made offhandedly, and maybe its one of the lies that Helen mixes up with truth, but it metaphorically cuts off the “life-affirming” reading. Still, although it might be a little thematically confused and try too hard to shock, Wetlands is bold and original in tone, and it boasts a brave and winning performance from Carla Juri (who convincingly captures the raunchy and rebellious charm of a free-spirited teenager despite being in her late twenties).

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“…an aesthetically amped-up affair, full of segmented screens, oversaturated colors, trippy special effects, and drugged-out flashbacks and dream sequences…”–Nick Schager, The Village Voice (contemporaneous)

 

WHAT’S IN THE PIPELINE

Next week we’ll continue our year-end coverage of 2014’s weird releases with looks at Germany’s arthouse grossout effort Wetlands and France’s manically surreal Mood Indigo. Sandwiched in between those reviews we’ll regress to the mainstream to discuss the Online Film Critics Awards, along with our votes (spoiler: eligible Certified Weird movies The Dance of Reality, The Double and Enemy combined for a grand total of zero award nominations). Alfred will cap the week by popping in the latest Bu-ray release of “Pee Wee’s Playhouse.”

Proving that the door-pounding fetish is more pervasive than we ever guessed, this week “movies with video footage of pretty girls pounding on doors” once more appears on our rundown of the Weirdest Search Terms of the Week (although this week’s searcher was not particular about the pretty girl’s name). “Was joe, the fartiste, black?,” asks our second searcher (bonus points for using the grammatically correct appositive even though Google could care less—but what prompted that bizarre question?) Our winner for Weirdest Search Term of the Week is  the odd question “what is it called getting stuck in mountains near trees when you drop in soft snow,” an incredibly unusual and specific situation that probably cannot be summed up in fewer words than the asker actually used.

Here’s how the ridiculously-long and ever-growing reader-suggested review queue stands: Mood Indigo (next week!); The Real McCoy; Themroc; Candy (1968); The Fox Family; Angelus; Britannia Continue reading WHAT’S IN THE PIPELINE

WEIRD HORIZON FOR THE WEEK OF 12/12/2014

Our weekly look at what’s weird in theaters, on hot-off-the-presses DVDs, and on more distant horizons…

Trailers of new release movies are generally available on the official site links.

IN THEATERS (WIDE RELEASE):

Inherent Vice (2014): A pot-smoking detective investigates a labyrinthine plot that eventually leads him to a mysterious organization of dentists known as the “Golden Fang” (among many other subplots). becomes the first director to adapt a novel, which is reason enough to salivate. Inherent Vice official site.

NEW ON DVD:

Frank (2014): Read G. Smalley’s review in a giant papier-mâché head. ‘Nuff said. Buy Frank.

Safe (1995): A wealthy woman flees to a New Age spa in the desert when she becomes afraid that she is “allergic to the 20th century.” From the man who brought us Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story, so you know Safe is anything but. Buy Safe.

The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears (2013): Read Alex Kittle’s review. Buy the DVD for the “reversible sleeve with uncensored artwork!” (We’re thinking that means nipples!) Buy The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears.

NEW ON BLU-RAY:

“Fox Searchlight Pictures: 20th Anniversary Collection”: Fox Searchlight does good work, but we’re always skeptical about collections of films that have nothing to do with each other except that they were released under the same studio imprint. Nonetheless, we’ll point out that you will find the Certified Weird Beasts of the Southern Wild and Black Swan among the 21 arthouse disks here (and that the price per Blu in this set turns out to be a bargain at $6 each). Buy “Fox Searchlight Pictures: 20th Anniversary Collection” [Blu-ray].

Frank (2014): See description in DVD above. Buy Frank [Blu-ray].

Natural Born Killers (1994): Woody Harrelson and Juliet Lewis star as a pair of serial killers on a hallucinogenic rampage across a bloody pop-culture landscape. This “20th Anniversary” edition includes both the theatrical and director’s cuts and the new featurette “Natural Born Killers: Method in the Madness,” and comes in “Diamond Luxe” packaging. Buy Natural Born Killers [20th Anniversary Blu-ray]

Safe (1995): See description in DVD above. Buy Safe [Blu-ray].

The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears (2013): See description in DVD above. Buy The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears [Blu-ray].

Time Bandits (1981): Read the Certified Weird review! The Criterion Collection’s on again/off again affair with the rights to Terry Gilliam‘s movies is on again. This Blu features a lenticular cover. Buy Time Bandits [Blu-ray].

What are you looking forward to? If you have any weird movie leads that I have overlooked, feel free to leave them in the COMMENTS section.

Celebrating the cinematically surreal, bizarre, cult, oddball, fantastique, psychedelic, and the just plain WEIRD!