Another cinema year has come and gone, and as always, if you dig deeper than the blockbuster reboots of Mad Max and Star Wars or the conservative Oscar-bait dramas trotted out at the end of the year for Academy geriatrics to vote on, you will find some very strange creatures squirming around in the movie industry’s basement. Any year in which early cinema’s postmodern champion
As for the choice of movies, I pick them using a secret proprietary formula that accounts for cinematic craftsmanship, the level of surrealism/weirdness, and the perceived prestige in the weird movie community based on buzz and reader feedback, then I rank them in whatever arbitrary order I momentarily feel like without regard to any of that. As always, the films are listed in random order, the weirdest of orders (a convention other lists are starting to catch on to).
On to the movies!
10. Anomalisa – Even though we narrowly declined to make it a List Candidate (a decision I wonder if we will later regret), we couldn’t possibly leave out a -scripted stop-motion existential comedy about a motivational speaker who hears everyone in the world talking in the same monotone voice off our year end list. confirms that “yes, it does get weird” while adding “but for the most part it just gets sad, and nihilistic, exploring mid-life crisis in ways both poetic and infuriating.” Although the fumbling sex scene was one of the most realistic bedroom scenarios ever scripted, I confess I find puppet cunnilingus disturbing.
1. The Forbidden Room – Stories unfold inside of other stories in Guy Maddin’s telescoping narrative experiment. The concept for this omnibus project came from Maddin trying to imagine the content of lost films from their titles alone. Of course, Guy Maddin’s imagination evokes such unlikely scenarios as men trapped in a submarine furiously eating pancakes, a bone surgeon assaulted by seductresses in skintight skeleton leotards, and a man who bids against his own double for a bust of the two-faced Roman god Janus. It all begins and ends with in a bathrobe, explaining how to take a bath (for hygiene novices). Once The Forbidden Room is released on home video we’re certain you’ll agree it’s easily the weirdest movie of 2015; until then, satisfy your curiosity with a sneak peak at “The Final Derriere,” a scrambled music video about a man “plagued by bottoms.”
9. Lost River – The critics weren’t kind to ‘s directorial debut, a “dark fairy tale” set in an urban hellhole that looks suspiciously like Detroit, only with riderless flaming bicycles passing by on the street. disagreed with the consensus, urging us to judge for ourselves. Gosling may wear his influences ( , ) on his sleeve, but we happen to like those influences.
7. R100 – A Japanese furniture salesman pays a secret society so that dominatrixes will attack him at random times in public, but things go too far when they start showing up at his work and home. Slow (and repetitive) to start, but builds to a bizarre and twisted finale that plays like it was co-directed by a team of David Lynch, , and Mel Brooks.
5. Der Samurai – The best film about a transvestite samurai terrorizing a rural German town released straight to DVD in 2015. Pit Bukowski plays the title role like he’s the long-lost love-grandchild of . A promising debut feature from that explores the weirdness in queerness.
3. Reality – Arch-absurdist does horror. A little girl had funny nightmares.
“What kind of movie is it, is it funny?”
“I’m not allowed to answer that kind of question, ma’am.”
6. Love & Peace – A wannabe pop singer loses his beloved pet turtle, finds rock-n-roll success, and reunites with his pet, now a giant rampaging through the streets of Tokyo. gushed, “Though the Ratatouille-meets-‘Island-of-Misfit-Toys’ story sounds convoluted, Love & Peace works thanks to Sono’s masterful juggling of various interconnected ideas. It is equal parts adorable and hilarious, with the familiar rags-to-riches structure completely upended by the bizarre circumstances surrounding it.” Maybe the weirdest thing? This is a family film from , who usually traffics in films about yakuza maniacs, serial killers, and upskirt perverts.
8. Entertainment – Comedian Gregg Turkington has an alter-ego named “Neil Hamburger”; a low-rent insult comic who performs in a tux with a grotesque combover with a grating delivery, who is incapable of telling an actual joke. Instead, he specializes in bad-taste humor with awkward, unfunny punchlines (one joke begins “Why does Madonna feed her baby Alpo brand dog food?“) Director Rick Alverson takes this sad sack character and implies a tragic backstory, sending the entertainer out on an increasingly surreal and despairing tour of the American southwest. There’s something horrifyingly Sisyphean in the idea of a comic who is compelled to take the stage and bomb night after night in front of a disdainful crowd of miserabilist drunks. Entertainment is a bleak vision of complete artistic and personal frustration, yet it rings hellishly true.
4. A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence – completes his unique, unofficial trilogy about “being human.” Like the previous two films, this one consists of a series of dry, absurd, sometimes surreal sketches, all draped in existential melancholy, played out on blandly-colored but incredibly detailed diorama-like soundstages in deep focus by narcotized actors. This time out, the adventures are linked by a pair of chronically depressed salesmen peddling novelty vampire fangs and other trinkets, and include a cameo from King Charles XII of Sweden, who stops off at a modern watering hole on his doomed march towards Moscow.
2. Inherent Vice – Technically, s adaptation of ‘s novel about a stoner detective (possibly) unraveling an impossibly complicated plot involving kidnapping, heroin smuggling, and a syndicate of tax-dodging dentists in Southern California during the death throes of the psychedelic era qualifies as a 2014 movie, but since no one saw it on its New Years’ Eve debut, we’ll count it as a 2015 film. observed that Vice “dips heavily into a ’70s goo of establishment overreach, ‘Flower Power’ disillusionment, and, shall we say, ‘eccentric’ fashion”; I called it “the new masterpiece of hippie noir.” Understandably, this befuddled mainstream audiences expecting a comprehensible plot, but weirdos grooving on its hazy wavelength found it the most euphoric flick of the year.