All posts by Gregory J. Smalley (366weirdmovies)

Originally an anonymous encyclopediast who closely guarded his secret identity to prevent his occult enemies from exposing him, a 2010 Freedom of Information Act request revealed that "366weirdmovies" is actually Greg Smalley, a freelance writer and licensed attorney from Louisville, KY. His orientation is listed as "hetero" and his relationship status as "single," but Mr. Smalley's "turn-ons" and "favorite Michael Bay movie" were redacted from the FOIA report. Mr. Smalley is a member of the Online Film Critics Society.

CAPSULE: AN EVENING WITH BEVERLY LUFF LINN (2018)

DIRECTED BY:

FEATURING: Aubrey Plaza, , Craig Robinson, , Matt Berry

PLOT: Lulu is unhappy with her cappuccino-store managing husband, so she runs off with a man who stole money from him to go see an old flame’s “one night only” performance at a nearby hotel.

Still from An Evening with Beverly Luff Linn (2018)
WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: Though advertised in-film as a “magical” evening with Beverly Luff Linn, the onscreen evening is not so much “magical” as “eccentric.” Luff Linn is a hulking teddy bear, leaking stuffing, and with one eye holding on by a thread. It stays surprisingly true to romantic comedy conventions while employing light, sub-Brechtian alienation techniques.

COMMENTS: For a few viewers, An Evening with Beverly Luff Linn will be their first exposure to the weird world of Jim Hosking. Most, especially readers of this site, will be drawn to it to see what the director of 2016’s transgressive The Greasy Strangler would come up with given a bigger budget and professional actors. The answer is that he compromised by scaling back the most aggressively bizarre elements of his shock debut, while still indulging in enough skewed reality to keep the comedy firmly on the surreal side of the ledger. So, for example, in Luff Linn you will see cigarette snuffed out in an absurdly oversized meatball, but no baths in vats of half-congealed grease; a couple of characters repeating the word “immediately” across scenes, but no painfully extended “bullshit artist” segments; Craig Robinson in a 40s-style one-piece bathing suit, but no full-frontal prosthetic nudity. Whereas Strangler felt a little dangerous, like  meets , Beverly is more like a  awkward/quirky concoction, slightly out of step with reality, but without the offal and outrageousness. The results are not entirely satisfactory, but they are also not nearly as much of a sell-out as they might have been.

The plot, although a bit shaggy, is not so bad, with Lulu’s urge to reconnect with a younger and more vital romance bumping up against a couple of subplots in her husband’s suburban gangsta theft of a cashbox and Luff Lin’s mysterious melancholy (which results in his only being able to communicate in Frankenstein grunts for the much of the movie). Aubrey Plaza’s sarcastic resentment, Jermaine Clement’s clueless earnestness, and Emile Hirsch’s petty criminality are perfect matches to the material, but Craig Robinson doesn’t come over as the kind of charismatic mentor Lulu would fall for (which is perhaps part of the joke), and Matt Berry makes little impression as Luff Lin’s platonic partner/manager. Hoskins sprinkles in supporting performances from a couple of his regular stock company: Sky Elobar as a cappuccino-store henchman and Sam “potato” Dissanayake as an angry yet polite convenience store owner. He also finds a few more odd-faced weirdos to add freaky texture in a moon-faced toady and a hulking, pasty hotel clerk with a Ren-faire hairstyle. Though set in the present day, the anachronistic circa 1970s wardrobe choices—Colin’s turtleneck sweater and amber-tinted tinted eyeglasses—garb a world out of whack. It’s the kind of movie where three amateur robbers go on a robbery wearing women’s wigs as disguises, but never bother to cover their familiar faces. Low synths lay a doomy horror movie soundtrack over what is basically a light comedy, adding yet another level of alienation.

And yet, for all its absurdist insouciance, Luff Linn surprisingly has heart—something conspicuously lacking in Greasy Strangler. The boy gets the girl—the right boy gets the girl. The sentimentality may be a put-on, or it may be a concession, but it feels like an honest choice.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“It’s not perfect, and it certainly isn’t for everyone, but oddballs who love weirdo cinema will probably get a kick out of An Evening with Beverly Luff Linn.”–Diedre Crimmins, High-Def Digest (festival screening)

CAPSULE: THE LAST MOVIE (1971)

DIRECTED BY:

FEATURING: , Stella Garcia,

PLOT: A stuntman stays on in Peru with his mistress after his American movie crew has moved on, and is involuntarily cast in a movie the locals are making with fake cameras.

Still from The Last Movie (1971)

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: The initial critical assessment of The Last Movie said it was a stumbling, self-indulgent mess of random, stoned footage that director/star Dennis Hopper tried (and failed) to salvage by editing it into something resembling a ian Western. Now that years have passed and we can reappraise the work from a more sober perspective, we can see that this knee-jerk reaction was absolutely correct. It’s half-baked Surrealism, with the emphasis on the “baked.”

COMMENTS: So here’s how I like to imagine the making of The Last Movie went. “Dennis, you’re a genius, and ‘Easy Rider’ made a gazillion dollars, so let’s fly to Peru and make a Western about Hollywood types going to Peru to make a Western!” (Puff.) “Get a crate of whiskey! He can play the director.” (Glug.) “Great! Sam, now shoot a bunch of Western-type scenes, put a guy in jail, get some dancing girls to do the can-can, blow some stuff up. Doesn’t matter what you shoot, there’s no plot. It’s not a real movie.” (Puff.) “Kris, can you play us ‘Me and Booby McGee’ while Dennis rides a horse? Cool.” (Glug.) “OK, everybody get drunk and we’ll film it. Dennis, cry a little.” (Puff.) “Wait, it’s been 25 minutes, did we remember the opening credits? Throw ’em up on screen while Dennis and his chick kiss in a field.” (Puff.) “OK, now let’s have the villagers film some scenes using cameras made out of bamboo… see, they can’t tell the difference between reality and the movies anymore. Did I just blow your mind?” (Snort.) “Damn, that’s some fine Peruvian coke. Get that chick naked in that waterfall, Dennis wants to make out with her!” (Puff.) “Throw in a ‘scene missing’ intertitle at random. Remind ’em it’s a movie.”  (Puff.) “I know what we need: a gold mining subplot! It’ll be, like, a metaphor for Hollywood!” (Glug.) “Let’s all get drunk and go to a brothel.” (Next day.) “Let’s film a scene where everyone gets drunk and goes to a brothel.” (Sniff.) “Wait, is that ether? Let’s have Dennis try to get a fur coat from this guy’s wifuuuh sajkagkudsigkuytadijah… bluh… panties.” (Puff.) “We still got some time? Gold mining expedition montage.” (Sip, looong puff.) “I think I’m peaking… what was in that tea? Anyway now the villagers are shooting the movie for real with live ammo and they put Dennis in jail and shoot him while he rides away on his horse and he gets drunk and slaps some whores and no one will believe he’s actually in a movie cause they’re too busy making a movie and he stumbles into a church and then a woman lactates on his face and the villagers throw a fiesta with fireworks and let’s have Dennis confess to the priest that he sinned ‘in movies,’ and then everyone gets drunk and Dennis dies for their sins, but he does a couple of takes, because it’s a movie.” (Puff, glug.) “Did we remember to tie up that gold mining subplot? Let’s close with a scene with two guys by a campfire talking about whether you need mercury to pan for gold. Just improvise. Has anyone seen my Quaaludes?”

And then Dennis Hopper takes all the footage back to his shack in New Mexico and drops acid and starts editing it together. Then his good friend shows up and looks at the rough cut and says “Dennis, it’s good, but it makes too much sense. You need to put all these scenes in random order.” And then Dennis passes out on the editing machine.

I kid The Last Movie, but there’s one thing that can be said for it: absolutely no drugs were spared in its making.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“…one of the all-time classics of pretentiously incomprehensible cinema.”–Radio Times

(This movie was nominated for review by “Cletus.” Suggest a weird movie of your own here.)

CAPSULE: BRAID (2018)

DIRECTED BY: Mitzi Peirone

FEATURING: Imogen Waterhouse, Sarah Hay, Madeline Brewer, Scott Cohen

PLOT: Two girls scheme to steal from their rich, but psychotic, old friend, but doing so requires them to go along with her fantasies: “the Game.”

Still from Braid (2018)
WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: A hallucinatory thriller with modest ambitions to blow your mind, Braid finds itself in the weird pile, but not at the top of the heap. It’s a perfectly reasonable “B” selection to watch while waiting for something weirder to come down the pike.

COMMENTS: In the official opening scene of Braid, two collegiate drug dealers are inventorying their stash in their Manhattan loft, oblivious to the distant sound of police sirens. When the banging comes on their door, the film suddenly switches to black and white, security cam-style, as they make an improbable escape out the window and down the fire escape. What was decadent and glamorous in color suddenly turns dingy and desperate. At a later point, one of the girls pops what she thinks is Vicodin, but turns out to be a hallucinogen that turns the lawn purple (pro-tip: popping random pills is not recommended when you’re in the middle of pulling a caper). These visual dislocations, which are a constant in Braid, serve as a reminder of how fickle perception can be. They’re a reflection of the main plot device: a young lady trapped in a delusion that’s she’s still a little girl playing doctor with her friends. Later, we view a scene filmed upside down, for no apparent reason; debuting filmmaker Mitzi Peirone is often just using the delusion excuse to throw a lot of stuff on the screen that she thinks will look cool, like water flowing backwards into the faucet. (Actually, that’s not a bad strategy for a movie with a theme of disorientation.)

Petula and Tilda, the two college dropout robbers, are sufficiently rude and narcissistic that we’re amped to see them get their  comeuppance at the whims of their fruitcake ex-friend. Of course, Daphne, living in a dilapidated mansion and still playing house even though she now actually owns a house, herself is too detached from reality to root for. There is a detective sniffing around, but he seems fated to fall victim to the last of the game’s three rules: “no outsiders allowed.” Still, even though things threaten to get a little torture porn-y at times when Daphne goes to any lengths to keep her friends playing the Game, the film does make a dash for meaningful empathy at the very end.

There is a twist about a third of the way through that I didn’t see coming. It’s no stunner, but it is clever enough for an evening’s entertainment. A number of seemingly odd moments—such as the cliche old doomsayer cackling at the pair as they prepare to re-engage with their long lost gal pal—start to make (some) sense in retrospect. On the other hand, it also makes you conscious of how some of the early scenes were contrived specifically to fool the audience, rather than for organic story reasons. And some stuff never really adds up at all, such as a foot fetish scene. Still, the reveal is done well, and allows Peirone to pull out a lot of stops for a schizo-surrealist montage the supplies a high point before things start to peter out in a dreamy, melancholy epilogue (the film had been tautly paced up to that point).

The film’s insights into the subjectivity of human perception never really threaten to get beyond the superficial, but they do make a decent substrate for a weird-ass thriller. Peirone shows skill in putting the whole together, and with the help of cinematographer Todd Banhazl has a great (if undisciplined) visual flair. Keep your expectations at the level of a smart B-thriller and you may be pleasantly surprised by how well Braid threads these three women together.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“Bolstered by its kinetic cinematography and stellar production design, Mitzi Peirone’s surreal nightmare Braid is a crazy fever dream of deranged games and broken realities.”–Adam Patterson, Film Pulse (festival screening)

YOUR VOTE DETERMINES THE WINNER OF THE 9TH ANNUAL WEIRDCADEMY AWARDS

So gets a Most Conventional Actor Oscar for stumbling around drunk in Las Vegas and failing to get an erection in the final scene, but when sorts a mysterious hallucinogenic powder he finds lying around in a Satanic biker’s lair and forges his own axe to mow down the hippies who burnt his true love alive, he doesn’t even get a sniff from the Academy? And now is forced to give up making movies about dystopian futures where singles are sent to a hotel where they must find a mate or be turned into an animal of their choice, and instead make costume dramas about serving wenches, fat bi queens, and Tories wearing powdered Whigs to get the Academy to give him a Most Conventional Picture nod? So what retreads did the Academy of Arts and Sciences see fit to nominate for the Most Conventional Picture Oscar of 2018? A black and white documentary about Mexicans harvesting those little plum tomatoes they put in salads? The fourth remake of a weepie about untalented drunk sellout musicians that sucked the first three times? This year’s Italian-stereotype-conquers-racism-and-finds-a-black-friend road trip comedy? A couple of movies with “Black” right there in the title, to show they are taking diversity seriously?

Yes, the Oscars are a joke, and everyone knows it. (Just try finding someone willing to host the ceremony.) But you, my friend, you aren’t content with the same-old same-old, new wine in a familiar glass. You want weird in your movies. The Weirdcademy Awards are for you, the moviegoer whose friends roll their eyes and sigh loudly when you suggest buying tickets to the latest black and white Estonian witchcraft werewolf love story.

Although the editors of 366 Weird Movies select the nominees from the pool of available movies, the Awards themselves are a naked popularity contest and do not necessarily reflect either the artistic merit or intrinsic weirdness of the films involved. The Weirdcademy Awards are tongue-in-cheek and for fun only. Ballot-stuffing is a frequent occurrence. Please, no wagering.

The Weirdcademy Awards are given to the Weirdest Movie, Actor, Actress and Scene of the previous year, as voted by the members of the Weirdcademy of Motion Picture Arts and Weirdness.

Who makes up the Weirdcademy? Membership is open to all readers of 366 Weird Movies. The rules for joining the Weirdcademy of Motion Picture Arts and Weirdness are as follows. To officially join, locate an official online ballot (such as the one below) and hover your mouse pointer over the radial button representing the choice of movie you would like to see win any award in any category. Then, simply depress the left button of your mouse to make your selection. Selections made using the right mouse button will be disregarded, and you will be forced to reapply. If your application for membership is approved, a dot will appear next to your choice. You are not done yet, so continue reading. To be certified as a voting member of the Weirdcademy, at some point subsequent to making your selection, you must navigate your mouse button to the box marked “vote.” Now, again depress your left mouse button to confirm your membership as a voting member of the Weirdcademy.

(Vote as many times as you like, but only once per day, please. We’ll keep voting open until February 24 at 12:00 Noon EST, so we can announce our results before the Academy Awards and steal their thunder).

There is no requirement that you’ve have to actually see all the movies in any category before voting.

Be sure to also vote for Weirdest Short Film of the Year. To watch all five nominees and to cast your vote, please click here.

Without further delay, we unveil the nominees for the 2018 Weirdcademy Awards below:
Continue reading YOUR VOTE DETERMINES THE WINNER OF THE 9TH ANNUAL WEIRDCADEMY AWARDS

SLAMDANCE 2019 REMOTE COVERAGE

We didn’t get to fly out to Park City this year for the Sundance festivities (our budget has never allowed for trips to Park City), the rival Slamdance Festival was kind enough to offer us a handful of digital screeners to create a virtual fest in the 366 Weird Movies home offices. So, while I didn’t get the full audience experience watching these underground films—chuckling with fellow patrons at the antics of these onscreen loonies while the scent of popcorn wafts through the darkened room—at least you won’t have to hear me complain about trekking through Park City’s sub-zero temperatures to see them (I watched them via Chromecast in front of a roaring gas fireplace clutching a glass of beer, thank you very much).

Obviously, we focused only on movies we thought sounded somewhat weird, ignoring the vanilla dramas and documentaries that make up the bulk of the programming. All of these films will have debuted by the time you’re reading this, but if you’re in Park City and you still want to catch them, Dollhouse and The Vast of Night play again on the 28th, while “Slip Road” can be seen on the same night in the “Anarchy Shorts” section.  A Great Lamp and “Finding the Asshole” play again on the 29th (and “Asshole” is also now available to everyone online), while “Butt Fantasia” encores on the 31st.

So, while “major” critics are salivating over Sundance’s latest dramas about attractive young white people grappling with their mommy and daddy issues, we’ll show you what’s going on in the underbelly of Park City, where the weirdos congregate to screen their latest experimental offenses about unattractive young white people grappling with much weirder mommy and daddy issues.

Speaking of weird mommy issues, first up in our queue is Dollhouse: The Eradication of Female Subjectivity in American Popular Culture (don’t worry, the scary pseudoacademic title is part of the joke). Using an aesthetic borrowed from “Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story” and a sense of humor derived from “South Park,” Nicole Brending tells of the rise and fall of Junie Spoons, a child superstar a la Britney Spears or Miley Cyrus, entirely with children’s dolls. This project was a labor of love by Brending, who launched a Kickstarter campaign in 2013 that failed to reach its goal, but kept hope alive and managed to complete the film (for a reported budget of “no money”) five years later.

Still from Dollhouse: The Eradication of Female Subjectivity from American Popular Culture (2018)Even if it’s unpolished and uneven, that kind of personal passion usually results in something worth watching, and that’s the case here. Dollhouse provides steady chuckles and is frequently in very bad taste—especially considering that its mockumentary subject becomes a washed-up, drug addicted divorcee felon in her early teens. Among the -approved provocations are a pre-teen sex tape (with pixellated doll penis), dolls stuck with syringes, black men voiced by white women, Mapplethrope photos, and a vagina transplant/repossession. The Continue reading SLAMDANCE 2019 REMOTE COVERAGE

CAPSULE: STRAIGHT TO HELL (1987)

DIRECTED BY:

FEATURING: , Joe Strummer, Dick Rude, Courtney Love

PLOT: Three gangsters, with a pregnant girlfriend in tow, blow an assignment, rob a bank, and hide out in a Central American village ruled by a band of coffee-addicted desperadoes.

Still from Straight to Hell (1987)

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: This silly, violent and absurd attempt at a Western comedy made by non-comedians doesn’t really work, except as a curio.

COMMENTS: The story behind Straight to Hell is that filmmaker Alex Cox had assembled a number of punk bands for a concert in Nicaragua, which had to be canceled due to political turmoil. With his schedule involuntarily cleared and time on his hands, he sat down with a guy named Dick Rude (!) and scratched out a movie script in three days, using the musicians and whoever was available on short notice as actors. The result is a silly spoof, made on the spur of the moment, with punk rockers trying to be comedians. There’s a party vibe, and it’s clear that the cast and crew had a blast farting around in the desert. It’s equally clear that you will never have as much fun watching it as they did making it.

Sy Richardson (whom Cox had worked with before on Repo Man and Sid and Nancy) was one of the few actual actors available for the project on short notice, so the prolific character actor gets a rare featured role here, and makes the best of the opportunity. (Because he’s cool, black, and wears a suit and tie while brandishing a gun, he’s often pointed to as a precursor to Samuel L. Jackson’s Jules in Pulp Fiction). The Clash’s Joe Strummer is second-in-command, while Rude takes the role of the youngest and jumpiest of the gang. Courtney Love is Sy’s shrill, preggo girlfriend, who’s so effectively annoying that they effectively write her out of the script after the setup. Besides the main cast, Eighties underground culture aficionados can keep an eye out for cameos by the Pogues, Elvis Costello, Grace Jones, , and even .

And yes, it is weird, although more in the vein of a spectacularly drunk Mel Brooks than of . The credits list a “sex and cruelty consultant” (a bit tongue-in-cheekly, since there’s not terribly much of either). What you do get it some attempted slapstick from musicians trying to be comics, scenes spoofing Once Upon the Time in the West and Cool Hand Luke, hard-to-understand accents (not only from the rotten-toothed Shane MacGowan), a Western hot dog vendor, a butler who serves coffee to desperate killers, a barrelhouse piano version of “Night on Bald Mountain,” a musical number (including “Danny Boy”) or two, and a long conclusory shootout to prune the cast (including a few extra bodies like Jarmusch who show up at the last minute to get mowed down). Perhaps the oddest touch of all are two brief shots of Ray Harryhausen-style animated skeletons: a wolf who howls at the moon and a human clutching a knife between its teeth. It’s like Cox bought a few seconds of unused footage from a Charles Band production and shoehorned them into his movie at random. Whatever charm Straight to Hell possesses comes from the fact that you seldom have any idea what will happen next.

The story is supposedly based on the Canonically Weird Django Kill… If You Live, Shoot!—Cox went so far as to secure the adaptation rights—but the similarities between the two films are completely superficial. Remastered with new digital gore effects and re-released in a director’s cut in 2010, Straight to Hell is obscure, but Kino-Lorber’s 2018 edition with director’s commentary is actually its third appearance on DVD (it was released by Anchor Bay in 2001, and by Microcinema DVD under the title Straight to Hell Returns in 2010). The film is also available on Blu-ray or streaming outlets.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“It’s a very weird vibe, and it requires one to not only accept, but also embrace, boredom. If the movie has one theory, it’s this: if you stare long enough at a certain spot, something weird and cool is bound to happen.”–Jeffery M. Anderson, Combustible Celluloid (DVD)

APOCRYPHA

An administrative announcement, just so the review above makes sense: we have completed the List of 366 Weird Movies, which henceforth will be referred to as “Canonically Weird,” or “the Canon.”

As previously announced, we will be continuing to honor other films, at a slower pace; once officially confirmed, these supplemental entries will be listed as “Apocryphally Weird,” or “the Apocrypha.”  Therefore, Umbilical World counts as an “Apocrypha Candidate.”

We’ll be using this terminology from now on. You can consider all former “List Candidates” to be converted to “Apocrypha Candidates” automatically. Now we return you to your regularly scheduled weirdness.