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WEIRD HORIZON FOR THE WEEK OF 10/2/2009

A 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):

Zombieland:  There are many readers of this site who would flock to any zom-com offering, but the good news is that this particular post-zombie-apocalypse comedy, starring Woody Harrelson as a professional killer of the undead, is getting good advance notice, and may even be slightly weird: Andrew Wright of The Stranger is calling it “an absolute, occasionally surreal hoot.”  Zombieland official site.

IN THEATERS (WIDE RELEASE):

A Serious Man: The latest Coen brothers film, a star-free philosophical dramedy about growing up Jewish in the American Midwest in the 1960s, is not making theater owners salivate at the prospect of ticket sales, but fans can safely expect to see the brothers’ trademark quirkiness on display.  A Serious Man official site.

SCREENINGS: NEW YORK CITY (MUSEUM OF MODERN ART)

Where Is Where? (2009): Experimental narrative film from Finnish artist Eija-Liisa Ahtila centers around the murder of a French boy by his two Arab playmates during the Algerian war and a poet’s attempts to understand the act years later; featuring split-screens and Death as a character.  Where Is Where? at the Museum of Modern Art.

NEW ON DVD:

The Wizard of Oz: 70th Anniversary Edition (1939):  Even with flying monkeys, taking apple trees and green-faced cossacks, The Wizard of Oz might not qualify as “weird”; but there’s no doubt that the story is the touchstone of indigenous American fantasy.  This 2-disc edition is from a crystal clear 2005 restoration and features outtakes and deleted scenes, numerous interviews with the surviving cast members and featurettes, and a numerous other extras—disc 1 can even do duty as a Wizard of Oz karaoke machine. Buy from Amazon.  Also available is an “Ultimate” edition that contains a digital copy of the movie and four 8 x 10 inch posters of the main characters. Buy Ultimate Edition.

NE W ON BLU-RAY:

The Wizard of Oz: 70th Anniversary Ultimate Collector’s Edition:  A scaled down Blu-ray release is probably set for the future, but first comes this extravagant 4 disc limited-edition set with 16 hours (!) of bonus content, along with a 52 page booklet, a 7oth anniversary watch (with “genuine crystals”), and reproductions of original marketing materials. Buy from Amazon.

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.

WHAT’S IN THE PIPELINE

We have a lot of articles pending this week—and we’re not sure, even at this late date, in exactly what order the pieces will be published.  We can promise next week that you’ll see our long-pending reader-suggested review of the notorious underground necrophilia shockfest Nekromantik and Alfred’s review of Heart of the Beholder (a documentary on the battle between a mom-and-pop video store and the St. Louis chapter of Citizens for Decency over Martin Scorcese’s The Last Temptation of Christ).

We haven’t published any examples of “the weirdest search terms used to locate the site” lately, but some doozies have come over the server log. “Catfighting stewardesses” gets the “we’re incredibly proud to be ranked #2 on Google for this search term” award.  In the “was that supposed to be an insult?” file, we find “your a weird movie.”  As always, the most competitive category is  the “why the heck did you click on our link when you’re looking for twisted fetish porn?” department.  You’d be amazed at the variety of unprintable sexual practices people spend their free hours scanning the Net for examples of, but the winner this week has a certain twisted poetry to it:  “pointy and puffy movies filled with sperm.”

The updated reader-suggested review queue looks like this: Nekromantik (coming this week), Cowards Bend the Knee (substituted for the unavailable Angel’s Egg), Institute Benjamenta, Pan’s Labyrinth, Ex Drummer, Waking Life, Survive Style 5+, The Dark Backward, The Short Films of David Lynch, Santa Sangre, Dead Man, Inland Empire, Monday (assuming I can find an English language version), The Abominable Dr. Phibes, Barton Fink, What? (Diary of Forbidden Dreams), Meatball Machine, and Xtro.

WEIRD HORIZON FOR THE WEEK OF 9/25/09

A 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.

There’s nothing of weird interest coming to the big screen this week.  The desperate might try Pandorum, whose synopsis makes it sound like an uncredited Alien remake… but beware, the producers decided not to allow critics to screen this one in advance, which is usually (although not inevitably) a sign of a stinker.

SCREENINGS (NEW YORK CITY, MUSEUM OF MODERN ART):

Paradise (2008):  Michael (Happy Here and Now) Almereyda’s latest documentary stitches together fragments of film captured on his world travels into a film the director calls a celebration of “the idea that life is made up of brief paradisiacal moments—moments routinely taken for granted, and always slipping away.”  Such a documentary seems like a stretch to be considered weird, but those few critics who have seen it report that the disconnected images have a beautiful, magical strangeness to them.

FILM FESTIVALS:

Indianapolis, IN

The “B”-Movie Celebration (Sep. 25 – 27):  There’s nothing outstandingly weird on this year’s slate, but there are a number of interesting, offbeat and fun B-movies to see on the big screen, including the campy Blacula; George Romero’s The Crazies and Night of the Living Dead; John Carpenter’s Dark Star; the 1950’s sci-fi classics Forbidden Planet and Invasion of the Body Snatchers; Sergio Leone’s epic The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly; the notorious Ilsa, She Wolf of the S.S.; and 1980s cult hits Night of the Comet and The Toxic Avenger.   Also featuring a 2009 B-movie awards ceremony (the Golden Cob) and numerous local bands.  As an added incentive, attend screenings of The Birds and Qartermass and the Pit and have fun trying to guess which of the audience members is 366weirdmovies! (Hint: it’s quite possible he will be eating popcorn).  The “B” Movie Celebration Homepage.

Jersey

Branchage: Jersey International Film Festival (Oct. 1-4):  Anyone who can make it to Jersey (an English-speaking British Crown Dependency off the coast of Normandy, France) on short notice may want to check out this intriguing festival.  According to a promoter, “We’re showing The Secret of Kells in Mont Orgueil Castle with 3D-scapes flashing alongside the animation’s illuminations; a screening of Isolation (about ex-paratroopers in the UK) is going to be shown in the Jersey War Tunnels, built by prisoners of war during WWII, while bands are also playing live soundtracks to films – British Sea Power to Man of Aran, and Icelandic quartet Amiina will string and harp along to Lotte Reiniger silhouette animations.”  Notable films being screened include the Werner Herzog documentaries Grizzly Man and Encounters at the End of the World, Duane Jones’ Moon, The Wizard of Oz, Lindsay Anderson’s very, very weird 1960s counterculture hit If… (starring Malcolm McDowell), and “numerous experimental shorts.”  Sounds like our kind of happening.  Branchage Festival Homepage.

NEW ON DVD:

The Haunted World of El Superbeasto (2009): Rob Zombie‘s X-rated cartoon about a Mexican wrestler fighting a Satanic conspiracy and a band of zombie Nazi bikers is too strong for cinemas and gets released directly to DVD.   Buy from Amazon.

Wallace and Gromit: A Matter of Loaf and Death (2008): A new thirty minute short featuring the cult Claymation man and dog duo starting a baking company and encountering a serial killer (!) Warning: for some incomprehensible reason, the DVD release is full-frame. Buy from Amazon.

NEW ON BLU-RAY:

The Haunted World of El Superbeasto (2009):  See DVD listing above. Buy from Amazon.

Pierre le Fou (1965): The Criterion Collection continues upgrading their old DVD releases to Blu-ray with this typically experimental and stylish tale of lovers on the run from Jean-Luc Goddard. Buy from Amazon

Shaun of the Dead (2004):  The cult hit about a British slacker fighting the undead that sparked the recent fad for “zom-coms.”  Not weird, but in a weak weird week Blu-ray owners may want to give this a rental or add it to their collection. Buy from Amazon.

Wallace & Gromit: The Complete Collection: Nick Park’s four short films featuring Wallace & Gromit, including the most recent A Matter of Loaf and Death (see DVD listing above—word is, the version on Blu-ray is widescreen). It’s hardly the complete collection, since it doesn’t contain the full-length feature The Curse of the Wererabbit, but nomenclature aside, it’s a welcome addition to the Blu-ray ranks. Buy from Amazon.

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.

ANNOUNCEMENT: 366 DISTRIBUTION

366 DistributionWe are happy to announce that 366 Weird Movies has gone into the video distribution business!

Our first venture is the surrealistic satire of the Bush presidency, W the Movie (review), by this site’s own Alfred Eaker.  We hope to acquire the rights to distribute more weird, underground titles in the future.

One important function we think our distribution efforts can serve in the future is to offer compilations of shorts by up-and-coming directors whose work might be too strange and experimental to merit a mainstream release.

The reason we’re informing you, the casual reader, of this development is not to beg you to buy our titles to support independent filmmakers (although if you want to do so anyway, you can buy W here).

Believe it or not, our priorities are completely backwards.  We believe in the integrity of the List more than in making a fast buck off of you.

The reason we’re devoting space to this announcement is to assure you that no movie will be getting special critical treatment simply because we distribute it, or because we hope to acquire its rights.  Every title that comes across our desks will be impartially reviewed first, before any distribution contract is contemplated.  Determining the suitability of a movie to make it onto the List of the 366 best movies of all time will always be made before we have any financial stake in the film.  If there is a potential conflict of interest—i.e., we receive a movie for review from someone we have a pre-existing business relationship with—we’ll outsource the initial review to an independent third party.

We hope that by doing our small part to promote the weird by distributing the occasional film, we can strike a small blow against the pallid realism and pervasive normalcy of calculated Hollywood product.  We’ll grow as large as we can to combat the monster.  Viva la weird!

WEIRD HORIZON FOR THE WEEK OF 9/18/09

A 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.

SPECIAL EVENTS:

The Wizard of Oz (1939) – 70th Anniversary Hi-Def Event:  Finally, flying monkeys in high definition!  This remastered re-release of the fantasy classic, with bonus features, is playing on Wednesday, September 23 only, in theaters across the country (click here for the list).  Definitely an event.

SCREENINGS (NEW YORK CITY; TEMPE, AZ.):

Devil Girl (2007):  This low budget “hallucinatory” horror road-trip features strippers, a drug-addled clown, and a literal devil girl.  It’s getting a token release at the Times Square Art Theater in New York City tonight only, and at a single theater in Tempe, Arizona tonight and tomorrow night (Sep 18-19); scheduled to arrive on DVD in early November.  Devil Girl official site.

NEW ON DVD:

An American Werewolf in London (1981):  This werewolf black comedy is more offbeat than weird, but on release it was was a trailblazer in the modern horror/comedy genre, and the film has a definite cult following who may be interested in a new, remastered special edition release. Buy from Amazon.

Army of Darkness: Screwhead Edition (1992): Read our capsule review of the third entry in Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead trilogy here.   It appears Anchor Bay’s contract to distribute Army is up, necessitating a new release from Universal.  Unfortunately, this means that the excellent bonus features on the Anchor Bay release are now out of print, and this new release is sparse on extras, with no commentary.  The Screwhead edition does include an alternate ending and the new featurette “Creating the Deadites,” but it rabid fans believe this release must have been created by a bunch of primitive screwheads.  Completists can buy from Amazon.

Deadgirl (2009):  Controversial, provocative fable about horny high-school boys who discover the plastic-wrapped body of a naked woman in an abandoned mental hospital; is she dead, alive, or neither, and what will they do about it?  It appears to be an extreme allegory on the objectification of women; many audience members were reported to have walked out of theatrical screenings due to the (ahem) “strong” scenes. Buy from Amazon.

Grace (2009):  Indie horror about a mother whose baby is born undead; first time feature director Paul Solet expanded Grace to a full length movie from an award-winning short that Fangoria called “superbly bizarre.” Buy from Amazon.

John Carpenter: Master of Fear:  Four of sometimes cult director John (Dark Star; Big Trouble in Little China) Carpenter’s lesser horror efforts collected in a single budget set.  Includes The Thing (1982), the jewel of the set, along with Prince of Darkness (1987), They Live (1988), and the mediocre 1995 remake of The Village of the Damned.  The four movies are on two discs, so extras are unlikely. Buy from Amazon.

Phantasm II (1988): Reggie Banister and Angus Scrimm return in this belated sequel to Phantasm (read entry), already certified as one of the 366 best weird movies ever made.  Dedicated Phanatics seem to love it, but most mainstream reviewers were unkind; at any rate, this long out-of-print film definitely deserves a revival. Buy from Amazon

NEW ON BLU-RAY:

An American Werewolf in London (1981):  See the DVD listing above. Buy blu-ray from Amazon.

Army of Darkness (1992):  See the DVD listing above. Buy Blu-ray from Amazon.

Hero [Ying xiong] (2002):  Beautiful looking, poetic epic martial arts film with a Rashomon-style storyline.  It became an international crossover hit, and is available on this standalone release and a bundled release (see below). Buy from Amazon.

The Ultimate Force of Four:  Another budget blu-ray bundle of some of the more renowned wuxia films: Iron Monkey (1993),  Legend of the Drunken Master (1994), Hero (2002) (see above), and The Blind Swordsman Zatoichi (2003).  A nice selection of films to start a collection in this genre. Buy from Amazon.

NEW FREE (LEGITIMATE RELEASE) ON YOUTUBE:

Fear X (2003):  Danish thriller with John Turturro, mysterious visions, and an ambiguous ending.  Watch free on YouTube.

BMC: B-MOVIE CLASSICS:

Even more free online viewing experiences, courtesy of the American Movie Classics cable channel.  The main drawback is low picture quality, and the fact that a lot of these are public domain movies that could be viewed elsewhere commercial free.  Selected titles are listed below, or you can browse all the selections here.

Carnival of Souls (1962): We’ve certified this sublimely creepy low-budget wonder about a church organist out-of-sync with reality as one of the 366 best weird movies of all time (read entry); here’s another way to watch it.  Watch Carnival of Souls free.

Dark Star (1974):  John Carpenter’s sci-fi spoof feature debut.  Watch Dark Star free.

The Prisoner (1967): Not a b-movie, and in fact not a movie; this is the existential/surreal BBC spy series starring Patrick McGoohan as a “retired” secret agent (known only as “Number Six”) trapped (for undisclosed reasons) in a village on an remote island patrolled by deadly balloons.   The bizarre final episode blew everyone’s minds in 1967, when minds were hard to blow indeed.  Watch The Prisoner free.

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.

WEIRD HORIZON FOR THE WEEK OF 9/11/09

A 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):

9: Mainly of interest do to the involvement of Tim Burton as producer, this feature by Shane Acker was expanded from a short film.  Early word is the visuals are spectacular; the story, far less so.   9 Official Site.

IN THEATERS (LIMITED RELEASE):

Ink: At critics has compared this visionary thriller about a father entering the nightmares of his daughter to save her to the work of Terry Gilliam and Jean-Pierre Jeunet; the official press release compares it to Brazil, Dark City and Donnie Darko, among others.  Opening this week in Los Angeles, and currently booked in only a few scattered US theaters the week after, this looks like it’s trying to position itself as the cult film of 2009 (although, of course, we’ll be the ultimate judge of that!)  Ink official site.

SCREENINGS (NEW YORK CITY, MUSEUM OF MODERN ART):

Blind Pig Who Wants to Fly (2008): The feature debut of the Indonesian director known as “Edwin” is a surrealist-influenced series of interwoven stories on identity, using the identity of ethnic Chinese in Indonesia as a launching pad.  Stevie Wonder’s mediocre hit “I Just Called to Say I Love You” is the glue that binds these disparate stories.  Blind Pig Who Wants to Fly Official Site.

NEW ON DVD:

Crank 2: High Voltage (2009):  This deliberately ridiculous popcorn film about an action hero who must constantly recharge his battery-operated heart by sucking on electrical wires escaped our notice on its theatrical release, but subsequent reports lead us to believe this could just possibly be just demented and over-the-top enough to be considered weird. Buy from Amazon.  Also on Blu-ray.

NEW ON BLU-RAY:

Requiem for a Dream (2000):  Although there may be a few hallucination sequences, there’s nothing in the description of Requiem, a bleak and depressing story about drug addiction, that implies it’s truly weird (though, not having seen it yet, I could be wrong).  It’s mentioned here because it’s visionary director Darren Aronofsky‘s sophomore followup to the his (recently reviewed) weird debut Pi. With Ellen Burstyn, and Jennifer Connelly in a (reportedly) graphic and disturbing sex scene. Buy from Amazon

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.

366 EXCLUSIVE: “9″

We are pleased to debut Alfred Eaker and Robbin Panet’s short film film “9” on the web.  This is the movie they made for the 2009 48 Hour Film Festival.  The rules of the contest festival are simple: every team has only 48 hours to complete the film, and each must incorporate three elements given by the festival : a character name, a line of dialogue, and a prop.  Look for a character named “Professor Sherman Kane,” a ball, and the line “I’m not talking to you.”

Rather than making a straightforward short that looked like everyone else, “9” takes an experimental approach, becoming a sepia-hued exploration of domestic abuse through the generations, in a Western setting.  The bizarre free-association poetry of John M. Bennet replaces traditional narration.  It runs approximately seven and a half minutes.

Alfred’s description of the making of the film can be read in his Reflections on the 48 Hour Film Festival and the “9” Diary.

9

[Our license to display “9” has expired.  We will inform you if this film is released, on DVD or otherwise, in the future.]

At the producers’ request, this film will not be released to YouTube or other video hosting sites, and will be available here for one month only.  UPDATE: Because this film was reviewed and linked from Rogue Cinema, we are leaving the film up for another week, until October 12, 2009.

WHAT’S IN THE PIPELINE

Here’s what’s coming up on the site next week…

The exclusive web debut of Alfred Eaker and Robin Panet’s short film, “9” (no relation to the Tim Burton feature).  This is the movie they made in two days for the 48 Hour Film Festival, as described in the article Reflections on the 48 Hour Film Festival and the “9” Diary.  This is the first exclusive video we have ever hosted, and we’re excited about it!  It will only be available for streaming for one month.

Also, reviews of Darren Aronofsky’s paranoid experimental debut, Pi (1998), and Godfrey Ho’s nearly nonsensical kung-fu pastiche, Ninja Champion (1985).

Weirdest search term used to locate the site this week: “nuns movies with the cross in the cover.”  Winner, brutal honesty division: “stalker 1979 wtf?”

Here’s the ever-growing reader suggested review queue to give you an idea what will be coming further down the road: Nekromantic (still looking for a copy), Pi (next week), Angel’s Egg, Institute Benjamenta, Pan’s Labyrinth, Ex Drummer, Waking Life, Survive Style 5+, The Dark Backward, The Short Films of David Lynch, Santa Sangre, Dead Man, Inland Empire, and Monday (2000).

RECOMMENDED AS WEIRD: AFTER HOURS (1985)

The “Reader Recommendation” category includes films nominated by our readers as deserving of consideration for the List of the 366 Best Weird Movies of all time.

by reader “Rajiv”

DIRECTED BY: Martin Scorsese

FEATURING: Griffin Dunne, Rosana Arquette, Catherine O’Hara

PLOT:  One night, Paul Hackett ( Griffin Dunne), New York computer word-processing

Still from After Hours (1985)

consultant, is trapped in SoHo because his last dollar has flown out of the cab window on his way to a late night date with a woman he’s just met.  His dream to score with a pretty woman ends up to be a waking nightmare when one mishap after another strands him in a hostile neighborhood in his quest to return home before morning.

WHY IT DESERVES TO MAKE THE LIST:  From the plot description itself, we should aware that this is a weird film.  The execution is also very weird.  This is technically a black comedy, but it plays like a suspenseful thriller.  A lot of surprisingly unpredictable things happened to force Paul Haggis, who just wants go home that night, stay in SoH.

COMMENTS:  A strange, original, and totally underrated movie from Mr. Scorsese. This film is a little bit ‘Coen brothers-ish,’ full of fantasies and surprises.  This film proves Scorsese is a master filmmaker.  He can create a moments with any subject matter, and make the audience feel certain feelings.  Watch out especially for the ending of After Hours, it will make your feelings turn 180 degrees, it’s a shock!  After Hours really deserved more attention as one of Scorsese’s best works.

WEIRD HORIZON FOR THE WEEK OF 9/4/09

A 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.

Sadly, there’s nothing of even marginal weird interest debuting in American theaters this week.

NEW ON DVD:

TCM Greatest Classic Films Collection: Horror—House of Wax (1953) / The Haunting (1963) / Freaks (1932) / Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1941):  All good movies, but it’s Freaks, Tod Browning’s one-of-a-kind disquieting exploitation fable, that catches our attention here.  Weird freaks might also get a kick out of seeing Ingrid Bergman’s head used as a champagne cork in Dr. Jekyll. This two double-sided disc set is an interesting way to start a high-end horror DVD collection if you’re not interested in the extras you would get from buying each individual film (all of these films are out on single disc DVDs in more lavish editions). Buy from Amazon.

TCM Greatest Classic Films Collection: Science Fiction2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)/ Soylent Green (1973)/ Forbidden Planet (1956)/ The Time Machine (1960): All good films, but the obvious weird draw here is 2001, Kubrick’s trippy and ambiguous sci-fi parable about… well, there are lots of theories as to what it’s about.  Apply the same caveats about this set as about the Horror collection above—no extras here, in case you want a definitive edition of a particular movie, but a good way to start a collection of smart science fiction films.  Buy from Amazon.

Not weird, but potentially of interest to some, is TCM’s collection of classic murder mystery/film noir movies including the beloved The Maltese Falcon (1941) along with The Big Sleep (1946), Dial M for Murder (1954), and The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946). Buy from Amazon.

NEW ON BLU-RAY:

Fire and Ice (1983): Seldom seen animated sword-and-sorcery fantasy by weirdish Rotoscope auteur Ralph Bashki (Coonskin).  Animation fans may want to check out the Rotoscoping, which is said to be much better than the story.   Poster/book cover artist and chainmail-bikini fetishist Frank Frazetta was involved in some capacity. Buy from Amazon.

NEW FREE (LEGITIMATE RELEASE) ON YOUTUBE:

The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T (1953):  A boy dreams that his piano teacher is enslaving children on surrealistic sets in this classic weird children’s musical movie with nonsense lyrics by Dr. Seuss.  Show your kids at a young age to ensure they grow up weird.  Too good to watch on YouTube, but if you can’t resist… Watch The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T free on YouTube.

Freakmaker [AKA The Mutations] (1974):  A scientist experiments with mixing human and plant DNA in this bizarre grindhouse wonder that’s almost a remake of Tod Browning’s FreaksWatch Freakmaker free on YouTube.

The Wild, Wild World of Jayne Mansfield (1968):  The most exploitative biopic ever made, mixing Jayne’s most salacious footage with the slanderous sexcapades of a “lookalike,” ending with totally tasteless footage of Jayne’s fatal car crash and grieving family.  Incoherent and unbelievable; will leave you feeling fascinated but very dirty.  Watch The Wild, Wild World of Jayne Mansfield free on YouTube.

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.