Category Archives: Reader Recommendations

READER RECOMMENDATION: FREDDIE GOT FINGERED (2001)

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Reader recommendation by June Culpepper

DIRECTED BY: Tom Green

FEATURING: Tom Green, Harland Williams, Marisa Coughlan,

PLOT: Gord Brody (Tom Green), a slacker with a dream of becoming a cartoonist, goes to California to get his cartoon made.

Still from Freddy Got Fingered (2001)

WHY IT MIGHT JOIN THE APOCRYPHA: Panned by critics to this day, this film is a -esque prank on both the film industry and the audience, more of a nightmarish combination of Sweet Movie, Adaptation, and The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie than another Jack and Jill.

COMMENTS: Tom Green did not want to make a movie. After his meteoric rise from Canadian public television to MTV fame with “The Tom Green Show” (a late night talk show that combined gross-out stunts with surrealist humor, predating “The Eric Andre Show” by two decades), Hollywood most certainly took notice.  “We don’t understand him, but the kids seem to love him,” the execs probably said. “Let’s give him 15 million dollars.” After handing him the check, Tom went back to a shack in the middle of the Canadian wilderness, and came out nine months later with Freddy Got Fingered.

Freddy Got Fingered works as a sort of deconstruction of the gross-out comedy schlock of the era, taking every trope of these sorts of films and stretching them to their absolute limit, to the point where the audience is left to wonder why they liked these gags at all. The angry father who disapproves of his son’s wild dreams is played by Rip Torn, a screaming warthog in a human skinsuit. The love interest, who in most of these films is just there to satisfy the lead’s sexual needs, is a wheelchair-bound Marisa Coughlan, who is obsessed with rocketry and fellatio.  Green takes the essential pillars of gross-out comedies and breaks them down to the point where you can never build them up again.

Freddie Got Fingered also has a meta-cinema tinge to it, almost as if the film itself is the joke. The movie, in a weird way, is about the movie itself being made. Gord, who is obviously a stand-in for Green himself, has a meteoric rise to fame, in a way that almost feels out of his control. He then blows all of his money on pointless nonsense (the movie itself).  In his own words, “Easy come, easy go.”

This film is an over-the-top combination of meta-cinema, surrealism, punk spirit, and weird gross-out moments that caught me so off-guard that I don’t even want to spoil them. Tom Green got to make his perfect film, and weirdos making their magnum opuses are what this site is all about.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“…this movie is super weird…  someday it will be acknowledged as a triumph of absurdist filmmaking.”–Andrei Alupului, Spectrum Culture

(This movie was nominated for review by “Frank,” who said ” I feel the farcical, insanity of Freddy Got Fingered is at least worth a look.” Suggest a weird movie of your own here.)

READER REVIEW: MY “THE DUNE” REVIEW

Reader recommendation (of sorts) by Daniel Ableev. Begins in medias res.

Apparently not, because Frank Heibert’s worm-building classic is somewhat of an epic, at least judging by the number of the pages involved (I haven’t actually read the scan template in question). Therefore it does not seem beneficial to wish for a reduction of such an extensive, grandiose, downright monstrous larger-than narrative to a three-minute flick. Of course this is a rather original artistic approach, but whether Villeneuve will be able to convince die-hard fans, as opposed to Davin Lynch‘s infamous attempt, remains to be seen (or doubted). In any case, there is not much room for strong storytelling or relationships in Dennis’s new work. After his already remarkably short thrillers “The Prisoner” and “The Sicario”, the undoubtedly talented Frenchman has now finally penetrated the heart of the avant-garde. Hectic cuts and cryptic off-screen dialogues turn the badly fragmented Deconstructor into an intensely dense deity in dire need of getting used to. Guest appearances by Dave Bautista and Jason Mamoa, both of whom seem to have stiffened their “-a”, and the fact that Oscar Isaacs is unwilling to leave the sci-fi genre would be even more commendable if he didn’t keep forgetting something (cf. shaving). As for the main character, the naive linnet’s Canadian-sounding surname provides a valuable clue—but what for? Viewers, severely maimed and crippled into question marks made of flesh and blood, have been for years in search of time to be lost, yet what they’ve managed to find is not more than three effing minutes of film material. Understandably they start pushing for answers without even having formulated the slightest of questions: Why does the crowd-pleasing worm twister at the end insists on being called The Big Lebowski? Why are those neo-Nazis, gracefully lowered on nylon threads, planning an eye-2-butter conversion intervention of sorts? And wouldn’t it be way more efficient to stretch the film so that the rather lavish CSI can finally come onto its own? Fun Fact: Hans Zimmer will undoubtedly go down as one of the most oven shots in film and cinema history, the simple reason for that being that Villeneuve had only time for one single song which wasn’t even composed, let alone Zimmer-ed.

We now realize: The spice melange lies in its brevity and the giant lies in its duneability, as does the perforated hoaxbox of sorts that has found more than one way into a fishnet. Uncanny Ville directs out of his hole, and a collection of grotesque vistas emerges: While Ed Wood himself keeps some of his favorite UFOs suspended, ambitious hyper-flies buzz along the sandtime continuum and animatronic sun rays accelerate the frementation process. Always dependent on artificial respiration, the indigenous Cyanos flee into Tremorpaul’s imperceptibly, yet all the more tightly pinched kneecap-jerking fantasies. Conclusion: “Independence Day” meets “Langoliers” with PS5 graphics and a threat extension of swords.

1 out of 5 stars

READER RECOMMENDATION: SUPER MARIO BROS. (1993)

Reader Review by John Klingle

DIRECTED BY: Annabel Jankel, Rocky Morton

FEATURING: , ,

PLOT: Two plumbers from Brooklyn are unwittingly warped into an alternate dimension populated by human-dinosaur hybrids, and  discover a plot to invade the Earth that only they can prevent.

Still from Super Mario Bros. (1993)

INDELIBLE IMAGE: The fugitive Princess Daisy discovers her long lost father, the King: a sentient mass of yellow fungus drooping from the ceiling above his old throne.

WHY IT SHOULD MAKE THE LIST: Combining slapstick humor and trite wordplay with a penchant for grotesque visuals and fascist imagery completely disconnected from its beloved source material, Super Mario Bros. seems determined to shock and disturb its supposed target audience.

COMMENTS: The original sin of video game-to-movie adaptations, Super Mario Bros. is widely regarded as a transgression against its beloved source material and a discordant mish-mash of half-baked, poorly-executed ideas. But while it’s true that the film is unforgivable as an adaptation, looking at Super Mario Bros. for its own merits reveals a unique Gothic fantasy filled with psychedelic imagery.

Rather than making any real effort to replicate the experience of playing Shigeru Miyamoto’s foundational game series, Super Mario Bros. instead takes the bare skeleton of the Mario games and builds its own dystopian adventure around it. The elements the film plucks from the games are well-chosen ingredients for a cult film, too: it borrows the game series’ central fish-out-of-water fantasy world conceit (The Wizard of Oz), its recurring theme of bodily transformation (Videodrome), and its visual obsession with ducts and pipes (Brazil ) and, of course, mushrooms (“,” take your pick). The filmmakers (“Max Headroom” creators Annabel Jankel and Rocky Morton) unfortunately don’t manage to create any sense of cohesion among these various elements, but this doesn’t prevent each of them from being deeply memorable on its own.

Mixed in liberally with these ingredients from the games are the film’s own inventions, whose connection to the Mario universe is much more tenuous. The most notable of these is the corporate fascist imagery. The movie adaptation re-imagines the games’ draconic King Koopa as a Donald Trump-like plutocrat who runs a mechanized police state under the guise of democracy. This conceit is perhaps the film’s most powerful source of tonal dissonance: the bumbling, Stooges-like antics of Koopa’s minions do little to detract from the horror of seeing a street busker forcibly converted into a devolved monster as punishment for political dissidence.

Much like Labyrinth, Super Mario Bros.’ commitment, however lackluster, to being a commercial children’s film prevents it from pursuing its darker themes to any satisfying conclusion. In some ways, this makes it all the more disturbing; the film consistently dips its toes into dystopian or psychosexual territory only to retreat back into John Leguizamo and Bob Hoskins’ yukking and shucking, depriving the viewer of any catharsis. Super Mario Bros. is a movie that doesn’t leave you, its most bizarre moments sticking like burrs to the minds of the children who saw it.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“Bizarre, replete in often stunning special effects and verrrry strange from the outset, Super Mario Bros is curiously entertaining, even though it often makes little sense.” – Roger Hurlburt, South Florida Sun Sentinel (contemporaneous)

READER RECOMMENDATION: ESCORIANDOLI (1996)

AKA Trash – T.R.A.

Reader recommendation by “Tracian”

DIRECTED BY: Antonio Rezza

FEATURING: Antonio Rezza, Valeria Golino, Claudia Gerini, Isabella Ferrari, Valentina Cervi

PLOT: Five connected stories where the protagonist is always played by Rezza. An affair during a funeral is spiced up by the occasional comments of the deceased; the two lovers of a woman suddenly exchange their ages; a terminally bored girl is forced to join a totalitarian rehab clinic; a poet consumes his life searching for forgiveness for having stepped on a man’s toe; and a professional event-crasher loses control of his own body and is forced to cut it to pieces until only the head remains.

Still from Escoriandoli (1996)

WHY IT SHOULD MAKE THE LIST: Because it is a rare example of an arthouse film that is not pretentious but actually fun, highly committed to weirdness and yet serious in its (admittedly well-hidden) message.

COMMENTS: While you have to understand Italian to fully appreciate the lyrical, offbeat and hilarious dialogues, everyone will be amazed by the physical and vocal contortions of the protagonist(s). Pretty much everything in Escoriandoli (the title itself is a pun that roughly means “confetti-like joy in excoriating them”) is odd: an example may be how all the actors on a bus react to its movements—although the vehicle is explicitly shown as being still—but almost no scene can be considered “normal”.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“Italian surreal comedy consisting of a series of satirical vignettes… Fun at times, but the acting is way too silly.”–Zev Toledano, The Worldwide Celluloid Massacre

READER RECOMMENDATION: BORGMAN

Reader review by Hendrik Jacobus Mostert. Also see Ryan Aarset’s official List Candidate review.

DIRECTED BY:

FEATURING: , Hadewych Minis, Jeroen Perceval

PLOT: A mysterious drifter invades the home of an upper-class family, only to bring chaos into their lives.

Still from Borgman (2013)

WHY IT SHOULD MAKE THE LIST: The main character, Camiel (Bijvoet) unleashes extreme psychological torment on a family who takes him in and cares for him. The viewer questions his motives (and those of his “accomplices”) as no justification or explanation is given for their strange and questionable actions, leaving the viewer perplexed throughout the entire experience.

INDELIBLE IMAGE: Three bodies floating upside-down in a river with buckets of cement covering their heads.

COMMENTS: One of the most apparent themes in this film is that of psychological manipulation and the trust we have in strangers. Camiel, who is the stranger, quickly gains the trust of a woman, and she allows him to stay at their house. Working under the guise of a gardener, he brings his “accomplices” along to renovate the estate. His accomplices are complete strangers, but the family have trust in them because they consider Camiel as trustworthy. What is most unsettling is that trust quickly turns into a type of master/slave situation in which Camiel and his cronies can get away with extremely questionable behavior. A good example of this is the scene where the “accomplices” lead the children into a bunker where they drink suspicious red cool-aid and have some type of surgery performed on them. The disturbing aspect of this scene is already self-evident, but what makes it more disturbing is the fact that the children are willing participants, almost like they are part of a cult and have to undergo some kind of ritual/ initiation. The children never mention this to their parents, again reinforcing the idea of complete trust in strangers, for reasons which remain a mystery to the viewer.

FUN FACT: The director, Alex van Warmerdam, plays a role as one of Borgman’s “accomplices”.

 

READER RECOMMENDATION: STOCKHOLM (2013)

Reader review by Careina Marcos

DIRECTED BY: Rodrigo Sorogoyen

FEATURING: Javier Pereira, Aura Garrido

PLOT:  A guy tries to get a girl to notice him at a party but she refuses, and the story continues in a long and interesting conversations until he manages to gain her attention.

Still from Stockholm (2013)

WHY IT SHOULD MAKE THE LIST: Not your typical romance film. It’s not the usual guy-gets-the-girl or they-had-a-happy-ending kind of movie.  Its strangeness, mysteriousness, and persuasiveness will surprise you, frighten you, crush you, then kill you.

COMMENTS: The movie starts with a usual conversation between guys at a night club. Javier Pereira  approaches and declares to Aura Garrido that he is in love with her. She initially rejects him, but he persists, following her and engaging in a continuous conversation about life and love around the late-night streets of Madrid. They end up walking together until they reach Pereira’s apartment. They have a cat-and-mouse moment, with Garrido testing him about his real motives as he expertly dresses up his desire for sex. She had doubts, though they are both disengaged from their emotions, playing roles. The next morning, after Pereira gets what he desired, they have some troubling chat but end up in his building’s rooftop to have a coffee in the cold light of day. It’s also their first time to find out who they really are and that they’re seeking entirely different things. They’ve had a lot of talks, but neither has been telling the truth.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“Director Rodrigo Sorogoyen (known for his TV work in Spain) deconstructs the behavior that leads to one-night stands in this warped, genre-bending sort-of romance… a strong start in cinema for Sorogoyen, and a fine twist on the walk-and-talk romance, but its final act is too writer-y to fit in among what was previously established as a realism-minded drama.”–Taylor Sinople, The Focus Pull (festival screening)

READER RECOMMENDATION: CRIMES OF THE FUTURE (1970)

Reader review by Rafael Moreira

DIRECTED BY:

CAST: Ronald Mlodzik, Jon Lidolt, Tania Zolty

PLOT: Adrian Tripod, director of a dermatological clinic called House of Skin, wanders in search of his mentor, Antoine Rouge, who has mysteriously disappeared after a catastrophic plague related to cosmetic products kills the entire population of sexually mature women.

Still from Crimes of the Future (1970)

WHY IT MIGHT MAKE THE LIST: Crimes of the Future is chock full of Cronenberg’s characteristic, and characteristically weird, themes of the relationship between the mind and body and their fragilities and possible degradations. What makes it different from his future efforts is that the film’s null budget renders it underproduced, alienated and experimental in ways that both augment its weirdness and undermines its cinematicness. The fact that it is shot silent with a commentary added later only feeds the dreamy, disassociated atmosphere.

COMMENTS: Crimes of the Future was the venerated and singular ‘s second film, made, like his first (Stereo), with minimal resources. Despite being his most inaccessible works, the main surprise is how these early films reflect Cronenberg’s unique, consistent persona and the preoccupations on which he has meditated in his whole oeuvre.

Crimes‘s practically nonexistent budget both limits and enhances its weirdness. On one hand, Cronenberg’s signature ideas are denied full realization, but his way of working around the lack of resources lends the film an utterly abstract presentation. One could describe the movie as a seemingly disconnected succession of scenes of people interacting and behaving strangely in clinical spaces and shadowy corridors, only made meaningful by the somnambulant commentary of Ronald Mlodzik. Another key agent of weirdness is the truly bizarre soundscape that Cronenberg crafted, which, when not silent, consists mostly of indistinct atmospheric sounds and white noise. There are very few moments where the music seems to be in tune with what’s happening on screen, rather than serving as an obscure, sometimes disturbing background ambiance.

The film’s glacial tone and sense of detachment is reminiscent of THX 1138 at times. The audience’s reliance on the commentary by protagonist Adrian Tripod to make sense of the movie’s distant, cryptic images further increases its dreamlike quality. Sometimes, the narration is itself bizarre, as it has to communicate the insular world where Crimes takes places—a world that, while visually familiar, is otherworldly in its character’s strange behaviors, its enigmatic corporations and, of course, the central premise of its sudden defeminization.

The most curious aspect of the experience of watching Crimes is noting how, even under the restrictive budget and obscuring experimental approach, Cronenberg’s defining obsessions of the flesh, body, sexuality, disease, and mutation are all present in full force. If one can get past the film’s impenetrable nature, Tripod’s regular voice-over actually reveals a typically surreal, purely Cronenbergian narrative rich in visceral details. As he journeys through a succession of organizations, the odd individuals he meets all present a form of derangement or peculiarity reflective of Cronenberg’s themes, as each of them adapts to the great change in their own way. For instance, a former colleague of Tripod from the “Institute of Neo-Venereal Disease” has contracted a “creative cancer” from one of his patients, causing his body to continually form a series of organs that are removed in what many have interpreted as a parody of childbirth, while a concierge believes he is developing a root-like antenna from his nostrils as an evolutionary step.

Crimes feels like a sketch of the director’s imagination, fully revealing the sensibility behind his more mellow and professional works, but shadowed by its foggy experimentality and lack of resources. If patient weirdophiles can go with Cronenberg’s pretense of crafting more of a film experiment than a film, they will find it an undeniably interesting, if hard to watch, experience.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“… where Stereo was both creepy and austere, Crimes of the Future gives its remarkable characters more room to breathe and, in their own weird way, to play, picking their way around a modernist compound and narrated retroactively by the main character. It is fascinating viewing, and it’s always interesting to note what an acclaimed, spiky filmmaker was doing in his early career.”–Juliette Jones, PopOptiq (DVD)

[Crimes of the Future is included, along with Stereo, as bonus features on Blue Underground’s release of Cronenberg’s Fast Company–ed.]