Category Archives: Top 10 Lists

10 WEIRDEST MOVIES OF 2016

Merriam-Webster anointed “surreal” the “Word of the Year” for 2016, so maybe the film world was just capitalizing on the zeitgeist when movies about a hotel prison for single people, a farting corpse, and an underage model devoured by the beautiful people all got major exposure on cinema screens this year. Old hands like and were joined by a promising crop of (often bloody) new blood: “,” , and Anna Biller. Pregnant druggies, greasy stranglers, and hooty-tooty disco cuties paraded across screens, while castaways rode corpses to freedom and Muppets assisted at the birth of Satanic alien spawn.

We had no problem filling out our list of ten weird ones for you to check out, and that’s not even counting the revival of 1973’s Belladonna of Sadness, the softcore psychedelic witchcraft rape-revenge anime that was so unseen it basically could count as a new release in 2016. We’re also leaving off a trio of features seen only at film festivals: the Polish mermaid musical The Lure; Psychonauts: The Forgotten Children, the feature-length expansion of the hit Spanish short film “Birdboy“; and She’s Allergic to Cats, the underground/avant-garde romantic comedy filled with grimy video art montages exploring the struggles of an L.A. dog groomer who wants to make a version of Carrie starring cats. (Plus the dialogue-free pharmaceutical horror [?] Atmo HorroX which, while not a favorite, beat everything in 2016 in terms of sheer weirdness). Any of those films would have made the list had they received actual distribution; hopefully, all of them will show up on next year’s list.

The Lobster Weirdest Movie 2016As for the choice of movies, I personally 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, we list the films in random order—the weirdest of orders.

9. The Brand New Testament: God is alive and living in Brussels, and he’s a jerk. His 10-year old daughter hacks his computer and leaks humanity’s death dates, then goes to Earth to write a new Gospel. Literate and genially blasphemous comedy with bizarre touches, like sleeping with a gorilla.  Also #6 on our 2016 mainstream movie list, which should tell you that it’s quality exceeds its weirdness. Director is already represented twice on the List of the 366 Weirdest Movies of All Time.

1. The Lobster – Certified Weird! Dogtooth‘s Continue reading 10 WEIRDEST MOVIES OF 2016

TOP 10 MOVIES OF 2016: THE MAINSTREAM EDITION

It’s fashionable to rag on 2016—with good reason—but this was an excellent year in film. My honorable mentions from the year past include a couple of fantastic foreign animated features that were ignored by the mainstream press: the French steampunk fantasy April and the Extraordinary World and Harmony, the only movie where the World Health Organization is cast as a villain. Also worthy of a mention are two-time Certified Weird director ‘s Arrival (almost a postmodern Close Encounters of the Third Kind) and I Am Not Your Negro, which is basically just Samuel L. Jackson reading unpublished reflections of writer James Baldwin—making it the most authoritative commentary on race relations in a year that included 13th and the epic O.J.: Made in America. Either could have made the top ten in a weaker year. We should also mention Weiner, a documentary giving us unprecedented access to the title character’s bizarre act of political self-destruction—a man so hounded by his own incomprehensible demons that he could not keep from publicly humiliating himself again even after the movie’s release. And how could we forget Swiss Army Man, which easily made the list of the 366 Best Weird Movies of All Time but barely missed 2016’s pan-genre top ten. With those out of the way, let’s get down to the ten films that did make the cut:

10. Peter and the Farm: Documentary following Peter Dunning, a depressed 68-year old alcoholic Vermonter who works his declining farm alone. Poetic and honest; Peter despairs, but keeps drinking and keeps farming, realizing he and his farm have become one. A good antidote to the populist and inspirational Gleason: not everyone is cheerfully persistent in the face of death. Some critics felt the documentary was exploitative, but I believe the articulate Peter is in full possession of his faculties (when sober) and is deliberately pushing our noses in a view of mortality we would prefer to deny.

9. Finding Dory: A fish with very early onset Alzheimer’s is lost in the ocean for years and tries to find her way back to her home and parents, assisted by characters from Finding Nemo, a “septopus,” and other colorful aquatic anthromorphs. There are four great things about this movie: the fast-moving plot, the cute sea creatures, the excellent animation, and I forgot the other one.

8. The Jungle Book: Mogwli, an orphaned “man cub” raised in the jungles of India by a pack of wolves, has adventures with the talking animals while fleeing the man-killing tiger Shere Khan. This is the first of Disney’s recent series of live action remakes that is clearly superior to the animated original. Jon Favreau keeps most of the humor and a little bit of the music but ramps up the peril and expands the scope so the movie feels like an epic adventure rather than a lightweight musical comedy.

7. Moana: Defying her parents, an island princess sails off to find a mischievous trickster demigod (voiced by the Rock) to help save her home. Once again, Disney successfully tweaks their formula with this Polynesian themed winner that features unique sidekicks (a particularly dumb chicken, an impudent tattoo) and adversaries (coconut pirates, a giant singing crab). The name had to be changed in Continue reading TOP 10 MOVIES OF 2016: THE MAINSTREAM EDITION

10 WEIRDEST MOVIES OF 2015

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 releases a movie is bound to be a rich one; add s long-awaited third chapter in his “being human” trilogy, a trippy big-budget adaptation, and some unclassifiable debuts by weirdo film upstarts, and you have a truly strange year in cinema. Transvestite samurai, Swedish kings, and instructions on how to take a bath await you in this tensome of the year’s most unusual films.

The Forbidden Room Weirdest Movie of 2015As 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 RoomStories 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 Continue reading 10 WEIRDEST MOVIES OF 2015

10 WEIRDEST MOVIES OF 2014

Any year that features a new movie by is sure to be a banner year in cinematic weirdness, and 2014 certainly qualifies. It was also a banner year for the British Isles, which gave us four weird movies (three made by Englishmen and one by an Irishman, with one set entirely in Scotland and one in England in the 17th century). France chipped in two surreal movies, while Spain, Chile and Canada gave us one apiece.  An Israeli director helmed the last weird movie. For the first time since we’ve been keeping this yearly list, no American movie made the list, although big name Hollywood actors— , Jesse Eisenberg, Robin Wright, , Michael Fassbender—did dominate the slate, giving a false impression that the state of American strangeness is better than it actually is. In reality, in 2104 domestic producers shied away from surreality. In short, gentlemen, I am afraid we have a weirdness gap. America needs to start weirding it up once more, so we can return to being the weirdest nation on Earth (with apologies to the Japanese, who remain the weirdest populace on a per capita basis).

Enemy poster
Our weirdest movie of 2014: Enemy

Besides the invasion of foreign surreality, the other big weird story of the year was the sudden increase in doppelganger sightings. These rare creatures inexplicably showed up in two of the year’s weirdest movies, as well as in three lesser films (+1, Coherence and The One I Love).

Besides the invasion of foreign surreality, the other big weird story of the year was the sudden increase in doppelganger sightings… oh wait.

Without further ado, here is our list of the ten weirdest movies of 2014, presented, as always, in random order—the weirdest of orders.

9. Under the Skin stars (and, yes, disrobes) as an alien sent to Scotland to pick up lonely men and take them to her loft, where she sinks them into a pit of black goo for reasons only space aliens understand (makes as much sense as anal probes, at least). She (it) gradually, and reluctantly, learns what it means to be human. In April commented “the action moves slowly, but is filled with wonderfully bizarre imagery and powerful space-y scoundscapes” and said it was “easily among the best of 2014, and may well turn out to be the weirdest.” It certainly does end the year among both the best and the weirdest.

10. Witching & Bitching [Las Brujas de Zugarramurdi] must have been drinking henbane infusion when he came up with Continue reading 10 WEIRDEST MOVIES OF 2014

TOP 10 MOVIES OF 2014: THE MAINSTREAM EDITION

As I wrote in my rundown on the Online Film Critics Society Awards, I found 2014 to be a year of many very good movies, but no clear masterpieces. Although I saw nothing in 2014 I would qualify as a general must-see, the positive side of that lots-of-good-no-great equation means that there were so many worthy top ten contenders that I had to leave many worthwhile films off my final list. It was a very good year, as it turns out, for science fiction, and for British films, and so I’ll kick off my list of honorable mentions with ‘s quiet Scottish movie about undercover space aliens, Under the Skin. I also wish I could have found room for the year’s best thriller, Gone Girl; ‘s typically great Grand Budapest Hotel; Coherence, the best microbudget film of the year; and the crazy train that was ‘s Snowpiercer. With those out of the way, let’s get down to the ten films that did make the cut (three of which we also added to the 366 Best Weird Movies of All Time):

10. The DoubleCertified Weird! A timid clerk (Jesse Eisenberg) named Simon James finds his vocational and romantic opportunities are being seized by a confident co-worker named James Simon, who looks exactly like him. Based on Dostovevsky, but the mood of this unsettling existential black comedy is much closer to Kafka (with plenty of nods to Brazil). The dystopia feels familiar, but hauntingly so. I’m not ashamed to make the obvious joke: this would make a great “double feature” with Enemy.

9. The Dance of Reality: Certified Weird! begins his imaginary autobiography with a bare-knuckle boxing match against an effeminate circus clown dressed as a carrot, a father who’s the spitting image of Joseph Stalin, and a mother who only communicates through operatic singing, and it only gets stranger from there. Jodorowsky’s unexpected late-season movie has all of the weirdness and occult spirituality of his cult hits El TopoThe Holy Mountain and Santa Sangre, but there’s something different, too. He’s lightened up in his old age, and now brings a consistent sense of humor and playfulness to ciname. If this is the 85-year old director’s last film, it’s a beautiful swan song that sits comfortably alongside his best work.

8. Guardians of the Galaxy: “Star Lord” (a buffed-up Chris Pratt) recruits a crew of galactic riff-raff, including a wisecracking racoon and a tree with a limited vocabulary, to stop an evil villain or two from acquiring a futuristic MacGuffin. A crowd-pleasing mix of action, spectacle, and comedy. Although they are always high quality, this is my favorite Marvel movie, probably because it takes place in a “galaxy far away” rather than the Marvel Universe per se (yes, I am aware an Avengers crossover is being discussed). Great fun; it’s no surprise it comes from (co-writer of the Certified Weird Shakespearean classic Tromeo and Juliet).

7. Boyhood: Watch Mason Jr. (Ellar Coltrane) survive a bratty sister, first love, and a succession of stepfathers as he grows from a boy to a man in this narrative experiment shot over 12 years with the same actors. Even though nothing out of the ordinary happens, it’s Continue reading TOP 10 MOVIES OF 2014: THE MAINSTREAM EDITION

TOP 10 MOVIES OF 2013: THE MAINSTREAM EDITION

Yesterday I gave you my expert take on the weirdest movies of 2013; today, I’ll be giving you my opinions of the best movies of the year, without regard to genre. This year, there’s only one title which overlaps both lists, although I imagine the average popcorn-chomper would find the top two entries on this “mainstream” list to be far too weird for their tastes. Without further ado, here’s your countdown of my top movies of 2013:

10. Drug War: The days of John Woo, Jackie Chan and the Hong Kong New Wave of the 80s and 90s already seem like a part of the distant past. Although many of the luminaries of that movement dispersed to Hollywood or Australia after the Chinese took over the town in 1997, one director who chose not to flee for greener pastures was Johnnie To. He has continued to churn out action-oriented gangster films. At bottom his latest epic Drug War is nothing fancy, but it is a superior police procedural with thrilling action scenes that remind us of the salad days of HK past. Plus, it is one of the few movies to explain why deaf-mutes make the best footsoldiers in your drug army.

9. Before Midnight: If you like actors’ showcases and relationship talk sprinkled with references to myth and philosophy, have I got the film for you! returns, along with stars Julie Delphy and Ethan Hawke, for the third peek in 18 years at the relationship between Jesse (now a successful novelist) and headstrong Celine. Urbane and blisteringly painful at times.

Poster for Spring Breakers (2013)8. Spring Breakers: ‘s lightly experimental take on today’s nihilistic youth hearkens back (in spirit) to his 1995 screenplay for Kids. In our rundown of the weirdest movies of , I wrote that “critics who had previously loathed Korine’s grungy, transgressive works tended to view this 2013more satirical fare favorably, while the Trash Humpers set was largely unimpressed.” I confess that I am in the camp that treats this more polished work with a kinder pen. I think that the key to this movie’s success is that Korine has finally accepted that he is at heart an exploitation filmmaker working with an arthouse toolkit, rather than the other way around. James Franco should, but won’t, win Best Supporting Actor at the Oscars.

7. Mud: Part of a big year for Matthew McConaughey (who also impressed as the homophobic AIDS activist in Dallas Buyers Club), this film casts him as Mud, a romantic miscreant hiding out on an uninhabited island. When an adolescent boy finds Mud and decides to help him reconcile with his lost love, will the impractical loser be able to live up to the kid’s idealism? Accomplished storytelling that weaves in multiple subplots and minor characters, blending drama, romance and adventure with a coming-of-age message that’s neither too bitter nor too sweet. Easy to recommend.

6. 12 Years a Slave: Adapted from the memoirs of Solomon Northrup, a 19th century African-American who was born a free man in New York but kidnapped and sold into slavery, 12 Years is likely to win Best Picture at the Oscars, and I won’t complain. It features fine acting by Michael Fassbender as a ruthless plantation owner, Kenyan Lupita Nyong’o as a much-abused “favorite” slave, and Chiwetel Ejiofor as the noble Northrop. It’s a very good movie that falls short of being great, but it earns bonus points for being the best theatrical film ever made about American slavery. The lack of other quality movies exploring this inherently dramatic historical outrage is frankly bizarre, and it’s equally strange that it fell to a British director to make the (so far) definitive film about the topic.

5. All Is Lost: Survival movies were a major theme of 2013, and J.C. Chandor’s All Is Lost was the purest of them all. Robert Redford stars as a man Continue reading TOP 10 MOVIES OF 2013: THE MAINSTREAM EDITION

TOP 10 WEIRDEST MOVIES OF 2013

Still from John Dies at the EndThe air is crisp, and your breath hangs in front of you in clouds. Or, if you’re in the Southern Hemisphere, the air is balmy, and sweat drips into your eyes. You’re wondering whether you still have that herbal hangover remedy recipe that you used last year (was it ginseng and ma huang, or gingko and milk thistle?) You’re trying to remember the words to “Auld Lang Syne” and deciding precisely which acquaintances you’ll be forgetting in the upcoming year. And you’re rushing to the Internet to see what the experts have declared to be the ten blankiest blanks of the annum just past.

Yes, it’s that season again, the time critics look forward to all year—time to grind out another year’s end best of list to fill up a few inches of real estate on your readers’ web browsers . In weird movie terms, 2013 was a very mixed year. On the one hand, there’s no obvious consensus weird classic (like 2012’s Holy Motors) jumping out at you from this year’s lineup. But what 2013 lacked in depth it made up in breadth. We weren’t scraping to come up with ten truly weird contestants this year; instead, we were reluctantly leaving off stuff like the juvenile-delinquents-from-outer-space musical The Ghastly Love of Johnny X, which would have been a shoo-in in 2012. This year the movies at the bottom of our rankings give the ones at the top a run for their money. It may ultimately be quantity over quality, but it did make it easier to pick out something challenging from the “new releases” section to watch on a Saturday night, which makes 2013 a successful year in our book. So now, in random order—the weirdest of orders—here’s our survey of the strangest of the strange from the past year.

4. Upstream Color: A Thief infects a woman with a will-sapping worm and empties her bank account; she’s eventually psychically linked to a pig, but fortunately meets a man whose gone through the same experience. Their pigs also fall in love. Solving the question of what literally happens in Upstream Color is only the beginning of the riddle of ‘s bewildering followup to his confusing but logically rigorous time travel film Primer.

8. Antiviral: This queasy mixture of satire and body horror starts from the premise that in the future, people will pay good money to become infected with viruses that have recently been coursing through the bloodstream of their favorite celebrities. Director promises to carry on the disreputable work of his sire, .

10. The ABCs of Death: Averaging four-and-a-half minutes per letter of the alphabet, this twenty-six short film primer on death contains three extremely weird entries (two of them from Japan, natch), along with a host of blander moments. Uneven by nature, with lots of senseless gore and “toilet horror,” but watch for the deadly masturbation contests, Nazi furries, zombie clowns, and the Asian Dr. Strangelove. ‘s “F is for Fart” is an apocalypse of bad taste guaranteed to have the average viewer scurrying for the exit, hitting the eject button, or aborting the download (check all that apply).

1. John Dies at the End: Two slackers take the drug “Soy Sauce” which allows them to see an upcoming invasion by inter-dimensional cockroaches and eventually travel to an alternate universe to save the world. John dies, or does he? Many fans of the witty original novel hated this adaptation; fortunately for us, we don’t read books, and so we loved every confusing-as-hell minute of this messed-up mish-mashterpiece of a movie.

6. The Rambler: Absurdly cool Dermot Mulroney keeps his shades and cowboy hat on at all times as he rambles through a weird West full of Continue reading TOP 10 WEIRDEST MOVIES OF 2013

ROGER EBERT’S (UNAUTHORIZED, CONJECTURAL) TOP 10 WEIRD MOVIES

This site loves nothing more than to collect top 10 weird movie lists from directors and critics, but I chickened out of soliciting one from Roger Ebert, until it was too late. Perhaps it was the certain knowledge that he wouldn’t return my calls or e-mails. Perhaps I had read this quote—“Despite the entreaties of countless editors, authors and websites, I decline to make lists of the best comedies, horror films, Christmas films, family films, Westerns, musicals, political films, silent films, films about dogs, and so on. That way madness lies”—and taken it to heart. Whatever. Never mind. Roger Ebert is beyond madness now. I’ll leave it to others to compile his posthumous lists of best comedies, horror films, and so on. By way of tribute to one of the great proselytizers of the movies, we’re going to reconstruct a list of ten films that, based on available evidence, very well might have comprised Roger Ebert’s Top 10 Weird Movie List, had he deigned to compose one for us.

Some may assume that an overstuffed shirt like Ebert could never appreciate a truly weird movie. In cult movie circles Ebert is notorious for his one-star review of ‘s Blue Velvet, which he almost admire but complained was irredeemably “marred by sophomoric satire and cheap shots.” Nearly every hip movigoer throws that one back in Ebert’s face at one time or another; that embarassing slam of a beloved classic confirms the stereotype of movie critics as nerdy old white guys with no sense of humor when it comes to gratuitous nudity, violence and general transgressiveness.

People forget that, as a Russ Meyer screenwriter, this same Roger Ebert was the creator of Beyond the Valley of the Dolls‘ Z-Man, the acid-tripping, broadsword wielding hermaphrodite manager of the big boob babe band The Carrie Nations. The man knew his weird. And although he necessarily covered the mainstream movie beat, he constantly challenged his readers to seek out new cinematic experiences, recommending they see black and white movies, silent movies, campy movies, foreign movies, surreal movies… anything different, and anything bizarre. “We are put on this planet only once, and to limit ourselves to the familiar is a crime against our minds” Ebert said in answer to the question of who would possibly want to see the sadomasochistic Korean fishing story The Isle.

Pan's LabyrinthConstructing a ten weird movie list that Roger Ebert would probably sign off on is a tall order, but not an impossible one. First off, we have access to Ebert’s ten votes in Sight & Sounds’ greatest movie poll. Strikingly, two of the movies he considers the greatest of all time also fall under the general heading of “weird movies” (and cases could even be made for some of his other choices like Aguirre: Wrath of God, La Dolce Vita, Vertigo and Apocalypse Now, although I wont make them). If they’re among his top ten movies of all time regardless of genre, we’ll assume they would also make his top ten weird movies of all time. Ebert also reveals a runner-up film for the poll which is substantially weirder than all of the others that made his list—so there’s a third entry right off the bat. We also have access to Ebert’s year-by-year top ten lists for the decades he reviewed films, from 1967 to 2012; whenever he considered a weird film to be the best movie of the year—which happened a remarkable four times—I presumed it would make his all-time weird film list.

That procedure left us needing only three movies to fill out his quota, which (besides the difficulty of ordering the selections) is where the trouble comes in. Ebert created a canonized list of over 300 films he considered “Great Movies.” Obviously his remaining three favorite weird films would be found there—but which ones? I eliminated any movies that came from his reviewing career of 1967 on, assuming that if a movie was one of his favorite weird films, it would have topped his overall movie list for that particular year. That methodology eliminated a number of perfectly honorable weird films, including Mulholland Drive (2001), two  efforts (1970’s El Topo and 1989’s Santa Sangre—never say anyone who includes two Jodorowsky movies in their top films of all time doesn’t appreciate his weird movies), and Persona (1966) (one of his very first reviewing assignments which, I suspect, he might have reassessed more glowingly if he had redone his yearly lists).

That left me with only a handful of remaining movies that were both weird, and unranked by Ebert in other venues, to consider. Here is where the arbitrary element of the process creeps in. I tried to select from these movies the ones that seemed most important, the ones about which Ebert was most effusive, and the ones that actually incorporated the word “weird” in a complimentary way somewhere in the body of the review. That procedure meant overlooking a good number of movies that Ebert might very well have honored if he’d had the chance to compose the list himself. I’ll mention the five most important of those omissions here as Ebert’s unofficial honorable mentions: Un Chien Andalou, Orpheus, The Exterminating Angel, Last Year at Marienbad, and Belle de Jour.

Although this project may seem like a self-serving act of public necrophilia to steal clicks away from more deserving and original pieces of film criticism, I honestly intend this hypothetical compilation as a tribute to a great movie lover whose advocacy of the offbeat has been under-appreciated. Spending time with his writing, trying to put myself inside the mind of Roger Ebert, has been an honor and a gift.

Without further ado, here is Roger Ebert’s unauthorized, conjectural Top 10 Weird Movies:

10. Pan’s Labyrinth (2006, d. ). Ebert’s top movie of 2006. I have placed it in the tenth position because, although it’s as good Continue reading ROGER EBERT’S (UNAUTHORIZED, CONJECTURAL) TOP 10 WEIRD MOVIES

TOP 10 MOVIES OF 2012 – THE MAINSTREAM EDITION

Sure, this site focuses on weird films, but that’s not all we watch. We love movies. How will we understand what lies at the extremes if we don’t keep a finger on the pulse of “normal” cinema? Great craftsmanship is great craftsmanship, and if every movie was made to push boundaries, things would get boring pretty fast. With that in mind, we hereby release our list of the best movies of 2012, regardless of genre and irrespective of conventionality. You may notice that three of these films also made our Weirdest Movies of 2012 list, but in a different order than they appear here; that’s because this list is based strictly on the quality of filmmaking without regard to any consideration of weirdness. With that prologue out of the way, let’s dive right into it, starting with #10:

10. Seven Psychopaths – Playwright-turned-director ‘s second feature film (after In Bruges) sports a hip, manly cast (, , Christopher Walken, Woody Harrelson, ) and brisk violence, mixed with an intricate script that sometimes threatens to go into meta-movie territory (Farrel’s character is working on a screenplay entitled Seven Psychopaths). This quirky caper comedy involving dognapping and serial killers is reminiescent of classic Quentin Tarantino and will be remembered for a couple of exchanges that became immediate classics, including a bit where an unimpressed Walken is held up at gunpoint that caps off an impressive highlight reel for the beloved character actor.

9. The Dark Knight Rises – It’s not the revelation that The Dark Knight was, but it’s a fitting end to a trilogy that brought arthouse sensibilities to comic book characters without sacrificing action. may be the only director capable of making superhero movies for adults, complete with complicated plots and character development. His Dark Knight will be missed.

8. Lincoln  – The title implies that this will be a biopic covering the life of the 16th president, but the movie actually focuses very narrowly on a single political subject: Lincoln’s efforts to get the 13th Amendment banning slavery passed. The “Honest Abe” depicted here walks an ethical tightrope as he tries to swing reluctant Democrats to support the controversial legislation, resorting to bribery, misdirection and political threats. Stephen Spielberg manages to keep the dry subject matter engaging, helped along greatly by an able (hee hee) performance from Daniel Day-Lewis as the Great Emancipator, supported by Sally Fields as Mary Todd and Tommy Lee Jones as obnoxiously idealistic Radial Republican Thaddeus Stevens. It’s pure Oscar bait, but it’s good Oscar bait. It’s got gravitas out the butt.

7. Argo – Solid thriller from director Ben Affleck detailing the real-life tale of six U.S. diplomats who, aided by a CIA operative, escaped Ayatollah Khomeini’s Iran during the 1979 hostage crisis by pretending to be a movie crew scouting locations for a fake sci-fi extravaganza. John Goodman and Alan Arkin supply welcome comic relief as a pair of Hollywood insiders who help agent Affleck implement the crazy scheme. After sitting through the tense final half hour, you’ll never complain you had a tough time going through airport security again.

6. Doggiewoggiez! Poochiewoochiez! – We weren’t kidding about naming this loose remake of the surrealist epic The Holy Mountain composed entirely out of dog footage clipped from Hollywood movies, instructional DVDs and public access programs our Weirdest Movie of 2012, and we’re not kidding when we say it should be counted among the best movies of any sort released this year. It’s cutting edge, utterly original and, if nothing else, it’s the year’s funniest comedy, with triple the laughs per minute of a big budget misfire like 21 Jump Street (a movie made for people whose sense of humor peaked in high school). It’s not “mainstream,” but it stands up on its own four paws against the best fluff the mainstream film Continue reading TOP 10 MOVIES OF 2012 – THE MAINSTREAM EDITION

TOP 10 WEIRD MOVIES OF 2012

Last year, I began my “Top 10 Weirdest Movies of 2011” column by bemoaning the fact that, The Tree of Life aside, 2011 didn’t live up to the high standard of weirdness set in 2010. We won’t make that complaint again: 2012 was a good (if not a banner) year for cinematic surrealism.  Although Hollywood was predictably silent on the weird movie front, tiny France stepped up to the plate with a duo of strange ones, the indie scene brought us a plethora of odd experiments, and a wellspring of weirdness bubbled up from deep underground to take the title of Weirdest Movie of the Year. In random order—the weirdest of orders—here’s our survey of the strangest of the strange from the past year.

2. Holy Motors: “Mr. Oscar” () drives around Paris in a limo taking on nine “assignments” which require him to take on the parts of, among other roles, an accordion player, a hitman, and a fashion model-abducting leprechaun. Lavant is excellent in multiple roles (he reprises the great “Merde” from Tokyo!), and the cool cast also includes French weird movie vets Edith Scob and alongside Eva Mendes and Kylie Minogue. It also has chimps. It’s surreal in that postmodern, meta-movie way that makes “Cahiers du Cinema” critics (like its director, ) all weak-kneed, but it’s perplexingly brilliant enough to power through its own pretensions. Review forthcoming on Wednesday.

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5. Chicken with Plums [Poulet aux Prunes]: A beautiful movie about death, this live-action graphic novel adaptation from the makers of Persepolis is visually sumptuous, and all over the place stylistically. It’s a movie made up mostly of deathbed hallucinations that includes visits with Socrates, the Angel of Death, and a giant version of Sophia Loren; that’s enough to get it on the weird map.

7. The Devil’s Carnival: The team behind Repo! The Genetic Opera brings us another horror-musical, this one based on the idea that Hell is a circus where sinners are eternally punished by being forced to watch off-Broadway dancers perform ironic cabaret numbers based on Aesop’s fables. The sets and costumes are amazing; the musical compositions less so. The best thing that I can say about this is that it makes me want to go back and re-evaluate Repo!; I actually think director might be onto something with this concept. A sequel, part of an intended series, is promised.

6. The Sound of Noise: Musical terrorists compose an avant-garde symphony by using the city of Malmö, Sweden as a giant percussion instrument, while a tone-deaf cop tries to stop them. “If David Lynch directed the Swedish cast of STOMP in an action-comedy, I think it might go a little something like this…” (We realize this was released in Sweden way back in 2010, but it didn’t hit the Western Hemisphere until this year).

3. Beyond the Black Rainbow: Panos Cosmatos’ debut, about a mysterious silent woman trying to escape from a nameless white institution, is considered a throwback/tribute to the golden age of midnight movies (circa 1982). informs us that Rainbow “has weirdness in spades. At times it is overly self-satisfied in its ambiguity, but overall it’s a strong psychological thriller that revels in the bizarre.”

1. Doggiewoggiez! Poochiewoochiez! Our Weirdest Movie of 2012 won’t be showing up on very many year end top 10 lists. In fact, this collection of cute, stupid and absurd footage of dogs, collated together into thematic montages loosely based on the plot of The Holy Mountain (!), stretches the definition of what a “movie” can be. But we’re not awarding this Fair Use poster boy effort the laurel of Weirdest Movie of the Year just to be, um, weird. It may be legitimately the most WTF fun you’ll have watching TV all year. As we wrote in our initial assessment, “There’s no deep meaning to the cross-breeding of Mexican surrealists with preposterous puppy clips, other than that Everything is Terrible! (correctly) thinks Continue reading TOP 10 WEIRD MOVIES OF 2012