WHAT’S IN THE PIPELINE

Only 31 movies left to Certify Weird

Alfred Eaker starts us off next week by finishing up his miniseries on TV’s “Batman” (start with part one here). Then, after Shane Wilson types out the full title of The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton Under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade [AKA Marat/Sade], we’ll see if there’s any room left for an analysis of this 1967 film adaptation of the 1963 play. Pete Trbovich chooses to go a different direction with the briskly-titled Zachariah, the 1971 counterculture Western written by the Firesign Theater. That leaves G. Smalley crawling through this site’s early archives, coming up with a fresh appreciation of the anarchic 1941 musical comedy Hellzapoppin!

Here we go again with our weekly survey of the weirdest search terms that brought visitors to the site. Despite the inhibiting effect of anonymizing privacy settings, we still managed to find a few strange queries this week, starting with a search for a movie-we’d-like-to-see: “horror movie mansion carpet eats woman.” Even odder is the “film where a house is chaced by another.” Still, for our official Weirdest Search Term of the Week, we’ll go with “kids playing violin abandoned house turns into birds in the”. With the kids playing violins in an abandoned house, it was already developing weirdly before the searcher was either interrupted or just lost interest in typing the rest of it, leaving us in suspense about whether the kids turned into birds, or the house turned into birds, or just what the hell actually happened with the birds.

Here’s how the ridiculously-long-and-obviously-impossible-to-complete reader-suggested review queue stands: Marat/Sade (next week!); Zachariah (next week!); Genius Party; The Idiots; “Premium” Continue reading WHAT’S IN THE PIPELINE

WEIRD HORIZON FOR THE WEEK OF 6/8/2018

Our weekly look at what’s weird in theaters, on hot-off-the-presses DVDs and Blu-rays (and hot off the server VODs), and on more distant horizons…

Trailers of new release movies are generally available at the official site links.

FILM FESTIVALS – Annecy International Animated Film Festival (Annecy, France, June 11-16):

Anncey is a big deal for world animation (including television animation), although it does tend to favor Western-style works. The big boys from the major Hollywood studios will be there again this year, with previews (usually not the complete films) of Incredibles 2, Hotel Transylvania 3, and Wreck-it Ralph 2. But there’s plenty of room for small, independent, and weird works here, too, as you can see from the highlights below:

    • Insect – Legendary Surrealist animator Jan Svankmajer‘s latest (and, he insists, last) film features the actors metamorphosing into insects. A very rare (and presumably packed) screening on June 13 only.
    • Seder-Masochism mixes her musical retelling of “Exodus” with Goddess mythology; we’ve featured a preview scene from this one on these pages. In development for alomost ten years and frankly, we were a little worried it might never be completed, so to see it show up now is a thrill. Catch it in competition June 11-15.
    • The Wolf House [La Casa Lobo] – A woman escapes from a religious cult and finds herself in a nightmarish house.  Screens in competition from Jun 11-15.

Annecy International Animated Film Festival home page.

NEW ON HOME VIDEO:

As the Gods Will (2014): Read our festival review with Miike Q&A. Aliens stage bizarre elimination contests to kill teenagers in this violent (but not ultraviolent) sci-fi effort. In a DVD/Blu-ray/digital combo pack. Buy As the Gods Will.

Greaser’s Palace (1972): Read the Certified Weird review! ‘s blasphemous, absurdist, satirical retelling of the story of Christ set in the wild west. A new release from Doppelganger Releasing (a new arm of Music Box films), there are no special features advertised, but it does mark the film’s debut on the popular Blu-ray format. Buy Greaser’s Palace.

Satellite Girl and Milk Cow (2014): A satellite transforms into a cyborg and romances a brokenhearted man who has metamorphosed into a cow; the animation style resembles with a more surreal bent. On DVD, Blu-ray and VOD from GKIDS. Buy Satellite Girl and Milk Cow.

CERTIFIED WEIRD (AND OTHER) REPERTORY SCREENINGS:

The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975). We won’t list all the screenings of this audience-participation classic separately. You can use this page to find a screening near you.

FREE (LEGITIMATE RELEASE) MOVIES ON TUBI.TV:

Beyond Re-Animator (2003): Read our review. Dr. Herbert West continues his experiments in re-animating the dead, now from inside a prison, with typically over-the-top black comedy results. Listed as “leaving soon.” Adults only. Watch Beyond Re-Animator free on Tubi.tv.

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.

335. THE PHANTOM OF LIBERTY (1974)

Weirdest!

Recommended

Le fantôme de la liberté 

“Chance governs all things. Necessity, which is far from having the same purity, comes only later. If I have a soft spot for one of my movies, it would be for The Phantom of Liberty, because it tries to work out just this theme.”–Luis Buñuel

DIRECTED BY:

FEATURING: , , , Hélène Perdrière, Pierre-François Pistorio, , François Maistre, , Pascale Audret, , Adriana Asti, many others

PLOT: The Phantom of Liberty has no straightforward plot, but moves between vignettes through various linking mechanisms. The opening, about Napoleon’s troops desecrating a church, turns out to be a story being read by a nanny; the child she is watching is given “dirty” photographs by a suspicious lurker, then her father has strange dreams which he relates to his doctor, whose nurse interrupts their conversation to ask for time off to visit her sick father, and so on… Subsequent stories involve the nurse spending a night at an inn with strange characters, a professor who lectures to a group of gendarmes, a “missing” girl, a sniper killing random pedestrians, and a police prefect who gets a call from beyond the grave.

Still from The Phantom of Liberty (1974)

BACKGROUND:

  • The title was suggested by a line from the Communist Manifesto: “…a spectre [translated in French as fantôme] is haunting Europe, the spectre of Communism…” Substituting “liberty” for “Communism” is typical of Phantom‘s process of reversing our expectations to shock us out of our complacency.
  • The film was co-written with Buñuel‘s late-career collaborator , the fifth of the six scripts they wrote together. They devised the scenario by telling each other their dreams each morning.
  • This was Buñuel‘s second-to-last film, in a career that lasted nearly fifty years. He was 74 at the time of release.

INDELIBLE IMAGE: The famous toilet/dinner reversal scene, which, while not at all explicit, is one of the few moments that still has the power to shock modern viewers, simply on the strength of its revolutionary idea.

THREE WEIRD THINGS: Jealous statue; emu in the night; commode party

WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: Angry statues, wandering emus, gambling monks, a celebrity sniper, and assorted perverts jostle up against each other in Luis Buñuel‘s penultimate filmed dream, perhaps the most purely Surrealist effort of his late career.

Short clip from The Phantom of Liberty (in French)

COMMENTS: Working with , Luis Buñuel began his career with a cannonball to the gut of rationality, the incendiary eye-slitting classic Un Chien Andalou. It was a barrage of disconnected Continue reading 335. THE PHANTOM OF LIBERTY (1974)

CAPSULE: MOON CHILD (1989)

El Niño de la Luna

DIRECTED BY:

FEATURING: Enrique Saldaña, Maribel Martin, Lisa Gerrard,

PLOT: A young orphan is brought to a special institute where the proprietors are attempting to create the conditions for the birth of a spawn of the dark underworld.

Still from Moon Child (1989)

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: Inspired by a novel by legendary occultist , Moon Child excels at mood, finding an intriguingly off-kilter vibe and riding it from beginning to end. But while the film offers situations and set pieces that may raise an eyebrow, the fantastical premises are addressed in a logical, rational fashion that keeps things too reasonable to be among the truly weird.

COMMENTS: A friend of mine once picked up a side job writing T-shirt slogans. At the height of the world’s obsession with Harry Potter, he made a tidy sum with the pithy observation, “Not all orphans are wizards.” Moon Child suggests an intriguing alternative: some orphans are the supernatural impetus for the birth of a world-destroying offspring of Satan.

This isn’t left up to interpretation. Young David (Saldaña) has been having strange and powerful dreams when a mysterious woman comes to test him. She represents an occult institution trying to engineer the perfect conditions and genetic bloodlines to trigger the birth of the spawn of the lord of the underworld. That goal dovetails nicely with the aims of the orphaned David, who has been trying to understand his place in the world. Perhaps the birth of a Moon Child is a win-win.

There’s an oddness and even a little humor in the cult’s methodical efforts to summon the devil. While supernatural powers are abundant at the resort-like outpost, the search for the right genetic donors is far less promising. The simple Georgina and the vision-challenged Edgar are finally selected. This culminates in the film’s unquestionable centerpiece, in which the couple consummates their expected Moon Child parentage on an altar beneath the bright rays of the moon. It’s part of Moon Child’s awkward charm that David is witness to this whole inappropriate display, but is interested exclusively in the implications for his own situation, oblivious to the very adult activities transpiring.

Much of the film hinges on the performance of two novice actors, who acquit themselves decently. Child actor Saldaña approaches everything with a wide-eyed, slack-jawed gape, but fortunately for him, the proceedings are sufficiently shocking to justify his one emotional register. For her part, Gerrard (half of the dream-pop duo Dead Can Dance, who also provide the atmospheric score) holds her own in a part that demands much of a first-time performer, including vomiting, a sandstorm, some slapstick during a lecture, and a very exposed sex scene. They do fine, and but are also aided by the film itself, with maintains an intriguing yet unsettling air that serves them well.

In fact, most of what Moon Child is, in the end, is atmosphere. As the setting moves to more exotic locales and as David gains more understanding and encounters new obstacles, the unifying force for the film remains a general feeling of unease. That pays off in a finale that is at once unexpected while fitting perfectly with the overall sense of dread. Not all orphans are wizards, it’s true. Some of them are so much more.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

Moon Child is about as strange as it probably sounds but it’s very well-made… The story, as odd as it may be, actually turns out to be reasonably straightforward, though the visuals dabble with surrealism at times, resulting in a wholly unique picture that at times feels like a less confrontational Jodorowsky film.” — Ian Jane, Rock! Shock! Pop! (DVD)

CAPSULE: HOW TO TALK TO GIRLS AT PARTIES (2018)

DIRECTED BY:

FEATURING: Alex Sharp, , Tom Brooke,

PLOT: An aspiring teenage punk in 1970s London meets a cute girl; only catch is, she’s an alien.

Still from How to Talk to Girls at Parties (2018)

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: This light-hearted artistic fling between the offbeat talents of director John Cameron Mitchell and writer meets its quota of whimsical sweetness, but falls short in terms of weirdness.

COMMENTS: I was completely alone in the theater on a Monday night screening of How to Talk to Girls at Parties. When I bought my ticket the high school cashier on a summer job assumed I was asking to see Life of the Party (ouch!). Hopefully, the empty seats were just a sign of distributor A24’s compromising to commercial realities—better to suck it up and slot this curio’s release in the heat of summer up against Han Solo and the Avengers than to let it slink off to video unscreened—and not a sign of total lack of public interest in the project. While Girls is not a must-see cult hit, it’s not a waste of time, either; at the very least, it’s an oft-unconventional offering that could find a future Netflix audience of adventurous youngsters.

Girls is a period teen romantic comedy with the slightest tinge of punk and sci-fi flavor, more Earth Girls Are Easy (or even Splash) than Liquid Sky. Around the time of the Queen’s Silver Jubilee (1977), a trio of socially inept teenage punks stumble into the wrong party in Croydon while on the prowl for girls. While the fat kid and the self-appointed pick-up artist wander around scoping out the shapely bodies in tight latex unitards doing Cirque du Soleil acrobatic routines to whalesong electronica, the sweetest and most talented, Enn, stumbles upon a newly “manifested” alien Zan (Elle Fanning, who, God love her, is still seeking out the weirdest roles she can find rather than settling for a part as a minor X-Man character). After Enn explains the basics of his punk philosophy to the girl, Zan seeks, and is reluctantly granted, a dispensation to experience human life for 48 hours (“do more punk to me,” she croons to Enn). The remainder of the plot arc is easy to guess: the mismatched pair court, with the normal teenage social awkwardness amplified by an alien culture clash, while Zan’s “colony” (whom Enn and friends believe to be a cannibalistic California cult) pressure her to get her back into the fold. There’s some mild weirdness along the way: an out-of-place (and not-too-effective) psychedelic music video when Zan improvises a punk number onstage (“we must have been dosed,” Enn reasons); perverse alien sex practices better left undescribed; a conception scene with eggs like yellow party balloon and sperm that looks like a 3D model of a rhinovirus; Nicole Kidman as bitchy aging punk godmother Boadicea; and an underwhelming punks vs. aliens showdown that might have been huge if given a proper B-movie treatment. Overall, the movie has a good-natured, unthreatening-yet-rebellious spirit, and some eye candy in the costuming (each of the alien colonies sports its own sartorial theme). Still, the reveal of the ultimate nature of the alien cult(s) suggests many potentially more interesting stories than the John Hughes-y tale that actually unfolds here.

Multiple reviewers have complained that Girls is trying “too hard” to be a cult movie. This criticism comes from a perspective I’m not quite able to grasp; it’s probably a variation on the old “weird for weirdness’ sake” saw. I suppose the complaint is based on the premise that cult movies can only arise by happy accident when the director was actually trying to do something “more authentic”; this can be easily disproven by dozens of examples (including, I’d argue, one from this very same director). Whether you think it succeeds or not, Girls isn’t trying too hard; it’s just trying to be what it is, which just happens to be something a bit different from what critics and audiences expect.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“It’s fully invested in exploring the weird, but not always the funny.”–Chris Hewitt, Empire (contemporaneous)

KAPOW! ZLOPP! TOUCHE! THE BEST OF “BATMAN” (1966-1968), PART TWO

Part 1 of the Bat-series.

On 30 , March 1966, ‘s Riddler returned for “Ring of Wax” (directed by James Clark, written by Jack Paritz and Bob Rodger). The local wax museum is supposed to be unveiling a wax figure of Batman. To the crowd’s horror, that loathsome lithe Riddler is on display instead, and up to his usual atrocious anarchy with a stupendous squirter, spewing crimson crud all over the Gotham gang. Of course, he leaves a pair of baffling riddles behind. In his cauldron of corruption, Riddler concocts a wax that burn its way through any vault in the world, sending him to the local library (!), where he is accompanied by a striped dayglo duo and a purple leather-clad villainess named Moth (Linda Gaye Scott). She’s one in a series of Gorshin’s increasingly bizarre disciples (in “A Riddle A Day,”  Riddler was followed by a girl who talks like a mouse and a trio of henchmen wearing a rainbow of primary colored hoodies, one of whom is the yellowed bug-eyed cheese munching stooge). The Riddler’s inexplicable entourage makes him all the more absurdly frightening. We get such a kick watching Gorshin’s bouncing, blithesome histrionics that the only disappointment is NOT getting to see him lay waste to the Dynamic Duo. However, he does get to stop them in place with “Dr. Riddler’s Instant Forever-Stick Invisible Wax Emulsion,” AKA spray-on superglue.  Escaping with a book on a lost treasure of the Incas, Riddler and his gang head back to their candle factory, where Batman and the Boy Wonder are tied up and lowered into an enormous cauldron. “Will Batman wax serious? For the sake of our heroes, let’s think positively!!! But it looks bad! Very bad! How can we wait until tomorrow night.. same bat-time… same bat-channel !!?”

Their escape in Part Two (“Give ’em the Axe”) is among the series’ most preposterous, and the battle with henchmen hits a garish high, all of which translates into camp delight. When Moth tries to flirt her way out of jail, Batman waxes chaste: “A moth that plays with fire is bound to be burned.” Needless to say, Gorshin owns both episodes.

“The Curse of Tut/Pharaoh’s in a Rut” (directed by Charles Rondeau, written by Robert Dennis and Earl Barret) aired on the 13th  and 14th of April, 1966. “A giant Sphinx is uttering demented threats in Gotham Central Park in a woman’s voice!” “Holy hieroglyphics, this might mean a battle royal” with King Tut (Victor Buono), of course. “Maybe this sphinx will give us a clue!” Tut surrounds himself with 1960s Egyptian babes (including Zoda Rodann as a coney dog eating Nefertiti) and henchmen (including busy character actor and B-Western regular Don Berry), whom Tut dismisses Continue reading KAPOW! ZLOPP! TOUCHE! THE BEST OF “BATMAN” (1966-1968), PART TWO

WHAT’S IN THE PIPELINE

Only 33 movies left to Certify Weird

While still awaiting his next summer blockbuster assignment, Alfred Eaker kicks off next week with a “KAPOW!” with the second installment of his “Batman” series (read the first here). While we’re waiting for Al to kick at tentpoles, G. Smalley is planning to check out the non-blockbuster, wannabe cult film How to Talk to Girls at Parties this week. Shane Wilson checks in with a review of ‘s 1989 occultist romp Moon Child (which recently debuted on Blu-ray). Smalley returns later in the week for a second look at ‘s Phantom of Liberty (and experienced readers can probably figure out why that is).

It’s time again for our survey of the weirdest search terms that brought users to the site this week, with our usual caveat that this feature seems doomed due to increased use of privacy filters that prevent us from seeing over 95% of searches. But as long as we can, we’ll continue to spotlight the strangest queries from the 5% we do see. Stuff like “movie where kid shrimks and hangs on vagina hair80s” (a query we actually know the answer to: do you?) There’s also “the life of warrior prostitutes,” which sounds weird, sure, but refers to an actual media property (though one we’d prefer not to promote). For our weirdest search term of the week, we’ll go with one we don’t recognize and don’t want to recognize: “the movie in which girls do party and one fat girl climb on a boy and the boy died then they find to keep him somewhere.” Bad grammar, rambling syntax, and an enigmatic conclusion; just enough bizarre elements for us to declare it our official Weirdest Search Term of the Week.

Here’s how the ridiculously-long-and-still-growing reader-suggested review queue stands: Genius Party; The Idiots; “Premium” (depending on availability); Continue reading WHAT’S IN THE PIPELINE

WEIRD HORIZON FOR THE WEEK OF 6/1/2018

Our weekly look at what’s weird in theaters, on hot-off-the-presses DVDs and Blu-rays (and hot off the server VODs), and on more distant horizons…

Trailers of new release movies are generally available at the official site links.

IN THEATERS (LIMITED RELEASE):

Best F(r)iends Vol. 2 (2018):  and Greg Sestero continue their post-Room adventures in this comic roadtrip movie; Sestero stars as a drifter and Wiseau is a mortician. Some say Vol. 2 is weirder than Vol. 1, and can be followed even if you missed the first episode. Screening June 1 and June 4 only, so you’ll need to check the Best F(r)iends home page to see if there’s a screening near you.

The Texture of Falling: Parallel stories of artists in love, with one set playing around with S&M. Bills itself as “unlike any film you’ve ever seen,” but early critics who chimed in didn’t see that as a plus. The Texture of Falling official site.

NEW ON HOME VIDEO:

Annihilation (2018): Read our review. Femme-friendly sci-fi about a mysterious alien presence is pretty damn weird by Hollywood standards, and a good flick by anyone’s standards. Out on DVD, Blu-ray, and VOD. Buy (or rent) Annihilation.

A Good Dream (2017): The sparse plot description explains its about a 20-something gal suffering from dreams/hallucinations of a creepy demon bunny. There’s not much info available on this straight-to-VOD horror/psychological thriller, but the trailer actually looks pretty creepy. Rent or buy A Good Dream.

CERTIFIED WEIRD (AND OTHER) REPERTORY SCREENINGS:

The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975). We won’t list all the screenings of this audience-participation classic separately. You can use this page to find a screening near you.

YOU LINK US! YOU REALLY LINK US!:

The weirdest movies we’ve ever seen: 366 gets a shout-out (naturally) in the Cinebuds podcast sponsored by Milwaukee’s noncommercial 88.9 radio. The episode is actually a great introduction to the genre, especially for newbies. One complaint: they credited (and linked) the compendium of the List hosted on Mubi, rather than the primary source (that would be us). Any publicity is good publicity, but let’s get the url correct next time, please!

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.

Celebrating the cinematically surreal, bizarre, cult, oddball, fantastique, strange, psychedelic, and the just plain WEIRD!