LIST CANDIDATE: HOW TO GET AHEAD IN ADVERTISING (1989)

How to Get Ahead in Advertising has been promoted onto the List of the 366 Weirdest Movies Ever Made. Please visit the official Certified Weird entry. Comments are closed on this post.

Recommended

DIRECTED BY:

FEATURING: , Rachel Ward, Richard Wilson

PLOT: A young hotshot ad exec begins to crack from stress when he has difficulty coming up with a campaign for pimple cream; compounding his problems, he grows a boil on his neck that gradually develops a face, and a nasty personality.

Still from How to Get Ahead in Advertising (1989)

WHY IT MIGHT MAKE THE LIST:  The talking boil, the cracked Bagley tossing thawed chickens into the toilet wearing only an apron, and a few other weird surprises.  What works against Advertising‘s weirdness is that the film’s bizarro bits are all part of a perfectly clear and rational satirical plan.

COMMENTS:  Ad exec Dennis Bagley develops the mother of all zits in this blackheaded black comedy: does he need a dermatologist, or a psychologist?  He’s up against a deadline to design an ad campaign for a pimple cream account, and he’s obstructed.  “I can’t get a handle on boils,” he explains.  “Compared to this, piles were a birthday present… so was dandruff!”  Brilliantly portrayed by an acerbic and unhinged Richard E. Grant, Bagley is a man on the edge from the moment we meet him. He delivers an authoritative, amoral address to junior execs delighting in the dieting-reward-guilt dynamic that keeps women buying unwholesome food and stressing the importance of marketing to “she who fills her basket;” but in private, his advertiser’s block is driving him to knock back highballs in his office and nearly break down into quivering mass at lunch with his beautiful wife Julia (Ward).  On a fateful train ride home for a weekend of fretting over the acne campaign, frazzled Bagley has an epiphany about the pervasiveness of the advertising/propaganda mentality while listening to strangers discuss a sensational newspaper account of a drug orgy, and launches into the first of many entertainingly deranged rants.  By the next morning Bagley has gone completely off his rocker: he’s running around the house nude except for an apron, thawing frozen chickens in the bathtub and trying to rid the homestead of everything connected to advertising.  But, to his distress, he’s also developed a rather nasty and surprisingly painful pimple on his neck, one Continue reading LIST CANDIDATE: HOW TO GET AHEAD IN ADVERTISING (1989)

CAPSULE: WILLIAM S. BURROUGHS: A MAN WITHIN (2010)

DIRECTED BY: Yony Leyser

FEATURING: Peter Weller, Amiri Bakara, Jello Biafra, David Cronenberg, Allen Ginsberg (footage), Iggy Pop, Genesis P-Orridge, Patti Smith, Gus van Sant, Andy Warhol (footage), John Waters

PLOT:  A portrait of the life of the literary outlaw told through archival footage, rare home

Still from William S. Burroughs: A Man Within (2010)

movies, and interviews with friends, admirers and followers.

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST:  Its subject is weird, but despite the brief avant-garde sequences used as buffers between the praising heads, its method isn’t.

COMMENTS:  With his quick wit, cadaverous features, and patrician drawl, William S. Burroughs projected a mighty persona.  His writings were full of ironic distance, parody and outlandish stream-of-consciousness surrealism, only occasionally punctured by confessional.  The romantic myth that grew up about him—the artist tormented by guilt, addiction, and public ostracism, who strikes back at society by rejecting all forms of authority—was so powerful that it became far more influential than his actual writings.  The subtitle of this documentary—A Man Within—suggests that we may get a peek under that dapper three-piece armor Burroughs wore in public and see the real, naked man underneath.  Yony Leyser’s freshman documentary is partially successful at that task; he gives us unprecedented access to Burroughs’ home movies (showing him as an old man smoking a joint before going out to fire a shotgun) and reminiscences from those closest to him, including several former lovers.  The portrait that emerges is of a man who may have suffered as much from loneliness as from drugs and remorse; the man we see here has difficulty forming relationships with men he’s attracted to, and prefers to seek the companionship of street hustlers and boys too young and foolish to break his heart.  Topics covered, in jumbled order, include Burroughs’ upper class upbringing; his role as godfather of the Beats; his homosexuality and his refusal to join the “gay mainstream;” his lifelong relationship with heroin; his love of snakes and guns; the accidental killing of Joan Vollmer Continue reading CAPSULE: WILLIAM S. BURROUGHS: A MAN WITHIN (2010)

GUEST REVIEW: AMER (2009)

This review was originally published at The Cinematheque in a slightly different form.

Brought to opulent (some might say pretentious) life by Belgian directors Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani, Amer is an homage to the Italian giallo horror films of the 1960s and ’70s, and more specifically the works of the genre’s most notable denizen, Dario ArgentoAmer (French for bitter) is an all-but-wordless, trisected mindbender of a movie, running portentously through one girl’s life, from her twisted childhood, to the seductively innocent carnality of young womanhood, to her inevitably tragic (and inevitably violent) demise.  In short, it is a lyrical horror movie that manages to arouse and nauseate at the same time and in equal measure.  In shorter yet, it is both succulent and repellent.  In even shorter, it is simply Amer.

Still from Amer (2009)Told as almost Gothic horror, set in a sufficiently terrifying seaside villa, Amer starts out with an eight or nine year old Ana, running from room to room, trying her best to outsmart both her overbearing mother and the ugly crone of a witch that was her grandfather’s caretaker, while attempting to steal a necklace she must pry out of her ancient grandfather’s cold dead hands.  The film takes on a magical feel right away, as an insidious doom overshadows all that is happening around her and her young eyes are assaulted by the evil that lurks around her and (in a scene of frenetic, salacious eroticism) the writhing, sweating bodies of her parents bedroom.  The terror, both metaphorical and physical, that will eventually devour Ana, is already beginning to surround this wide-eyed little girl.

We next turn to the adolescent Ana, her Lolita-esque body glistening in the midday sun, her bee-stung lips curling in a seraphic yet alluring manner, the slight breeze blowing her light dress provocatively, all the while slowly waltzing in front of a row of very-interested bikers, flaunting, advertising her newfound sexual desires.  The erotic longings that first popped up in Ana’s wicked childhood surface here in a much more dangerous way.  Next we see a grown Ana, her fantasy world now completely engulfing her, returning to her now dilapidated seaside home, every shadow, every noise, every creak, every sensual yearning, an ominous foreshadowing of the horror to come.

With the mysterious black-gloved hand that keep Ana from screaming, the muscled, libidinous arms that grope her and strangle her, and the shining, silvery blade that coldly slices against her face and mouth, warning her of what is to become of her, Amer ends with the same seductively perilous urgency with which it began.  Perhaps made as the ego-trip many claim it to have been, Cattet and Forzani nonetheless have captured the essense of those giallo films, and especially the warped, libidinous proclivities of Mr. Argento, to a visual and aural “t.”  Just like the Italian horrormeister’s movies, Amer is an erotically charged mindbender of a movie indeed.

WHAT’S IN THE PIPLINE

Greetings weirdophiles!  You are reading this because you have questions about the future; specifically, about future movie reviews that will appear on these pages in the next week.  And we are here to answer your questions about the future.  The answers are: Amer (2010), the violent and sexy tribute to Dario Argento‘s gialli; William S. Burroughs: A Man Within (2010), a reverential tribute containing almost everything you wanted to know about Naked Lunch‘s junkie author; and How to Get Ahead in Advertising (1989), Bruce Robinson’s almost forgotten, recently reissued satire about a stressed out ad exec who finally cracks when he grows a second head.

The other reason you’re reading this is because you have questions about what weird search terms showed up in our server logs last week.   Never fear, we have answers to those burning queries as well.  We thought it was strange that someone came here looking for a “borderline jesus cure.”  We thought the search for “french elevators are the worst in the world rape porn” seemed a little bit odd (a very specialized fetish?)  Though not that weird, we really appreciated the sentiment of the person searching for ideas for a “zardoz themed wedding” (our recommendation: leave the bit about “the penis is evil” out of the vows).  But for our weirdest search term of the week, we select “rapture his testicle,” which demonstrates how changing just one letter can change a search term from an image that makes us cringe to something delightfully surreal.

If there’s another reason you’re reading this, it’s because you have questions about the state of that huge and unwieldy list of reader-recommendations that we’ve promised to consider somewhere down the line.  Have no fear, we can answer that question as well (though you’ll have to hit that “continued” link to get the whole picture).  Here we go: Possession; Perfume: The Story of a Murderer; Sublime Toto the Hero [Toto le Héros];  The Holy Mountain; Brazil; The Casserole Masters; Dark Crystal; Throw Away Your Books, Rally in the Streets (this Continue reading WHAT’S IN THE PIPLINE

SATURDAY SHORT: WOFL 2106 (2006)

With the success of his shorts “The External World” (2011) and “Please Say Something” (2009) in festivals across the globe, David O’Reilly has become a shorts director who is not so easily overlooked anymore. Although “WOFL 2106” may not be his best short to date, it is a great introduction into his work.

WARNING: A few complaints have been made about the sound in this video. It can be a little jarring, so if you have sensitive ears be sure to keep the volume a little lower than normal.

WOFL 2106 (HD) from David OReilly on Vimeo.

More from David O’Reilly can be found on his Vimeo profile in the link above. Keep in mind, though, that some of his material does contain strong language, some violence, and sexual content.

WEIRD HORIZON FOR THE WEEK OF 3/18/2011

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 (LIMITED RELEASE):

0s & 1s (2011): The-times-we-live-in satire about a young man who loses his laptop, and therefore his entire life.  The experimental part is that the story is told entirely through screenshots viewed on a computer screen, via the social networking sites, online video game chats, and video sharing services that make up the mass of the protagonist’s life.  Premiering this week at hipster hangout reRun theater in NYC; future playdates seem unlikely.   0s and 1s official site.

The Butcher, the Chef and the Swordsman (2010): Heavily stylized Chinese action comedy about a mythical blade that is melted down and made into a kitchen knife, and passes down through three different owners. Could this be a slight stirring in the crazy corpse of the Hong Kong New Wave we detect? No official site.

IN DEVELOPMENT:

Alps (2011):  Giorgos Lanthimos already has his followup to his Certified Weird surprise hit Dogtooth in the can, and he’s in the final stages of preparing it for Cannes.  The story involves people who fill in as doubles for departed loved ones to help with the grieving (or denial) process, and Lanthimos promised the LA Times that this movie will be “darker and funnier” than Dogtooth.  You can be sure we’ll be on it when it comes out.

NEW ON DVD:

Sharktopus (2010):  Because it’s a meager week for weird DVD releases, and because Mega Piranha turned out to be “better” than we expected, we’ll highlight this SyFy backed, Roger Corman produced marine nonsense as our default weird release of the week. The poster suggests it’s about an eight-tentacled shark who climbs up on land to attack bikini babes; don’t blame us if it bites. Buy Sharktopus.

NEW ON BLU-RAY:

Sharktopus (2010): See description in DVD above. Buy Sharktopus [Blu-ray].

FREE (LEGITIMATE RELEASE) MOVIES ON YOUTUBE:

Bluebeard (1944):  Poverty Row expressionist Edgar G. Ulmer‘s take on the French serial killer legend stars John Carradine as a model-strangling artist.  Watch Bluebeard 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.

TOD BROWNING’S THE UNHOLY THREE (1925)

In 2011 Warner Brothers has finally released a series of Lon Chaney films on DVD. Of these, the 1925 Unholy Three, directed by Tod Browning, is of considerable interest. The Tod Browning/Lon Chaney collaborations The Unknown (1927) and a photo still reconstruction of the legendary, lost London After Midnight (1927) were released  a few years ago on a box set highlighting the actor.  Before that, Image Entertainment released the first two films Browning made with Chaney, The Wicked Darling (1919) and Outside the Law (1920).  Their The Big City (1928)  also seems to be forever lost, which leaves four neglected films: Where East is East (1929), West of Zanzibar (1928), The Road to Mandalay (1926, in truncated and badly deteriorated form), and The Blackbird (1926).   Hopefully, the release of The Unholy Three is a sign that the studio will release the remaining films of  the strangest collaboration between director and actor in cinema history.

Among the new Lon Chaney DVD releases is the 1930 sound remake of The Unholy Three with Jack Conway directing Chaney and a mostly different cast. The only point of  interest in the latter film is the novelty of hearing Chaney’s voice.  As in the silent film, the actor took on various disguises, this time allowing 1930 audiences to potentially envision the famed “Man of a Thousand Faces” as, additionally,  the “Man of a Thousand Voices.”  It was not to be. Chaney died shortly after filming and the resulting one and only film to feature the actor’s voice does not realize that potential.   Chaney, dying of throat cancer, is hoarse throughout the film. To make matters worse, actor Harry Earles was far more magnetic and compelling in silent films.  His thick German accent in the sound remake is an epic distraction.

Still from The Unholy Three (1925)Lon Chaney’s style of acting was so ingrained in the silent film style of emoting that he was understandably reluctant about making the transition to sound.  Knowing Browning to be equally uneasy with sound, Chaney unwisely requested the pedestrian Conway to direct.  Under Conway, who had no feel or vision for the strange, the remaining cast in the sound remake are sanitized, hack versions of the far more eccentric and genuine cast in Browning’s silent film.

The original, silent Unholy Three (1925) catapulted Browning into star director status.  Continue reading TOD BROWNING’S THE UNHOLY THREE (1925)

82. PAPRIKA (2006)

“I think that within human nature, and within the human heart as well, there are a ton of absurd impulses and instincts. But you can’t express those things because society has created these rules that say that things can’t ‘warp’ like that. It’s a rule that maintains a sense of balance in the world. But when you’re restricted like that you tend to release these impulses within your dreams. Everything ‘warps.’ I think that in the past you were able to spontaneously experience such things within the framework of reality. I think religious ceremonies would be a good example of that. Now we don’t really have that. I think that if someone from prehistoric times saw Paprika they’d say, ‘That’s how it is!’ I think they’d be confused. ‘Why would you make a movie about such everyday occurrences?'”–Satoshi Kon on the Paprika DVD commentary (inspired by the scene where the balcony handrail spontaneously warps)

“I do feel regret that my weird visions and ability to draw things in minute detail will be lost, but that can’t be helped.”–from “Satoshi Kon’s Last Words

Recommended

DIRECTED BY: Satoshi Kon

FEATURING: Voices of Megumi Hayashibara, Akio Ohtsuka, Tôru Furuya, Kôichi Yamadera, Katsunosuke Hori, Toru Emori

PLOT: A group of scientists invent a device called the DC-mini that allows the user to enter the dreams of those who wear it; they are experimenting with the invention on mental patients as an aid to psychotherapy.  A prototype of the machine is stolen, and the team discovers that it can be used to wreak terrible mischief when one of their number starts spouting incomprehensible babble and jumps out of a window while believing himself to be dreaming.  The situation reaches an apocalyptic peak when the thief uses the machine to absorb others’ dreams, and eventually discovers how to make dreams cross over into reality.

Still from Paprika (2006)


BACKGROUND:

  • The movie was based on a 1993 novel of the same name by Yasutaka Tsutsui; at the time of this writing, the original novel has never been translated into English.
  • Tsutsui personally chose animator/director Satoshi Kon to adapt his work.
  • Kon began his career as a manga illustrator.  He died in 2010 of pancreatic cancer, having completed only four highly regarded animated feature films and the television series “Paranoia Agent.”  Although he was working on a new project at the time of his death, Paprika was his final completed film.
  • Kon finished the storyboards before the script adaptation was completed, then wrote the story to fit the images rather than the other way around.
  • Voice cameos: Kon and writer Yasutaka Tsutsui speak for the two mystical bartenders who appear in Paprika’s dreamspace saloon.
  • The film’s soundtrack was the first to be created using a Vocaloid: all singing voices are computer generated.
  • A live action remake is in development with an estimated completion date of 2013.  Director Wolfgang Peterson has promised to tone down the weirdness for a mainstream audience, aiming to create something more like The Matrix than a surreal exploration of dream states.

INDELIBLE IMAGE: The dream parade, which features marching refrigerators, a Dixieland frog band, porcelain dolls, the Statue of Liberty, confetti falling from nowhere, and more.  This toylike promenade tramps through the film, through forests and movie theaters and the streets of Tokyo, growing larger and larger as it absorbs more and more dreams—and it’s as intense an accumulation of imagination as you’re ever likely to behold.

WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: Near the end of Paprika, two characters turn to each other and stare


English language trailer for Paprika

in stunned, silent disbelief.  They’ve just seen a giant naked girl grow to womanhood by inhaling an anthropomorphic smog monster.  Watching Paprika‘s nonstop cavalcade of technicolor fever dreams should fix your expression into the same mask of bewildered disbelief long before that point.

COMMENTS:  Having suddenly grown butterfly wings, Paprika finds herself pinned to a Continue reading 82. PAPRIKA (2006)

LIST CANDIDATE: KABOOM (2010)

DIRECTED BY: Gregg Araki

FEATURING: Thomas Dekker, Haley Bennett, , Chris Zylka, James Duval

PLOT: A sensitive college freshman experiences sexual awakening, stumbles upon a murder mystery, and uncovers secrets about his family while once in a while working on his film studies major, all set amidst scores of colorful visions, voodoo hallucinations, and sexy encounters.

Still from Kaboom

WHY IT MIGHT MAKE THE LIST: Kaboom is a tough one to pin down.  It takes a while to get a handle on itself, combining a wealth of different ideas and subplots that don’t quite add up, but it does command my respect with its delightfully trippy visual approach and boldly unhinged ending.  It must be said: this movie is definitely weird.  But is it List-worthy?

COMMENTS: Enrolled in a clean and modern college replete with impossibly beautiful, voraciously horny undergrads, Smith (Dekker) has plenty of free time to sleep with or fantasize about most of the people he comes across.  While he becomes a surprise sex-buddy for the blunt and sexy London (Temple), his best friend Stella (Bennett) begins dating a real-life witch with a clingy personality.  Through many sexual escapades and relationship woes, a lingering murder mystery involving a scantily-clad redhead and some creepy men in animal masks worries Smith for months.  The more he delves into the puzzle, the more he seems to get konked on the head or chased by mysterious figures no one else sees.  And it all seems to tie into his recurring dream featuring those closest to him and a bright red dumpster.

With its over-exposed, over-saturated cinematography and frequent use of dreams and hallucinations, Kaboom definitely finds its way into “surreal” territory.  The vibrant color schemes, kooky mod fashion, slightly pornographic sex scenes, and sarcastic one-liners belie the dark undertones involving mysterious killings and abductions, masked men, witchcraft, and a sinister doomsday cult.  This dichotomy can work against the film as a whole; the tone is uneven and the script flits back and forth with awkward attempts at cohesion.  However, seeing these distinct narrative halves somehow come together in a completely unexpected way makes for an admittedly compelling and memorable viewing.

Kaboom has its drawbacks—dialogue that tries too hard to be funny, a few too many sex scenes (which I didn’t think was possible), some stilted performances—but I can’t say I didn’t enjoy myself.  Everything (and everyone) was just so pretty!  It gets weirder as it progresses, and it’s better for it, and the brash, unexpected ending definitely has a special effect on audiences (there was a good mix of “Huh…”, “Ha!”, and “What the hell?!” at my screening).  It is riddled with twists and turns, and is sure to keep anyone with a libido somewhat interested, but I’m still not quite sure just what to make of it.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“Araki lets his absurdist imagination run wild, and ‘Kaboom’ takes the time-honored gambit of gradually revealing that nothing is as it seems to delightfully cockamamie extremes.”–Kevin Thomas, The LA Times (contemporaneous)

LIST CANDIDATE: PINK FLOYD:THE WALL (1982)

Pink Floyd the Wall has been promoted to “Certified Weird” status.  Comments have been closed; please post all new comments on the official entry.

Recommended

DIRECTED BY: Alan Parker

FEATURING: Bob Geldof, Bob Hoskins, Jenny Wright

PLOT: A rock singer, “Pink,” isolates himself in a hotel room and reflects upon his life while

Still from Pink Floyd: the Wall

slipping further into drug addiction and madness. The film has little in the way of dialogue and is heavy on visual interpretations of Roger Waters lyrics for the 1979 double album of the same name.  The metaphorical “wall” is constructed around the rock singer’s life separating him from the outside world and alone with his tortured thoughts and memories.

WHY IT MIGHT MAKE THE LIST: Possibly for one reason only: the fantastic and bizarre animation sequences rendered by British political caricaturist Gerald Scarfe.  Although the sequences are relatively short, the horrific images blaze across the screen in such a haunting way that the impact makes up for the brevity.

COMMENTS: Watching, or listening, to Pink Floyd: The Wall is one miserable experience. All the key elements of a depressing film are on display: madness, alienation, the atrocities of war, mind-numbing drug addiction, infidelity, fascism…well, you get my drift.  This is not an upbeat or fun movie by any stretch of the imagination.  Yet, the film is constructed in such a skillful manner by director Alan Parker that it is hard not to justify its reputation as a work of art.

Upon the opening scene we see the protagonist rock star “Pink” (Bob Geldof) in his hotel room staring blankly at the television screen with a long burned out cigarette perched between his fingers.  Pink is in this position and state of mind for many of his scenes.  It is open to interpretation, but perhaps all of the scenes of the film are what is playing out in his unraveling mind.  The images correlate to the lyrics of each song, and we start off things by learning of Pink’s father’s death in World War II.  His bunker was blown to bits by an air raid bombardment.  Pink never knew his father and it is clear that this had a major impact in his childhood, as evidenced by a scene where he is playing in a park as a young child and desperately tries clinging on to a hand of an unsuspecting and unwilling male father figure.  As Pink grows up and goes to school he’s subjected to the harsh British educational Continue reading LIST CANDIDATE: PINK FLOYD:THE WALL (1982)

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