MARCH MAD MOVIE MADNESS TOURNAMENT, ROUND OF 256 (PART 1)

With the play-in round completed, it’s time to launch into the tournament proper: 256 weird movies go in, one emerges as the readers’ all-time favorite.

You can see the complete bracket here: https://challonge.com/tsut4018

Because of the large number of contestants in this first round, we’ll be staggering the voting, with half of them appearing today, and half tomorrow.

There are already some brutal match-ups in the first round (all of them were determined by the seeding formula, without editorial interference). Some good, weird movies are destined to die early. (We hope that’s a testament to how many great movies we’ve collected.) A couple of matches we’ll be curious to see the outcome of: Scott Pilgrim vs. the World vs. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory the character-in-the-title whimsy death match; Mandy vs. Santa Sangre, a killer contest; and Altered States vs. Repo Man, an 80s punks vs. hippies proxy.

So get to voting! You may vote once per day. This half of the bracket closes at midnight EST on March 12. Voting on the other side of the bracket will begin tomorrow and last until the 13th.

Continue reading MARCH MAD MOVIE MADNESS TOURNAMENT, ROUND OF 256 (PART 1)

WEIRD HORIZON FOR THE WEEK OF 3/8/2019

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 – South by Southwest Film Festival (SXSW) (Austin, TX, Mar. 8-16):

If you can’t get your indie film into Sundance, the massive SXSW festival in Austin, Texas is your next best bet. With the continued mainstreaming of Sundance, and the increasingly homogenized “indie” product spotlighted there, if your movie’s a bit on the weirder side, SWSX may even be a better fit—in a normal year. 2019, on the other hand, has been a very weird-light year in the early festivals, an unhappy trend that continues at SWSX.  Maybe Us, Jordan Peele’s art-horror followup to Get Out, will tip slightly into the weird column, though we’re skeptical. There’s also a reprise of Sundance debuter Greener Grass, the absurdist satire based on a Saturday Short and a screening of the restored True Stories (1986) (see “Screenings,” below). Here’s a couple more to look out for down the road:

  • The Beach Bum ‘s first feature film since 2912’s Spring Breakers stars as a comic hippy beach bum sentenced by a judge to finish his novel; looks fairly conventional by Korine standards. Debuts tomorrow, Mar. 9.
  • J.R. “Bob” Dobbs and The Church of the SubGenius – Conspiracy-funded documentary, made with the participation of the cult itself, on the Church of the Subgenius (Arise!), falsely suggesting that the fake religion is a hoax. Mar. 10.

SWSX Film Festival home page.

IN DEVELOPMENT (Post-production crowdfunding):

Greatland (est. 2019): An artificial intelligence (which appears as a blinking toy plastic heart, among other forms) sets the rules in this budget indie described as “a teenage love story in a dystopian future.” The director (a young woman from Kazakhstan) cites The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Un Chien Andalou, A Clockwork Orange and Idiocracy as influences. It’s seeking an additional $16,500 for post-production in the next 24 days. Greatland crowdfunding page at Seed & Spark.

NEW ON HOME VIDEO:

Female Human Animal (2018): The curator of a retrospective of Surrealist painter  Leonora Carrington becomes lost in dark psychosexual fantasies. A modern surrealist documentary/thriller mashup shot on VHS tape (!) Streaming exclusively on Mubi (available with a Prime Video Channels Free Trial) until the end of March; perhaps it will be more widely available in the future?

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 YOUTUBE:

In the Mirror of Maya Deren (2001): Documentary covering the short career of the extraordinary , godmother of American avant-garde film. Interviewees include , , and ex-husband/collaborator . Watch In the Mirror of Maya Deren free on Tubi.tv.

WHAT’S IN THE PIPELINE: Next week we’ll be continuing our March Mad Movie Madness tournament to determine the weirdest/best of the 366 Weird Movies. 110 movies have already been eliminated, and the remaining 256 will be pitted against each other in single elimination head-to-head matchups next week. Look for the brackets to be revealed on Saturday and Sunday. With the tournament taking up so much of our attention, it will be a light week of reviews, with Giles Edwards covering Blue Movie, the recently rediscovered Dutch softcore sex comedy, while G. Smalley previews the upcoming weird apocalypse horror-drama, Starfish. Onward and weirdward!

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.

PLAY-IN ROUND TIEBREAKER AND RESULTS

As we suspected, a couple of movies from the 22 groups in the play-in round of our March Mad Movie Madness tournament tied for fifth place (the cut-off to advance to the next round). So, we’ll be having a 24 hour tiebreaking vote for these two sets of movies before advancing the tournament to the next round.

If any of these movies should still be tied by the end of the voting period (noon EST tomorrow, March 8), we’ll break the tie by their original seeding. You may only vote once.

Here are the two play-in overtime matches:



We’re not going to list the results of every one of the 220 movies in the play-in round: you can see the outcome here (keeping in mind that the top 5 vote-getters in each group advanced). We will mention that the top overall movie was Videodrome (voted for 75 times); no other movie got more than 70 votes (Wild at Heart received the next highest number of votes, at 67). The two movies that squeaked in with the smallest number of votes were The Falls and Rubin & Ed. The movie that G. Smalley personally was saddest to see eliminated in the first round was Prospero’s Books. We were encouraged to see the depth of knowledge shown by voters: some pretty obscure movies (1934’s Maniac, 1968’s Goke, Body Snatcher from Hell) made the cut, and people did not simply vote for the most recent and recognizable Hollywood titles (the oldest movie on the list, 1922’s Häxan, won its group handily). Great job, readers! You are probably the most informed group of cult cinephiles on the Net.

CAPSULE: PARIS IS US (2019)

Paris est à nous

DIRECTED BY: Elisabeth Vogler

FEATURING: Noémie Schmidt, Grégoire Isvarine, Marie Mottet, Lou Castel

PLOT: Anna does not go on her boyfriend’s flight that crashes; back in Paris, she becomes increasingly detached from herself and society.

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: Alhough there are many Canonical titles that, it could be argued, are a bit incomprehensible, they also necessarily have some verve, panache, charming idiosyncrasy, or other stylistic or narrative merit. Paris Is Us is wanting for a purpose to complement its opacity. If you seek aimless ennui worth watching, check out Godard‘s early works instead.

COMMENTS: Two interesting things happened within minutes of each other when I began Paris Is Us. The first was a demonstration of the differences between dubbed dialogue and subtitled dialogue. (For reasons unknown, Netflix defaults to the English-language dub when available for its foreign fare.) The second was my cat hunting my pen as I waited patiently to find something worth writing down. That excitement out of the way (by correcting the audio to play the French-language track and by my cat nestling down to go to sleep next to me), I found myself trapped for the long-haul of a not-particularly-organized (and even less happy) spewing of montage.

Regular readers of my reviews know that this is the “plot” paragraph. There isn’t much more to say beyond the bare-bones description above. (And I’m probably repeating this ruse, now that I think of it.) The few minutes of dialogue in English perhaps skewered the whole viewing experience, as I couldn’t get the whole Frat-bro dialogue out of my mind while the (now) French-speaking twenty-somethings went on ad nauseum about: What if we’re all in a video-game? Isn’t there more to life than money? And can we even do anything about the state of this world that so drives us to European angst? Clattering around these musings were some specific lines that stood out, working at least as spoken in French (I shudder to think of the Frat Bro voice dub), like “I wanted it to create something so I could feel… alive” (in regards to hoping two planes might crash into each other overhead), and “We have something unique. We can’t throw it away” (said in the midst of one of the incessant fights between Anna and Greg).

I admit this is a really lazy review, but I only give the film-makers a qualified apology. Paris Is Us could have been tossed together by any freshman-level film students given cameras and a Parisian backdrop. The first act was long enough to make me dislike the protagonists; the second act stretched one obliquely conveyed tragedy across twenty-odd minutes; and the third act’s only saving grace was the random appearance of the only older character (Lou Castel), an ex-con on his way to visit his daughter’s grave. He has moved on with his life in the face of his double-tragedy, and the young ‘uns in the rest of the movie could do well to learn from his example. The administrator described this as “your oddest gamble” for Oscar week. It was a gamble. I have lost, but you needn’t do so.

Paris Is Us streams exclusively on Netflix (at least for the time being).

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“Ce qui frappe immédiatement dans PARIS EST À NOUS, c’est son incroyable ambition esthétique. L’équipe du film prouve que la configuration de tournage imposée par son économie de moyen n’est absolument pas un frein à la qualité visuelle du métrage, bien au contraire.” –Aurélien, leblogducinema.com1)I’m keeping this quote in French because, like the movie, it sounds much more complex this way than it actually is.

“…a surreal slog in search of a plot.”–Joel Keller, Decider

References   [ + ]

1. I’m keeping this quote in French because, like the movie, it sounds much more complex this way than it actually is.

CAPSULE: THE CLOVERFIELD PARADOX (2018)

DIRECTED BY: Julius Onah

FEATURING: Gugu Mbatha-Raw, David Oyelowo, Elizabeth Debicki, Chris O’Dowd, Daniel Brühl, John Ortiz, Aksel Hennie, Ziyi Zhang

PLOT: Scientists orbit the Earth attempting to use a particle accelerator to solve the world’s energy crisis, but accidentally open a portal to a parallel universe.

Still from The Cloverfield Paradox (2018)

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: When we first heard of The Cloverfield Paradox, it never occurred to us to consider it as a weird movie, given the straight sci-fi nature of the series’ two previous installments. But quotes like “might get a bit weird” and “it’s just sort of…..weird” from average-Joe reviewers out there put it on our radar screen. And by gum, they were right: it is “a bit” and “sort of” weird. But unfortunately, it’s not worth watching for fans of weird films, and will only appeal to the most dedicated remaining fans of the Cloverfield franchise, while driving many away from the series.

COMMENTS: I’m a fan of producer J.J. Abrams’ concept of making each movie set in the Cloverfield universe in a different style (I really want to see what they’ll do with the romantic comedy Cloverfield, I Love You), but the “confusing sci-fi B-movie with dodgy quantum science” genre was a bad choice for this third entry. The Cloverfield Paradox is so bad that it looks like a potential franchise-killer. Greenlighting this script is a hard-to-justify choice after the series just hit an unexpected peak with its second movie, the Twilight Zone-y thriller 10 Cloverfield Lane.

On The Cloverfield Paradox‘s parallel universe version of CNN, a talking head author warns of the dangers of mankind’s desperate space-based attempt to solve its debilitating energy crisis: “Every time they test [the particle accelerator] they risk tearing open the membrane of space-time, smashing together multiple dimensions, shattering reality…” As is always the case in bad B-movies, the wild-eyed guy with the off-the-wall jargon-laced theory he pulled out of his ass is (surprise) actually correct. Paradox‘s plot is bonkers, in a bad way. It adopts a mumbo-jumbo parallel universe theory in which anything can happen; there’s no rule book to follow, so the screenwriters are free to be as lazy as they want to, in pursuit of cheap special effects payoffs. In particular, one bizarre bit involving Chris O’Dowd’s arm beggars belief. I won’t spoil it (although other reviewers have detailed it to make a point about how absurd this movie’s plotting is) except to say that something  similar could easily have fit into “Twin Peaks: The Return.” The problem, of course, is that Paradox is not “Twin Peaks” in space (which would be admittedly cool). “Twin Peaks” exists in a self-contained surreal universe where suspension of disbelief is not a relevant consideration. Paradox expects us to take its revelations seriously, as (perhaps crucial) canon in an extended universe.

Aside from its off-the-rails plot, the rest of the film isn’t much better. Despite having a couple of accomplished actors in the sprawling cast (O’Dowd and Debicki), the characters are given nothing very interesting to do. Gugu Mbatha-Raw, as a reluctant communications officer with a tragic past, does her best to generate some sympathy in a lost cause. The rest of the satellite crew make little impact, but the worst offender is the lone Chinese member, who is given minimal dialogue for one simple reason: she can’t speak English. How hard can it be to find a Chinese actress who speaks a little broken English, even phonetically? Can the other crew members actually see her subtitles when she speaks? Given the singular importance of this mission to all of mankind, why waste a precious slot on a crew member who can only communicate with her trilingual German boyfriend?

A minor quibble, perhaps, but a movie made up of nothing but a series of minor quibbles quickly grows old. Another example: the ship’s onboard gravity generator saves the filmmakers from having to deal with cool-looking but expensive zero-G realities, but is explained away with a hand-wave. A few cool moments, like the discovery of a woman in the walls and some independently moving eyeballs, can’t salvage the general feeling that the movie is punching way above its weight class, and getting pummeled in the process. Watch Paradox long enough, and you’re sure to say “I have no idea what’s going on.” A fine reaction for a movie, but not the effect Julius Onah was going for.

Paradox was adapted from a script called The God Particle and retrofitted for the Cloverfield universe. Although a similar gamble paid off in 10 Cloverfield Lane, this outing suggests that a new strategy of producing films actually designed to fit into the series is warranted. The producers decided not to waste everyone’s time with a theatrical release, instead dumping Paradox onto Netflix as a surprise release after Super Bowl LII. A fourth Cloverfield movie is planned, but to succeed, it will need to find a way to overcome this Paradox.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“The filmmaking is incredibly bland, the story can’t figure out if it’s having fun with the weirdness or not, and the tie in to Cloverfield is gimmicky, leaving you with way more questions than answers.”–Joey Magidson, Hollywood News (contemporaneous)

APOCRYPHA CANDIDATE: FRANKENSTEIN ISLAND (1981)

Beware

DIRECTED BY:

FEATURING: , Steve Brodie, Cameron Mitchell, Katherine Victor, (?)

PLOT: A crew of hot air balloon travelers land on a remote desert island and encounter the great-grand-daughter of Dr. Frankenstein presiding over an assortment of natives and other random people.

Still from Frankenstein Island (1981)

WHY IT MIGHT MAKE THE LIST: An extreme low-budget B-movie director of legendarily bad productions, Jerry Warren is no stranger to our pages here. Frankenstein Island stands out as his only color film, a movie he made after a 15-year hiatus, and his final film. In spite of all that, it manages to out-crazy everything else he ever done, not to mention being the most deranged film with the name “Frankenstein” in its title, a major feat in itself.

COMMENTS: Move over, Plan 9 From Outer Space, Manos: The Hands Of Fate, and even The Room:  we have a new contender for “so bad it’s hilarious!” If Frankenstein Island (1981) isn’t a candidate for “worst movie ever made,” that’s only because it’s too crammed full of jaw-droppingly bonkers scenes to be not-entertaining. As is typical for a Jerry Warren experience, count on muddled story structure, random stock footage inserted into the plot, extreme budget sets, abrupt day-night transitions, wooden acting, and new lows in filmmaking incompetence all around. What follows is a stalwart attempt to convey what’s going on, to the best of my ability; please be advised that in-movie continuity errors and contradictions make some details hard to pin down.

Four men and a dog fly in a pair of hot air balloons on a little-explained recon errand (later said to be a balloon race). They end up on a desert island because they ran out of stock balloon footage, and start exploring on a quest to build a raft to escape—despite leaning on a rubber dingy while discussing this plan. In due order, they encounter (1) a tribe of Amazon natives in leopard-print bikinis, (2) a cult of zombie-like/robot-like men in black shirts, who kidnap natives and get up to other mischief, (3) a mad prisoner in a cell who raves in Edgar Allan Poe references, (4) a jolly drunk in an eye-patch who can not stop laughing and acts as the men’s guide, while guffawing “HAR HAR HAR HAAAAAR,” and finally (5) a woman, Sheila (previously referred to as “Xira”), wearing a pile of wigs, who claims to be the great-grand-daughter of the original Dr. Frankenstein. Her invalid husband Dr. Von Helsing is there too. Sheila Frankenstein carries on some kind of mad science research in a suspiciously modern and well-furnished mansion and laboratory on an island where everybody else lives in shanties. The black-shirt thugs are her minions, the natives were there when she got there, she’s on a quest to cure Continue reading APOCRYPHA CANDIDATE: FRANKENSTEIN ISLAND (1981)

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