Tag Archives: Adam Cooley

ADAM COOLEY’S 10 WEIRDEST MOVIES EVER

Adam Cooley (IMDB entry) is a microbudget film director and an experimental musician with the band Scissor Shock. All of his movies are available for free download from his personal site. You can also watch his output and see his favorites from others on his YouTube channel. We invited Adam to submit a “top 10 weird movies” list in 2011; here it is…

This list was really hard to compile, since I mainly watch what a lot of people would describe as ‘weird’ films—experimental, underground, off-beat, subversive cinema is what I’m primarily interested in—so I basically had to think about hundreds, if not thousands, of films for possible inclusion here. So, when asked to do this list, it took me a couple of years (!) to compile it and be happy with the end result, as I constantly felt the need to change it up. As such, many great little weird gems (Elevator Movie, Daisies, Frownland, Back Against the Wall, Small White House, Beaver Trilogy, SpaceDiscoOne, Pastoral: To Die in the Country, Liquid Sky) had to go.

To make this list a bit easier on myself, I decided to completely get rid of any hand-drawn/computer-drawn animated entries, which really could be a whole other list (if you’re curious, look into “Xavier: Renegade Angel,” “Popee the Performer,” and especially look into the works of Yoji Kuri), which obviously includes anime (the truly disturbing and strange Midori, Kuchu Buranko: Trapeze—the weirdest anime I’ve ever seen—and the more obvious but still surprisingly offbeat stuff like “Paranoia Agent,” “Serial Experiments Lain,” “Boogiepop Phantom,” and the last two episodes of “Neon Genesis Evangelion”).

I also decided to get rid of shorts which means I had to get rid of titles by Toshio Matsumoto (Phantom) (Emotion-–and, yes, I know not having Hausu is a big hole in my list), or Shuji Terayama (nearly his entire experimental film works series made drafts of this list at various points).

Finally, I got rid of any “collection” DVD’s here (though my top choice is disputable, note that all 30 shorts for it were made specifically for the DVD; it wasn’t a bunch of little shorts made at different times thrown into a collection). As such, I deleted such gems as “Phantom Museums” by Brothers Quay, “The Complete Short Films of Jan Svankmajer”, and Jeff Keen’s amazing set “GAZWRX” (which would be my # 1 choice for this list if I included collections here — watch this set immediately!).  So, basically, I tried to mostly include actual “movies” here — 90-ish minutes, with actual distribution, mostly available on DVD, some by established directors, though I would love to compile separate lists of some of the stuff I excluded here.

Anyway, sorry for the long-winded explanation, but without further ado, here’s ten of the weirdest movies ever…

Still from Surviving Life (2012)10. Surviving Life (Theory and Practice) [Prezít Svuj Zivot] (2010):  needs no introduction; he is quite the influential and brilliant experimental filmmaker. Really, many of his full length features—and almost all of his shorts (if I’d allowed them)—could have fit into this list. However, I chose this film, his most recent, which is almost a compilation of all his bizarre techniques, though he also invented lots of new weird devices specific to this film. The backgrounds the characters interact with are odd, mixing computer-generated elements with handmade sets. A lot of the film is still pictures of the characters, although there is plenty of stop-motion animation too. Beyond the presentation, there are also plenty of weird characters, like the pet man with a bulldog head. Visually, this film is even stranger to look at than most of the films on this list, but the storyline is a bit more coherent and conventional than upcoming entries—not to mention that several of the weirdest sequences take place inside of a dream, whereas most of the aforementioned films place their stranger moments in reality—hence why this is down here at # 10. Atill, I highly recommend this film. Top notch editing, acting, and artistry are on display here.

9. Death Powder (1986): The first draft of this list was dominated by Japanese films—Labyrinth of Dreams, Pinocchio 964, Rampo Noir, Hausu, Continue reading ADAM COOLEY’S 10 WEIRDEST MOVIES EVER

“CURRENTLY UNTITLED” AND THE AVANT-GARDE

In the 1980s art scene, the fine arts were divided into camps. In one camp there was the dominating, self-proclaimed avant-garde, and in the other, smaller camps were the Surrealists, the expressionists, the pop artists, the hyper-realists, and the traditionalists.  I tended to pitch my tent with the expressionists and, with some reservations, the Surrealists and the pop artists as well. While I never gave much credence at all to the hyper-realists or the traditionalists who bored me to tears then (now I simply have succumbed to impatient avoidance and dismissal of that unimaginative, fundamentalist lot), I also have kept the self-proclaimed avant-garde at bay, possibly because I suspect, like the Dadaists and Surrealists suspected, that the avant-garde tends towards overt, dull academia and/or superficiality.

A few years ago I read a review of a Ken Russell film (unfortunately, I did not have the foresight to document the source); the critic essentially took Russell to task for being a failed avant-gardist who straddled the road between populist art and the avant-garde.  While the critic had some validity in his assessments of Russell’s work, I felt he missed the mark.  Russell was never a member of the avant-garde.  Rather, he was a hard school Surrealist whose work has been passionately  uneven.  Surrealism, of course, has as its vital focal point ordinary expressions, that are then blurred by dreams and imagination.  The imaginative dream realm would not exist without the warm-blooded center of reality.  Of course, bad Surrealism (or poor imitation of Surrealism) tends to look like the academia of the avante-garde when it loses that vital core, and perhaps that is why the “naïve surrealists” have been so rightly celebrated.

The avant-garde, on the other hand, has always promoted art for art sake.  It is an atheistic aesthetic of pure abstraction, and while it first produced a startling movement in many mediums, its tendency towards superficiality quickly took hold.  In painting, abstract expressionism became decorative works for the business office; in film, such experiments soon became tedious efforts which jettisoned any and all connections with humanity; and in music, post-Webern electronic experimentation became so disassociated that it made all-too valid Arnold Schoenberg’s question, “but, are they making music with it?”[1].

Of course, this is an over simplified and somewhat idiosyncratic distinction, and to do it justice is beyond the scope or goal of this review, but this description can temporarily suffice.  Part of the problem in associating Ken Russell with the avant-garde is Russell’s  impetuous giddiness, his desire to be the eternal bad boy, which is filtered through consummate craftsmanship and even occasional sophistication underneath that rebel persona.  Russell’s work, while often deeply flawed, is seldom dull. The vitality of his Surrealist oeuvre (at least his strongest works) can be found in an idiosyncratic vision of  a journey through dramatic, personal, human experience.

Recently, I came across Indiana filmmaker’s Adam Cooley’s 2010 feature, Currently Untitled,


Part 1 of Currently Untitled (see director’s YouTube page for the other 4 installments)

Continue reading “CURRENTLY UNTITLED” AND THE AVANT-GARDE

  1. Schoenberg was the father of the twelve-tone method.  His pupil, Anton Webern, became a favorite influence among the disciples. Towards the end of his life Schoenberg was asked if he realized young musicians were copying his twelve tone method, to which he replied with the question above []