Tag Archives: Daryl Hannah

CAPSULE: PARADOX (2018)

DIRECTED BY: Daryl Hannah

FEATURING: , Lukas Nelson, Micah Nelson, Corey McCormick, Anthony LoGerfo, Tato Melgar, Willie Nelson

PLOT: “Many moons ago, in the future…” a gang of cowboy-style fellows scratch out an existence on a remote farm; they’ve been exiled there by women-folk, who have proven better stewards of the earth. And there’s also Neil Young concert.

Still from Paradox (2018)

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: This odd little film would conceivably make the cut (albeit waaay down the list) if it weren’t for the fact that, mid-way through, it becomes a Neil Young concert movie for about ten minutes. During the narrative bit, though, performer Neil Young and director Daryl Hannah (yes, that Daryl Hannah) have assembled a passable bit of amateurish art-house and strangely compelling “W.T.F.” meanderishness that’s not without its charm.

COMMENTS: What do you get when you combine a legendary country star, an environmental activist director kicking around, and down-time? Paradox is one possible answer. Neil Young, in his 21st acting role, narrates and stars in this 60 + 15-minute[1] diversion, bringing along with him a couple of scions in Willie Nelson and other outlandishly talented musicians who, after all is said and done, make a decent fist of playing post-apocalyptic versions of themselves.

Daryl Hannah makes full use of every camera filter at her disposal and every little bit of editing trickery to render, visually, what might have once existed as a campfire tall-tale. Random shots of animals create an ambience that is both cute and natural, as well provide the occasional “What the…?” moment. (One shot with a very quizzical-looking deer seemingly watching over the action is particularly effective.) Our lads, of all ages, burn time talking, gambling, and digging up trash-treasure while waiting around for the “Gray Eagle”: a bus full of women who, in Paradox‘s loose narrative, are the Earth’s stewards. And Neil Young looks cryptic. Then he wanders the land toting a rifle. Then he plays his guitar. Then he looks like he might partake in a quick-draw with Willie Nelson. You get the picture.

Stripped of its concert footage center, Paradox would have made a nice little entry in one of 366’s appendices. But as this brief review has remarked, it’s nothing more than the sum of its circumstances: Neil Young and company with a few days to kill, Daryl Hannah with a movie camera and time to spare, and an impromptu feel derived from the director’s “one take” methodology. Lives will not be changed (though the occasional preachiness of Paradox suggests they wouldn’t mind if they were), but the world isn’t worse off for having this odd little digression into music, philosophy, allegory, and black hats.

Available exclusively on Netflix (at least for the time being).

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“Once upon a time, a film like ‘Paradox,’ a vaguely hallucinatory sci-fi/Western hybrid with legendary rocker Neil Young at its hazy center, would have found its natural home on the midnight movie circuit. Alas, the midnight movie scene is practically dead, and it is therefore instead debuting on Netflix, which will at least make it more convenient for its target audience of Young completists, people too stoned to make it out their front doors and those who felt that ‘Masked and Anonymous’ was far too lucid and commercial-minded for their tastes.” – Peter Sobczynski,  RogerEbert.com (contemporaneous)

  1. The “movie” itself is about an hour; unlike many people who might watch this, I could have done without the concert interlude lifted from Young’s 2016 tour. []

READER RECOMMENDATION: KILL BILL (VOLS. 1 & 2) (2003-2004)

Reader recommendation by Caleb Moss

DIRECTED BY:

FEATURING: , , , Lucy Liu, Michael Madsen, Vivica A. Fox

PLOT: A woman known only as “the Bride” awakens from a coma and sets off to wreak revenge on Bill and the team of assassins that betrayed her.

Still from Kill Bill
WHY IT SHOULD MAKE THE LIST: By the sole merit of being Quentin Tarantino’s most self-indulgent, ambitious and proudly artificial film. Not only is this Tarantino at the height of his formalistic film-making capabilities, this kinetic and entertaining work of ultraviolent pornography may perhaps be the most aesthetically alienating and divisive in his filmography, even to the adamant Tarantino fanbase. It’s therefore worth considering for the List not only as representative of Quentin Tarantino, but as being the seminal representative of the postmodern exploitation genre at its tautest and most entertaining.

COMMENTS: Have you ever been curious what kind of film  would direct if he was perpetually stuck with the brain of a hyper-intelligent, hyperactive 14-year old and had an obsessive penchant for wanton violence, manga, and endlessly deconstructing pop-culture ephemera? This is your movie.

Adhering to the already well-established standard on this website in which the quality of the film discussed can merit inclusion on the List when the degree of weirdness is more or less questionable, I will waste no further time on exalting the blood-drenched beauty of this film, and instead shall provide three reasons why this is Tarantino’s weirdest film:

1. Aesthetic Design: If you’re the film-obsessive type, then every frame of this movie will feel as if you’re being treated to a Nouvelle Vague-themed candy store whose wares are arranged in an array of colorful nods to exploitation and B-movie cinema (see the crimson skies inspired by the Certified Weird film Goke in Volume 1!) The film alternates so frequently between different cinematic modes and filters ranging from anime (a segment animated by  of Funky Forest fame!) to black and white to the striking image of the faces of Uma Thurman’s enemies superimposed over hers in a garish red hue.

2. Unreal and Hyperstylized Violence: Tarantino, a renowned purveyor of aestheticized violence, slices and dices himself a place within the annals of such maestros of perverse, arty carnage among the likes of Sam Peckinpah, , and Sergio Leone. Blood spurts out like ribbons from expertly cut limbs. Our revenge-bent protagonist literally survives a gunshot to her temple simply through the revitalizing force of pure hatred. Uma Thurman dismembers over eighty-eight Yakuza grunts—and then some—effortlessly. A custom-made katana can literally tear down both man and deity alike.

3. Non-Linear Chronology: As in Pulp Fiction, the Kill Bill series structures itself after postmodern narrative, preferring to splice up its epic story as if the entire film was being projected as the murderous fever-dream of an over-caffeinated geek.

Unlike Pulp Fiction, however, the Kill Bill series manages to achieve what its widely-loved predecessor only aims at: rendering pure, unadulterated pulp into a cinematic showcase for gloriously nihilistic Pop-Art. Motifs of blood, sharpened steel, and fantastical dismemberment recur frequently until it all blurs together, a savage yet strangely mesmerizing poetry.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“A strange, fun and densely textured work that gets better as it goes along… Few filmmakers have ever had the freedom and resources to make such a piece exactly as they wished, and Tarantino takes it so far that it becomes a highly idiosyncratic and deeply personal excursion into a world of movie-inspired unreality.”–Todd McCarthy, Variety (Vol. 1, contemporaneous)

 

CAPSULE: NORTHFORK (2003)

DIRECTED BY: Michael Polish

FEATURING: , Duel Farnes, , Mark Polish, , Robin Sachs, Anthony Edwards

PLOT: In 1955, officials try to convince reluctant residents of Northfork, Montana to leave before the town is flooded due to new dam construction; meanwhile, a dying orphan sees a ghostly family and tries to persuade them to adopt him.

Still from Northfork (2003)
WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: Its monster-dog-on-stilts and odd angel quartet put it in the weird wheelhouse, and it is a well-made movie, but we’ve got to draw the line somewhere. There are better weird movies out there, including at least one movie made by the twin brother team behind Northfork.

COMMENTS: Set in a dusty and doomed, mostly abandoned Montana community that’s about to be buried under a deluge thanks to a public dam-building project, Northfork cultivates a feeling of quiet desperation. An evacuation committee, who dress like undertakers and drive hearse-like black Ford sedans, glide about town trying to convince stragglers to leave town. Meanwhile, in an even less cheery plot, an angelic young orphan lies dying, cared for by the town’s priest, too sick to adopt. His deathbed hallucinations involve visions of a quartet of ghostly beings who may or may not exist outside of the boy’s head. As befits the parched, deathly setting, Northfork is a slow and restrained movie. The performances, especially by Woods as the bureaucrat struggling with the memory of his wife’s death and Nolte as the melancholy orphanage priest, are stoic. Their weathered Western faces are pinched with sadness; their performances are appropriately and affectingly world-weary, but also one-note. Visually, the film is washed out and drained of color—although simultaneously full of sunshine and light, just like the Great Plains during a drought.

This reserved sense of departure is consistent throughout the film, but the one thing that isn’t at all subtle are all the angels. Despite the fact that one of the town’s residents has built his own ark, the celestial symbolism is laid on even thicker than the Great Flood imagery. Wings pop up everywhere, and so do feathers, passing between the dream world and the real world. The orphan is referred to as an angel, and in fact believes himself to be one. Actually, the nods to angels are made so literal that they cease be symbols, and simply become a feature of the plot landscape. The angelism becomes almost kitschy, and works against the restraint shown by the rest of the movie.

While I’ve managed to find a lot to complain about here, Northfork is really a beautiful looking and meditative movie, and one that is capable of pulling out a few weird surprises from time to time (like the wooden dog creature on stilts, and the odd guessing game the evacuators have to play to order a meal at the diner). The setting of the nearly abandoned town, with floodwaters about to descend upon it, is wonderful, but suggests more meaning than the script is capable of delivering. The parallelism between the dying town and the dying boy is thought provoking, but upon consideration the story doesn’t lead us anywhere. Norfolk displays the trappings of spirituality, but it doesn’t have a real spiritual message to convey. The best I can come up with is that the film is pro-immortality, at least in theory.

The scenario was inspired by Northfork Dam, a hydroelectric project instituted during the Depression that buried several small farming communities under a man-made lake. Northfork Lake is in Arkansas rather than Montana.

Michael and Mark Polish are twin brothers; Michael directs (and sometimes acts) while Mark writes and acts. The Metropolitan DVD of Northfork is out of print and fetching a pretty price, so the curious viewer may prefer to try it on instant video instead.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“It has that vintage Polish pace, their signature arch pomposity and rhythmless weirdness, only this time the brothers had to go and make a cosmic allegory of American dreams.”–Owen Glieberman, Entertainment Weekly (contemporaneous)

(This movie was nominated for review by Kat Doherty, who recalled that it’s “the boy’s trips back and forth between two realities which make up some of the most haunting parts of the film.” Suggest a weird movie of your own here.)