Tag Archives: Natasha Lyonne

CAPSULE: ANTIBIRTH (2016)

DIRECTED BY:

FEATURING: , , Meg Tilly, Mark Weber, Maxwell McCabe-Lokos

PLOT: A hard living party-girl finds herself pregnant, without remembering how.

Still from Antibirth (2016)

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: Antibirth is satisfying for horror fans looking for a few surreal thrills, but it’s more of an announcement of what Perez might be capable of in the future than it is a current achievement in weirdness. In the end, despite some bizarre plotting, Antibirth resolves itself as standard scare fare.

COMMENTS: Antibirth is a stoner version of Rosemary’s Baby, with a touch of Cronenbergian body horror and a dab of hallucinatoriness (and maybe a bit of Jacob’s Ladder in there, too). Disquieting dream sequences, paranoia, peeling skin, and a grossout birth highlight the horror; but what is perhaps even more surprising is that the film almost works best as a character study. When you’re in your twenties, wasting your weekends on joints, pills and whiskey at all night raves is adventurous. When you enter your thirties and you’re still chasing that buzz every day, it’s clear that you’ve given up on getting anything more out of life—including a family. This is where Lou finds herself, when she puts down the bong for five minutes of self-reflection. Hedonism has become a pleasure-free hassle for her, a hazy daily obligation. She takes the news that she might be pregnant with the resignation of someone who thinks she might be coming down with the flu. The news has no effect on her smoking, toking and drinking decisions, though perhaps some effect on her snacking choices.

Natasha Lyonne was absolutely the right choice for Lou; her defiant, almost principled refusal to take responsibility for the life growing inside her holds the film together while the plot is simultaneously spinning out of control and spinning its wheels. Traditional thinking might have been to cast the more glamorous Sevigny as the victim, putting the quirkier Lyonne into the wisecracking sidekick role; but having the heroine and the comic relief inhabit the same body works better in this context. Half of her dialogue is delivered while trying to hold in pot smoke, and she gets off some good lines: “I don’t talk about aliens when I’m getting high. I have a strict policy.” As Sadie, Sevigny gets a couple of involuntary zingers, too: “We need to accept this, every pregnancy is different,” she offers, when Lou’s already full-term after a week’s gestation.

The dream sequence featuring furry purple Teletubby mutants with expressionless porcelain faces presiding over an alien insemination is Antibirth‘s take-home vision, but there is enough oddness—a cleft-palette Russian urine slave, and the plethora of public access weirdos glimpsed briefly on antenna TV stations—to put the timid mainstream viewer off long before that pièce de résistance arrives. Overall, Antibirth is uneven, but highly watchable thanks to the compulsive trainwreck bad behavior of Lyonne’s anti-heroine. Some people just shouldn’t procreate.

We first met Danny Perez with 2010’s Oddsac, the psychedelic, feature-length “visual album” for freak-folkers Animal Collective. It’s something of a surprise that he had to wait six years before giving birth to his first feature; the material may not be mainstream, but the result is accomplished.

It is a complete, but happy, accident that this review is originally published on Labor Day.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“Weird, messy and oddly fascinating, this low-budget horror movie parlays its ‘Rosemary”s Baby-to-the-nth-degree premise into a gross-out fever dream aimed at fans of the way, way out.”–Maitland McDonaugh, Film Journal International (contemporaneous)

73. THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION OF LITTLE DIZZLE (2009)

Recommended

“It was smart and weird and different and exciting.  I was just curious to see how it would turn out.”–Actress Tania Raymonde on The Immaculate Conception of Little Dizzle script

DIRECTED BY: David Russo

FEATURING: Marshall Allman, Vince Vieluf, , Tania Raymonde, Tygh Runyan

PLOT: Dory has a good job as a data manager, but he throws it all away when he stomps a co-worker’s cellphone in a fit of sanctimonious anger.  Jobless and desperate, he takes up with a band of janitors led by Weird William, a transvestite Gulf War vet.  When the cleaning crew pilfer experimental cookies from the garbage can of a marketing research firm, they discover that the addictive treats have odd side effects: not only do they cause hallucinations, they also make men who eat them pregnant.

Still from The Immaculate Conception of Little Dizzle (2009)

BACKGROUND:

  • Writer/director David Russo worked himself through college as a janitor.  He was deeply affected by an incident where he found an undisposed of miscarriage in a toilet bowl, and that sight became the genesis of The Immaculate Conception of Little Dizzle.
  • Dizzle is only cinematographer Neil Holcomb’s second feature film as Director of Photography, but since childhood he has worked on over fifty major movies and television shows as a gaffer, best boy, or grip.  At age twelve he got his second job in movies, working in the electrical department on David Lynch‘s Blue Velvet (1986) .
  • The film was distributed by Tribeca Film, in association with American Express.  It’s strange to see corporate sponsorship for an underground, anti-corporate movie, and it will be interesting to see if the trend continues.

INDELIBLE IMAGE: A smear of fluorescent blue in a porcelain-white toilet bowl.  Other images are more arresting, but this is the one that recurs over and over: in hallucinations, hanging on the wall of a snooty art gallery, and as a “grade A blowout” discovered in a commode by the janitors on their appointed rounds.

WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD:  It may be a comedy about male pregnancy, but this is no obvious Hollywood yuk-fest like Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Junior.  There’s a minimum of morning sickness jokes, and a maximum psychedelic cookie freak-outs.  About society’s outsiders and their skewed experiences in a society that’s more insane than they are, Dizzle is made in the underground spirit of Alex Cox’s Repo Man, but with contemporary digital visual gags reminiscent of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.  This is a movie that contains a cross-dressing, pot-smoking, ex-military entrepreneur named “Weird William”—and he’s barely a footnote in the catalog of the movie’s oddities.


Original trailer for The Immaculate Conception of Little Dizzle

COMMENTS:  For about ninety minutes, Little Dizzle races along with an insane, kitchen sink Continue reading 73. THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION OF LITTLE DIZZLE (2009)