Category Archives: Top 10 Lists

TOP 10 WEIRD MOVIES OF 2017

2017 saw a decrease in the number of truly great weird films released. Maybe it was because the year’s political climate was so bizarre that no surrealist could outweird reality: what screenwriter could come up with a character as absurd as “the Mooch“? Whatever the reason, we only saw two 2017 releases (so far, at least) attain the coveted “Certified Weird” status, versus five laureates in 2016. On the other hand, it was an excellent year for re-releases, with the Oedipal transvestites of Funeral Parade of Roses once again tramping across arthouse screens, and ‘s chicken-centric giallo Death Laid an Egg getting a clucking good restoration and subsequent Blu-ray debut. And any year which sees new films from a particularly fervid , a relatively restrained , and a steadily strange Yorgos Lanthimos can be called a loser—and that’s not even mentioning ‘s return to the small screen with the absolutely bizarre “Twin Peaks: The Return.” So let’s pay tribute to the weirdness of 2017 past: the eel transfusions, killer mermaid musicals, and rectum-faced women that strangened our screens, while we look forward to the oddness certain to come in this weird year of our Lord 2018.

The Lure Weirdest Movie of 2017As for the choice of movies, as always, I personally pick them using a secret proprietary formula that accounts for cinematic craftsmanship, the degree of surrealism/weirdness, and the perceived prestige in the weird movie community based on buzz and reader feedback, then I rank them in whatever arbitrary order I momentarily feel like without regard to any of that. As always, we list the films in random order—the weirdest of orders.

7. Slack Bay  – Unexplained disappearances plague a seaside resort frequented by an odd bourgeois family. Slack Bay finds writer/director carrying over a number of themes and tropes from his hit television miniseries Lil’ Quinquin: the resort setting, bumbling gendarmes, and a mixture of absurdist comedy and dark metaphysical mystery. Our mused “The film goes all in on the oddness, contrasting over-the-top dramatics with an aggressively blasé attitude toward the more salacious elements of its story. Writer/director Bruno Dumont wants very badly to put you off your guard, mixing in livewire topics like cannibalism, incest, and gender confusion with characters who are carefully calculated to be ridiculous.”

1. The Lure [Córki Dancingu– Certified weird! We’ve been waiting for two years for ‘s 2015 Polish debut The Continue reading TOP 10 WEIRD MOVIES OF 2017

TOP 10 MOVIES OF 2017 – MAINSTREAM EDITION

Here is my annual top 10 list of movies, ranked according to mainstream standards. In other words, weird movies are allowed in this list, but I attempt to rank 2017 releases according to their general merit, as a guide intended for people who don’t specialize in the genre. Therefore, a provocative, nearly Surrealist film like mother! will rank highly in a year-end weird movie list, but only earns an honorable mention as a notable 2017 release here. (That said, there is an entry here to shock the unaware). Stay tuned for the top 10 weird movies of 2017 at a later hour.

2017 Honorable mentions (in alphabetical order): Baahubali 2; Baby Driver; The Big Sick; Brawl in Cell Block 99; City of Ghosts; Columbus; A Cure for Wellness; Darkest Hour; Dunkirk; The Florida Project; A Ghost Story; Graduation; Jane; The Killing of a Sacred Deer; Lady Bird; The Lego Batman Movie; Logan; The Lost City of Z; mother!; My Entire High School Sinking into the Sea; A Quiet Passion; Star Wars: The Last Jedi; Stronger; Thelma;Thor: Ragnarok; The Women’s Balcony; Wonder Woman; Your Name

10. Mudbound: The epic tale of two families–black sharecroppers and white landowners–in Jim Crow Mississippi, and the unlikely (and tragic) friendship between two sons who bond over their WWII service. Great historical detail, a fine ensemble cast, and a chilling ending are the high points in this excellent adaptation of Hillary Jordan’s novel. A Netflix production with a limited theatrical release.

9. Only the Brave: Trying to clean up so he can support his daughter, a recovering drug addict (Miles Teller) joins an ambitious wildfire-fighting crew led by a gruff workaholic (Josh Brolin). Nothing in this inspiringly macho adventure drama feels forced or exaggerated for effect; it is a honorable and touching tribute to the real life firemen who risk their lives to protect ours. Overlooked by both critics and box office patrons, this is a very solid, uncontroversial and inspirational movie that should move just about anyone.

8. I, Tonya: The true (?) story of Olympic ice skater Tonya Harding, from her abusive upbringing to the famous Nancy Kerrigan kneecapping incident that effectively ended her career. A tragicomic, distaff Raging Bull ripped straight from yesteryear’s tabloids, it’s entertaining, but also unexpectedly rich and quintessentially American. Chain-smoking stage mom Allison Janney makes for the year’s most hateful, unrepentant villains (at least, for those who miss Jonathan Banks in Mudbound).

7. The Disaster Artist: Struggling actor Greg Sestero befriends the odd, inept Tommy Wiseau—a mystery man of uncertain origins and bottomless wealth—who produces the disastrous self-indulgent camp classic The Room. The “making of” scenes of are very funny, but the core of the movie is the legitimate friendship between the two men—a call to stay loyal to those who show you loyalty, however weird they may be. If you’re looking for insights into Wiseau’s origins, the source of his fortune, or how he got to be so indescribably odd, you won’t find them here. But you’ll feel fondly towards him anyway.

6. Coco: A Mexican boy, the unhappy son of a family of music-hating Continue reading TOP 10 MOVIES OF 2017 – MAINSTREAM EDITION

10 WEIRDEST MOVIES OF 2016

Merriam-Webster anointed “surreal” the “Word of the Year” for 2016, so maybe the film world was just capitalizing on the zeitgeist when movies about a hotel prison for single people, a farting corpse, and an underage model devoured by the beautiful people all got major exposure on cinema screens this year. Old hands like and were joined by a promising crop of (often bloody) new blood: “,” , and Anna Biller. Pregnant druggies, greasy stranglers, and hooty-tooty disco cuties paraded across screens, while castaways rode corpses to freedom and Muppets assisted at the birth of Satanic alien spawn.

We had no problem filling out our list of ten weird ones for you to check out, and that’s not even counting the revival of 1973’s Belladonna of Sadness, the softcore psychedelic witchcraft rape-revenge anime that was so unseen it basically could count as a new release in 2016. We’re also leaving off a trio of features seen only at film festivals: the Polish mermaid musical The Lure; Psychonauts: The Forgotten Children, the feature-length expansion of the hit Spanish short film “Birdboy“; and She’s Allergic to Cats, the underground/avant-garde romantic comedy filled with grimy video art montages exploring the struggles of an L.A. dog groomer who wants to make a version of Carrie starring cats. (Plus the dialogue-free pharmaceutical horror [?] Atmo HorroX which, while not a favorite, beat everything in 2016 in terms of sheer weirdness). Any of those films would have made the list had they received actual distribution; hopefully, all of them will show up on next year’s list.

The Lobster Weirdest Movie 2016As for the choice of movies, I personally pick them using a secret proprietary formula that accounts for cinematic craftsmanship, the level of surrealism/weirdness, and the perceived prestige in the weird movie community based on buzz and reader feedback, then I rank them in whatever arbitrary order I momentarily feel like without regard to any of that. As always, we list the films in random order—the weirdest of orders.

9. The Brand New Testament: God is alive and living in Brussels, and he’s a jerk. His 10-year old daughter hacks his computer and leaks humanity’s death dates, then goes to Earth to write a new Gospel. Literate and genially blasphemous comedy with bizarre touches, like sleeping with a gorilla.  Also #6 on our 2016 mainstream movie list, which should tell you that it’s quality exceeds its weirdness. Director is already represented twice on the List of the 366 Weirdest Movies of All Time.

1. The Lobster – Certified Weird! Dogtooth‘s Continue reading 10 WEIRDEST MOVIES OF 2016

TOP 10 MOVIES OF 2016: THE MAINSTREAM EDITION

It’s fashionable to rag on 2016—with good reason—but this was an excellent year in film. My honorable mentions from the year past include a couple of fantastic foreign animated features that were ignored by the mainstream press: the French steampunk fantasy April and the Extraordinary World and Harmony, the only movie where the World Health Organization is cast as a villain. Also worthy of a mention are two-time Certified Weird director ‘s Arrival (almost a postmodern Close Encounters of the Third Kind) and I Am Not Your Negro, which is basically just Samuel L. Jackson reading unpublished reflections of writer James Baldwin—making it the most authoritative commentary on race relations in a year that included 13th and the epic O.J.: Made in America. Either could have made the top ten in a weaker year. We should also mention Weiner, a documentary giving us unprecedented access to the title character’s bizarre act of political self-destruction—a man so hounded by his own incomprehensible demons that he could not keep from publicly humiliating himself again even after the movie’s release. And how could we forget Swiss Army Man, which easily made the list of the 366 Best Weird Movies of All Time but barely missed 2016’s pan-genre top ten. With those out of the way, let’s get down to the ten films that did make the cut:

10. Peter and the Farm: Documentary following Peter Dunning, a depressed 68-year old alcoholic Vermonter who works his declining farm alone. Poetic and honest; Peter despairs, but keeps drinking and keeps farming, realizing he and his farm have become one. A good antidote to the populist and inspirational Gleason: not everyone is cheerfully persistent in the face of death. Some critics felt the documentary was exploitative, but I believe the articulate Peter is in full possession of his faculties (when sober) and is deliberately pushing our noses in a view of mortality we would prefer to deny.

9. Finding Dory: A fish with very early onset Alzheimer’s is lost in the ocean for years and tries to find her way back to her home and parents, assisted by characters from Finding Nemo, a “septopus,” and other colorful aquatic anthromorphs. There are four great things about this movie: the fast-moving plot, the cute sea creatures, the excellent animation, and I forgot the other one.

8. The Jungle Book: Mogwli, an orphaned “man cub” raised in the jungles of India by a pack of wolves, has adventures with the talking animals while fleeing the man-killing tiger Shere Khan. This is the first of Disney’s recent series of live action remakes that is clearly superior to the animated original. Jon Favreau keeps most of the humor and a little bit of the music but ramps up the peril and expands the scope so the movie feels like an epic adventure rather than a lightweight musical comedy.

7. Moana: Defying her parents, an island princess sails off to find a mischievous trickster demigod (voiced by the Rock) to help save her home. Once again, Disney successfully tweaks their formula with this Polynesian themed winner that features unique sidekicks (a particularly dumb chicken, an impudent tattoo) and adversaries (coconut pirates, a giant singing crab). The name had to be changed in Continue reading TOP 10 MOVIES OF 2016: THE MAINSTREAM EDITION

10 WEIRDEST MOVIES OF 2015

Another cinema year has come and gone, and as always, if you dig deeper than the blockbuster reboots of Mad Max and Star Wars or the conservative Oscar-bait dramas trotted out at the end of the year for Academy geriatrics to vote on, you will find some very strange creatures squirming around in the movie industry’s basement. Any year in which early cinema’s postmodern champion releases a movie is bound to be a rich one; add s long-awaited third chapter in his “being human” trilogy, a trippy big-budget adaptation, and some unclassifiable debuts by weirdo film upstarts, and you have a truly strange year in cinema. Transvestite samurai, Swedish kings, and instructions on how to take a bath await you in this tensome of the year’s most unusual films.

The Forbidden Room Weirdest Movie of 2015As for the choice of movies, I pick them using a secret proprietary formula that accounts for cinematic craftsmanship, the level of surrealism/weirdness, and the perceived prestige in the weird movie community based on buzz and reader feedback, then I rank them in whatever arbitrary order I momentarily feel like without regard to any of that. As always, the films are listed in random order, the weirdest of orders (a convention other lists are starting to catch on to).

On to the movies!

10. Anomalisa – Even though we narrowly declined to make it a List Candidate (a decision I wonder if we will later regret), we couldn’t possibly leave out a -scripted stop-motion existential comedy about a motivational speaker who hears everyone in the world talking in the same monotone voice off our year end list. confirms that “yes, it does get weird” while adding “but for the most part it just gets sad, and nihilistic, exploring mid-life crisis in ways both poetic and infuriating.” Although the fumbling sex scene was one of the most realistic bedroom scenarios ever scripted, I confess I find puppet cunnilingus disturbing.

1. The Forbidden RoomStories unfold inside of other stories in Guy Maddin’s telescoping narrative experiment. The concept for this omnibus project came from Maddin trying to imagine the content of lost films from their titles alone. Of course, Guy Maddin’s imagination evokes such unlikely scenarios as men trapped in a submarine furiously eating pancakes, a bone surgeon assaulted by seductresses in skintight skeleton leotards, and a man who bids against his own double for a bust of the two-faced Roman god Janus. It all begins and ends with in a bathrobe, explaining how to take a bath (for hygiene novices). Once The Forbidden Room is released on home video we’re certain you’ll agree it’s easily the weirdest movie of Continue reading 10 WEIRDEST MOVIES OF 2015

10 WEIRDEST MOVIES OF 2014

Any year that features a new movie by is sure to be a banner year in cinematic weirdness, and 2014 certainly qualifies. It was also a banner year for the British Isles, which gave us four weird movies (three made by Englishmen and one by an Irishman, with one set entirely in Scotland and one in England in the 17th century). France chipped in two surreal movies, while Spain, Chile and Canada gave us one apiece.  An Israeli director helmed the last weird movie. For the first time since we’ve been keeping this yearly list, no American movie made the list, although big name Hollywood actors— , Jesse Eisenberg, Robin Wright, , Michael Fassbender—did dominate the slate, giving a false impression that the state of American strangeness is better than it actually is. In reality, in 2104 domestic producers shied away from surreality. In short, gentlemen, I am afraid we have a weirdness gap. America needs to start weirding it up once more, so we can return to being the weirdest nation on Earth (with apologies to the Japanese, who remain the weirdest populace on a per capita basis).

Enemy poster
Our weirdest movie of 2014: Enemy

Besides the invasion of foreign surreality, the other big weird story of the year was the sudden increase in doppelganger sightings. These rare creatures inexplicably showed up in two of the year’s weirdest movies, as well as in three lesser films (+1, Coherence and The One I Love).

Besides the invasion of foreign surreality, the other big weird story of the year was the sudden increase in doppelganger sightings… oh wait.

Without further ado, here is our list of the ten weirdest movies of 2014, presented, as always, in random order—the weirdest of orders.

9. Under the Skin stars (and, yes, disrobes) as an alien sent to Scotland to pick up lonely men and take them to her loft, where she sinks them into a pit of black goo for reasons only space aliens understand (makes as much sense as anal probes, at least). She (it) gradually, and reluctantly, learns what it means to be human. In April commented “the action moves slowly, but is filled with wonderfully bizarre imagery and powerful space-y scoundscapes” and said it was “easily among the best of 2014, and may well turn out to be the weirdest.” It certainly does end the year among both the best and the weirdest.

10. Witching & Bitching [Las Brujas de Zugarramurdi] must have been drinking henbane infusion when he came up with Continue reading 10 WEIRDEST MOVIES OF 2014

TOP 10 MOVIES OF 2014: THE MAINSTREAM EDITION

As I wrote in my rundown on the Online Film Critics Society Awards, I found 2014 to be a year of many very good movies, but no clear masterpieces. Although I saw nothing in 2014 I would qualify as a general must-see, the positive side of that lots-of-good-no-great equation means that there were so many worthy top ten contenders that I had to leave many worthwhile films off my final list. It was a very good year, as it turns out, for science fiction, and for British films, and so I’ll kick off my list of honorable mentions with ‘s quiet Scottish movie about undercover space aliens, Under the Skin. I also wish I could have found room for the year’s best thriller, Gone Girl; ‘s typically great Grand Budapest Hotel; Coherence, the best microbudget film of the year; and the crazy train that was ‘s Snowpiercer. With those out of the way, let’s get down to the ten films that did make the cut (three of which we also added to the 366 Best Weird Movies of All Time):

10. The DoubleCertified Weird! A timid clerk (Jesse Eisenberg) named Simon James finds his vocational and romantic opportunities are being seized by a confident co-worker named James Simon, who looks exactly like him. Based on Dostovevsky, but the mood of this unsettling existential black comedy is much closer to Kafka (with plenty of nods to Brazil). The dystopia feels familiar, but hauntingly so. I’m not ashamed to make the obvious joke: this would make a great “double feature” with Enemy.

9. The Dance of Reality: Certified Weird! begins his imaginary autobiography with a bare-knuckle boxing match against an effeminate circus clown dressed as a carrot, a father who’s the spitting image of Joseph Stalin, and a mother who only communicates through operatic singing, and it only gets stranger from there. Jodorowsky’s unexpected late-season movie has all of the weirdness and occult spirituality of his cult hits El TopoThe Holy Mountain and Santa Sangre, but there’s something different, too. He’s lightened up in his old age, and now brings a consistent sense of humor and playfulness to ciname. If this is the 85-year old director’s last film, it’s a beautiful swan song that sits comfortably alongside his best work.

8. Guardians of the Galaxy: “Star Lord” (a buffed-up Chris Pratt) recruits a crew of galactic riff-raff, including a wisecracking racoon and a tree with a limited vocabulary, to stop an evil villain or two from acquiring a futuristic MacGuffin. A crowd-pleasing mix of action, spectacle, and comedy. Although they are always high quality, this is my favorite Marvel movie, probably because it takes place in a “galaxy far away” rather than the Marvel Universe per se (yes, I am aware an Avengers crossover is being discussed). Great fun; it’s no surprise it comes from (co-writer of the Certified Weird Shakespearean classic Tromeo and Juliet).

7. Boyhood: Watch Mason Jr. (Ellar Coltrane) survive a bratty sister, first love, and a succession of stepfathers as he grows from a boy to a man in this narrative experiment shot over 12 years with the same actors. Even though nothing out of the ordinary happens, it’s Continue reading TOP 10 MOVIES OF 2014: THE MAINSTREAM EDITION