WEIRD HORIZON FOR THE WEEK OF 1/10/2020

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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.

IN THEATERS (LIMITED RELEASE):

VHYes (2019): A 12-year-old boy accidentally records a series of 1987 television programs, and his own ghost-hunting adventures, over his parents’ wedding tape. A retro-comedy reminiscent of sketch format movies like The Groove Tube, but with a weird twist; review coming soon. VHYes official site.

NEW ON HOME VIDEO:

Brick (2005): A modern noir film set in a high school. Looks like the success of Knives Out rekindled interest in ‘s directorial debut (which was offbeat enough to find its way into our reader-suggested queue). Buy Brick.

Chained for Life (2018): Read Giles Edwards’ review and our interview with director Aaron Schimberg. Beautiful Mabel makes the acquaintance of the “freaks” brought onto a horror film set set for authenticity—especially Rosenthal, whose charisma shines through his neurofibromatosis tumors. DVD, Blu-ray or VOD. Buy Chained for Life.

The Final Programme (1973): Read our review. An international man of mystery searches for a computer programme written by his recently deceased father which will create a new Messiah. Long unavailable in the U.S. it’s now on Blu-ray (and VOD) from Shout! Factory. Buy The Final Programme.

The Lighthouse (2019): Read the Apocrypha Candidate review! If you missed claustrophobic nautical horror in theaters, now’s your chance to catch it on your choice of DVD, Blu-ray or VOD. Buy The Lighthouse.

CERTIFIED WEIRD (AND OTHER) REPERTORY SCREENINGS:

The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975). We’ll only list irregularly scheduled one-time screenings of this audience-participation classic below. You can use this page to find a regular weekly screening near you.

WHAT’S IN THE PIPELINE: Next week we’ll have reviews of a couple of upcoming limited release features: the 80s nostalgia flick VHYes (see above) and the psychedelic something-or-other, The Wave (2019). Then, Giles Edwards races into the reader-suggested queue for a look at another would-be-blockbuster-turned-cult-item in Speed Racer (2008). It’s a busy week ’round here as 2020 gears up. Onward and weirdward!

What are you looking forward to? If you have any weird movie leads that we have overlooked, feel free to leave them in the COMMENTS section.

APOCRYPHA CANDIDATE: SLAUGHTERHOUSE-FIVE (1972)

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“I love George Roy Hill and Universal Pictures, who made a flawless translation of my novel Slaughterhouse-Five to the silver screen … I drool and cackle every time I watch that film, because it is so harmonious with what I felt when I wrote the book.”– Kurt Vonnegut, in the preface to Between Time and Timbuktu

Recommended

DIRECTED BY: George Roy Hill

FEATURING: Michael Sacks, Ron Leibman, Eugene Roche, Valerie Perrine

PLOT: Billy Pilgrim, a chaplain’s assistant in the thick of WWII,  comes unstuck in time and yet endures, partly through the philosophical guidance of aliens from the planet Tralfamadore.

Still from Slaughterhouse-Five (1972)

WHY IT MIGHT MAKE THE APOCRYPHA: While this movie is no weirder than it has to be, it is the most faithful movie adaptation of as novel from one of the strangest geniuses in American literature, so it has that going for it. Standalone, it punches the same weight as the war movies we honor here, while taking a novel that was seemingly impossible to film and making it look so natural you wonder that it wasn’t written as a script in the first place.

COMMENTS: At last, our quest for the ideal Kurt Vonnegut adaptation brings us to Slaughterhouse-Five (1972). This is the Papa Kurt movie that comes most highly recommended, with a promising directorial credit. George Roy Hill also directed the film adaptation of The World According to Garp (1982), another difficult book-to-film challenge with another author of sophisticated black comedy, which he pulled off with somersaults. Hill’s resume is bursting with offbeat cleverness like Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967), the weirdest musical about a roaring-20s flapper busting a human trafficking ring. Charged with putting Kurt Vonnegut’s most acclaimed novel to film , Hill made an effort which the author himself would go on to praise, miracles never cease! Now let us pause to quaff a shot of something that will make our breath smell of mustard gas and roses, and prepare to be thrilled. I will try to explain what it means to be unstuck in time: take a normal life as a deck of cards, then shuffle it. That’s all; there’s no time-traveling DeLorean here.

We open with Billy Pilgrim (Michael Sacks) in an unexpectedly graceful setup: he’s typing a letter explaining how he is unstuck in time, jumping back and forth in his life, with no control over where or when… Then we segue into the war. Billy served as a chaplain’s assistant in the U.S. Army during WWII; he revisits this part of his life at random. He also shifts to the planet Tralfamadore, where he is held by aliens as an intergalactic exhibit with a mate, Montana Wildhack (Valerie Perrine), who was chosen for him by his alien hosts—who are quite pushy about having them breed. She’s sweetly Continue reading APOCRYPHA CANDIDATE: SLAUGHTERHOUSE-FIVE (1972)

ONLINE FILM CRITICS SOCIETY 2019 AWARDS (WITH OUR VOTES)

The 2019 Online Film Critics Society awards are out. Weird films didn’t fare well in the nominations this year. I Lost My Body was nominated for Best Animated Film; Florence Pugh for Best Actress in Midsommar; and we saw a Best Supporting actor nom for and a Best Cinematography bid, both for The Lighthouse. (The Lighthouse should have at least earned a Best Original Screenplay nod, too, but whatever). None of them won, but it’s some consolation that received a Lifetime Achievement Award.

As always, despite the levity in my tone, I take my voting responsibility very seriously, and I do not put forward weird films at the expense of worthier mainstream candidates just because it’s “my thing.” Here is the list of this year’s winners, along with my choices and a touch of personal commentary.

BEST PICTURE

Parasite (2019)Winner: Parasite

Also nominated: 1917, The Irishman, Jojo Rabbit, Knives Out, Marriage Story, Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood, Portrait of a Lady on Fire, Uncut Gems, Us

My pick: Knives Out

Comments: Parasite‘s win is in no way a surprise; since winning the Palme d’Or, it’s been fending off all contenders in critical repute. The movie is excellent, a black comedy that becomes a thriller, set in a background of South Korean economic despair and inequality. I thought Knives Out, on the other hand, was the crowd-pleaser of the season, and one of the very few Hollywood films of recent years that hits on all cylinders. Parasite had best foreign offering locked up anyway, but I can’t complain about losing to a Bong Joon-ho joint.

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE

Winner: Toy Story 4

Also nominated: Frozen II, How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, I Lost My Body, Missing Link

My pick: I Lost My Body

Comments: The unnecessary but unexpectedly confident Toy Story 4 would be my second choice, but I Lost My Body was legitimately thrilling in its Pixar-meets- adventures of a severed hand fending off pigeons and rats; and moving, too. A close call.

BEST DIRECTOR

Winner: Bong Joon-ho, Parasite

Also nominated: Sam Mendes – 1917, Celine Sciamma – Portrait of a Lady on Fire,  The Irishman,  – Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood

My pick: Quentin Tarantino

Comments: It’s hard to split up the Best Picture/Best Director combo. I went with Tarantino largely to acknowledge his at times underrated talent at working with actors—from Leonardo DiCaprio’s falling cowboy star to Bard Pitt’s tough guy to Margo Robbie’s star-eyed Sharon Tate to the entire Manson clan, he wrings nothing but Continue reading ONLINE FILM CRITICS SOCIETY 2019 AWARDS (WITH OUR VOTES)

WEIRD HORIZON FOR THE WEEK OF 1/3/2020

366 Weird Movies may earn commissions from purchases made through product links.

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…

We’re still in the off-season for movie releases. Things will start to pick up later in January.

CERTIFIED WEIRD (AND OTHER) REPERTORY SCREENINGS:

The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975). We’ll only list irregularly scheduled one-time screenings of this audience-participation classic below. You can use this page to find a regular weekly screening near you.

WHAT’S IN THE PIPELINE: The movie industry is in its annual pre-Sundance hiatus, and so, it appears, are we. Next week, all we promise to have for you is Pete Trbovich‘s third-time’s-the-charm review of a movie. Is Slaughterhouse-Five (1972) the one he’s been looking for? Besides that, we have no reviews planned—although we can never dismiss the possibility of a pop-up review. At any rate, onward and weirdward!

What are you looking forward to? If you have any weird movie leads that we have overlooked, feel free to leave them in the COMMENTS section.

APOCRYPHA CANDIDATE: SLAPSTICK OF ANOTHER KIND (1982)

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Beware

DIRECTED BY: Steven Paul

FEATURING: Jerry Lewis, Madeline Kahn, , Pat Morita, Jim Backus, voice of

PLOT: A pair of rich, American, and (allegedly) beautiful parents give birth to hideously ugly and mentally-challenged twins, who turn out to be super-intelligent aliens implanted by a galactic civilization to fight back against the Chinese.

Still from Slapstick of Another Kind (1982)

WHY IT MIGHT MAKE THE LIST: Slapstick tries hard to reach comedy by piling on the surrealism, and ends up just being surreal. This is a time-honored path to mediocrity taken by many a crashed comedy, but adding in the ham-handed Hollywood fumbling of Papa Kurt’s source material is the icing on this insanity.

COMMENTS: We’re coming up on a review of Slaughterhouse-Five (1972) so I opted to review Slapstick of Another Kind (1982) first, as an aperitif. I choose it for this honor solely because I consider Slapstick to be the weirdest Kurt Vonnegut adaptation I have seen so far. But don’t mistake this for praise: this movie is mostly unfunny and a chore to sit through. Reading the book first helps, but only a little.

As bad as Slapstick is, it has several million more miles of hell to plunge through before it lands at the same level of awful as Breakfast of Champions (1999). Slapstick has a coherent and logical structure and attempts to make good use of Vonnegut’s novel. Somebody gave at least a fraction of a rat’s ass about it. Most admirably, it feebly attempts to capture the spirit and letter of Vonnegut’s ethereal humor, sometimes catching a whiff, but often losing the scent. When it fails, it settles for sight gags, prop comedy, and actual pratfalls. It’s a mix with a rough texture to choke down.

Caleb and Letitia Swain (Jerry Lewis and Madeline Kahn) are well-to-do glamorous celebrities who give birth to hideous fraternal twins, boy and girl. Meanwhile, China has announced that it’s severing all ties with the rest of the human race because the Chinese are just too advanced to talk to the rest of us anymore. Among their other achievements, they’ve mastered miniaturization, shrinking themselves to inches in height. This news is delivered in an interview between a newscaster (Merv Griffin) and the Chinese ambassador (Pat Morita), who travels about in a fortune-cookie-sized flying saucer. Cut to 15 years later. The twins, Wilbur and Eliza (also played by Lewis and Kahn), mature in isolation, tended to by Dr. Frankenstein (John Abbott) and butler Sylvester (Marty Feldman). The adult twins are truly disturbing to behold and act insane, but this is actually a put-on because they feel people want them to be dumb. The Chinese ambassador, observing through planted spies, pays a call to the parents to inform them that their twins are actually secretly clever and advanced aliens. Since the parents haven’t bothered to check on their offspring in fifteen years, this comes as news Continue reading APOCRYPHA CANDIDATE: SLAPSTICK OF ANOTHER KIND (1982)

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