POD 366: EP.4: 13TH ANNUAL WEIRDCADEMY AWARD ANNOUNCEMENTS

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Audio only link (Soundlcoud download)

Quick links:

Slamdance discussion: https://youtu.be/JLuY89gbeZE?t=63

Alchemy of the Spirit: https://youtu.be/JLuY89gbeZE?t=378

Inu-Oh: https://youtu.be/JLuY89gbeZE?t=605

Playing with Fire: https://youtu.be/JLuY89gbeZE?t=954

2022 Weirdcademy Award nominations: https://youtu.be/JLuY89gbeZE?t=1308

Where to eat in Louisville, KY: https://youtu.be/JLuY89gbeZE?t=1755

Discussed in this episode:

Alchemy of the Spirit (2022): A man awakens to find his wife lying dead beside him. The “Santa Fe New Mexican” called it “pure cinema in the tradition of the films of Andrei Tarkovsky and Stan Brakhage.” With . Now available exclusively on-demand. Buy or rent Alchemy of the Spirit.

Infinity Pool (2023):   and star in this horror from about a vacationing couple discovering a secret world of hedonistic excess and paradoxical justice. Sundance fright fans seemed to like it, so we’re hopeful the theatrical release is a hit, too. Infinity Pool official site.

Inu-Oh (2021): Read Giles Edwards’ festival review. ‘s latest, an animated rock opera set in 14th century Japan about a blind biwa player and a deformed man under a curse, arrives on Blu-ray. The Shout! Factory disc includes a Yuasa interview and other exclusive featurettes. Buy Inu-Oh.

Playing with Fire [Le jeu avec le feu] (1975): An overlooked, seldom-seen (in America) Alain Robbe-Grillet erotic/surrealist film with an impressive cast featuring , , and Sylvia Kristel (the impetus for the film’s re-release from Cult Epics). Review coming next week. Available on DVD or Blu-ray. Buy Playing with Fire.

WHAT’S IN THE PIPELINE:

Next week, we’ll be recovering from Slamdance 2021—and there may be some hangovers/reviews of late-debuting movies. We’ll also put up the official Weirdcademy Awards poll for voting on Sunday. To keep things really busy, we’ll also have reviews by Amy Vaughn (of the new “exquisite corpse” film The Seven Faces of Jane), Shane Wilson (who goes to the reader-suggested queue for Sion Sono‘s Strange Circus, 2005), and maybe even another from Giles Edwards (of Playing with Fire, above). And something else might pop up…. it’s that kind of busy week.

Also, director (A Ship of Human Skin, King Judith) will be the guest on our next episode of Pod 366 (scheduled for one week from today), so be sure to tune in!

Also, we will be hosting more Weird Watch Parties this week! You can see the schedule in the sidebar, but we’ll reiterate here:

Monday, Jan. 30 at 8:00 PM ET: Manos: The Hands of Fate (1966) on Tubi via Discord (free)

Wednesday, Feb 1 at 10:00 PM ET: Mandy (2018) on Tubi via Discord (free)

Onward and weirdward!

SLAMDANCE 2023: ANIMATION SHORTS

366 Weird Movies may earn commissions from purchases made through product links.The prospect of reviewing animation is always alluring, but perhaps never more so than when the Slamdance film festival rolls around. Alternately dream-like and nightmarish as a general rule, this year’s slate bends considerably more toward the abstract and absurd—and as such were a particular treat. I highly recommend you invest in access to these fine additions to the “cartoon” canon, with a particular shout-out for Frank Volk and his ad-blitz bombastic “Hotdogs!”, which has the visual and narrative chops to pull on the heartstrings, induce plenty of chuckles, and squeeze in a seamless mention of dialectical materialism.

And without further ado, the Animation Shorts ’23 showcase!

Arrest in Flight (dir. Adrian Flury; 8 min.)—Candy-colored props and sets are put to unsettling use through an ambient-industrial-choral score and jerky animations—as if the mechanized legs, kitchen chairs, and “people” are being sliced in and out of time. Flury’s dissection of modern life, with all its repetitions and tipping points, hypnotizes the eyes and ears, making even a flippant optimist like myself all too apprehensive.

Babe Beach (dir. Ida Lasic; 8 min.)—Some social commentary from Croatia, with a (top) half-fish / (bottom) half-human beach guide. ’90s polygons and ’80s neon are on proud display as a couple of beach-bum tourists ask a not-quite-local about the benefits of tourism. Visually pleasing, wryly humorous, and remarkably salient.

Baloney Beacon (dir. Max Landman; 6 min.)—Stop-motion using balloons is a gimmick I had never before laid eyes upon. The effect was unsettling. Cosmic creatures are overrun by a death-ray emitted by a hungry god of a tiny planet, who then consumes his prey. Top marks for originality, tone, and medium.

Don’t Die on Me (dir. Ori Goldberg; 3 min.)—A couple of guys on a park bench sharing a doobie frame this scattered narrative, but I would remiss if I did not share the content warning: quintessence mucous. Ori Goldberg animates this quick, spiritual exploration of mucous in a George Grosz style, and does not shy away from the general unpleasantness of nose-related usage. Some sick humor.

Horse (dir. Diana Gong; 4 min.)—RAM trucks, sunsets, and a claymation horse sporting pretty eyelashes. The methods of “mixed media” never fail to keep my attention. Diana Gong combines live video, clay, tissue paper, and a little computer noodling to talk about masculinity, ideals, infidelity, and doubtless a bit more. While there is always something moving onscreen, it never overwhelms, and it almost feels like one of the more abstract interludes I remember Continue reading SLAMDANCE 2023: ANIMATION SHORTS

SLAMDANCE 2023: NEW RELIGION (2022)

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DIRECTED BY: Keishi Kondo

FEATURING: Kaho Seto, Satoshi Oka, Saionji Ryuseigun

PLOT: Still grieving from the accidental death of her daughter years ago, escort Miyabi’s dreary routine is shaken up when she meets a strange client who only wants to take pictures of her individual body parts.

Still from New Religion (2022)

COMMENTS: New Religion arrives at Slamdance with an assured style and polished look that belies its low budget. Using little more than colored filters, an evocative soundtrack, and some remarkable microphotography, Keishi Kondo delivers a crowdfunded wonder, shot mostly on weekends with a first-time cast, that most of the time looks like it could have come from a major Japanese studio.

New Religion relies heavily on atmosphere: its full of slow, portentous glances scored to ominous drones, hinting at horrors unseen. The sound design is a key element, so see the film with a good stereo system, if possible. The opening credits set a tone of mystery: scritching strings accompany a pan over a blood-red cityscape, which merges into a tinted tour of moth anatomy. This is followed by shots of abstract organ-like structures and a possible fetus that forms and melts before our eyes, as the music swells and resolves into a desperate drone. This moody experimental-film opening deserves comparison to the disquieting prologue of Under the Skin. We emerge from that brief storm into a quiet drama, with main character Miyabi recalling the loss of her daughter and remembering a photograph taken with the child on a beach. A scene of her and the girl staring out to sea, then slowly turning to face the camera, will recur a couple of times; its significance is eventually revealed—perhaps, although as her strange client Oka says, “memories can’t be trusted.” Miyabi moves through her life in a sad daze, obsessively watering the plants on her balcony or sitting in near silence in a grungy basement with two other prostitutes, waiting to be called up for a date. For most of the movie no one expresses much visible emotion, even when angry or frightened, which makes Seto’s desperation as her mind breaks down in the film’s second half stand out: her grief is set free, along with an irrational hope.

The film works as a melancholy drama, but contains eerie notes which are not fully expressed, haunting the story like fleeting memories. Oka, a purported survivor of throat cancer, speaks only through an otherworldly electrolarynx. He is obsessed with moths, and might be indirectly linked to a series of homicidal rampages and terrorist bombings. Who Oka actually is isn’t made completely clear, but he is a catalyst for an inhuman transformation, and he feeds on women like Miyabi whose deep emotional traumas make them receptive to whatever voodoo he performs through his photographic project. Oka’s motives are as murky as Miyabi’s grief is vivid. In the end, what he offers seems to be voluntarily entanglement in a web of dreams: dreams where the dreamer dreams of another dreamer, while simultaneously being dreamed themselves.

Kondo’s curious concoction will mesmerize and enthrall many art-horror fans. Others will find the deliberate pacing more of a chore—while still being intermittently mesmerized and enthralled. But there’s no doubt that this is a promising debut, and we salivate thinking what Kondo could do with a bigger budget—if he is able to maintain his independent sensibilities. It would not shock us to look back years from now and realize that New Religion founded a cult of Kondo.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“One of the strangest, most refreshing edge-of-genre films in recent years.”–Kim Newman, The Kim Newman Website (festival screening)

SLAMDANCE 2023: A PERFECT DAY FOR CARIBOU (2022)

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Recommended

DIRECTED BY: Jeff Rutherford

FEATURING: Charlie Plummer, Jeb Berrier, Oellis Levine

PLOT: Before committing suicide, Herman gets a call from his estranged son Nathaniel; meeting at a cemetery, Nathaniel brings his own son—who goes missing.

Still from A Perfect Day for Caribou (2022)

COMMENTSMuch as the film’s father and son teeter along the edge between acquiescence and despair in this ambling dialogue of a movie, Jeff Rutherford teeters along the edge between “indie” and “weird” with A Perfect Day for Caribou, his feature debut. While we generally prefer to bring attention to stranger films, if we can take the time to highlight slow-core tedium, we can take a moment here to talk about something melancholy, oddly humorous, and quietly hopeful.

Against the back-drop of close-knit upholstery, the movie begins with Herman (Jeb Berrier) dictating a final message to his son Nate (Charlie Plummer). From his scattershot remarks, it’s clear Herman’s anecdotes, pre-apologies, and side notes seem much like his life: unfocused, lacking purpose, and a bit sad. He’s prepared for his final moment, much as he’s prepared for his son to not care much what he has to say; despite this, he’s recording this rambling confession of sorts because even though he’s grasping at straws, “…the straws you grasp at—you should grasp them.” His would-be final words are interrupted when Nate calls him on his mobile phone, and the father and son meet up at a nearby cemetery, Nate’s autistic son Ralph in tow.

Thoreau said, “the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation”; and Herman and Nate quietly face the mindless and unavoidable sadness they have endured throughout their lives, with ample cigarettes. We watch two men travel the Oregonian countryside in search of young Ralph, interrupted only be surreal memories and hopeful imaginings. Herman spends most of the film carrying a sealed parcel his ex-wife, Nate’s mother, left behind. The men meet another lonely soul on their hushed, unhurried quest: a woman who accidentally shoots at Nate followed by the immediate heartfelt shout of, “Sorry!” No big deal. They all chat, share some water, and part ways.

As a general rule, I eschew anything so overtly art-house, but there is an odd satisfaction in watching these two broken men attempt to makes peace with themselves and each other. The sweeping vistas contrast their tiny existence. Nate is wise, either in the face of or because of his fractured background. His anguish is captured by his wish for his own son: “I don’t know if these type of people exist,” he says, “but I want Ralph to feel very limited hurt.” The best he can imagine is less pain.

Nate and Herman pursue the lost boy, who leaves clues behind for them to follow: a soccer ball, a toy truck, a plastic bag; the strange—and defiant—undercurrent is underscored by Herman’s closing scene. He’s opened the box, donned a pair of novelty reindeer antlers, and can’t quite find the right position for the gun barrel on his body. Everything’s wrong, nothing fits into place, so you’ve got to keep trying, I suppose, and maybe something will eventually click.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“…in its best moments, [Rutherford’s] debut reaches for the mournful everyday poetry of Wim Wenders’ ‘Paris, Texas’ or Kelly Reichardt’s ‘Old Joy.’ Elsewhere, the film feels a little determined in its minimalism, a little too cute in its brushes of absurdism. Still, it promises significant things from its young writer-director, who shows more formal nous and rigor than many neophyte directors of comparable U.S. indies.”–Guy Lodge, Variety (festival screening)

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