REFLECTING ON A DECADE OF 366 WEIRD MOVIES

I had somehow stumbled on a film forum in 2009, and I don’t even recall the name of it. Reading through it, I saw a post about and the poster was asking … something, I don’t remember, but it was something I knew the answer to and offered it. A discussion snowballed and, as I was jabbering about Greed, bitching because it had never been released on DVD (it still hasn’t), another user piped in. I don’t even remember the user name he was using; only that he had from Night of the Hunter as his avatar. Over the next couple of days, Mr. Mitchum and I bandied back and forth about a number of topics, including , , , etc. In the course of the convo, I believe I mentioned that I used to write essays on films for an art gallery magazine called “The Fringe,” had taken countless classes on film aesthetics, and dabbled in surreal indie films. Mr. Mitchum asked to see samples of my writing and I believe we exchanged emails, and… his name wasn’t Mr. Mitchum after all. It was Greg Smalley. He told me that he was starting an e-zine called 366 Weird Movies and he needed another writer, as he was the only one, and asked me to join him. I agreed, thinking it’d be fun, but on one condition: I didn’t want to get pegged into writing only about weird movies because my experience has been that, no matter what topic is chosen, once it’s named people start mantling a fundamentalist attitude to it. In other words, I wanted to remain stubbornly iconoclastic. Agreement made, I started with a reevaluation on Tod Browning’s Dracula (1931), and my Fringe Cinema subcategory was born.

Alfred EakerMy writing echoes my paintings. I go through many phases and I do not like to look back at old work, only being interested in what I’m working on currently. Greg plugged away at his List Entries, secured other writers, and it was years before I even submitted an official List entry myself. I was merely doing my own thing, week after week, and suddenly, years had gone by. Coming up for air, I often found that many movies I wanted to write about, Greg (or others) had already covered, goddammit. (Most of the reviews I had indeed read, but forgotten).

Still, it’s been a helluva decade with Greg, and I not only loved writing, but reading my peers in this family of misfits. I picked up a reputation, however, of being the site’s provocateur. I will say that I rarely set out to push people’s buttons. I just don’t give a hoot or a holler if I do, and I believe it’s an artist’s ethical responsibility to have the balls to write without inhibition and to always take an attitude of saying to hell with the status quo (and everything has the potential to develop its own status quo, even weird movie aficionados). Over the years, I’ve earned a few haters who, in their either/or mindset, wanted to label me as a liberal. I’ve never considered myself liberal or conservative and, frankly, all of us probably have both perspectives. These labels are both yawn-inducing and hopelessly pedestrian.

My bitchiness toward populist fare eventually led to the annual Alfred Eaker vs. the s series, which was Greg’s idea. This was the opportunity for readers to take sadistic revenge for my having pissed off everyone at least once. Although, I must admit, on a couple of summers, readers were surprisingly merciful to me.

Looking back on my own posts, the ones I  enjoyed writing the most were Batman Returns, Spider Baby, The Black Cat, The Swimmer, “At Land,” Son of Man, Der Verlorene , the series on Tod Browning, , , , the operas at Salzburg, and the director retrospectives on Ken Russell, , Ed Wood, and (I kept meaning to do one on ).

Alfred Eaker as Brother CobwebThere’s one topic I left out, and I left it out intentionally because I’m going to say a little bit about it now, and that is: Spirituality in Cinema. After most people come across my indie Jesus dada film, clips from my Brother Cobweb character, or my total rip on Passion of the Christ1)Which earned me, I think, the second highest quantity of hate mail, the first being Ant-Man (and that even more people dubbed me a heretic worthy of a stake burning over a bad review of a pint-sized, second-rate Marvel character than Jesus of Nazareth says a LOT—none of it complimentary—about Marvel fanboys). think I’m hostile to religion. Regardless, some may be surprised to know that I have two degrees in theological studies, am working toward a doctorate, am a practicing Catholic (a convert at that), and for years, hung out with Franciscan and Benedictine monks. It’s true. Actually, probably 90 percent of my paintings are religious. To explain a tad: Catholics are different than Protestants in that if you don’t drink, smoke cigarettes, and cuss a lot, you’re not much of a Catholic—and, believe me, I am a very good Catholic in those areas. Two, I became a Catholic because I’m an artist, not vice versa, and I take an aesthetic approach to both Catholicism and theology. Even in the writing that I’ve done here, I take an almost theological approach. So, they feed off one another. I explain that now, after the fact, and I explain it because I’m likely to get a whole new legion of haters when my Brother Cobweb novel is published later this year.

It wouldn’t be honest of me if I didn’t confess my biggest regret, and that is my review on the independent filmmaker , whom I was a little hard on—although I felt he had promise, if he kept his enthusiasm in check and stayed focused. It wasn’t too long after that that Adam took his own life. Had I known that, of course, I never could have written that review, and it’s weighed on me a bit.

Now on to my peers here. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed and come to deeply love Greg Smalley, and I say that unashamedly and with sincerity. Understandably, I’ve frustrated him at times, but its been a marriage of sorts. You know it is when you start thinking alike. A recent example was when I let him know I was going to do some Christmas titles and he asked if I would consider writing on the Nutcracker Fantasy, which I had already planned to. He then suggested, after the holiday, I might consider covering the new Blu-ray release of Ed Wood’s Take It out in Tradewhich was already in the mail for me to write about. Over the decade, I’ve felt a loyalty to Greg and his creation. 366 Weird Movies is a work of art in itself—and he is its composer. It was an epic undertaking, one lasting ten years, and I respect that kind of dedication.

I have a lot of favorite Greg Smalley posts and it’s difficult to whittle those down to a favorite. He truly finds the pulse of , Deren, , Russell, , and many others, and although I was already familiar with much of what he’s written on, he never failed to give me new perspectives. But the review of Greg’s that I’ve read and re-read the most is The Ruling Class, and so I think I’d have to go with that as my fave—until I change my mind, of course.

There have been a number of writers come and go, but I do miss reading Pamela De Graff. Cameron Jorgensen has added much to the site with his refreshing Saturday Shorts, and I’ve been inspired often by Giles Edwards; his most recent post that sent me on a obsessive search was Snowflake. Shane Wilson has had me gushing frequently, and two recent posts I’ve treasured were Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story and Koyaanisqatsi. I’m sometimes jealous of Alex Kittle, having topped my take on True Stories and beating me to the punch on Swiss Army Man. I never knew what the hell Pete Trbovich was going to write on and I never have quite figured him out, which is a good thing, but I will say his coverage of The God Inside My Ear prompted two reads. El Rob Hubbard is often as insightful with his comments as he is in posts, and had me craving for The Devil. Kudos to Eric Young for reasoned writing, such as on Exorcist III I wish I could have read more of Simon Hyslop, Ryan Aarset, , and several others (and wish I could have found more time to comment). We’ve been fortunate in our team of writers and guest writers, and although I won’t be contributing as much or as often (2019 is going to be a very busy year), I’ll miss contributing weekly. 366 Weird Movies has become part of my DNA.

 

References   [ + ]

1. Which earned me, I think, the second highest quantity of hate mail, the first being Ant-Man (and that even more people dubbed me a heretic worthy of a stake burning over a bad review of a pint-sized, second-rate Marvel character than Jesus of Nazareth says a LOT—none of it complimentary—about Marvel fanboys).

9 thoughts on “REFLECTING ON A DECADE OF 366 WEIRD MOVIES”

  1. Aw thanks, Alfred, I love you too (strictly platonic…)

    The name of the movie site where we met was badmovies.org, and my user name was (and still is) “Rev. Powell.” Still have the same avatar, too.

    Adam Cooley’s suicide is a sad footnote in 366 Weird Movies’ history. I’m sure Alfred knows that it had nothing to do with one bad review. In fact, Adam was unfazed by Alfred’s review and even submitted an enthusiastic top 10 list two years later.

    I personally have envied Alfred’s ability to let loose and gain a sizable cadre of haters. I had my personal share of haters and trolls, especially in the early days, but over the years I’ve become less controversial in my reviews, more evenhanded. I have publicly played the role of CEO and peacemaker. Alfred has been able to let his personality shine through. He has passionate loves and hates, and that makes for great reading.

    It’s safe to say this site would not be the same without him; Alfred’s the pepper in the 366 stew.

  2. Given my enjoyment of your commentary on everything from Ed Wood to Charlie Brown to Bigfoot, this was an enormously sweet shout-out on your part, Alfred. Having my words appear in the vicinity of yours is its own kind of validation, so thank you for the pleasure, and for the rabble-rousing writing to come.

  3. Alfred, I had no idea — thank you.

    I’ve long been hoping to prove myself to this site, having felt I was the “new guy” for a while now (though it’s been almost four years since I first submitted); I’ll take your remarks as an affirmation of my spot here on the team.

    I’d like to also give a shout-out to Shane, whose pieces I always enjoy reading; and Pete, I’m betting that it’s You who next leaves a Comment…

  4. Damn, there’s not a day goes by that I don’t wish I’d taken the opportunity to write a bit more for the site. Don’t have anyone to blame by myself and my damned ADHD though.

    But my excuses aside, I’m so damn glad this site exists. I really don’t think I’d love movies a fraction as much as I do if I hadn’t been exposed to the sort of insight that this site provide’s into some of cinema’s weirder outputs.

    Thank you, Alfred, for all your contributions. Even though I didn’t always fully agree with you, your ballsy opinions and sharp insights were a major part of what gave this site its particular distinctive voice.

  5. Sniff, blub, buh-hoo, I’m all choked up and sentimental now!

    > “Pete Trbovich… I never have quite figured him out…”

    Don’t sweat it, I’m impossible.

  6. Anyone who reads the articles on this site knows that it’s something very special. Something about the ongoing, evolving conversations about cinematic art keeps readers hooked on the attempt to understand something that is impossibly elusive. The meaning of art is the meaning of life, which indicates an eternal dialogue. Thank God.

  7. The very first weird movie site I came across back in 2008 was the now defeunct Mitternachtskino.de, which, to the best of my knowledge, translates as Midnight Movies. The German site contained a good portion of the films that have become part of 366. They listed shorts, full length features and links to alternative film sites. But right after 2010 or thereabouts, it vanished. I came upon 366 around 2012 and was delighted to see the direction it was going where Mitternachtskino left off. I fell in love with the plethora of shorts and features that just seemed to keep coming up every week. It was always a pleasure to discover movies that I didn’t even think existed, and thanks to 366 I’ve earned a couple of cult movies to my shelf: After Last Season and Cube.

    I hope the best for everyone who has contributed their time and effort to keep 366 running. And I keep my fingers crossed in hopes that the list could grow or sprout a sister site. Who knows?

    Thanks again.

    M

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.