Tag Archives: Beware

CAPSULE: THE BRIDE OF FRANK (1996)

Beware

DIRECTED BY: Steve Ballot

FEATURING: Frank Meyer

PLOT: Frank, a mentally challenged old man with a speech impediment, kills various people he

Still from he Bride of Frank (1996)

meets as he searches for true love from a woman with large breasts.

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: As an authentic piece of goombah outsider art, The Bride of Frank is actually weird, but it’s also bad. And I mean real bad, not “entertaining” bad.

COMMENTS: The movie begins with a toothless old man tricking a five year-old girl into getting into his big rig, trying to get her to kiss him, then crushing her head under the wheel of his truck after she calls him a “dirty bum.” If that scenario sounds like can’t miss comedy gold to you, then you’re The Bride of Frank‘s target audience. All others will want to observe that “beware” rating. That opening scene of child molestation played for laughs does have the virtue of driving away most of the audience before the film can even get started; anyone who continues on past that point can’t pretend to be surprised by the senseless killing, simulated defecation, and sexual perversion that follows. Tonally, the opening, which makes us want to destroy Frank with fire, is a huge problem because it’s out of character with the way the rest of the movie wants to portray him—as a hideous-looking but childlike outcast, a la Frankenstein’s monster, who only kills bad people after they insult and reject him. To wit: Frank decapitates a nerd and relieves himself inside the corpse after being insulted at his birthday party, rips the face off a transvestite who tricks him into a sexual encounter, tears the eye out of a 300 pound exotic dancer and violates her corpse because she’s a tease, and so on. Yawn. Are we jaded yet? More conventional comic relief comes from the poetically obscene homoerotic/homophobic repartee between two of Frank’s coworkers, which is slightly amusing, but nothing you haven’t heard before if you’ve ever worked with Jersey teamsters on a loading dock. Frank, the weatherbeaten, dim, ex-homeless killer whose speech impediment is so thick he’s often subtitled, is played by real-life ex-homeless man Frank Meyer. Frank is like regular Edith Massey, except he’s not in on the joke. He’s not acting, he’s simply Continue reading CAPSULE: THE BRIDE OF FRANK (1996)

CAPSULE: FILM SOCIALISME (2010)

Beware

DIRECTED BY: Jean-Luc Godard

FEATURING: Marine Battaggia, Catherine Tanvier, Christian Sinniger, Gulliver Hecq, Eye Haidara, Élisabeth Vitali

PLOT: Snippets of scenes involving passengers on a cruise ship are followed by a long segment exploring a rural French family who run a gas station; it’s topped off with impressionistic travelogues to Egypt, Palestine, and other locales.

Still from Film Socialisme (2010)

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST:  It’s weird—by way of being random and impenetrable—but it’s also boring.  Really boring.  Had Jean-Luc Godard’s name not been attached, this movie would remain happily unseen by all but a handful of unlucky film festival attendees.

COMMENTS: Jean-Luc Godard has been telling French magazines that “cinema is dead” (though he would say “le cinéma est mort” and translate it as “film    dead.”)  Film Socialisme is the work of an auteur who truly believes that sentiment: it’s a dispassionate, bloodless dissection of moving images.  It offers us actors but no characters, situations but no drama, incidents but no story, ideas but no argument, and challenges but no rewards.  Deliberately obtuse, Film Socialisme sets out to frustrate: the first thing English speakers will notice is that Godard chooses not to fully translate the French dialogue, opting instead to tell the story through what he calls “Navajo English.”  Large portions of the French dialogue are left untranslated, and when the viewer does see subtitles he reads only snatches like “watch    notell    time” and “itshim    wariswar.”  Sometimes the language will switch from French to English or German or Russian, sometimes in the middle of a conversation; one presumes that this provides brief  opportunities for Francophones to enjoy “Navajo French.”  Structurally, Film Socialisme is divided into three chapters.  The first, titled “Des choses comme ça,” takes place aboard a cruise liner and explores fragments of stories from various travelers that don’t appear to add up to anything: a woman is trying to learn to speak cat by watching kitties on her laptop, a couple have a conversation about the Allied landing in North Africa while ignoring an apparently drunk woman Continue reading CAPSULE: FILM SOCIALISME (2010)

CAPSULE: SANTA AND THE ICE CREAM BUNNY (1972)

Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny was promoted onto the List of the 366 Weirdest Movies of all Time. Please make all comments on the official Certified Weird entry.

Beware

DIRECTED BY: R. Winer, Barry Mahon (Thumbelina)

FEATURING: Jay Ripley, Shay Garner

PLOT: Santa’s sleigh is stuck in the Florida sand, so he shows the assembled kids a movie until help arrives in the form of a giant rabbit-man in a fire truck.

Still from Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny (1972)

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LISTSanta and the Ice Cream Bunny is weird enough to make the List, but the fact that it can only be endured by injecting Novocaine directly into the part of the brain responsible for processing continuity would make Certifying this movie a public health risk.

COMMENTS: When someone like me, who’s watched They Saved Hitler’s Brain multiple times—voluntarily, not as part of a CIA experiment in breaking interrogee’s wills—tells you that Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny is quite possibly the worst movie they’ve ever seen, you should take notice.  First off, there’s the paradoxical fact that Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny is hardly Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny at all.  It’s actually much more Thumbelina.  Or, maybe it’s primarily an advertisement for a sad-sack, pre-Disneyland southern Florida bemusement park called Pirates [sic] World.  If you’re confused, and not concerned with the prospect of having Ice Cream Bunny‘s plot spoiled, then read on.

The movie begins with what looks like home-movie footage of Santa’s sleigh stuck in the sand on a Florida beach.  The tone-deaf Kris Kringle sings a plaintive (dubbed) tune of lament, then falls asleep, then psychically summons the neighborhood children to help him.  (This sequence of events suggests that the entire movie may be St. Nick’s heat-stroke influenced nightmare).  At any rate, the children flock to his aid, bringing livestock (?) and a man in a gorilla suit (??) to attempt to dislodge the sleigh out of the half-inch of sand it’s buried in (why did the kids think a pig would succeed where eight magical reindeer had failed?)  When this brain-dead plan predictably bears no fruit, Santa decides to tell everyone a story—a story of eternal hope, a story about a magical place called Pirates World.

Actually, the story is the fairy tale “Thumbelina.”  But we can’t simply jump into it.  That would Continue reading CAPSULE: SANTA AND THE ICE CREAM BUNNY (1972)

CAPSULE: BEDWAYS (2010)

Beware

DIRECTED BY: R. Kahl

FEATURING: Miriam Mayet, Matthias Faust, Lana Cooper

PLOT: A female director wants to make an experimental erotic film, but never actually gets

Still from Bedways (2010)

beyond rehearsal.

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: The only list Bedways will ever make it on is a list of the most sleep-inducing films about sex.

COMMENTS: In movie within the Bedways movie, director Nina has started to make an erotic film with two actors, no script, and no idea what she might want to say.  That’s less a plot hook and more autobiographical confession for this confusing, meandering movie with dull dialogue that frequently seems improvised.    As far as weirdness goes, well, the characters actions are sometimes inexplicable and unmotivated—out of nowhere director Nina slaps actor Hans in the face, which leads to not to angry recriminations and saucy drama, but to a bout of friendly play-wrestling.  The film also tries to be really meta and confuse us about whether we’re just watching actors playing actors, or actors playing actors playing roles (as the promo material puts it, “the boundaries between acting and reality begin to disappear”).  Often, it’s unclear whether the actors are discussing real life events, or rehearsing scenes for the film—but that effect is mainly achieved by filming generic, banal conversations (“are you going on the ski trip this weekend?”)  All this disconnectedness led to a strange effect: I had no feelings whatsoever for these characters.  It’s not that I disliked them; disliking them would have been a pleasant diversion.  I felt about them the same way I do about my neighbor three doors down whose name I don’t know and whose face I can’t place.  Other than the fact that they have normal, healthy sex drives, and that pensive Nina doesn’t know what to make of that fact, I had no idea who any of these three people were or what they want from life.  I suppose, perhaps, that inspiring complete neutrality towards your characters is an interesting trick: not even the best, and not even the worst, directors can pull it off this consistently.  Bedways also demonstrates the old saw that it’s easy to take the fun out of sex when you over-think it.  Sure, there’s plenty of rutting in dingy Berlin locations—one brief bout of penetration and a much longer explicit female masturbation scene amidst tons of softcore posturing—but, this being an art film that feels the need to justify its prurient interests, the hot action is frequently interrupted by characters wondering about God’s existence, quoting Foucalt, or watching an industrial dance band with a lead singer who strikes bizarre poses that may make you spontaneously cry out, “Now is the time on ‘Sprockets’ when we dance!”  Any fires of passion that the movie might stir within you are quickly doused by a cold shower of pretension.  The movie wants to ask serious questions about the nature of film, such as “must movies always be about something?” and “is it possible that cinema is just a masturbatory medium for the director?”  Unfortunately, Bedways answers both these questions in the affirmative.  The unfinished, untitled movie-within-the-movie has one big advantage over Bedways: it never got made.

Bedways was barely released as it is, and I feel safe in saying that if there were no explicit sex in this movie, it would never have seen the light of day.  In a bit of ironic foreshadowing, actress Marie complains that if she actually masturbates while Nina films her, then it won’t be acting.  Actors who are willing to go this far and expose themselves this intimately deserve to appear in projects that will actually help their careers.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“A worthy attempt to merge the worlds of art house and erotic cinema blurs the definition of erotic cinema by giving us a well-crafted and incredibly dramatic film with some penetrating sex thrown in.”–Don Simpson, Jesther Entertainment (DVD)

CAPSULE: PASSION PLAY (2010)

Beware

DIRECTED BY: Mitch Glazer

FEATURING: , ,

PLOT: A trumpet player discovers a woman with wings at a freak show while hiding out from a

Still from Passion Play (2010)

gangster who wants him dead.

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST:  Because it’s the most predictable and obvious movie about a jazz trumpeter saving an angel from a gangster it would be possible to make.

COMMENTS:  There’s almost nothing that Passion Play gets right, starting with its pretentious, inappropriate title: if Mickey Rourke is a Christ figure, then I’m a sex symbol.  The scenario starts out promisingly enough, positioning itself in a twilight netherworld somewhere between film noir and fairy tale.  Junkie jazz musician Nate, who gets by providing bump ‘n grind accompaniment for strippers in pasties at the Dream Lounge, is seized by persons unknown and taken to the desert for summary execution.  After an incredible escape from certain death, he stumbles upon an equally improbable carnival that has pitched its tents in the middle of nowhere and where yokels pay a dollar to peep at a beautiful “angel” with eagle wings.  So far, your suspension of disbelief is strained but not broken, but then the movie goes too far: 59-year old Mickey Rourke, with his stringy unwashed hair falling in clumps around a face that looks like the beaten-up mug of an ex-boxer experimenting with Botox injections, knocks on Megan Fox’s trailer door, and she asks him in for a drink.  From there the movie just gets worse and worse, as the mobster who ordered Nate’s execution also becomes obsessed with Fox and the pic turns into a conventional, obvious and boring love-triangle that begs us to care whether angelic Megan Fox will choose old, sleazy, poor Mickey Rourke or old, sleazy, rich Bill Murray.  Rourke, whose look and backstory are modeled on Chet Baker in his heroin-ravaged final days, is acceptably gruff, and you’ll believe he shoots junk and sells out those dearest to him.  The fact that there’s nothing sympathetic or likable about his character is a serious problem, though.  Watching the sex scene between Rourke and Fox is guaranteed to make your skin crawl; wondering where she’s going to position her wings as they roll around on the hotel room bed isn’t the only thing that’s awkward about it.  “Happy” Shannon’s laid back, almost emotionless mien may have been a deliberate acting choice by Bill Murray to make his character seem cold and calculating, but in the context of a film this bad, it makes it look like he’s acting under protest.  You feel more sympathy for Fox as an actress than you do for her character; after starring in one awful movie after another, she tries to expand her horizons with an ambitious art film, but winds up in yet another bungled disaster (and this time, it’s not even her fault).  Passion Play‘s target audience seems to be creepy old guys who like to daydream that they’d have a shot at Megan Fox if only she had some sort of easily overlooked physical deformity.  So when I, as a creepy older guy who wouldn’t kick Ms. Fox out of bed if she sprouted wings, tell you that this movie sucks, it should carry extra weight.

Mickey Rourke made waves for openly criticizing Passion Play after its release, publicly calling it “terrible.”  I can’t say I disagree with him, but openly and proactively trashing your own film seems like the kind of classless move Passion Play‘s crummy trumpeter might make.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“…though the movie is both too strange to take seriously and not weird enough to live up to [David] Lynch’s macabre surrealism, you have to credit writer-director Mitch Glazer (co-author of ‘Scrooged’) for being daring.”–Kyle Smith, New York Post (contemporaneous)