Tag Archives: Musical

APOCRYPHA CANDIDATE: THE TUNE (1992)

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

Recommended

DIRECTED BY: Bill Plympton

FEATURING: Voices of Daniel Neiden, , Marty Nelson, Emily Bindiger, Chris Hoffman

PLOT: A tunesmith on a tight deadline races to make a meeting with an impatient music producer, but gets lost in the wacky town of Flooby Nooby en route.

Still from The Tune (1992)

WHY IT MIGHT JOIN THE APOCRYPHA: In Flooby Nooby you can enjoy love-struck food pairings, consult with a macrocephalic metamorphing wise man (named “Gus”), check into a heartsick hotel staffed by a bell-boy-cum-suicide-assistant, ride with a cabbie suffering the “No Nose Blues,” and learn a jig or two from eternally dancing surfers. Is that enough?

COMMENTS: From nothing, comes the great hand of the Creator. It rises through the beigeful void and crashes toward us, blackening the screen. And then,

.

.

.

*THUNK*. We are grounded by a discordant slam of notes, and who do you think we see? Whose mighty hand have we witnessed? Why, it’s none other than Del, a love-smitten schlub trying to noodle out the final line of his number-one hit tune. So begins the eccentric, caricaturist charm of The Tune, as Bill Plympton bangs out an oddball voyage for his oh-so-mild-mannered protagonist.

What little narrative there is in The Tune exists to permit Plympton to dig deeply into his bag of tricks. After Del travels the crazy nested loops of highway on his way to his boss, the few nods to mundane reality are cast aside in favor of eccentric characters, daffy tunes, and the awe-inspiring power of an animator’s pencil.

Del’s surreal encounters never let up upon arrival in the unlikely town of Flooby Nooby, where he is greeted by the mayor with a zingy song expounding the virtues of this small town (accompanied by some horrible whistling, no less). Del meets a wary dog—doesn’t trust out of town folk, you see, with their heartless ways—who eventually morphs into a crooning Elvis canine belting out a stomping rock number about his improbably tall hairdo. Perspective comes and goes as trees shrink along a path, or as Del climbs a set of stairs and encounters a gentleman traveling downwards, walking along the steps’ rise. Heads (so many heads) morph to the point of breaking, but seamlessly pop back into form. “Gus” the Wise One suffers more than most—trains travel in and around it, burgers fly forth from his mouth, a fish is drawn from a forehead drawer, and so on—when his idiotic truisms go a step too far: “Just as a slice into a loaf of bread makes two pieces, you must multiply your wisdom.”

The ramble toward the climax is appropriately relaxed, and at one point Del inquires to the camera, “Why am I watching this?” The context is an extended (and gloriously masturbatory) sequence between two randos who obliterate each other’s faces through increasingly elaborate methods. Plympton more than hints at the pointlessness, but the pointlessness is the point. This is a cheery cartoon, stuffed to the gills with cheery airs, and its unceasing frivolousness underscores the sophistication of the craft. It’s a film where the line “Mr Mayor! How could you eat that adorable—and talented—hamburger?” is a sensible question. It’s got surf rock pathos and soulful noselessness. It has a Fat, Falling Pig hotel death suite and a Bad Joke Tango. The Tune is a Kantian ding an sich, hatching from nothingness and forging a wiggly world of absurdist tomfoolery.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“Plympton’s first feature is a surreal surety, chock full of brilliant gags, decent tunes, and lots of unobtrusive heart: it’s 78 minutes of unrelenting fun.”–Marc Savlov, Austin Chronicle (contemporaneous)

46*. BUBBLE BATH (1980)

Habfürdö, AKA Foam Bath

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

“While it wasn’t a successful release, [Bubble Bath] now has all the qualities of a cult classic—riveting, unique, misunderstood, equal parts bizarre and brilliant, ahead of its time. It also fits into the category of surreal and psychedelic masterpieces from that era…”–Jennifer Lynde Barker, “Bubble Bath and the Animation of György Kovásznai,” in the booklet accompanying the Blu-ray release

Recommended

DIRECTED BY: György Kovásznai

FEATURING: Voices of Kornél Gelley, Vera Venczel, Katalin Dobos; Albert Antalffy, Anna Papp, Katalin Bontovits (singers)

PLOT: In a panic, Zsolt drives to Anna’s apartment, begging her to call Klári, his fiancée and Anna’s co-worker, to call off his wedding, which is scheduled for later this afternoon. Anna reluctantly agrees to help, as the two find themselves becoming attracted to one another. When Klári suddenly arrives, in the company of a drunken boxer,  to whisk Anna to the wedding, things take a turn for the screwball when Zsolt hides by dressing up as a frogman.

Still from Bubble Bath (1980)

BACKGROUND:

  • György Kovásznai was primarily a painter, but he made several surreal short films beginning in the 1960s. Habfürdö was his only completed feature. He died of leukemia in 1983 at the age of 49.
  • Habfürdö was only the third animated feature ever made in Hungary, and the first one not made for children and not based on an existing literary work. It flopped in its local release but was influential among animators, and later became acknowledged as a cult film.

INDELIBLE IMAGE: Things move too fast to pin down a single frame, but, although they’re depicted in multiple styles, what sticks in the mind most are the character designs: Zsolt with his wavy hair and bushy, wandering mustache, and (especially) Anna, with her black bra straps and round glasses that frequently glow with freaky patterns.

TWO WEIRD THINGS: Psychedelic disco apartment; frogman down the drain

WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: Although the story—a loose romantic comedy about a man having cold feet on his wedding day—is standard issue, this animated musical is thoroughly lysergic in its visuals, with the characters and scenery constantly morphing in stroboscopic wonderment. The entire film probably needs an epilepsy warning.

Restoration trailer for Bubble Bath

COMMENTS: Despite its relatively small size, Hungary’s contribution to the world of animation is tremendous. At its height, the national Pannónia Film Stúdió was considered one of the top five studios in the world, ranking only behind the Soviets, America’s Continue reading 46*. BUBBLE BATH (1980)

45*. SPACE IS THE PLACE (1974)

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

“I am strange,
my mind is tinted with the colors of madness,
they fight in silent furor in their effort to possess each other,
I am strange.”–Sun Ra, “I Am Strange”

Weirdest!

DIRECTED BY:

FEATURING: , Ray Johnson

PLOT: Sun Ra returns to earth from his cosmic explorations with plans to relocate black folk to a new planet. Arriving in his spaceship in Oakland, Ra visits a youth community center and opens an outer space employment agency to spread his message.; NASA agents kidnap him, hoping to learn his technological secrets. Meanwhile, in a desert dimension, Ra and the pimp-like Overseer play a card game for the future of the black race.

Still from Space Is the Place (1974)

BACKGROUND:

  • Sun Ra was born Herman Poole Blount. He dropped out of college after he had a vision in which he was transported to the planet Saturn (or so he claimed). Never signed to a big record label, Ra toured and recorded prolifically, especially throughout his 1950s and 1960s heyday, releasing albums himself. His music was highly avant-garde, incorporating free jazz, synthesizers, chanting, oddball poetry incorporating mythological and space-faring themes, Egyptian costuming, and lavish stage productions.
  • The producer originally envisioned the film as a documentary, but input from many sources (including Ra himself) eventually led to this narrative movie.
  • Filmed in 1972 at the same time and on some of the same sets (and with one of the same actors) as the pornographic film Behind the Green Door. Space Is the Place was briefly released theatrically in 1974. It then disappeared until an edited version surfaced on VHS in the early 1990s.
  • Sun Ra improvised all of his dialogue, as did the kids interviewed at the community center.
  • Confusingly, Sun Ra’s classic 1972 album “Space is the Place” is not the soundtrack to this film, despite the fact that Ra wears a costume from the production on the cover. The actual soundtrack album was recorded contemporaneously but not released until 1993. The two albums share only the title track in common, in a radically different performance.
  • In 2003, scenes were restored which were missing from the VHS release. These scenes, featuring nudity, violence, or other debauchery inserted by co-screenwriter Joshua Smith, had been removed by Sun Ra himself; therefore, the 64-minute VHS cut is sometimes known as the “Sun Ra cut.”

INDELIBLE IMAGE: Su  Ra’s Egyptian costume, especially his crown combining a King Tut-styled headdress topped by an enormous solar crystal flanked by golden antlers. (It resembles the crown worn by Isis.) Ra’s fashion choices earn him some genuine stares from pedestrians as he drives through Oakland streets in a convertible, flanked by a golden-headed lion and a falcon. This majestic Pharonic helmet was so striking it made both the cover of both the movie poster and the identically titled jazz album.

TWO WEIRD THINGS: Tarot blackjack for black souls; “Dixie” torture

WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: An improvised mashup of surrealism, blaxploitation tropes, bizarro cosmic jazz, and messianic intergalactic Egyptology, Space Is the Place is an outsider artifact that could only have come from one man: the great Sun Ra.

DVD release trailer for Space is the Place

COMMENTS: Men are from Mars, women are from Venus, and Sun Continue reading 45*. SPACE IS THE PLACE (1974)

CAPSULE: THIS IS ME… NOW (2024)

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

<em>This Is Me… Now streams exclusively on Amazon Prime.

DIRECTED BY: Dave Meyers

FEATURING:

PLOT: “The Artist” searches for a soul mate while discussing her past with her therapist as the Zodiacal pantheon oversees her difficulties.

Still from This Is me... Now: A Love Story (2024)
This Is Me… Now: A Love Story (2024)

COMMENTS: Having little experience with Jennifer Lopez until watching this film, her, now, is all I have to work with. Fortunately for J-Lo, and director Dave Meyers, I’m a sucker for vanity projects, music videos, and random experiences. This Is Me… Now dances energetically atop a certain floor of competence, jerkily zapping with defiance, then (jerkily) tilting into romantic melancholy. Ladies and germs, what we have here is a semi-operatic music video feature, likely to please any fan of the artiste behind the songs and dances.

For those not particularly interested in Ms. Lopez or her music, there are still a cache of fun little flourishes to keep you amused over the hour-long experience. The biggest rests amongst the stars—whence comes all life, light, and hope, as might be declared by none other than Neil DeGrasse Tyson, onscreen here as the Zodiacal sign of Taurus. No less impressive is , leading the team of star signs—proving she’s as fun and full as ever. (I’ll leave it you to check out the celebrity checklist for the other astrological persona, but it is a motley and… star-studded bunch.) , ever his woman’s fellow, dons a ridiculous hairpiece and a brash schmuckery as a nebulously right-wing TV personality. And I am told that Fat Joe is something of a heavy hitter, and his performance as Jennifer’s therapist makes me curious to explore his career further.

Perhaps more than any other film which has crossed my plate, This Is Me… Now plays to its audience; it is a loving gift from the singer-celebrity (evidenced in particular by her own personal outlay of some twenty million dollars to get it off the ground). From the opening steam-punk dystopian heart factory metaphor power ballad (gotta keep feeding petals into the core, lest that heart becomes broken), to the decent-to-impressive late era MTV-style set pieces (quirky-jerky dance routines featuring dozens), right through the closing maneuvers, This Is Me… Now delivers J-Lo on her own terms, and that was good (enough) for me.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“Please allow me to introduce you to the shiny and ambitious and strange and ludicrous and trippy and occasionally fantastic ‘This Is Me … Now.'”–Richard Roeper, Chicago Sun-Times (contemporaneous)