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CHECK OUT OUR NEW DIGS! April 8, 2009

Posted by 366weirdmovies in Miscellania.
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We’ve moved!  Please check out the newly designed site at http://366weirdmovies.com/, and update your bookmarks.  All of the content on this blog is duplicated there.

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We hope you like the new look and some of the new features.   We’re still working out some of the bugs, but bear with us.  And yes, there’s advertising.  We think we deserve a little beer money now and then.

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CAPSULE: EDMOND (2005) April 7, 2009

Posted by 366weirdmovies in Capsules.
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twostar

DIRECTED BY: Stuart Gordon

FEATURING: William H. Macy

PLOT:  A latently racist and mentally addled accountant leaves his wife, spends

edmond (2005)

an impossibly long night touring the NYC commercial sex trade and meeting lost souls, and finally ends up in prison.

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LISTEdmond isn’t so much weird as terminally confused.  It’s true Tarot cards keep popping up in impossible places as shorthand foreshadowing, that Macy’s wild night out seems unnaturally long solely to enable it to fit in all the necessary episodes, and that it’s extremely odd that the prison wardens would march new meat in the buff past inmates’ cells.  Still, even with these departures from reality, the movie still doesn’t seem in-your-bones weird so much as it feels like the author (playwright David Mamet) is trying to force events into a meaningful symbolic line, but failing to communicate his meaning to his audience. 

COMMENTSEdmond is only for William H. Macy fans and for those who think vagueness is the equivalent of profundity.  Macy manages to create some interest, though no sympathy, through his performance as a sad sack salaryman who thinks he’s found a temporary fix for existential bafflement by tapping into his tribal bloodlust.  After whoremongering, assaulting women and minorities, and threatening old churchgoing ladies, he finds himself under arrest.  In prison he’s forcibly stripped of his macho facade, and spends his time in stammering attempts to articulate some profound philosophy of life (“every fear hides a wish”).   Unfortunately, Macy wanders through a script that doesn’t know what to make of Edmond any more than Edmond himself does.  Those recurring Tarot cards and the closing monologue suggest that it was all just fate anyway, and Edmond’s search for meaning and the choices he made never made a difference.  In the end, all that happens is we passively witness some inexplicable tragedy happen to an unlikeable man.

Although Edmond‘s angry white male sociopath seems like a faded nth-generation variation of Joel Schumacker’s silly Falling Down (1993), the original play was actually written during the first term of the Reagan administration.  The concept of the angry white male (who Democrats theorized jumped the fence to get Reagan elected) would have had more resonance in that era.  That theory may also explain why Edmond is named after Edmund  Burke, the Irish philosopher/statesman who is looked upon as the father of modern conservatism.  Maybe that explains why both the character Edmond and the movie Edmond seem strange and unmotivated to us today, viewing the film in a different political context.  It also demonstrates why writers should not write to their times (or, at least, should not resurrect old pieces without revising them).

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“…a surreal spiritual fable that riffs on a notion voiced by Edmond that every fear hides a wish. Mr. Mamet shows no interest in offering a tidy psychological explanation for Edmond’s behavior. Hurled at you like a knife, the movie is as reasonable as a panic attack.”–Stephen Holden, The New York Times (contemporaneous)

17. TIDELAND (2005) April 6, 2009

Posted by 366weirdmovies in Weird Movies.
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“[Producer] Jeremy [Thomas] knew [raising money to make Tideland] would be difficult, particularly because the film is very, very weird. “–Terry Gilliam

threehalfstar

DIRECTED BY: Terry Gilliam

FEATURING: Jodelle Ferland, Brendan Fletcher, Jeff Bridges

PLOT:  Jeliza-Rose is a nine year old girl with an active imagination who is being raised by a pair of junkies.  When her father spirits her away to a lonely, dilapidated farmhouse, then takes an extended “vacation” on heroin, Jeliza-Rose is left to her own devices.  She retreats into an intricate fantasy world where her four doll’s heads are her closest companions, but reality is scarcely less bizarre than her imagination: her neighbors are a witch-like one-eyed woman with an unhealthy interest in taxidermy and her childlike, mentally retarded brother who lives in a fantasy world of his own, spending his days hunting a shark from his homemade submarine.    

tideland

BACKGROUND:

  • Tideland was adapted from a critically praised novel by Mitch Cullin; ironically, this faithful movie adaptation was critically panned.
  • Gilliam made Tideland while on a six month hiatus from directing the big-budget commercial fantasy, The Brothers Grimm (2005). 
  • Tideland was a commercial disaster, earning less than $100,000 in its initial domestic run.   
  • According to Gilliam, the French distributor did not want to screen this film at Cannes because there is a scene involving farting, which the French find objectionable. 

INDELIBLE IMAGE:  Many will remember Jeliza-Rose’s doll’s heads, who make memorably fantastic appearances in an underwater house and flying about inside a man’s ribcage.  But the more indelible image, because it’s repeated so many times, is the view of the broken down farmhouse in front of amber waves of grain.  The look was inspired by the Andrew Wyeth paining “Christina’s World.”  Gilliam often emphasizes the tall gold grass towering over tiny Jeliza-Rose’s head, as if it were surf and she was living in an undersea world.  This ubiquitous aquatic imagery helps to explain the title “Tideland“.

WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD:  Gilliam has described the movie as a cross

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WEIRD HORIZON FOR THE WEEK OF 4/2/09 April 3, 2009

Posted by 366weirdmovies in Miscellania.
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A look at what’s weird in theaters, on hot-off-the-presses DVDs, and on more distant horizons…

Trailers of new release movies are generally available on the official site links.

IN THEATERS (LIMITED RELEASE):

Alien Trespass:  A stylized spoof of 1950s drive-in sci-fi fare.  Reviewers have been unkind (only 27% positive at Rotten Tomatoes).  Alien Trespass official site.

C Me Dance:  Story of a teenage dancer who develops the ability to convert people to Christianity, which cheeses off the Devil and brings him to suburbia.  It seems sincere, which is the necessary substrate for camp.  It’s highly unlikely anyone will ever release a good movie that contains textspeak within the title.  C Me Dance official site.

Gigantic:  Self-described ” funny, surreal love story” about a mattress salesman who dreams of adopting a Chinese baby and finds true love when a customer falls asleep on one of the mattresses.  This indie comedy looks more “quirky” than “weird,” but no one can know for sure without watching it.   With Zooey Deschanel and John Goodman.  Gigantic official site.

NEW ON DVD:

A Cat in the Brian (1990):  Everyday life is causing an Italian grindhouse director (director Lucio Fulci, playing himself) to flashback to scenes of cannibal orgies from his own movies.  He sees a psychiatrist who may be even nuttier and more depraved than the director.  Unapologetically ultraviolent. 

Cthulu (2007):  If you always wondered, “what eons-forgotten actress has the eerie, alien look which best evokes the Old Ones of H.P. Lovecraft’s mythos?” and came up with the answer “Tori Spelling,” then this just might be the movie for you.  Based on the Lovecraft story “The Shadow over Innsmouth.”    

Tehilim (2007):  Allegorical tale told in documentary style about an Israeli family who use various methods of coping when the father inexplicably disappears.  Nominated for the Golden Palm at Cannes in 2007.

Tokyo Zombie (2005):  It’s been called a Japanese Shaun of the Dead, which suggests something gorier and more extreme in the violence department, and wackier and more unhinged in the comedy department.  Directed by Sakicho Sato, who scripted Ichi the Killer, so it has a weird pedigree. 

NEW ON BLU-RAY:

Ghosts of Mars (2001):  From borderline weird cult director John Carpenter (Big Trouble in Little China) comes this unofficial remake of his earlier action classic Assault on Precinct 13, this time with the action happening on Mars.  This movie had few defenders even among Carpenter fans, and almost none elsewhere.  With Ice Cube.

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

TOD BROWNING’S ‘DRACULA’ (1931): CHALLENGING THE REVISIONISTS April 2, 2009

Posted by 366weirdmovies in Guest Reviews.
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Guest review by Alfred Eaker

Tod Browning’s Dracula is often unfairly compared to Murnau’s unauthorized Nosferatu, and it is an unfair comparison because the two are very different films, which merely happen to share the same literary inspiration.  (Neither are mere adaptations.  The only film to fairly compare to Murnau’s would be Herzog’s remake with Kinski and, indeed, it compares very favorably).  The vampire of Murnau and Schreck is an accursed, repulsive animal, the carrier of a dreaded plague and the beast fights fiercely to sustain it’s life, like a rodent in it’s death throes.  The Dracula of Browning and Lugosi is an outsider, a mesmerizing and intensely austere intruder, who comes to nourish on the aristocratic London Society, who he, paradoxically, yearns to to join (fittingly, for a genuine outsider, it is to no avail of course; he makes rather pronounced overtures and goes to extraordinary lengths to fulfill his ambition there).

Dwight Frye’s pre-bitten Renfield is nearly as strange an outcast as he is after his transformation, albeit in a far dracula1different light. Renfield is a bizarre, urban effeminate in an old meat, potatoes and superstition land. The villagers are outcasts too, but among them, Renfield is the doomed jester, misguidedly blinded by his foolhardy feeling of superiority over them and stubbornly oblivious to the peasants’ warnings.

The introduction to the inhabitants of Castle Dracula is among the most discussed in the annuls of Universal Horror and, to many viewers,it is also most perplexing. This is quintessential Browning. The static silence is punctuated with genuine dread, surreal humor, and the unnerving whimpers of a opossum. Karl Freund’s camera pans over a decidedly unreal set. The vampire brides slowly emerge as a bee scampers out of it’s little coffin. An opossum seems to be ducking for cover in it’s dilapidated coffin and it’s cries are the only living sounds we hear as we are introduced to Lugosi’s Count staring directly at the camera.

Renfield’s journey to Castle Dracula perfectly captures the sensory view of a crepuscular world. Indeed, no other Universal horror film would convey it as vividly and attempts to do so in later films proved pale imitations.

Renfield’s arrival to the castle, and state of confusion, is juxtaposed against the awkward but pertinacious emergence of Dracula. Lugosi’s emergence seems to partake of a genuine struggle and this echoes the delivery of his greeting which follows. This emergence sharply contrasts with the startling and confused appearance of armadillos scurrying in the ruins below, which also heightens Renfield’s confused state.

Critics have unfavorably compared this scene to Melford’s much more fluid shot of Villar’s Count appearance atop the stairwell in Dracula (The Spanish Version). This can be dismissed as sloppy, revisionist criticism. Browning is a master at those elongated pauses where little seems to be happening. With careful, focused attention, this proves to be deceptive, but admittedly is a struggle for viewers corn fed on television bred aesthetics. Comparing the two is akin to comparing an artist as opposed to a mere craftsman. Melford’s scene is surface dramatics and cannot illicit anything remotely comparable to the surreal queasiness Browning evokes here. Additionally, Melford’s entrance climaxes with a jerky and unintentionally comic Villar greeting his visitor. With Melford, the effect is ruined, never recovers,and only worsens. With Browning, the unreal dread has just begun.

The vampire’s lethargic descent, set against the massive sets, resembles the

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SHORT: やった (2001) April 1, 2009

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fivestar

DIRECTED BY: Unknown

FEATURING:  Greenl

PLOT:  Six bouncy naked men (whose genitals are tasteful disguised by fig

leaves) experience love and loss in modern Japan, eventually achieving artistic and financial success through music. 

WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: やった is a hallucinogenic barrage of bizarre imagery.  A peppy musical score contrasts ironically with the magical mystery tour taken by the six naked men, whose travels through impossible landscapes consisting of fields of ostriches and giant sushi platters are shown in brief, almost subliminal flashbacks.  The six scantily clad principals appear delusional, and its is possible that the director intended this short film to be an expressionist depiction of a state of paranoid schizophrenia and multiple personality disorder, with each member representing a separate Jungian archetype.

COMMENTS:

On the surface the やった seems to be nothing more than shock cinema, weirdness for weirdness’ sake.  Closer examination will reveal it to be one of the saddest stories ever told, an entire universe of bereavement and nihilism encased in a devilishly hummable 4 minute disco montage.  The scene where a fig leaf wearing man brushes past a beautiful woman on a busy Tokyo street, looks back wistfully as she passes, and is immediately consoled by his five naked brothers (who magically emerge from a nearby alley), is perhaps the most melancholy romantic scene put to film since Bernstein told his tale of the girl with the white parasol in Citizen Kane.

Some have claimed that this short film is actually a satirical skit by a comedy troupe meant to poke fun at Japan’s eternal optimism in the face of economic and political woes.  Such reductionist interpretations miss the larger point, however.  やった tells a tale of the existential struggle to survive, forge an identity, and promote a boy band made up of naked middle aged men in an uncaring, absurd universe.  In a shot that seems almost to be a throwaway sequence, but actually is the key to interpreting  やった’s deeper meaning, a fig life springs to life from the crotch of one of the singers and rises in the air, finally transforming into the word “hope.”  American directors would do well to take heed of their Japanese counterparts willingness to express such deep emotional truths without the fear of looking silly.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY
“Irrational Exuberance gains its genius from the fact that it effectively translates the concepts in Yatta! to an American audience, who wouldn’t get the Snore! Snore! Pass! Pass! part, but can appreciate the way that commercialism dumbs down their society. Hey, as long as we’re happy, who cares if we’re dancing in our skivvies?”–Sekicho, Everything2.com