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O.C. and Stiggs (1985)
A Robert Altman film..."you know, for the kids"
By far the most wacked-out teen comedy of all time, this bizarre Robert Altman nugget was adapted from a single issue of National Lampoon magazine, the 1982 "Utterly Monstrous, Mind-Roasting Summer of O.C. and Stiggs" special. The plot is simple: O.C. and Stiggs are two bored, horny, Arizona high schoolers who find immense satisfaction in tormenting the Schwab family (the patriarch is fabulously portrayed by Altman regular Paul Dooley). Over summer vacation, they canoe to Mexico, buy a machine gun from Dennis Hopper, organize a King Sunny Ade concert, and try to woo Cynthia Nixon. There's no sentimentality in this film whatsoever. The two leads are unlikable, homophobic morons, but it still adds up into a remarkably funny endeavor. If you're not in the mood for something with a profound statement to make and enjoy laughing at bizarre non-sequiturs, give this film a try.
All This and World War II (1976)
It's, err, an experience...
Mind-imploding cinematic disaster from Twentieth-Century Fox pairs archival World War II footage and Fox films from (primarily) the same period along with "choice" Beatles covers. It's sort of like THAT'S ENTERTAINMENT! gone terribly wrong. Did people think that this film would have some sort of educational purpose? Maybe a Fox executive thought this would fill in the void for Beatles fans desperate for the band to reunite? Some of the stock footage is quite interesting, like Japanese-American owned businesses disguising their ethnicity and footage of James Stewart enlisting. So too is a look at some of the fictitious films Fox made in response to the war (in one clip, a woman hears news of Pearl Harbor on the radio and says, "Oh, it must be Orson Welles!"). But most of the music is pretty awful, and cuing "The Fool on the Hill" and "Nowhere Man" with Hitler and Mussolini respectively can't take the place of a scholarly exploration of the subject.
Sadly neglected prime slice of English film-making
Peter Watkins-directed mockumentary about a pop star whose fame is engineered by the government. Paul Jones gives a wonderful performance as Steven Shorter, possibly the most famous man in Great Britain. We watch his daily exploits as he's followed by a documentary crew that also narrates. Although Shorter is clearly in the vein of a "mod" from the mid-1960's, the film has aged quite well. The original songs are great ("Privilege(Set Me Free)" was covered by Patti Smith in 1978) and the scenes of Shorter leading a fascist-like rally are still eerie (perhaps an influence on the film PINK FLOYD THE WALL?). Another great scene deals with Shorter being conscripted into writing a Catholic rock song, which anticipates how the organized Christianity of today tries to use rock as a way of converting people. Definitely worth watching. Hopefully it will finally get a proper home video release.
hilarious but also very touching
I had heard of the band Half Japanese before seeing this film in the out-of-print Spin Alternative Record Guide, but nothing written about them could prepare me for this amazing documentary. Picture this: two brothers from Ohio get the bug to start a band. Neither Jad or David Fair has any clue as to how to play their instruments, but in 1980, they ink a deal to release a three-LP debut box set from an English label. Over the next ten years, Half Japanese earns enormous accolades, especially among other musicians, ironically. I can't think of how anybody could possibly watch this film all the way through and not come to endear Jad Fair. The best scenes are the interviews with Jad and David's parents ("Our house is the birthplace of punk rock") and a staged interlude where the two brothers explain where why they started writing songs about ghosts and dead pirates. You owe it to yourself to see this movie.
Freddy Got Fingered (2001)
One of the finest films of the decade thus far
one of the most unfairly maligned films ever made. Tom Green's style of humor is gross and infantile, but I've always loved it. He just loves to offend the morals of the common man, and watch people reach their breaking points; this, essentially is the whole purpose of this film, but with we the audience being the target.
What's really great about this movie is the depth of the world Green's character Gordy lives in. Everything he comes across, including animals, becomes a toy of destruction and sickness. But the results are often hilarious. This film has no boundaries to speak of. It's like an Impressionist painting blown up to real-life.
There's many wonderful scenes, but the one that stands out for me takes place in a restaurant towards the center of the film. It's a wonderful jab at conformity and is executed with almost balletic precision.
The Rachel Papers (1989)
good, but could have been much better
The first film to be adapted from a Martin Amis novel, this cute film stars Dexter Fletcher as Charles Highway, a super-suave young man studying for his Oxford entrance exams. At a nightclub, he spots Rachel Noyce, played by Ione Skye, and he spends the majority of the film trying to pry her away from her beau. The main problem with this film is that Highway is played too much like Ferris Bueller-he even monologues directly to the camera. The novel's very bleak ending was toned down a bit, and the title is a little misleading, as all of his "female papers" are actually composed on a computer in the film. Jonathan Pryce is hilarious in his fleeting scenes.
After Dark, My Sweet (1990)
a near-flawless adaptation
The first of two Jim Thompson adaptations released in 1990 (the other being the more well-known GRIFTERS), AFTER DARK has all of Thompson's hallmarks: dangerous women, the confidence game, and characters that are either not as dim as others suspect them of being, or not as harmless.
Jason Patric is superb as a former boxer disqualified from the sport for life due to an incident in the ring (director James Foley uses RAGING BULL-esquire sequences to flesh out the back story) and the too-little-seen Rachel Ward also delivers a great performance. But Bruce Dern is the film's secret weapon: his sweet-talking grifter Uncle Bud subtly commands each of his scenes.
there's almost no comic relief in this film, so watch it prepared to be sucked into the void.
Miracle Mile (1988)
Brilliant, highly overlooked gem starring Anthony Edwards as a swing trombonist who discovers that Southern California is going to be decimated by nuclear missiles. It predates NICK OF TIME with its innovative use of real-time (although there are a few minor shortcuts here and there). It manages to be terrifying in its urgency and hilarious with the way various characters react to the impending catastrophe. It's all the more impressive given its modest $3 million budget. If it has any faults, it's that the relationship between Anthony Edwards and Mare Winningham seems forced (watch the trailer for glimpses of a number of excised scenes). Oh, and that Tangerine Dream score is very sweet.
Embarrassing waste of time
This film got a bit of attention in the press when it was the first porn to ever be screened at Sundance. It was hyped as "erotic entertainment of the future"; an adult film made with a geek sensibility. Ultimately, it comes across as being pretentious, boring, and most importantly, completely devoid of sexual heat. There's supposedly a plot involving the evil operator of a virtual reality habitat that provides sex for anyone that "jacks in" (pun intended). But, you have to read the supplemental material on the DVD to get a sense of it. It's an embarrassingly cheap looking future, littered with BLADE RUNNER references and knock-off Wendy Carlos music ( cued when sub-par dance music from the mid-90's isn't being played). The sex scenes involving penis to vagina contact are all blurred; understandable for a Japanese release, completely unacceptable for a U.S. DVD. Don't even bother renting this movie.
Kamikaze 1989 (1982)
A bizarre journey into the far, far future
1989, to be precise. As imagined by Germans in 1982. Germany has become the world's foremost economic superpower, suicide is a thing of the past, and everyone does drugs, except there are no nasty side effects anymore. An overweight Rainer Werner Fassbinder mostly scowls his way through a quest to find out who's behind a series of murders that may be linked to a new resistance group. Or something like that. The plot seems secondary to the outrageous costumes (Fassbinder wears leopard tights throughout the whole film) and scenarios (like a police discotheque where you can shoot on firing ranges). It's an ugly film, and a stupid one, too, but it is perversely fascinating, and worth watching once, if only to impress your friends.