Six Different Minds Working On Full Blast

Years ago, when we saw Violence Voyager, The Boy introduced me to a concept he had picked up on the Internet called “someone’s different mind working on full blast”. And, truly, the Internet is both a source and a destination for such things. In the span of about a week, we had the opportunity to see six such films. These are movies that do not feel like “product”: They are someone’s vision, someone’s fever dream, someone’s wild hallucinations put to celluloid.

For the most part, they’re way more entertaining than 90% of the movies that will make it to the top 20. I’ll have independent reviews of each of these in the upcoming days but since I couldn’t pick one to single out, here are capsules of each.

(Note: This post originally appeared at Ace of Spades HQ Saturday Night Movie Thread for 25 June 2022.)

Crimes of the Future

Not the most unpleasant thing Stewart has had to stick in her eye for a movie. (I don’t even know what I’m implying here.)

This is pure classic Cronenberg which, I have to say, it’s kind of heartening that he can still make this kind of movie. He has a unique vision—he basically defined his own genre of body horror that, for the most part, other people don’t even try to imitate. And that’s for the best. Sometimes he hits with me and sometimes he doesn’t—I like there to be a kind of logic that I can follow, and this movie definitely has that. The premise is that humans, inexplicably, are growing new organs. Viggo Mortensen has a career as a performance artist who grows these organs so that Léa Seydoux can extract them on stage.

The government has set up a registry to keep track of all these new organs, with at least one strain of thought being that the presence of these organs transmogrifies former humans into…something else. The paranoid subplot doesn’t quite have the oomph you’d hope for—it’s all very low-key given the topic which in itself is very Cronenberg—but I enjoyed it. The Boy was less sure what to do with this one, not having any experience with the genre. It’s not a starter film, for sure, like The Fly.

Memoria

“OK, Tilda, look up…you’re looking up…good…look up…hold…hold…keep looking…hold…for about 20 minutes…”

This one has awards up the yin-yang from Cannes and, by our lights, was the only read dog in the bunch. It’s super static. Now, the Boy and I love static movies, generally. Kubrick and Lean, for example, but even more to the point, Stalker. (Or, in my case, Schulze Gets The Blues.) What I’m getting at is, we’re not impatient. This one, to me, reminded of Under The Skin: It’s basically a B-movie plot about Tilda Swinton wandering around Colombia having either a psychotic break or being haunted or something, and the lack of action makes it “arty”.

Actually, if you take it that she’s having a psychotic break, the movie both makes more sense and is more pointless than the overt answer to the riddle of “Where’s That Loud Banging Coming From?” The Boy had sort of assumed that early on, whereas I felt the movie gave too many cues that things were happening in the real world. Unfortunately, the answer is hugely unsatisfying. But, like, I said: Lots of awards.

Mad God

Eye…have no idea what’s going on.

This is many someone’s different minds working at full blast, and over 30 years, as Special FX impresario Phil Tippet has allowed a variety of animators to gain experience by working on bits and pieces of this fever dream. What’s it about? I’m not sure, exactly. I think it’s about a guy in Hell who ventures into Worse Hell in order to blow it up, but doesn’t make it, and then…something happens. Well, look, lots of things happen. Lots of weird, inexplicable, nightmarish things.

I could tell early on that the narrative wasn’t really going to make a lot of sense, so I kind of let it all wash over me, whereas the Boy loved the first half so much, he was somewhat disappointed by the second half not quite feeling tied together. Both of us felt we could go see it again right after seeing it the first time. Kickstarter and the Shudder horror streaming channel had something to do with this, and it is available to watch on Shudder. It’s a hell of a funhouse ride. Very dark and disturbing.

Ninja Badass

There is some male genitalia in this film I suspect to be the director’s but I didn’t ask.

We ventured out to see this one a few days after Mad God, and it was, apparently, “closing night” with a Q&A featuring the director. Sadly, it was just the Boy and I, as well as the director, his mother and a friend of the family who had turned out, which is a shame. This is a colorful, chaotic mess of a comedy that’s also oddly rather polished. Written, directed, starring and edited by Ryan Harrison, this is the story of a weird loser whose (unwilling future) girlfriend is captured by ninjas—”ninjers”, because it’s Indiana, I guess—and who must rescue her if he’s ever going to graduate from the blow-up doll and move out of his mother’s house (Miss Hot Body 1989, played by his real mother).

On his journey, he’s accompanied by his friend and a girl ninja, but they all have competing ideas about how things should go down, and at one point the friend disappears—I suspect some of this due to the extended length of time the movie took to film—and comes back in a surprise twist that didn’t quite make sense.

It’s funny, in parts, and resists the urge to completely beclown every character—the denouement makes everyone seem almost normal. The editing kept it super lively. It was too loud in the theater, and the sound mix was too chaotic (perhaps covering up for unevenness in ambient recording?), but while I liked it more than The Boy, it kind of stuck with both of us. Too many films go for that “cult classic midnight showing” thing—this one feels like it’s eminently re-watchable. It’s jam-packed.

Wild Men

We won’t talk about his bow technique. Or crossbows. Never talk about crossbows.

Of the six movies, this was the most “normal” of films. A Danish film written and directed by Thomas Daneskov, this is a story of a guy who decides he wants to chuck modern life and goes out into the Norwegian wilderness to live like a Viking—a life for which he is completely unprepared. His path crosses with a drug courier, and the two go on a journey that takes them through a Viking-re-enactment village, being pursued by cops and a bereft wife, and gives the filmmakers a chance to ask, repeatedly, what it means to be a man.

Because, let’s face it, Scandinavian dudes are seriously cucked. To my way of thinking, the doof who wanders off into the wilderness was the guy who had the right idea (even if a poor execution). But the characters are (all too) real and the journey interesting. Also, as always, Norway is gorgeous to look at. I wish they’d shot this on film.

Cha Cha Real Smooth

Bar-mitzvahs have changed since I was nearly 13.

Produced, directed, written by and starring Cooper Raiff (Raiff Cooper?), Cha Cha tells the story of a fresh-out-of-college, directionless romantic named Andrew, who is working at the Meat Sticks and trying to raise enough money to go out to Barcelona (where his girlfriend went and is already cheating on him, though he’s not exactly Mr. Faithful, either) because he doesn’t really know what else to do. The thing that makes the movie work is that Andrew is really nice, like, a genuinely good person, and in a successful effort to salvage a bar mitzvah that’s dying as a party, he ends up being a professional party starter.

At one of these party he meets young mom Domino (Dakota Johnson) and manages to get her autistic daughter on the dance floor. The three of them begin a relationship, complicated by Domino’s fiancée, and the ten-year age difference—a problem she recognizes but he does not. The thing that makes this movie really stand out is all the characters feel real, feel like they have genuine motivations, and just because they piss off Andrew doesn’t mean they aren’t worthy human beings.

The dangers in the story were immense—Andrew could have come off like a supreme douchebag—yet we ended up comparing it favorably to other character-driven classics (like from the ’30s and ’40s). Top notch acting all around. Leslie Mann is amazing. Johnson is more appealing than I’ve ever seen her. Brad Garrett is a kind of a bump-on-a-log that we come to respect. Etc. A shockingly pleasant film, if you can imagine such a thing.

Bonus: Top Gun: Maverick

Totally not in this category but is also good. Better than the original by a long-shot.

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