1. Bronies (2012)
You might already be familiar with “bronies” – aka, the surprisingly large legion of adult men obsessed with a contemporary retread of the cartoon My Little Pony. This documentary explores that lurid topic, and it offers a rather sympathetic view into their identification with a universe created for 5-year-old girls. Bronies has solid production values, but it’s hampered by the fact that it was produced by the creator and several voice actors from My Little Pony – they see only the positive aspects of their fans’ obsession, and the documentary never really addresses the darkness that clearly lurks just beneath the surface. Still, Bronies is a good starting point for those curious about this strange cultural subsect.
2. The Baby (1973)
This absolutely fucking crazy movie is one of the most politically-incorrect I’ve ever seen: a social worker investigates a family’s emotional, physical, and sexual abuse of the mentally-impaired grown son that they treat like a giant man-baby. It’s actually quite interesting from a (very dark) symbolic perspective, and cleverly constructed, as the assumed roles get switched in the finale, with the hero becoming a murderous villain and vice-versa. That ending is a highpoint, reaching gloriously outrageous levels of absurdity. Unfortunately, the rest of the movie is glacially paced, poorly shot, and generally kind of dull. More admirable than enjoyable, which is odd given the ridiculous subject matter.
3. Twister (1989)
Not the 90s thriller, but an unusual and forgotten 80s comedy about an eccentric family of lunatics. This pervasively strange film is slow-going, but there are laughs and even some unexpected pathos if you stick around. Certainly not good by any means, Twister almost flaunts its narrative shortcomings and general irreverence (the “twister” of the film’s title is barely relevant to the proceedings). However, there are memorable performances (the always insane Crispin Glover is a lot of fun) and a great William Burroughs cameo that features one of my all-time favorite lines of dialogue (“Jim got kicked in the head by a horse back in February. Went around killing horses for a while. Then he ate the insides of a clock and he died.”). I feel like Wes Anderson could remake this film into a classic.
4. The Believers (1987)
This is so truly awful and I enjoyed it so very, very much. A patently ludicrous cult thriller about Devil worship and human sacrifice in which Martin Sheen screams a lot, The Believers occupies a strange space between camp and grim mean-spiritedness (the opening scene seems specifically designed to have traumatically scarred me as a child, which is exactly what it did). Well-directed by a slumming John Schlesinger, who keeps the pace moving and employs a skilled visual touch, The Believers is to Rosemary’s Baby or The Omen what microwave pizza is to a fresh pie – clearly inferior, but still oddly satisfying. It is certainly never boring and, in spite of itself, it’s actually pretty creepy at times (I’m referring to both The Believers and microwave pizza here). Worth it alone for a finale in which Sheen saves his thong-wearing son from tribal sacrifice.
5. The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology (2012)
I’m certainly glad this exists, possibly more than I actually enjoyed watching it. The Pervert’s Guide is essentially a filmed lecture on cinematic ideology, as given by renegade cultural theorist Slavoj Zizek (sort of the Frank Zappa of cultural theorists, if you will). Zizek’s observations are strongest when he attaches them to specific films, and these interpretations are generally interesting and enlightening. Unfortunately, his broader theories, filtered through obtuse academic language (as well as his own unusual vocabulary and dialect), feel too theoretical, or like simple truisms shrouded in cryptic language. But the film is well-mounted, with Zizek inhabiting dreamily-realized tableaus from the very films he explores. I’m glad there are movies like this one and the wonderful Room 237 that rip cinematic theory off the textbook page and thrust it into the very theaters from which it spawned.
6. The Double (2013)
I kept thinking Kafka during this indie existential drama, then discovered afterwards that it’s actually based on an early Dostoyevsky novella. Jesse Eisenberg is a hapless worker with a dehumanizing job in some bleak dystopian society (perhaps Dostoyevsky’s novella was based on my life…) who begins to lose his tenuous sanity when a charming doppelganger enters his life and begins to attain everything he desires. The Double is small in scale and not particularly deep or provoking, but its well-polished black humor makes it worth catching. Directed by comedian Richard Ayoade, it’s flush with unexpectedly funny bits and finely-tuned comedic performances from the supporting cast. Borrowing from the visual themes of early Lynch and Cronenberg (Eisenberg’s office is fitted with bizarre retrograde technology) and scored to Japanese pop music, The Double is an endearing oddity.