The Stuff [1985]

There's a scene near the end of the movie where Michael Moriarty shouts at this old dude, "Eat it!" I went back on that thing a few times, cracking up more and more with each rewind because of how focused he was on not moving his lips when barking the demand. Sure, the whole thing reeks of sociopolitical allusion, though it's rendered inconsequential because of how consistently fun (and funny) it is... And in the end it doesn't really add much to force meaning into what is otherwise just a wildly nonsensical story. One of the best terrible movies I can recall seeing in the past couple years.

25th Hour [2002]

There's a scene in this film where Edward Norton's character Monty Brogan rants and raves, clearing his conscious of racial and religious resentments he'd been harboring deep inside before decrying his father and Christ himself. It's been at least a decade since I've watched 25th Hour but I remember little to nothing of it, let alone how I felt watching scenes like this one. I'd be curious to know what I thought last time when Philip Seymour Hoffman's awkward professor character drunkenly kisses his underage student. What might have my reaction been to his friend scornfully shooting back at him, "Who are you trying to be, R. Kelly?" Is that line funny or tragic? There are plenty of moments in the film that don't directly impact the conclusion, though they certainly do thicken the roux. Now almost two decades removed from its release, how much of Spike Lee's 2001 New York City still exists? How much of this is still America? These moments, their weight. Then we close with Monty's face swollen as he rides to pay his due, only to be greeted by the warmth of onlookers and a moment of silent connection with a child in the vehicle next to him. What might Monty have been feeling there? Twenty years later, would he remember what he felt? Maybe how he might have grown since then? Or does any of that even matter?

Freddy Got Fingered [2001]

I'm thinking of the films of Luis Buñuel's I've seen this year. The satire is so thoroughly ripe in them that upon first inspection the execution appears an inversion of their intent. In Exterminating Angel and The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie we see ludicrous individuals actively participating in absurd situations without even the slightest of winks to the camera throughout. Hold that thought...

Today I read this web comic which concluded, "When people talk about their 'unpopular opinions' about movies, they usually mean hating something everyone likes, but liking something everyone hates is much harder." True. Coincidentally, today I also watched Freddy Got Fingered with Tom Green's audio commentary track on. For the uninitiated, the majority of Letterboxd users rate this movie 1/2 star out of 5. The most popular 1/2 review calls the movie "the filmic equivalent of sucking on a tailpipe with the engine running." Watching this was a choice I made on purpose because I like this movie.

I'm not trying to compare Tom Green to Luis Buñuel. That would be ridiculous. But the reason I want to bring them up side by side is because of how similar an effect both continue to have on me.

I didn't "get" The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie when I watched it, and it was only after viewing Exterminating Angel and reading up on it from those far sharper than myself that the vision for the films began to coalesce. In a nutshell they're taking the piss out of the "elite" classes. I like that. And damned if I'm not interested in returning to both with slightly-more-informed eyes the second time around.

Tom Green is a little different. My experience with him began growing up in Canada, watching as he shifted his local Ottawa cable access show to a national late night spot on The Comedy Network, before that catapulted him to a position on MTV as one of the early forefathers of jackass television. Around that time I was in junior high, then high school, so my level of appreciation was that of a junior high or high schooler. But when Freddy Got Fingered was released I vaguely remember watching some of it before turning it off. It just wasn't funny anymore. Humping dead animals as a shtick had wore thin, but I never stopped to consider that there was anything more to Green's antics than a cheap stab at continued attention. In reality, at some point in time he shifted from using tasteless gross-out humor merely as shtick and transitioned into using it to satirize what he himself had come to represent.

And sure, that's debatable (how you distinguish one from the other is a great question), but Freddy Got Fingered is also a $14 million studio film named after a throw-away line about a child diddler that has nothing to do with its plot, which revolves around how an outwardly oblivious man-child hits commercial pay-dirtwith his art only to squander his financial opportunity via a series of absurd stunts. Maybe Tom Green was always just jerking off horses and swinging babies around a delivery room by their umbilical cords for "shock," or maybe he was taking things as far as he could feasibly get away with as a signal mocking how someone who found fame with a song about putting their bum on people's lips could even land themselves in a position to create such a thing on the back of a corporate investment? Commenting on the tired and predictable nature of played-out romantic tropes by crudely forcing a compulsory love story into an already thematically distended plot does much the same with its aim set on a slightly different target.

Again, interpretation might be debatable, until somewhere near the end of the commentary track where—between rambling about choking on a plastic straw during the recording and plodding on and on about unrelated non sequiturs—Green adds to the tail end of a rant about emotional issues that his doing so is (to paraphrase) "probably something I should sort out on my own rather than on a DVD that's going to be distributed internationally." "Am I an idiot," he adds, "don't I understand how it works?"

There are parts of the movie that are exhausting and there are parts of the movie that make me laugh out loud, but delivery aside I appreciate the intent behind it... even if the general consensus is that on the whole the movie is absolute dumpster juice. How's that for an unpopular opinion?

Horror Express [1972]

My hunch is that Telly Savalas was only on set for a brief period of time because his character's exposure is focused into a select few scene, with one in particular standing out above everything else in the movie. Amid the unfolding terror on the train, Savalas' Capt. Kazan comes out to the shaken mob, gargles his drink before downing the alcohol and needlessly condemning the passengers as peasants (it wouldn't surprise me one bit if this was all improvised). Then, following threat of a curse from Alberto de Mendoza's Rasputin-like character Father Pujardov, Kazan wryly kisses Pujardov's aggressively brandished cross and proceeds to whip the shit out of him in front of the crowd of stunned onlookers. It's not like this doesn't play into the plot at all, but also, it was so unlike just about everything else in the entire movie that the scene stands as something of an absurd oddity. A beautiful, magnificent, wonderful absurd oddity.

Salem’s Lot [1979]

At three hours long, this made-for-TV adaptation of Stephen King's novel of the same name doesn't do a single thing for me. In fact, we gave up watching it twice before I stubbornly turned it back on in an attempt to get to the bottom of what others seem to take away from it. I'd like to think I can at least understand where Tobe Hooper stans are coming from, but I can't make sense of the love for Salem's Lot.

Angst [1983]

In clumsier hands this could have been a forgettable Austrian lead-up to Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, but there is so much here that separates it from the cinematic glimpses into psychopathic behavior that followed. The camera work is wonderful, for example, using snorricam shots to complement moments of the main character (or victims) feeling claustrophobic with fear, or scenes taking in a view from high above with a crane shot to speak to the experience of freedom following a spree of violence. This film's visual fingerprints are all over Irreversible, though in that film Gaspar Noé failed to communicate violent impulse with the same sense of articulate intent as that which we see here with Angst.