Scarecrow Crosscut Capsules

Crosscut is Scarecrow’s monthly spotlight section, where we highlight films from an underserved genre or theme. You can follow along in our bi-weekly newsletter, but if you miss that, you can check here to catch up on previous months!

February 2016: CONSPIRACY NOIR

For our February Spotlight Section, we’ve called upon our staff to choose a cross-section of films that fall under the heading of “Conspiracy Noir.” As for a definition as to what exactly Conspiracy Noir is – as you’ll see by the list we’ve compiled – it’s a broadly defined genre spanning many decades. Film Noir, from a purists standpoint, references American films made in the decade and a half after WWII, usually involving a tragic hero, a femme fatale, and darkness, both in theme and look. Before that period, and well after, in the U.S. and abroad, many other darkly mysterious films were made that put the hero in great jeopardy, not necessarily by an evil woman, sadistic gangster, or the hero’s own tragic flaws, but by seemingly unknown forces that conspired to destroy the hero. You could make the case that every film Alfred Hitchcock and Fritz Lang made, from the 30’s to the 70’s, were Conspiracy Noirs. Taking up the slack in the 70’s, there’s the seminal paranoid thriller that seemed to define that decade of shadowy men and their dirty doings in the worlds of big business and politics. And then you’ve got films like Dark City, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and Eyes Wide Shut in case you thought that stuff ended in the 80’s. In other words, conspiracies and films made about them are everywhere.

10 Great Conspiracy Noirs (Just to Name a Few):

Chinatown
LA Confidential
Roger Rabbit
Parallax View
Manchurian Candidate
Pi
Kiss Me Deadly
Blue Velvet
Night Moves
Cutter’s Way

CUTTER’S WAY (1981, d. Ivan Passer)

Alex Cutter is a Vietnam vet, brilliantly played with a sad, crusty majesty by Home Alone dad John Heard, and his gigolo buddy is Richard Bone (young Lebowski himself, Jeff Bridges). Driving to the bar on a rainy Santa Barbara evening, Bone sees someone dump something large into an alley. The next day, he and Cutter find that a young woman was found dead in that same alley. At a parade, Bone drunkenly decides that the person he saw dumping the body may in fact be local tycoon, J.J. Cord. What follows is the stuff of Oliver Stone’s dreams, and nightmares, as Cutter and Bone drudge their way through an obsessive investigation towards truth, justice, and ultimately their own misplaced purpose. (Jason Dodson)

WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT? (1988, d. Robert Zemeckis)

1947. Hollywood. Humans live side by side with actual cartoon characters. Troubled P.I. Eddie Valiant (Bob Hoskins) blames the death of his brother on a toon and holds a grudge against all of Toontown. But now he’s hired to clear the name of Roger Rabbit, a toon accused of murder.  This half cartoon, half live-action production, directed by Robert Zemeckis (Back to the Future) and executive produced by Steven Spielberg, was the highest budgeted animated film of its time, combining tons of pre-existing characters from all studios and corners of the cartoon world. (Emalie Soderback)

THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE (1962, d. John Frankenheimer)

The film that made government mind-control seem plausible; no list of conspiracy noir titles would be complete without it. Following production, United Artists were reluctant to release it on the grounds that it was incendiary and dangerous. It wasn’t until star Frank Sinatra convinced President John F. Kennedy to contact the distributor personally, that the film was cleared for release. In some countries it continued to be banned up until the 1980’s. A must-see political thriller. (Rhias Hall)

L.A. CONFIDENTIAL (1997, d. Curtis Hanson)

A sprawling mystery that is both a dark indictment of police corruption and a nostalgic reminder of cinema’s past, both in style and setting. A trio of detectives representing the LAPD’s id, ego, and superego slowly come to grips with the inherited corruption of their chosen profession. As the conspiracy unfolds they realize that not only does it go all the way to the top, but the whole system is so rooted in these perversions of justice (even touching on the systemic racism that still plagues modern policing) that there’s no way to stop it. You can cure the symptom, but you can’t kill the disease. (Kevin Clarke)

NIGHT MOVES (1975, d. Arthur Penn)

When an aging actress hires Harry Moseby (Gene Hackman) to find her teen daughter Delly (a way too young Melanie Griffith), the chase leads him to studio back lots, shady mechanics, even shadier stuntmen, and eventually to Florida, where he also finds a decomposed body submerged in the wreckage of a plane. And then there’s some romance, some more dead bodies, a stolen sculpture . . . and a lot of confusion. Night Moves acts as the spiritual predecessor to movies like The Big Lebowski and Inherent Vice, where the detectives are the perceived rubes in a much larger, more sinister plot, and the conspiracies are not necessarily brought to light, but meant to keep turning and pulling us into the dark. (Jason Dodson)

 

March 2016: Bechdel Test Approved!

Created by cartoonist Alison Bechdel in 1985, what started as light-hearted satire in her comic strip “Dykes to Watch Out For” quickly became one of the most looked-at indicators by feminist film critics. The Bechdel Test brings to light the low visibility of women in media and provides a new lens through which to view film. In order to pass the Bechdel Test, films have to meet the following requirements:

1. Have two or more female characters (preferably named).
2. They must talk to each other.
3. And they must talk to each other about something other than men.

All of the movies featured in Scarecrow’s March special section pass the test and have been double-checked through bechdeltest.com. (Emalie Soderback)

Ten Great Bechdel Test Approved movies:

3 Women (1977)
Death Proof (2007)
Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
Ghost World (2001)
Heavenly Creatures (1994)
Daisies (1966)
Aliens (1986)
Cleo from 5 to 7 (1962)
Bound (1996)
Whip It (2009)

 

DAISIES (1966, d. Vera Chytilová)
Czech New Wave Writer/Director Vera Chytilová unleashes two rapacious teens (both named Marie) into a world unprepared for their ripening appetites. In this wild cultural precursor to Spring Breakers, the two rampage through the excess of a corrupt patriarchy to the bewilderment of those with lascivious intent or organized dinnerware. While political questioning is necessarily veiled in Dada symbolism, personal exploration is around every corner. (Leo Mayberry)

WHIP IT (2009, d. Drew Barrymore)
Ellen Page plays a teen who sneaks away from her prescribed-by-Mom beauty pageant live in the boonies to go try out for an Austin, TX roller derby team, finding herself by hanging out with (and smashing into) older, punker, more free-spirited women. Directed by a woman (Drew Barrymore), written by a woman (Shauna Cross, based on her novel), and focusing ona sport played and organized primarily by women, especially ones who feel like they don’t quite fit in. (Bryan Theiss)

CLEO FROM 5 TO 7 (1962, d. Agnès Varda)
Right from the start, young singer Cleo Victoire’s life is prescribed by seemingly arbitrary rules: a tarot reader sees cancer in the cards, her friend chides her for buying a black hat in summertime, her producers accuse her of youthful caprice when she doesn’t want to sing when they’re written. But this woman, who has allowed herself to be ruled and emotionally closed-off by everyone’s perceptions of her, is finally about to unlock some perspective. (Matt Lynch)

ALIENS (1986, d. James Cameron)
This isn’t really a sequel to Ridley Scott’s 1979 masterpiece of isolated, sweat-drenched terror; it’s a tonal inversion orchestrated and delivered with all of the subtlety and nuance of a robot split gruesomely in half by a hulking insectoid behemoth. It’s an action flick down to its linen, and the rare one that never dumbs itself down too dramatically in its mission to never quit its grinnin’. (Cole Hutchison)

BOUND (1996, d. The Wachowskis)
A gorgeous neo-noir, not revolutionary merely for the gender-swapped/queer romance at its core but for the way it uses color and sound to reconstruct and then dismantle any binary in its path. Not to mention it’s just a perfectly economical, virtuosic thriller that set the stage for two of the most adventurous genre filmmakers currently working. (Matt Lynch)

DEATH PROOF (2007, d. Quentin Tarantino)
A female talk fest punctuated by two exceptionally well-crafted car stunt sequences. Death Proof‘s eight female leads talk to one another at length about their careers, their friendship with one another, their sex lives, their tastes, and their pasts. They enjoy hanging out with one another. This being a Tarantino film, their talk is profanity riddled, politically incorrect, and often really funny. The women are badass.

April 2016: WORLD WAR TREE

Since April 22nd is Earth Day we wanted this month’s Scarecrow Crosscut theme to reflect the plight of our environment. We chose as our theme WORLD WAR TREE, honoring the struggle of the brave flora soldiers who stand proud, who fight back, who have had their chlorophyll and are not gonna take it anymore. Some of them are human allies who protect forests and jungles. Most are sentient vegetables, deadly spores, giant flower monsters and trees who to be honest sometimes engage in inappropriate behavior. But we share the planet with them and we ignore them at our peril. (Bryan Theiss)

Ten Great World War Tree movies

Swamp Thing (1982)
Little Shop of Horrors (1986)
Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (1984)
The Happening (2008)
Forest Warrior (1996)
Little Otik (2000)
The Evil Dead (1981)
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)
Silent Running (1972)
Habitat (1997)

INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS
(1978, Phillip Kaufman)
Few cinematic franchises have consistently hit the bull’s eye, quality-wise, like the Body Snatchers series. This 1978 version by Phillip Kaufman moves the action to a big city, adding themes of pop psychology, modern relationship politics, and urban alienation/isolation. It is also much more uncompromising in its bleak vision of humanity under siege from not-so-human interlopers. If that ending doesn’t get under your skin even just a little, you may already be a Pod Person.

SWAMP THING (1982, Wes Craven)
Studies show that over 70% of all weird mutants are created by lab accidents. That’s just one of the risks of groundbreaking scientific research – just ask The Fly, Darkman, Doctor Manhattan, or most of Spider-man’s foes. In this case it’s Dr. Alec Holland (Ray Wise), who gets splashed with chemicals and transforms into a green plant monster (Dick Durock) with moss and leaves and stuff growing off of him. Taken from a sometimes very thoughtful DC Comic, Wes Craven made more of a goofy romp. But you have to respect the progressiveness of Alice Cable (Adrienne Barbeau) for being able to have a relationship with a heroic vegetable. (Bryan Theiss)

SILENT RUNNING (1972, Douglas Trumbull)
Directed by the man who created the special effects for 2001: A Space Odyssey, this lyrical, little-seen sci-fi gem is one of the most haunting and off-kilter films of its time. Bruce Dern is the human custodian of the last forest in existence — on a space station hurtling through the solar system. When his corporate overlords order him to scuttle the operation, he and his robot companions are forced to take matters into their own hands. (Matt Lynch)

THE HAPPENING (2008, M. Night Shyamalan)
If you’ve ever wanted to see a soft-spoken, professorly Marky Mark literally run away from evil wind—you’re in for a real TREEt (you’re welcome). Wahlberg is a high-school science teacher from Philly who, along with his family and everyone else on the East Coast, is trying to escape a mysterious toxin radiating off of plants that causes anyone exposed to lose their mind and commit suicide. In this natural disaster thriller, optimistically marketed as Shyamalan’s first R-rated film, the trees are out for revenge and everyone’s trying to figure out what’s (The) Happening. (Emalie Soderback)

NAUSICAA OF THE VALLEY OF THE WIND (1984, Hayao Miyazaki)
Miyazaki’s early fantasy, based on his then-unfinished comics epic about a brave and adventurous princess caught in the middle of a war between post-apocalyptic kingdoms. In this ravaged world of the future nature has managed to rebuild itself and take control through toxic pollen and dangerous giant insects. Coming from a tribe built on the harnessing of wind power, Nausicaä travels the land on her glider, trying to stay in tune with this new ecology so that nobody gets stepped on by oversized stampeding trilobites. (Bryan Theiss)

HABITAT (1997, Rene Daalder)
A Tarkovsky-lite love story about a man who evolves into a new state of being through a science accident. Also a Lynchian comedy about an asshole coach played by whose sports goons bully Balthazar Getty and his sexy high school girlfriend Laura Harris. And still further a Cronenbergian body horror where the ozone layer is destroyed, but the ecosystem fights back with molds and pollen causing allergic freakouts that end in mucous-smothered deaths. An interesting place to explore but you wouldn’t want to live there. (Leo Mayberry)

 

May 2016: BEST OF SIFF

The 42nd Annual Seattle International Film Festival runs May 19 through June 12, with more than 450 films from 90 countries. To celebrate one of the the biggest film festivals there is we’ve decided to highlight some of our favorite movies that either premiered or featured in SIFFs past!

Ten Great SIFF Films

Black Dynamite (2009)
Battle Royale (2000)
Dazed and Confused (1993)
Trainspotting (1996)
Buffalo ’66 (1998)
Run Lola Run (1998)
Rubin & Ed (1991)
Eden (2012)
Crumb (1994)
Chungking Express (1994)

CHUNGKING EXPRESS
(1994, Wong Kar-wai)
Never has a movie so accurately depicted the strange restlessness, slight obsessiveness, and absolute dreaminess of having a crush on someone. In the swirl of neon lights, chaotic streets, and hazy nightlife of Hong Kong, several people experience longing and heartache. A cop turns to superstition as he slowly falls for a mysterious blonde-wig-wearing drug dealer, while a shy waitress sneaks into another officer’s apartment each day to clean and rearrange his things. Before you know it, this will have you humming The Mama and The Papa’s California Dreamin’ and putting The Cranberries on a mix CD for a lover you haven’t even met. (Emalie Soderback)

EDEN (2012, Megan Griffiths)
Also known as The Abduction of Eden, this is the harrowing story of a teenage girl (Jamie Chung) abducted by sex traffickers running a horrific cattle ranch style operation right under the noses of suburban New Mexico. Though you wouldn’t know it by the dessert setting, it was filmed right here in Washington State by local director (and fellow Stranger Genius Award winner) Megan Griffiths. While the allegedly true story that is the film’s basis has since been called into question, the film stands as a creepy and well constructed crime story with a breakout performance by Chung as an innocent girl who must harden and compromise her soul to survive. (Bryan Theiss)

BLACK DYNAMITE (2009, Scott Sanders)
Previously known for action movies like Exit Wounds and Spawn, Michael Jai White revealed himself as a writer and a comedic actor in Black Dynamite. White plays the eponymous ex-CIA asskicker who battles a racist conspiracy that takes him all the way to Kung Fu Island and The White House. A loving homage to the blaxploitation films that White and director Scott Sanders grew up on, it’s a parody film with unusual authenticity from the hero’s badass swagger and martial arts all the way to the dusty funk soundtrack by Adrian Younge. Seeing the crowd flip out when Black Dynamite himself walked out unannounced after the screening was, for me, a SIFF highlight. (Bryan Theiss)

ATOMIC CAFE (1982, Jayne Loader, Kevin & Pierce Rafferty)
For those of us who were living in Reagan’s America, it was a humorous reminder of the 50’s nuclear panic, and a chilling reminder that duck and cover would not save us if Reagan decided to nuke Russia. Watching it now (having survived the apocalyptic promises of the 1980’s) it’s strangely comforting and entertaining. All grown up now, you might still want a house with a bomb shelter in the back yard, but nowadays you might just fantasize about extra storage space instead of mushroom clouds. (Rhias Hall)

BUFFALO ’66 (1998, Vincent Gallo)
After getting out of prison, Billy Brown (Gallo) kidnaps Layla (Christina Ricci) and forces her to accompany him to his sports-obsessed parents’ house in Buffalo to pretend to be his wife. Meanwhile, in a Stockholm syndrome kind of way, Layla begins to fall in love with Billy, regardless of his intense mood swings and harsh insecurities. This is a quietly beautiful gem of independent cinema, featuring scenes that have achieved cult status—such as Billy’s rant about ‘shifter cars’, a tap-dancing Layla under the spotlight in a bowling alley, and a touchingly intimate time-lapse scene of the two laying together in a hotel before Billy goes off to seek revenge on the man who put him behind bars (Emalie Soderback)

SALOME’S LAST DANCE (1988, Ken Russell)
Ken Russell really understood decadence, and his adaptation of Wilde’s banned stage play Salome is one of the most decadent films ever made. From the setting (a victorian brothel complete with tiger skin fainting couch) to the costumes (gold lame’ and rhinestones for miles) this is what Wilde meant when he wrote “The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom.” (Rhias Hall)

 

June 2016: Clyde Petersen & Paul Shin’s Excellent Queer Adventure

June is Pride Month! We thought it would be great to hand over Crosscut this month to two amazing local artists. Way back in the winter of 2014, Clyde Petersen and Paul Shin began the overwhelming task of watching and reviewing every film in the LGBTQ section here at Scarecrow. Their Queer Films Tumblr hosts their reviews and disgruntled ramblings about the state of Queer film in the world. While Paul and Clyde have only made it through a few hundred of these films so far, it’s fair to say they are slowly becoming historians in the art of the DIY Homemade Homosexual Art Films. It should be noted that while Scarecrow Video is full of popular Queer films, they are not all housed in the GLBTQ section of the store. They are perhaps organized by Director or according to other attributes, making this LGBTQ section an exceptionally strange and eclectic mix of films.

10 Paul & Clyde Favorites:

Dyke TV
Chocolate Babies
But I’m a Cheerleader
By Hook or By Crook
Tan Lines
American Fabulous
The Owls
Lesbian Humor: Films of Barbara Hammer
Odd Gals Out
Young Hearts, Broken Dreams

TAN LINES (2007, Ed Aldridge)
This Australian Surfer film has so much to offer. It’s punk, gritty, drunk teens, shirtless surfers and negligent parents. Spoiler Alert: There is a Silent Disco in this film and the way it’s filmed and the Sound Design KILLS IT. It’s worth watching just for that scene, and all around Tan Lines is an excellent film. Australians don’t mess around when it comes to coming-of-age tales. Their films often show things with a true to life brutality that I really appreciate and wish American Queer Film would embrace. (Clyde)

BY HOOK OR BY CROOK (2001, Silas Howard & Harry Dodge)
I have watched this movie over a hundred times. It’s packed full of music by bands I love, queer rockers and actors I looked up to in high school (Silas Howard and Harry Dodge) and it stands as a true document of the San Francisco of the past. The lesbian bars in the film are gone. The people that made this film, they all moved to LA and New York. It’s as historical as a Harvey Milk Documentary, though it’s a fictional tale. It’s a snapshot in time of people that aged out of Riot Grrl and grew up touring with Sister Spit. The genderqueer friendship at the heart of the story is something I always wanted and it brings me back to watch this film, time and time again. (Clyde)

THE OWLS (2010, Cheryl Dunye)
This movie is LA Lesbian Bed Death meets aging rockers, The Butchies, at a dinner party. If anyone but Cheryl Dunye had directed this, it would have been awful. But it’s weird and experimental and pretty cool. The SoCal lesbian world has such a strong vibe to it. There is nothing else in the world that looks anything like it. And in case you didn’t know, OWL’s stands for Older Wiser Lesbians. I really like Cheryl Dunye’s work. I hope someday I can meet her and say “thank you for being an amazing groundbreaking filmmaker.” (Clyde)

AMERICAN FABULOUS (2001, Reno Dakota)
Dakota videotaped nine hours of footage documenting his friend Jeffrey Allen Strouth, who was gay and HIV positive in 1990. Edited down to 103 minutes, this doc is a friend’s portrayal of someone who was unapologetically gay in America. Some of Strouth’s stories are harrowing and trauma inducing, but his twang of humor serves as both coping mechanism and pillar of strength. In today’s society where we collect and attempt to recollect stories through various social media apps, I can’t think of too many people who can create their own context and direct the narrative of their own lives, let alone a close friend. (Paul)

YOUNG HEARTS, BROKEN DREAMS
Episode 1 (1990); Episode 2 (1995); Episode 3 (1997) (Gerald Gordon)

This series has everything. Wavy camerawork with what I’m hoping is Vaseline on the lens to depict drug use during the 90’s. A cop character named Zech whose got a gun and wears a sport-jacket. Bad technical lighting because the director either didn’t have the funds for sufficient lighting or they wanted to utilize all that great Southern California sun that people keep talking about when it can actually pierce the perpetual light grey-brown smog overcast. And tall curly haircuts on dudes that remind me of gay porn stars, like Ryan Idol, from the 90’s. Young Hearts is a great example of LGBT media the gay community tolerated and stomached due to the vacuum of LGBT presence in mainstream media. (Paul)

ODD GALS OUT (1990’s, Producer: Linda Hancock)
First, I want to say PLEASE BE GENTLE WITH THIS VHS because I’m not sure there is another copy available to the public in this country. This video production features the improv comedy sketches of Canadian comedy duo Sandra Fellner and Sharon Jacobs. The lesbian comedy genre was a burgeoning cultural force during the 90’s, with Ellen DeGeneres being at the forefront in mainstream media. Some other major players were Kate Clinton and Lea DeLaria. Fellner and Jacobs play off of each other with good effortless flow. These ladies need to get some spotlight for this shit, and it totally has potential for someone less talented like Dane Cook to steal and not give credit after the fact. (Paul)

 

July 2016: ROAD MOVIES

What better subgenre of film to represent freedom and independence than road movies? Road movies have been defined as a film where the main character goes on an actual journey, which ultimately ends up altering the state of their everyday existence. These selected films encompass a certain type of independence and freedom that our 4th of July national holiday doesn’t quite capture. Whether it be freedom from the law, freedom from stifling societal expectations, freedom from your past, or just freedom from the mundane, these journeys will make you want to jump in the car and feel the wind in your hair. (Emalie)

Ten Great Road Movies:

Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure
Kingpin
Planes, Trains & Automobiles
The Muppet Movie
Badlands
Two Lane Blacktop
Beavis and Butt-Head Do America
Mad Max: Fury Road
Wild at Heart
Y Tu Mama Tambien

PLANES, TRAINS & AUTOMOBILES (1987, John Hughes)
An odd-couple (Steve Martin and John Candy) inadvertently end up as traveling companions as they make their way home to Chicago for Thanksgiving and hilarity ensues. As they travel, the high-strung Martin slowly learns to accept Candy’s slovenly, but genuinely well-meaning Del Griffith as not only a fellow human being, but as a friend. (Kevin)

BEAVIS AND BUTT-HEAD DO AMERICA (1996, Mike Judge)

The two titular idiots wake up to find the only possession that matters to them, their TV, has been stolen! This (and the vague promise of “scoring”) sends them on a cross-country trip, embroiling them in a terrorist plot. Along the way they meet their fathers, become national heroes and have a Rob Zombie peyote dream sequence in the desert. Not that they’ll remember any of it. (Kevin)

KINGPIN (1996, The Farrelly Brothers)
A movie about the American dream, a once-promising bowling star (Woody Harrelson) who fell hard, and his groping to become not so much of the loser that he is. His climb back towards the top involves an idiot-savant Amish bowler (Randy Quaid) and a road trip from Pennsylvania to “The Biggest Little City in the World,” Reno! Along the way they learn lessons about friendship, strip clubs, scamming people, and milking a bull. (Kevin)

TWO-LANE BLACKTOP (1971, Monte Hellman)
The greatest road movie of the seventies is pretty much about nothing but the road and 4 characters (The Driver – James Taylor, The Mechanic – Dennis Wilson, GTO – Warren Oates, and The Girl – Laurie Bird) who inhabit it in a cross-country race, and it’s a stunner. A box office failure in 1971, Scarecrow Video believed in it enough to circulate a “2000 For Two-Lane petition” in 1994, successfully resulting in its first ever home video release. (Mark)

PEE-WEE’S BIG ADVENTURE (1985, Tim Burton)
Pee Wee’s Big Adventure definitely is a road trip movie, but it’s also so may other things. It’s about one man’s unhealthy love for a bicycle and what happens when you steal a trucker’s wife or knock over two dozen motorcycles outside a rough roadside bar in the middle of nowhere. But hopefully it will just inspire you to lust after the road…if any of the other movies in this section don’t do the trick.

PARIS, TEXAS (1984, Wim Wenders)
Nearly all of Wim Wenders’ films are road movies of one kind or another, and here he trains his unerring eye on Texas, circa 1984, putting Harry Dean Stanton on the road in a quest to find his estranged wife and, presumably, himself. This gentle, meandering, sensitive tale of familial bonds also features great performances by Dean Stockwell as Stanton’s brother and Nastassja Kinski as his estranged wife, as well amazing cinematography by master lenser Robby Muller. (Mark)

 

AUGUST 2016: Bummer Vacation

Everyone needs to get away from it all sometimes, maybe to escape a stressful job or a tough time at home, or just to get the heck out of town for a while. But as anyone who’s done a little travelling knows, the best laid plans often go awry. This month’s Crosscut section is in celebration of movies about vacations gone wrong, whether because of pesky relatives, unexpected run-ins with the law, sudden detours, deadly animal attacks, or even psycho killers or aliens. Maybe it’s safer to just stay in bed with the curtains shut.

Ten Great Bummer Vacation Films:

Spring Breakers
Deliverance
Jaws
Total Recall
Wake in Fright
Westworld
Jurassic Park
The Long Weekend
Picnic at Hanging Rock
Tourist Trap

TOTAL RECALL (1990, Paul Verhoeven)
Poor Douglas Quaid (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is being plagued by weird dreams about Mars. He could use a vacation. This is the future, so instead of flying to a beach somewhere he goes to a service that will implant memories of a fantasy life where he was a secret agent on Mars. But something goes wrong – or does it? – uncovering memories of adventures that actually did happen to him – or did they? This combines crowd-pleasing blockbuster sci-fi action with political and social satire and envelope-pushing violence and delivers some of Arnold’s finest over-the-top action and silly one-liners. (Bryan)

SPRING BREAKERS (2012, Harmony Korine)
Harmony Korine, the famed indie director responsible for suburban nightmare films like Gummo and Julien Donkey-Boy pulled out all the stops for his biggest budget (and most commercially successful) film yet. This sweaty, druggy, neon-drenched, pop explosion follows four college girls as they rob a restaurant and head to spring break in Florida. Their relentless partying eventually pairs them up with local rapper/gangster Alien (played with a strange, sleazy charisma by James Franco), and things slowly spiral out of control. Spring break…spring break foreverrrrrrrrrrr. (Emalie)

TOURIST TRAP (1979, David Schmoeller)
Roadside attractions used to be a feature of every cross country road trip. Places like Captain Spaulding’s Museum of Murder and Mystery, Texas Battle Land, and Slausen’s Oasis dotted the American landscape providing a welcome break for road weary families. Most of those attractions have long since vanished, but they live on in the imaginations of filmmakers and storytellers. Tourist Trap is a great late 70’s horror film starring Chuck Connors as a telekinetic madman with a family of killer mannequins. (Rhias)

DELIVERANCE (1972, John Boorman)
Everyone remembers (and refers to) either the dueling banjos scene or the nightmarish violation of Ned Beatty. Far less talked about is a key moment later on, when the survivors are taken in and fed by friendly locals, Voight’s about to break down at the dinner table, and Beatty breaks the incredible tension with an observation (“this is some GOOD CORN”) enabling the locals to start talking about their crops. Deliverance is one of the most thoughtful and heartfelt odes to the dangers of modernity ever made. (Mark)

ALI BABA BUNNY (1957, Chuck Jones)
While on the way to vacation at Pismo Beach (“and all the clams ya can eat!”), Bugs and Daffy take that wrong turn at Albuquerque and wind up inside a rich Sultan’s cave, filled with jewels and gold. Naturally, the dynamic duo wreak havoc on the Sultan’s faithful sentry, Hassan, while Daffy exposes his true, self-centered nature (“I’m rich, I’m rich, I’m SOCIALLY SECURE!) and Bugs’ wit saves them both from the bad guy and their own greedy impulses. And (spoiler alert) they actually make it to Pismo Beach in the end. (Mark)

ROAD GAMES (1981, Richard Franklin)
Australia was made for road movies, and Road Games is one of best. This suspenseful horror film stars Stacy Keach as an outgoing truck driver who picks up an American hitch-hiker (Jamie Lee Curtis) to keep him company on a long haul across the outback. Along the way they learn of a serial killer who has been murdering women and dumping the bodies along desolate roads. Could the killer be driving the suspicious green van that seems to be dogging their trail? (Rhias)

 

September 2016: BACK TO SCHOOL

Well, summer’s over, and teachers and students everywhere are headed back to school for another year. Whether you’re excited about filling your brain with lots of new ideas or just counting the days until next summer, we thought we’d help everyone make the transition from the long break with this selection of Back to School-themed movies. Have a great year!

Ten Great Back to School Films:

Rushmore
Carrie
Dazed And Confused
Matilda
Elephant
Class of 1984
Rock ‘n’ Roll High School
Breakfast Club
Suspiria
Fast Times at Ridgemont High

MATILDA (1996, Danny DeVito)
Technically speaking, Matilda is a children’s movie, but emotionally speaking this film is for everyone. Instead of the saccharine schmaltz that makes so many family films repellent, Matilda is a dark comedy with a bit of a bite. If you have children, you can absolutely watch this with them – and they will love it! If you don’t have children, watch it anyway, it’s a blast. (Rhias)

IT ALL STARTS TODAY (1999, Bertrand Tavernier)
After making films about jazz icons, world wars, swashbucklers, and serial-killing cops, Tavernier set his sights on the education system in a small, poverty-ridden, rural French village, and it became his most urgent, immediate, and riveting film up to that point. Shot mostly with a Steadicam and concentrating on the efforts of an idealistic teacher to singlehandedly fix a decades-old, broken system, Tavernier pairs an excellent character study with an impassioned plea for social justice. (Mark)

ROCK ‘N’ ROLL HIGH SCHOOL (1979, Allan Arkush)
“What makes YOU think you could write a song for the Ramones?” is my favorite line of dialog in this amazing film. I love the Ramones, but one of the things I love about them is that their songs are ridiculously simple. All you need to write a Ramones song are four chords, and seven or eight words strung together. So, while P.J. Soles plots to get her precious sheet music to the (incredibly stoned) Joey Ramone, I’m just gonna sit back and enjoy the ride. You should do the same. (Rhias)

CARRIE (1976, Brian De Palma)
I don’t know what YOUR High School experience was like, but mine was a living hell. I love Carrie for its brutal honesty, for Sissy Spacek’s incredible performance, and because I was unfairly denied my telekinetic vengeance. (Rhias)

CLASS OF 1984 (1982, Mark L. Lester)
Taking a new job at an inner city high school turns out to be a terrible decision when hopeful young music teacher Andrew Norris is faced with a gang of violent teens who run the halls. Classroom conflicts evolve into deadly confrontations, and Norris realizes his only choice is to fight back. This is a testosterone-fueled, punk rock, Reagan-era nightmare: over the top violence, outrageous ‘80s fashion, piano solos, a drug-fueled flagpole scene, and unforgettable performances by Timothy Van Patten, Roddy McDowell, and even a baby-faced Michael J. Fox. (Emalie)

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