MBDS Showcase: Bryce Wilson (Things That Don't Suck)

It's time once again for another edition of the Mad, Bad and Downright Strange Showcase (MBDS Showcase) were we invite some of our Favorite critics / bloggers to pick their essential five films from our list.

This time we are joined by Bryce Wilson Critic / Filmmaker / Factotum who not content with running his insightful blog "Things That Don't Suck" more recently added eBook author to his C.V with the release of his debut "Son of Danse Macabre" available now on both Amazon and Barnes & Noble, an update of  the Stephen King book which looked at the horror genre from 1950-1980, with Bryce's companion volume now bringing it fully up to date, something that it would seem that King himself has no intentions of doing anytime soon. This is his showcase.

No sooner had I cheerfully agreed to participate in Elwood and co.’s admirable project than I realized I was in over my head.

There is of course the sheer weight of the list, and films that I love. But setting that aside fro the moment there’s the question of “essentiality” itself. Essential to whom, if I was making a list for a fourteen year old kid taking their first tentative sniffs at outrĂ© cinema, or a 34 year old wearing a an Emperor Of The North Pole T-shirt those are going to be two very different lists.

Further complicating things is the fact that cult film watching is simply different today than it was in the pre internet era, or even the DVD boom. It used to be that finding out about these films and then finding them was a very slow organic process. That was what I cut my teeth on. Now if a kid wants to watch say the collected works of Jan Svankmajer, or David Cronenberg’s student films, he’s a torrent site and ten minutes away from doing so. The idea of not just being satisfied, but being happy with finding it on a third generation VHS dub would strike that kid as quite possibly pathologically insane. What the hell is going to strike that kid as rare or outrĂ©?

So basically I decided to go with my gut. These five films I picked aren’t really unified by theme but are more of a blend of gateway drugs, mainstream films, indies and movies that used to qualify as rare. Not a primer, not a definitive end all be all set. These are simply five films that I love, but more than that, five films that have painted my love for movies. It might be harder and harder to define what cult cinema is, but if these five titles are not it than I don’t want to play anymore.

Repo Man

“Let’s get sushi and not pay!!!”

Call this one the ultimate cult film of the VHS era. Though I’ve seen Alex Cox’s masterpiece on the big screen, and own it on DVD, it’s natural habitat will always be a fuzzy VHS with a homemade label and a soundtrack that was warped thanks to repeated rewinding to listen to that part with Black Fad.

Like the punk it celebrates, and the wasteland it depicts Repo Man is a film about the glorious joys of the second hand. Held together by the sheer enthusiasm of its making. Though Cox’s career eventually succumbed to bloated self indulgence, Repo Man is a sharp diamond of a movie., which far from being embalmed in its iconic status still packs all the energy of an atomic blast that’ll leave you nothing but a pair of smoking feet at the side of the road.

In the post Pokemon, which hardwired every kid under the age of fourteen to except anime as a set of aesthetics, world its kind of impossible to recreate the “What the fuck am I watching” alienness that the initial release of Akira created.

Because that to me is what Akira represents in cult film, the sheer exhilarating, “Holy crapness!” of seeing something that you genuinely have no frame of reference for. For its initial audience Akira might as well have been broadcast from Mars, or the future or the fifth dimension. As a filmgoer gets older and more experienced, this sensation comes along less and less and becomes more and more valued. Witness the vogue for Holy Motors this year.

But Akira has to be one of the most potent, from the crack jawed editing of the opening motorcycle brawl, to the bizarre 2001 meets Jodorowsky meets a sci fi snuff film climax, from the ultraviolent animation, to the note perfect atonal soundtrack of chants, gasps and percussion, Akira practically dares you to tray and contextualize it. This is shock cinema in every sense of the word at its best.

But being a movie geek means more than appreciating the new. It also means recognizing the old. And The Blues Brothers, a big budgeted comedy musical is about tapping into as old fashioned cinematic pleasure centers as the filmmaker could find, despite its Mad Magazine anarchic sense of humor..

Perhaps more than any other filmmaker, this side of George Lucas (can you imagine if the kid who made THX-1138 and American Grafitti kept, you know, making movies?) I am haunted by the filmmaker John Landis almost was. In the early stages of his career, with films like An American Werewolf In London, there is a sense of Landis as the proto Tarantino. They are the films of a life long film fan, overjoyed by what he now gets to get away with and tempered by more than a little disbelief that he gets to get away with it.

It’s tempting to blame The Twilight Zone as the film that broke the exuberant inner fanboy that gave Landis’s work such a signature, but even before that he had proven himself more than happy to play the work for hire guy with Trading Places. Whatever the reason The Blues Brothers remains the greatest tribute to this strain of joyous filmmaking spirit. The work of a man who has a full studio’s worth of resources in order to tell this goony little story of two men on a mission from Gad, and craft a heartfelt valentine to black music at the same time. What’s not to love?

There is simply put no film that embodies the joy of cult fandom better than Evil Dead 2. I’ve written and spoken about Raimi’s exuberant valentine to insanity more times than I can count. Suffice to say any time I begin to get discouraged and depressed by the latests uncreative, exploitative joyless grab at cult notoriety. Any time I begin to wonder if it is worth it. All I need to do is watch Evil Dead 2 again and man I start to cackle harder than a mounted deer head that’s come to life.

Ghost World

I’ve chosen this film for a very specific reason. Originally I had planned to slot a Jarmusch film here, but neither Down By Law nor Stranger Than Paradise made the list. What the hell guys?
But Ghost World does just as well, if not better, because it not only exemplifies the kind of filmmaking I’m talking about but the sort of fandom.

When I say I am a film geek as opposed to a cinephile or a fanboy or whatever euphimism is currently popular I am saying something very specific. In short, I believe a Film Geek is an omnivore. A film geek should not only be willing, but eager to try anything, regardless of era, genre, or spot on the low to highbrow spectrum. A film geek should be just as excited about the prosepect of a Carl Dreyer film as they are by a Russ Meyer one. A film geek should not only appriciate John Carpenter, Sam Peckinpah, and George Romero, but Buster Keaton and Fracois Truffaunt. As eager to seek their next cinematic thrill from the most enshrined classic to the nearly forgotten obscure (I’m on my way to go see The World’s Greatest Sinner right now. If I don’t return tell Mother I loved her.) As eager to try a Bollywood dub as a film about two girl’s coming of age in The Valley. Film is a buffet, and any time I see people limit themselves to one strata or flavor it just strikes me as odd more than anything else.

Dig in.

1 comment:

  1. Okay we might have dropped the ball by missing those Jarmusch titles, but we do feature Mystery Train, Broken Flowers and Ghost Dog: Way of The Samurai so he is still represented. Still this I guess is another reason why we call it an introduction than an essential list, as helps to cover for moments like that :)