Mind Blowing Movies: Funny Bones, by Bill Barol

Recently, Boing Boing presented a series of essays about movies that have had a profound effect on our invited essayists. We are extending the series. See all the essays in the Mind Blowing Movies series. -- Mark

Mind Blowing Movies: Funny Bones, by Bill Barol

[Video Link] 1995’s Funny Bones, by the British writer/director Peter Chelsom, is either a comedy about dark things, like betrayal and manslaughter, or a drama about funny people, like a pair of retired vaudevillians who are winding down their days scaring children in the spook house on the Blackpool amusement pier. I’ve seen the movie, conservatively, two dozen times and I still don’t quite know how to describe it. I’ve never shown it to anybody who didn’t turn to me at least once with an incredulous look in their eyes, a look that says: “What the hell is this?”

This is exactly what I love about Funny Bones -- it is sui generis, and impossible to boil down. I can tell you the broad outlines: Failed standup Tommy Fawkes, the son of revered funnyman George Fawkes, flees Las Vegas and returns to the tattered seaside town of Blackpool where he grew up, in search of the indefinable substance that makes people funny. Once there he discovers that he has a half-brother he never knew, and that this odd, shy sibling is the unwilling recipient of the comedy genes, the funny bones, that Tommy so desperately desires. But those few quick strokes really -- you have to believe me -- they really don’t do justice to this odd, dark, deeply funny and witheringly sad story, or to the faded netherworld of fringe show business in which Tommy finds himself, casting frantically about for something to keep him from going under. Read the rest

Andy Griffith: Before Mayberry, A Movie Monster

Boing Boing recently presented a series of essays about movies that have had a profound effect on our invited essayists. We are extending the series for several additional days. See all the essays in the Mind Blowing Movies series. -- Mark

Andy Griffith: Before Mayberry, A Movie Monster, by Bill Barol

[Video Link] If for any reason you doubt the power of television, consider the long career of Andy Griffith, who died this week at 86. Griffith had one TV role that was merely successful and one that was almost archetypical. That’s a pretty good run for any actor. But TV didn’t just give to Griffith. It also took away, and it’s here that the medium shows its muscle in a really astounding way. Griffith’s long TV career effectively effaced a film debut that, fifty years later, is so vivid and visceral that it startles with every viewing. The facts that Griffith played a bad guy in his first film role, and that both the performance and the movie, Elia Kazan’s 1957 A Face In The Crowd, are largely overlooked today -- these are testaments to TV’s power to swamp any cultural phenomena that have the poor judgment to get in its way.

Hang on, there’s more. What’s doubly delicious about this is, A Face In The Crowd is a cautionary tale about the power of -- Anyone? Anyone? Yes: Television. Griffith, who came from nightclubs and the stage and had no resume as a dramatic actor in 1957, plays Lonesome Rhodes, a drifter who stumbles into national prominence thanks to the demagogic power of the then-young medium. Read the rest

Mind Blowing Movies: What's New Pussycat?, by Richard Metzger

Recently, Boing Boing presented a series of essays about movies that have had a profound effect on our invited essayists. We are extending the series. See all the essays in the Mind Blowing Movies series. -- Mark

Mind Blowing Movies: What's New Pussycat?, by Richard Metzger

[Video Link] After reading over the other entries in Boing Boing's Mind Blowing Movies series, I couldn't help feeling a little embarrassed that I was unable to think of even a single film that I felt had truly blown my mind. Works of art, music, weird science, books of philosophy, sure, ideas have blown my mind, but when I try to mentally flip though the catalog of my favorite films, or ones that I quote from the most often, or what have you (Female Trouble, Valley of the Dolls, Putney Swope, Ken Russell's Isadora Duncan: Biggest Dancer in the World, Head, Richard Lester's criminally underrated Petulia) I still wouldn't file any of them as particularly "mind blowing," just as movies that I happen to really, really like.

When Mark sent out the invite to contribute, I confess that I immediately drew a cinematic blank, but there was one film that that didn't necessarily "blow my mind," per se, in the same way that the other participants here have expressed it in their posts, but it did fundamentally alter my mind, or at least it did something to immediately change my perception of the world around me, in the sense that there was a before & after aspect when I watched it. Read the rest

Mind Blowing Movies: World on a Wire (1973), by Erik Davis

Mind Blowing Movies: World on a Wire (1973), by Erik Davis

[Video Link] When you think about movies that blew your mind, you often think about flicks you saw when you were an adolescent or even a kid, when there was so much room for the explosion to occur. For me, it was movies like Alien, Nick Roeg’s Performance and Walkabout, Repo Man (“plate a shrimp”), Silent Running, 2001, Apocalypse Now, and, yes, the original Star Wars, which I lined up for on opening weekend. Getting older, your worldly and cultural map inevitably gets filled in, and a certain knowing jadedness settles over your responses. Films refer to other films; they make their extraordinary moves in the shadow of other extraordinary moves. It becomes harder for the films you see to fuel the proper escape velocity of amazement, fear, and bent cognition that make for the authentically blown mind. 

I am happy to report, however, that it still happens, at least to this sublimity-seeking mind. Just last week, I saw a film that I had never heard about until a month or so ago: Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s two-part 1973 TV SciFi drama World on a Wire. Now Fassbinder is no obscurity, and the true film buffs will have already notched their belts with this one, which was restored and bumped up to 35 mm from its original 16mm Kodachrome stock a couple of years ago but only recently released on DVD. Fassbinder, of course, was the most harrowing and brilliant of the New German Cinema maestros in the 1970s, and his gritty, disturbing, and fabulously over-the-top melodramas—like Ali: Fear Eats the Soul and The Year of Thirteen Moons—were staples of the art house cinema circuit within which I was schooled as a young man coming of age during the autumn of celluloid. Read the rest

Mind Blowing Movies: Inserts (1974)

Last week, Boing Boing presented a series of essays about movies that have had a profound effect on our invited essayists. We are extending the series for several additional days. See all the essays in the Mind Blowing Movies series. -- Mark

Mind Blowing Movies: Inserts (1974)

[Video Link] Inserts could never be made today. It's too politically incorrect, and it would be difficult to find talented actors and actresses to essay its mentally and (in a sense) physically demanding roles. However, I've just finished watching Inserts for what must be the 30th time, and I'm as big a fan of this movie today as I was when I first discovered it in 1979. I'm only hoping that this review inspires you to go out and rent this R-rated classic so you can form your own opinions, rather than relying on either mine… or Leonard Maltin's ("Pretentious, unending nonsense… Dreadful") or Mick Martin's ("Dreary").

Inserts is the story of two afternoon hours in the life of The Boy Wonder (hereafter "The BW") (Dreyfuss), a former mainstream silent film director who's lost his nerve, and who, as the film opens (in the early 1930s), is reduced to making porno movies in his mansion. The Boy Wonder's "set" is in the corner of his spacious living room … but it may not be there for long. His neighborhood is undergoing urban renewal, as Los Angeles begins to build the first of its maze of freeways, and the roar of giant earth-moving machines can be heard continually from outside. Read the rest

Mind Blowing Movies: The Curse Of Mr. Bean

Last week, Boing Boing presented a series of essays about movies that have had a profound effect on our invited essayists. We are extending the series for several additional days. See all the essays in the Mind Blowing Movies series. -- Mark

[Video Link]To date, the most mind-blowing film I've ever seen was 1980's The Stunt Man, directed by Richard Rush. This movie truly had exactly that sort of effect on me, through scene after scene, until the very end.

And by "the very end" I don't mean "the end of the movie." I mean "the very end of the VHS cassette I first saw it on." I sat there in my chair, staring blankly at the screen with this fixed, open-mouth grin on my face after the credits rolled and the screen went to black. There was some blinking. No drooling as far as I can recall, but otherwise, I spent those several minutes staring at a black screen and trying to process what I'd just seen. What blew my mind wasn't the story itself so much as how it'd been told. As I reviewed the experience, I started to appreciate that The Stunt Man is possibly the finest magic trick I'd ever seen. The trick is over, it gratefully releases its grip on your sense of free will and independent observation, and you start to appreciate just how skilled the magician was.

This happy mental state was only broken by the THUNK of the tape stopping at the end of the leader and then auto-rewinding in the VHS deck. Read the rest

Mind Blowing Movie: Chameleon Street

Last week, Boing Boing presented a series of essays about movies that have had a profound effect on our invited essayists. We are extending the series for several additional days. See all the essays in the Mind Blowing Movies series. -- Mark

[Video Link] "The film you are about to see and hear is based on the life experiences of William Douglas Street, Jr. and Erik Dupin. Many of the characters appear as themselves, while others assume fictional personae."

Chameleon Street is a movie that blew my mind even before I saw it, and then once more when finally, after nearly a decade without a theatrical run, it was finally released on video.

What do I mean by that? In the early '90s, I was a teenager making a VHS tape of a short-lived news magazine TV show called Edge one evening, which happened to feature a curious story about a Sundance Jury Prizewinning film which, oddly, could not get a distributor to release it. There was no graphic content. It wasn't inaccessibly "arty," indeed it was very plainspoken. The root of the problem, the show explained, was that the plain speaking -- even if elegantly-worded -- was delivered by a very sharp-witted black guy. Wendell B. Harris Jr. not only wrote and directed, but he actually spoke every nuanced piece of dialog into the camera as the lead actor portraying Doug Street; who, more incredibly, was a real guy. From Wikipedia:

Chameleon Street is a 1989 independent film written, directed by and starring Wendell B.
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Mind Blowing Movies: Brazil, by Tiffany Lee Brown

This week, Boing Boing is presenting a series of essays about movies that have had a profound effect on our invited essayists. See all the essays in the Mind Blowing Movies series here. -- Mark

The Other Side: Brazil, by Tiffany Lee Brown

Warning: Spoiler alert!

[Video Link] When I told Boing Boing a few weeks back that I'd write this piece, I hadn't yet sat by my husband's side in the Trauma ICU, wondering whether his mind would stay in the far-off realms of the Other Side, like Sam in the movie Brazil, or whether he would come back to me. Josh was here in this world when I first saw him after his bicycle accident, a duct-like breathing tube emerging from his mouth. His right eye could just barely open, and through it he saw me and our son Gusty. I could tell he knew we were here. I knew he was here. I just knew.

At the end of Brazil, Michael Palin tortures Sam (Jonathan Pryce) from behind a spectacularly disturbing mask until Robert DeNiro's inimitable terrorist plumber, Tuttle, swoops in with his fellow revolutionaries and rescues Sam. Strange shenanigans follow, and Sam even gets to blow up the hideous, Kafkaesque Ministry of Information buildings. He's then swept away by the object of his romantic obsession, a truck drivin' tough gal, to live in the country in a caravan, complete with goats.

Except that Sam's living all these rescues in his mind. The final scene shows him staring out from his far-off mind while an evil overlord remarks, "Jack, I think he got away from us." Sam is gone. Read the rest

Mind Blowing Movies: Fantasia (1940) and Eraserhead (1977), by Jay Kinney

This week, Boing Boing is presenting a series of essays about movies that have had a profound effect on our invited essayists. See all the essays in the Mind Blowing Movies series here. -- Mark

Mind Blowing Movies: Fantasia (1940) and Eraserhead (1977), by Jay Kinney

[Video Link] I've never been much of a movie buff, to put it mildly. Movies have always affected me so strongly -- I've likened it at times to an acid trip, though that is an exaggeration -- that I've done well in a given year if I've made it to a theater even twice. My intake via TV and Netflix is slightly better, but hardly robust. In light of this, most movies I've seen still stand out in my memory as singular events.

There was a brief period, during my art school years in New York at the dawn of the '70s, when I discovered the pleasures of silent German films (particularly those of Lang, Murnau, and Pabst), which were being regularly screened at a repertory house in the West Village. Certainly some of my happiest movie moments were seeing films for the first time like The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, Metropolis, M, Dr. Mabuse, Nosferatu, Pandora's Box, and Diary of a Lost Girl. Read the rest

Mind Blowing Movies: Ghost World (2001), by Amy Crehore

This week, Boing Boing is presenting a series of essays about movies that have had a profound effect on our invited essayists. See all the essays in the Mind Blowing Movies series here. -- Mark

Ghost World, A Movie That Knocked My Socks Off, by Amy Crehore

[Video Link] It starts out with an absolutely unforgettable and insane music video of an East Indian dance number from a 1965 Bollywood production (Gumnaam). A young teenager named Enid rocks out wickedly in front of a television set, wearing a cap and gown in a bedroom crammed with clothes and familiar-looking junk.

I knew it was going to be good, but I had no idea that the movie Ghost World (2001) would bathe me in such an uncanny sense of deja vu from start to finish. The characters are so real and familiar that they could have been based on my friends and me.

Director Terry Zwigoff had previously spent almost a decade making a documentary about his friend R. Crumb, the legendary comic artist. Crumb (1994) had been a grueling project, but the film made a big splash when it came out and he was rewarded with new opportunities.

In 2001, his first full-length fictional film was released and I was curious to see it. It is based on an earlier Daniel Clowes' comic called Ghost World, which features two teenage girl characters, Enid and Rebecca. The collaboration between Zwigoff and Clowes for the movie proved to be immensely fruitful with each adding his own personal nuances to the adapted screenplay. Read the rest

Mind Blowing Movies: Invaders from Mars (1953), by Douglas Rushkoff

This week, Boing Boing is presenting a series of essays about movies that have had a profound effect on our invited essayists. See all the essays in the Mind Blowing Movies series here. -- Mark

Mind Blowing Movies: Invaders from Mars (1953), by Douglas Rushkoff

[Video Link] The first film that blew my mind was Invaders from Mars -- the 1953 version. I was 6 when I saw it, in a motel in Phoenix (my first motel stay) with my family on the way to the Grand Canyon. There was a metal box on the nightstand, and if you put a quarter in, the bed would vibrate for ten minutes.

And on that vibrating bed, with my brother and father, I watched this movie about a kid whose dad changes into this other guy who looks the same but is actually a bad man. And no one believes the kid. And I totally knew what the kid felt like. And he does everything right -- even going to police when the stakes get high enough, but by then the chief of police has been turned into one of these alien people, too.

It ended with the kid seeing the head alien octopus creature in a glass bubble, but even though that was supposed to be scary I saw it as vindication. There really was an alien invasion, and it was captured on film. (My sense of reality watching TV hadn't been fully formed, yet.)

And from then on, whenever my dad was mean I'd check the back of his neck to see if he had been changed. Read the rest

Mind Blowing Movies: Popee the Performer (circa 2000), by Lars Martinson

This week, Boing Boing is presenting a series of essays about movies that have had a profound effect on our invited essayists. See all the essays in the Mind Blowing Movies series here. -- Mark

Mind Blowing Movies: Popee the Performer (circa 2000), by Lars Martinson

[Video Link]

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Mind Blowing Movies: Middle Men (2009), by Paul Krassner

This week, Boing Boing is presenting a series of essays about movies that have had a profound effect on our invited essayists. See all the essays in the Mind Blowing Movies series here. -- Mark

Middle Men (2009), by Paul Krassner

[Video Link] Speaking of his recent movie about the early years of the Internet porn industry, Middle Men, producer Christopher Mallick admits, "I think that it's based on a true story, but that doesn't mean it's all true." He should know. The main character -- Jack Harris, portrayed by the ever grimacing Luke Wilson -- is based on him.

Mallick in real life and Harris on screen both founded Paycom Billing Services, an Internet company that processes payments for porn sites. Money used to grow on trees, then it popped out of banks' brick walls, and now it's busy floating around in cyberspace. Until 1995, you weren't able to purchase anything online. But, thanks to a software code enabling secure transactions, Harris brags, "We could take a credit card from anywhere in the world and deliver a product to anywhere in the world. We can make a profit on every transaction. We're just the middle men." And now it's been estimated that porn is featured on nearly 40 percent of all Web sites.

In his cameo role as a powerful politician, Kelsey Grammer confronts Harris: "You peddle porn over the Internet."

"Well, Senator," he replies, holding up a sheet of paper, "this is your billing record: Naughty Secretary..."

The senator smirks and Harris continue to read other titles, then says, "You realize you've just attempted to blackmail a publicly elected state official -- and it worked. Read the rest

Mind Blowing Movies: Blade Runner (1982), by Gareth Branwyn

This week, Boing Boing is presenting a series of essays about movies that have had a profound effect on our invited essayists. See all the essays in the Mind Blowing Movies series here. -- Mark

Like Tears in the Rain, by Gareth Branwyn

[Video Link] In 1982, my wife and I had just moved from a rural commune in Virginia to Washington, DC. We moved to the city so that she could pursue her music career (among other reasons). We were still country mice, easily awoken in the morning by street traffic, bothered by the air quality, and longing for the open skies of the country -- where, at night, you could see the stardust of the Milky Way clear as day.

Every year my wife would go to Nantucket to perform at a restaurant called The Brotherhood of Thieves -- a place that wouldn't look at all out of place in Treasure Island. It was dark, brick-walled, candle and lantern-lit, with big oak-slab tables and wooden ass-numbing chairs. In 1982, she was performing a duo act with well-known New England folkie Linda Worster, with whom she frequently played on the island.

Seeing them perform every night was a joy, but some nights I'd want to drift onto the streets of Nantucket, get swept up into the tide of pink and Nantucket-red golf clothes and flouncy summer dresses, and see where the night might wash me up.

On this night, a somewhat cold and cloudy one, I ended up under the marquee of Nantucket's Dreamland Theater, a giant, creaking, wooden ship of a building that smelled of mold, popcorn grease, and sunscreen. Read the rest

Mind Blowing Movies: Poltergeist (1982), by Kirk Demarais

This week, Boing Boing is presenting a series of essays about movies that have had a profound effect on our invited essayists. See all the essays in the Mind Blowing Movies series here. -- Mark

Mind Blowing Movies: Poltergeist (1982), by Kirk Demarais

[Video Link] It's a shame that movie laughs and thrills don't have the staying power that terror has. It makes sense though, laughter and excitement aren't as crucial to survival as fear-based cinematic life lessons such as: never sleep with a clown at the foot of your bed.

As enticing as the trailer was, I never even considered asking my folks to let me watch Poltergeist (1982). The closest thing to a horror flick that I'd seen was The Ghost and Mr. Chicken (1966) starring Don Knotts, a film that firmly stamped my brain with an image of garden shears stuck in the neck of a lady's portrait that leaked real blood.

"Coming up next...Poltergeist." announced my friend Eric's television set. His TV wasn't like mine, it had a new, plastic box on top that unlocked a pricey service called Home Box Office. After the metallic HBO soared through space I found myself watching the opening credits. A rush of guilt prompted me to run to the kitchen phone where I called my mom. Back then I'd rather ask for permission than forgiveness. Read the rest

Mind Blowing Movies: El Topo (1970), by Antero Alli

This week, Boing Boing is presenting a series of essays about movies that have had a profound effect on our invited essayists. See all the essays in the Mind Blowing Movies series here. -- Mark

Mind Blowing Movies: El Topo (1970), by Antero Alli

[Video Link] The first film to truly blow my mind was Jodorowsky's El Topo, which I saw soon after its release in the early '70s. Up until then I assumed that all films were made for entertainment purposes only. However, as a twenty-something, former acidhead living in Berkeley, California, my young mind was freshly imprinted to remain open to the symbolic levels of existence. Whether the "meaning" behind things whispered cosmic secrets to me or whether I made it all up mattered very little; what mattered to me was the freedom to not take everything so literally.

In the first ten minutes of this movie, I saw right away that if I viewed El Topo in any literalist way, I would experience it as a mediocre spaghetti western, softcore quasi-snuff film. But after I shifted into a more symbolist way of seeing, the film unfolded before my eyes like an animated magical Kaballah.

The main character was now The Ego on a spiritual journey to encounter and defeat four "masters," which revealed themselves to me as Body, Heart, Intellect, and Spirit. In this story, the Ego defeats the first three masters but is unexpected and indirectly defeated by Spirit. The Ego undergoes a death and awakens underground inside a hollow mountain filled with deformed humans that I saw as the Subconscious filled with distorted repressions of our human condition. Read the rest

Mind Blowing Movies: Pig (2010), by Rev. Ivan Stang

This week, Boing Boing is presenting a series of essays about movies that have had a profound effect on our invited essayists. See all the essays in the Mind Blowing Movies series here. -- Mark

Watch PIG by Adam Mason on Vimeo

Pig (2010), by Rev. Ivan Stang

I don't take mind-blowing lightly, and there are several very different ways in which movies have blown my particular mind, such as it is.

Movies seen by a very young child and therefore making an inappropriately huge impression are one type of blowage. In that respect, more than 50 years later I still vividly remember seeing Mighty Joe Young (1949) on my grandfather's TV when I was about four years old, in 1957. Cowboys in Africa (?!?) capture a giant gorilla who ends up performing on stage -- like Kong, but much more professionally. While, in front of an agog nightclub audience, his beautiful human keeper sings "Beautiful Dreamer" while Mighty Joe effortlessly holds her aloft, along with her grand piano and a solid platform. That sequence stuck with me, and to this day I often feel like a trained giant ape helping a pretty girl (or sometimes just an enlarged and life-imbued piece of clip art) make an impression on a bunch of drunks in a bar just to earn a few bananas. *

Probably the second monster movie I remember seeing was The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942), fourth in the Universal classic series. It opens with torch-wielding redneck villagers harassing a poor handicapped man, Igor, who fends off their attacks by hurling huge chunks of the decaying Frankenstein castle wall down on them. Read the rest

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