As I’ve looked to occupy myself at home over the past several months, I’ve found comfort in the many moods of cinema. Cheerful flicks for a crummy mood, horror movies to get my blood pumping, and long films because I don’t have a lot of places to go and that has freed up a lot of time.
Going deeper into this strange time though, I’ve found myself seeking out weird movies: both old favorites and new experiences. I guess my feeling is that bizarre times call for corresponding cinema.
I’ve been enjoying the ride and I wanted to share some of my favorites. I’m sharing the movies I watched on the Criterion Channel, though I have also noted other places you can stream these films when possible. Most of them can also be rented from the usual suspects:
The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T (1953) [feature]
The only film written by Dr. Seuss (Theodore Geisel) is just as bizarre and inventive as you would expect. A boy who objects to his life of routine and parental control imagines a frightening, but vibrant world ruled by his strict piano teacher.
8 ½ (1963) [feature]
Federico Fellini’s quasi-autobiographical tale of a film director surrounded by chaos offers the perfect example of how one must give in to the carnival and abandon the fantasy of an orderly life.
Alice (1988) [feature]
The Criterion Channel, Hoopla, Kanopy
Surrealist filmmaker, puppeteer, and animator Jan Švankmajer’s nightmare-inducing take on the story of Alice in Wonderland is a perfectly fascinating plunge down the rabbit hole, but maybe not for most kids.
Black Lizard/ Kurotokage (1962) [feature]
While I prefer the more devious vibe of the 1968 Black Lizard, an adaptation of Edogawa Rampo’s classic crime novel, this light, absurd musical take on the story is a lot of fun. The famous detective Akechi pursues the notorious criminal Black Lizard while showing himself to be a criminal of the heart.
Cab Calloway’s Hi Dee Ho (1934) [short]
The Criterion Channel, Prime
With his floppy forelock and alternately jittery and fluid dance movies, Cab Calloway always had an otherworldly air, like surrealism personified. He takes the crackling jazz of his sizzling band to another plane with his uniquely delirious and unpredictable style. The bland stiffs in the Cotton Club audience seem oblivious to the magic they are witnessing.
A Chairy Tale (1957) [short]
A Chairy Tale (1957) [short]
There’s a lot of wonder to be found in the work of Canadian filmmaker Norman MacLaren; take a look at his short films on the National Film Board of Canada website for plenty of pleasurable distraction. I’m especially fond of this stop motion fantasy though. Accompanied by the fanciful strains of Ravi Shankar’s sitar, a man struggles to sit on a chair which always slides away from him whenever he approaches. It’s a silly, but touching story which is ultimately about mutual respect.