My Favorite Films of 2018

Posted in Uncategorized on January 4, 2019 by bookofdread

As I am wont to do at the end of the year I organize my favorite films into a list. 2018 was a bleak year and many of the films on this list reflect that. There were also some bright spots, but I felt film as a whole lacked in a way I don’t think it has since the late 90’s. Of all my favorite filmmakers only the Coen Brothers and Orson Welles released a film this year. But there were a lot of good works by good filmmakers, and some pleasant turns by filmmakers whose films I wasn’t the biggest fan of in the past. Without further delay, here are my 20 most enjoyed films of 2018.

20. Venom – Reuben Fleischer

Venom played like a big budget Cronenberg body horror comedy, with out paying to much attention to the actual science of the stuff. It was hoot of a romance and slapstick physical comedy where a good monster bites bad guys heads off. What’s not to like?

19. Assassination Nation – Sam Levinson

A chilling portrait of a near future, Sam Levinson’s satire scared the shit out of me. Imagine if a town like Twin Peaks dirty laundry all hit the fan at the same keystroke. It is a brilliant, if somewhat ham-fisted, takedown of our modern culture.

18. Bad Times At The El Royale – Drew Goddard

Bad Times is about as good as Tarantino-lite can get. Much like Romain Gavras The World Is Yours, Bad Times At The El Royale uses an ensemble of likeable hoods and groovy tunes to guide us through a pulpy narrative. What Gavras films is lacking that El Royal has is moral center and MVP Darlene Sweet. The last two minutes of this film is perfect.

17. A Quiet Place – John Krasinski

Working from a suspense filled premise, John Krasinski shows ample control guiding this tense thriller that had me on the fence until we see the awesome monsters. Not the best horror film of the year, but a very good one.

16. Vice – Adam McKay

A polarizing look at a man who sought power and gained it. I was surprised that I came out of this film with a more humanized view of Cheney even if it was somewhat morally compromised. I loved the scene where he demands the whole of intelligence briefings whether confirmed or not. It had me believing that nearly anyone in those circumstances would develop a crippling paranoia about the world. That said, the guy is still a Dick.

15. The Night Comes For Us – Timo Tjahjanto

This is the most brutal film of the year, (but not the most Metal, that’s Mandy). The Night Come For Us is action adrenaline straight to your cerebellum. The meat plant scene alone is worth your time but the whole thing just burns like whiskey. I can’t wait to see what this guy does next.

14. Sorry To Bother You – Boots Riley

Most years you get no satires this year we got 4! That’s what happens when people are unhappy. Sorry to Bother You might be the roughest of them, using a horse dick for a hammer to nail it’s points home. This is what the future looks like. Be afraid.

13. The Favourite – Yorgos Lanthimos

I hated the Lobster. So I skipped the Killing of A Sacred Deer. But now I will certainly go back to it, because I loved The Favourte. It was hilarious. Colman, Weisz and Stone are spectacular. I left wanting more.

12. The Other Side Of The Wind – Orson Welles

How lucky are we Bob Murawski and Netflix (and so many others) saw this through to completion? It was worth the wait. Film is rarely as alive and experimental as it was in this movie, and every time I see it, Welles is further revealed to me. Like looking back in time into the mind of an artist at peak power.

11. The House With A Clock In Its Walls – Eli Roth

I have never been a fan of Eli Roth’s films, but this one is the adaptation of a book I loved as a child. So, I was curious. He nailed it and even improved the material. It’s a great and scary spooktacular film for kids and adults. It would have placed even higher on the list if I hadn’t felt the lead was miscast. In the books he is overweight which I felt would have lent even more empathy to his character but I still loved the film.

10. Anna and the Apocalypse – John McPhail

Anna and the Apocalypse is a blast. I really didn’t think I had room for another zombie movie in my life then this Scottish Christmas end-times musical comes into my life and…well, what I’m trying to say is more like this please.

9. Apostle – Gareth Evans

Apostle is like a Clive Barker circa Books of Blood era story with a third act from the director of The Raid. Dan ‘muthafuckin’ Stevens cements himself as a genre icon between this and The Guest. I’m sure he has many more great roles to come. Apostle is a truly great turn by Evans, who had established himself as an action filmmaker into horror territory, creating a film whose specificity is thrilling.

8. Avengers: Infinity War – Anthony and Joe Russo

Here it is. This is the film where they would define Thanos, the threat for the decade old MCU. Would they drop that ball? No they would not. Thanos reasoning is justified and his justification reasonable, despite his lack of morality. It is the rare film that portrays only the ascent to power and not the fall of despot. In that it cuts the narrative off when Thanos is at his peak power it is unique.

7. Annihilation – Alex Garland

Annihilation is the best adaptation of The Color Out Of Space, despite deviating from the source material through several iterations. It feels Carpeter-esque, with echoes of both Assault on Precinct 13 and The Thing, (and The Fog), but the fact that it is a women-on a mission update of a Lovecraftian classic and a meditation on past trauma as transformation makes it a new classic.

6. First Reformed – Paul Schrader

Don’t feel bad Ethan Hawke. Choose hope.

5. Paddington 2 – Paul King

This film is so earnest and sweet and full of brilliant visual gags I had a hard time not being caught up in Paddington’s perfect worldview. Look for the good in people and you will find it.

4. Alpha – Albert Hughes

A coming of age/man vs nature story the likes of which we rarely see, let alone one this good. This film is Albert Hughes masterpiece. The storytelling is so visual and the design and performance by Kodi Smit-McPhee so flawless. Alpha is a beautiful tale for people of all ages.

3. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs – Joel and Ethan Coen

It’s no surprise this film is on my list but it is a surprise how good it is, even coming from masters like the Coens. Buster Scruggs uses the six tales that comprise its runtime like biblical parables, warning of all the perils of the world. It is a harsh world, with death being right around the corner for all the sad characters the Coens summon to torment. This is the most thoughtful film of the year, though, it can be a bit bleak, seeing the universe through the Coens filter of near-nihilsm.

2. Mandy – Panos Cosmatos

Mandy is a paperback fantasy novel cover come to life. It is a distillation of the romantic with in a revenge film and one of many high-water-marks for Nicolas Cage. Its unique world building and sound and visual design make it an immersive cinematic experience.

1. Sense8: Amor Vincit Omnia – Lana Wachowski

This was the most emotionally invested I was in a film all year. At two and a half hours the finale of Sense8 was more than a TV movie, it was kinetic, emotional, humane filmmaking of the highest order and I think Lana Wachowski is treasure to planet Earth. Whatever she does next might save the world.


Happy 2019!


The Silver Key

Posted in Uncategorized on June 26, 2018 by bookofdread

I made some music and have shared it. Follow the link:

The Silver Key


My Top Films of 2017

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 27, 2017 by bookofdread

Well, it’s my favorite time of year, time to rank my favorite new movies! I love these lists because they speak to the taste of other cinephiles and I like to see what other people love as much as I like to sort through my own taste and pick favorites! I wish I could have seen Phantom Thread and The Post before I made this list but, well, I haven’t.

Here we go!


25. Hagazussa: A Heathen’s Curse – Lucas Feigelfeld


Lukas Figelfeld’s Hagazussa is no Witch copycat. It is very much it’s own tale, steeped in the lore of Bavaria. Moody and gross, psychedelic and crunchy, this gnarly tale is a brand new horror classic and I can’t wait for Figelfeld’s next effort.

24. Blade Runner 2049 – Denis Villenueve


Blade Runner 2049 is slow and ponderous just like Blade Runner. It is a poetic film and a bit of a dirge, but I always love a good existential rumination on humanity. Roger Deakins cinematography borders on supernatural.

23. Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 – James Gunn


While not as funny as GOTG Vol 1, Vol 2 is a great sequel that builds natural relationships out of these characters and watching them go is blast. Gunn wears his heart on his sleeve with the best of them, and Kurt Russell is a joy both as a charmer and a vile intergalactic deadbeat dad. I look forward to seeing what Gunn does with Adam Warlock.

22. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri – Martin McDonagh


Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell are in rare form in this powder keg of Americana. A meaty slice of truth delivered in a pulpy package that is alternately thrilling and hilarious.

21. A Cure For Wellness – Gore Verbinski


I found Gore Verbinski’s A Cure For Wellness just what the doctor ordered. They don’t really make them like this anymore. It’s a hundred million dollar hammer film set in an asylum and featuring some of the most sumptuous imagery of the year. I loved it.

20. Vidar The Vampire – Thomas Aske Berg and Fredrik Waldeland


VampyrVidar is a breath of blasphemous fresh air. With little regard to political correctness and a crucifix up the ass of the stuffy old church, Vidar the Vampire skewers social and religious hypocrisies. Lucio Fulci would blush at the set-pieces and Romero would clap them on the back for scathing satire. Not one for the prudish, but if you have a sense of humor I highly recommend it.

19. Blood Money – Lucky McKee


Essentially a remake of the Treasure Of Sierra Madre with kids on a camping trip and a crazy sniper, Blood Money is nihilism in film form. It’s a black comedy that never pauses for laughs, but the whole shitshow is a riot if  you have a misanthropic streak like me. McKee continues to spellbind with his editing and use of music but it’s the ending that really stuck with me. Dark shit man.

18. Mom and Dad – Brian Taylor


Mom and Dad looks like a Tobe Hooper film and sounds like George Romero movie with the tempo turned up a smidge, but not to silly 28 Days Later levels. Delivering on a bonkers promise like this is tricky, but Taylor lands it completely. Bound to please crowds  young and old, though your favorite characters may depend on how old you are. See this one when you can!

17. Get Out – Jordan Peele

Get Out by Jay Shaw

Existential dread by way of racial metaphor. Jordan Peele took Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner into Richard Matheson territory and the results are astounding. The script alone should win the Oscar, but Peele’s masterful modulation of tone is staggering.

16. Lady  Macbeth – William Oldroyd


Florence Pugh is a villainess for the ages in William Oldroyd’s Lady Macbeth. Pugh has a gravitational pull in the film that none can escape and the viewer can’t turn away as her misdeeds turn to crimes turn to atrocity. An elegant and gorgeous horror film, mean spirited and bleak, and also poetic and stark. I cannot say why it stuck with me so, but I have not been able to shake it.

15. Brawl In Cell Block 99 – S. Craig Zahler


Following up the stellar Bone Tomahawk with Cell Block 99, Zahler cements himself as our current greatest cinematic purveyor of pain. The beatings and injuries delivered in this film are so grotesque and brutal metal bands will be writing songs about it for decades. BICB99 isn’t just pain porn, in fact, it is the careful contextualization of the character and events that get the audience on Vince Vaughn’s side, so that whatever violence he need dole out, it seems justified. Zahler’s next is Dragged Across Concrete starring Vaughn and Mel Gibson and I am waiting with baited breath.

14. Raw – Julia Ducournau


This movie features the strangest thing I’ve ever cheered at in a movie. A complete story, it will play differently the second time you see it. The performances are bravura and the music—oooooohhhhh- I love the music! Great bloody film. More like this please.

13. Thor: Ragnarok – Taika Waititi


How does Marvel keep it fresh? They hire Taika Waititi, that’s how, one of the funniest guys on Earth. He steals the movie from The Hulk, as a rockman. He steals the movie! This is the funniest film I saw all year. A charmer.

12. Alien: Covenant – Ridley Scott


Hoo-Boy, I loved Alien: Covenant! It’s a kind of high dollar adaptation of The Case Of Charles Dexter Ward, after Prometheus Mountains Of Madness. Walter Vs. David is some of the headiest stuff all year (sorry Blade Runner 2049), and the scene where David takes out the… well I won’t spoil it here, but woah. Also, David walking around looking like a Jedi is fun. I really hope Ridley gets to finish this story out with one more film(or three).

11. The Evil Within – Andrew Getty


Andrew Getty worked on The Evil Within until he died from an ulcer exacerbated by heart-disease and meth amphetamine use. And still he made a legitimately frightening horror film that should stand the test of time. The characters are well acted and the premise is a Fulciesque spin into nightmare logic where killing kids and animals makes one smarter. The outrageous practical effects are amazing and terrifying. I understand why we don’t get more films like this but we should be in awe and wonder when we do get one of these pure looks into the imagination of a madman.

10. The Last Jedi – Rian Johnson


While not everything I dreamed, (hence not the #1 spot), The Last Jedi was fresh and fun enough for me to love it as a cool new Star Wars adventure. It paid of the vivid characters from the last film and gave Luke and Leia one last great adventure.

9. mother! – Darren Aronofsky


Now we look in to the heart of the madman that is Darren Aronofsky. Ever since Requiem For A Dream I’ve felt he was pulling his punches a little, (not to say his films aren’t still rough as all get out), but mother! is holding nothing back. Not his religious upbringing, not his history with women, nothing. As nakedly revealing as Woody Allen’s Manhattan, mother is a horror film none will soon forget. Remember, the woman in the flames in the opening shot…

8. Professor Marston And The Wonder Women – Angela Robinson


An incredibly heartfelt and sexy telling of the story that inspired Wonder Women and a tale of polyamory told with out a judgmental angle. A film that defines dominant and submissive roles and consent wrapped up in a beautiful love story. Rebecca Hall is incredible.

7. Bodied – Joseph Khan


The most politically incorrect film of the ‘woke’ era. I love how Khan and writer Alex Larsen tackle the formalism and propriety of a politically correct society and then shows the hypocrisy in trying. While the characters can (and do) say whatever they want, it isn’t without consequence. Bodied is invigorating cinema and will pump your blood up.

6. The Lost City Of Z – James Gray


Enthralling storytelling about adventurer, mapmaker Percy Fawcett. Like discovering another planet. Gray’s filmic approach imbues the journey with wonder and danger. A transporting experience that leaves you wanting to discover more!

5. Brigsby Bear – Kyle Mooney


If you had told me last year that my favorite Mark Hamill film of the year was not going to be The Last Jedi, I might have been sad. But then I didn’t know about Brigsby Bear. If you haven’t seen it the less said the better, but Brigsby Bear is a life affirming film with lots of fuck words, and a lot more heart. This is the cuddly american ‘Why don’t you play in hell’, and left me with many of the same feelings about doing whatever it takes to get together with friends and make a movie. See Brigsby Bear, you won’t regret it.

4. Twin Peaks: The Return – David Lynch


“I am the FBI.”

3. Dunkirk – Christopher Nolan


With Dunkirk, Nolan has made his masterpiece. His flirtations with time have yielded differing results but with his land-sea-air device, he has made a clear delineation for the timelines, and when they converge the effect is absolutely thrilling. Avant garde cinema blockbuster. No one does it quite like him.

2. The Florida Project – Sean Baker


A magical ride through a less than magic kingdom, Sean Baker made the most human film of the hear in  The Florida Project. The adventures of Mooney and co are the most fun you’ll have all year, but worry you will about her welfare. It helps to have angels like Willem Dafoe around. When the credits roll on this one I believe anything could be possible for Mooney and her friend.

1.The Shape Of Water – Guillermo Del Toro


The Shape Of Water is the summation of Guillermo Del Toro’s craft. Lyrical, haunting, romantic, sweet, and at times grim and cold, fishy and mean, but always poetry. When The Asset stands up and Michael Shannon looks at him and says “You are a god…” Is the righteous fist pump of the year. Nothing left me feeling as awesome this year as this film.

Vidar The Vampire – Thomas Aske Berg & Fredrik Waldeland – 2017

Posted in 2010's with tags , , , , , , , , on September 29, 2017 by bookofdread

Is Jesus a Vampire? This is one of the central conceits of Thomas Aske Berg and Fredrik Waldeland’s absurdly violent and rude film Vidar The Vampire, a scandalous Norweigian romp, sure to please fans of Hammer horror and the kind of charming kitsch harnessed by the likes of Edgar Wright, Wes Anderson, and Jared Hess.

Vidar, played by Thomas Aske Berg, is a farmer whose life is monotony and work, and he prays to Jesus for a way out. And Jesus answers his prayers and offers the ‘body of christ’ in what is sure to be an all time classic of a scene. Subsequently, Vidar is transformed into a Vampire.

Vidar The Vampire cites the biblical text, “eat this it is my body, drink of this it is my blood” to justify a complete inversion of the Christ figure into broish ball of charisma. Brigt Skrettingland imbues the Jesus/Satan figure with a kind of rough charm and daemonical glee. He takes Vidar to prostitutes and promises him a sample of both women of twenty and twenty plus.

It is a testament to the acting chops and strong likability of the lead actors to make such insufferable fiends not only tolerable but hilarious. The film is at it’s best when poking fun at social awkwardness, the strange quiet moments experienced by someone who isn’t used to talking to people. In this way we root for Vidar to find connection as someone alienated. Unfortunately for Vidar, being a Vampire doesn’t really make things easier.

There is also a strong subtext about what it means to transform into a kind of night for day person, not so much a literal vampire but the obfuscation of life that living only in the night brings, and the kind of murky interactions that occur there, whether or not they lead to blood sucking.

Speaking of blood sucking, there is another, incredible moment where Vidar feeds that is an all time great vampire scene. The film is packed with cool in camera effects and this all lends to they type of Hammer feel I described above.

The cinematography is bleak and blue like the Norwegian setting and the score by Aske Berg is cool and atmospheric, navigating the grounded absurdity and the dreamlike sequences with fluid ease. There are also a few folk songs peppered throughout the film that create novel montages for growth in Vidar.

If you can handle the subversive text and enjoy silly, gory, sexy fun, Vidar the vampire is movie bliss.


Top 25 Films of 2016

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , on January 1, 2017 by bookofdread

Unlike many who posit best of lists at the end of the year, I assume no objectivity, and these aren’t the BEST films of the year. These are my favorites, and all of them are films I think are worth returning to in the future. The Witch is on last years list, and I haven’t seen Scorsese’s Silence yet, or I’m sure it would make this list. Some of the titles haven’t been released yet. Nevertheless, these were my 25 favorite films of 2016.


25. Battledream Chronicle – Alain Bidard

A sweeping, thrilling animated sci-fi epic, anchored by two strong female characters make the first ever feature film from Martinique a unique creature to behold. Bidard’s visual sense brings hand drawn animation into the twenty-first century, and I cannot wait to see what he does next.


24. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story – Gareth Edwards

Rogue One really thrilled me with visual panache and iconography. The Michael Giachinno score was suitably spectacular and I had a grand time in the Star Wars sandbox. (I liked it much more than The Force Awakens.)


23. Batman V. Superman: Dawn Of Justice (The Director’s Cut) – Zack Snyder

It wasn’t until after I saw the actual cut of the film did I see what Snyder was up to re-making The Last Temptation of Christ with super-heroes. He throws together the biggest of DC’s universe shaking events with aplomb, and most of it not only sticks, it thrills. Best of all, Wonder Woman and her kick ass theme light my smile every time they appear.


22. When Black Birds Fly – Jimmy ScreamerClauz

More than any film I saw this year, When Black Birds Fly felt very transgressive. It’s shocking, political, blasphemous, crude, and nihilistic. Yet, the entire enterprise gives one hope for art. The whole picture is framed as a piece of propaganda for a strange future church. More than anything, it reminded me of Eraserhead in its conflagration of suburban “Heaven” and the hellish world of color on the other side of the wall. Not for the faint of heart. This film will offend you.


21. The Autopsy Of Jane Doe – Andre Ovredal

A brilliant narrative device and a pair (trio?) of stellar performances made this morgue tale one of the most frightening stories of the year. After seeing this film, a cat toy with a bell in it scared the shit out of me.


20. Blood Father – Jean-Francois Richet

Mel Gibson returns to form in this hugely entertaining blood feast. We need more like this.


19. Scherzo Diabolico – Adrian Garcia Bogliano

Bogliano returns with his blackest film yet, a comedy. With each precise musical cue and turn of the screw I kept asking myself, “Am I supposed to be laughing at this?”


18. Terror 5 – Sebastian Rotstein and Federico Rotstein

Terror 5 is the rare horror omnibus that adds up to more than the sum of its parts. Each segment is strong on their own, but added together it reaches kind of political Fulci-esque climax that hit me in the feels. I was ready to rage against the machine as the dead take the city.


17. Split – M. Night Shyamalan

I can’t say anything about this film, because you haven’t seen it yet, but James McAvoy gives a performance for the ages, and Anya Taylor-Joy also turns in stellar work in Shyamalan’s best film in over a decade.


16. Last Girl Standing – Benjamin R. Moody

The cleverest American film of the year kept me guessing until I was rooting for the story to go where it did. A fine script and taut editing make Last Girl Standing sharp as The Hunter’s knife.


15. American Honey – Andrea Arnold

This riveting look at youth in Middle America left me breathless. The cinematic equivalent of getting in a van and going, wind in your hair, music up loud.


14. The Neon Demon – Nicholas Winding-Refn

The Neon Demon is an intoxicating cocktail of images and music that DEMANDS to be seen on the big screen. I felt like I was going to fall into the screen.


13. Everybody Wants Some!! – Richard Linklater

As only a mild fan of Linklater I was very surprised when he turned out what happens to be my favorite of his films. Everybody Wants Some is both specific and general in the anecdotes it uses to show formative days for these baseball players. Revisiting the weekend before college was a real fucking treat.


12. Hail, Caesar! – Joel and Ethan Coen

It was a good year for films with exclamation points in the title. Hail, Caesar is a fine throwback film, a classic film about a classic era, and stupendously funny. No film this year can claim such an electrifying ensemble.


11. Be My Cat: A Film For Anne – Adrian Tofei

This Romanian found footage film is some kind of marvel. Starring, written by and directed by Tofei, Be My Cat is based on a one-man show he created called “Monster”. The film, a strange slasher by way of portfolio piece to Anne Hathaway, is a new kind of brilliant. I was unnerved, but hooted and howled in laughter at his sick little film.


10. The Shallows – Jaume Collet-Serra

I love the “aquatic terror” genre, so I was already in the bag for this to begin with. I wasn’t ready for it to be a masterpiece of the genre. We are all running from this metaphorical shark at one point or another and circumstance wont free us, only our belief in our self, and a little faith.


9. Eyes Of My Mother – Nicholas Pesce

Along with The Driller Killer, Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Henry: Portrait of A Serial Killer, Eyes Of My Mother, attempts to create empathy and deconstruct psychotic behavior. It is a beautiful chilling portrait, the best horror film of the year.


8. The Handmaiden – Chan-Wook Park

The hottest film I have ever seen. Erotic and sleazy, refined and crude, The Handmaiden has it all ways and then some. Bells have never sounded so heavenly.


7. Elle – Paul Verhoeven

The world’s greatest provocateur hasn’t lost his touch. Elle’s constantly shifting moral perspective makes it a work of the highest sophistication, and Isabelle Huppert gives an all-timer of a performance.


6. The Nice Guys – Shane Black

Shane Black has been distilling the buddy comedy for decades now, and The Nice Guys might be the purest batch of the bunch. Exhilarating and hilarious Black is the best Hollywood has to offer at this type of entertainment.


5. Hacksaw Ridge – Mel Gibson

Another violent film about faith, Hacksaw Ridge is moving filmmaking. Gibson’s hand is so strong here; we see that we are losing filmmakers like him. There aren’t many who have so strong a voice and the tools to use it. Welcome back, Mel.


4. The Hunt For The Wilderpeople – Taika Waititi

What a life affirming film. There’s nothing like it. I really can’t compare it to anything. It reminds you to take life by the balls and have a laugh with it. I left this movie absolutely on a cloud.


3. Colossal – Nacho Vigalando

How does this movie even exist? The premise is so crazy that it would take a razor sharp mind like Vigalando’s to make it work. And work it does. It delivers that kind of magic Spielberg would produce on the regular in the eighties. Everything is note perfect, including the on the nose subtext. Vigalando is one of the best filmmakers in the world.


2. La La Land – Damien Chazelle

I’m no cynic. This film was like a drug. I loved the songs and the use of imagery together. It was a film I felt more than I watched and I was drunk in it for two hours. I feel it’s a new classic, which while borrowing from the past lends newness to the genre.


1. Nova Seed – Nick DiLiberto

I cannot say enough how much I love Nova Seed. Completely written directed and animated by DiLiberto, Nova Seed is as close to peering into a single imagination as can be. A throwback to early 80’s adult animated classics; Nova Seed exists in a genre the last entry of which may have been Don Bluth’s Titan A.E. I saw Nova Seed twice during Fantastic Fest, and I cannot recommend it highly enough. See this film!

Nova Seed – Nick DiLiberto – 2016

Posted in 2010's with tags , , , , , , , , , on December 23, 2016 by bookofdread


What is Nova Seed? Nova seed is the most spectacular film of the year. It is a mind-melting cornucopia of psychedelic animation not seen since the early eighties. Films like Rock and Rule and Heavy Metal are obvious forebears, but there are nods to nearly everything from the era such as Masters Of The Universe, Thundercats, and GI Joe The Movie.

But unlike those commercials for soundtrack albums and action figures, Nick DiLiberto’s opus grande is built from the ground up out of his imagination, melding video games and cartoons from his cerebral cortex into a sight never seen before.

Gone is the slick mass produced animation that can only be harnessed by a firm of artists. DiLiberto drew every single frame of the picture and the passion shows. Camera angles whiz around characters mid free-fall, the artist not content to show his viewers anything less than the most cinematic approach.

The story concerns a half Lion man who escapes from a fascist regime who may be the only hope in stopping an evil necromancer from destroying the Earth with the help of a powerful weapon/(individual) called The Nova Seed.

The film hurtles along like one long chase sequence, leaving little time for character asides or monologues. However, characters are frequently talking and characterization is often provided in the stellar voice work of, you guessed it, DiLiberto.

The villain, Doctor Mindskull is one for the ages. Part Skeletor, part Cobra Commander and part Mok, Mindskull is the ultimate reprobate, a mad scientist whose plan involves becoming a giant trash beast and wrecking shop.

Our hero, the Lion man NAC, (Nick?) is the strong silent type, but his animation is so heroic and charming, you can’t help but love the guy. Also, he’s putting his neck on the line for a world that wants him dead so he’s got that Snake Plissken element to him if Snake never talked and was a big Lion Man.

The action is non-stop. The aerial battles are clearly love letters to Miyazaki and produce a thrill that could only be improved with 3D. The big Kaiju action at the end is Toho inspired sequence that will leave any monsterphile giddy.

The soundtrack is an incredible confection of eighties sounding synth composed by some guy named Nick DiLiberto. It’s brilliant in it’s own right and makes the film a fever dream of adrenaline.

Here’s the best thing about Nova Seed. Because DiLiberto wrote, directed, voiced, and scored the thing, and because it’s animated, it’s about as close to falling into a single imagination as I have ever seen. There are no studio notes, nothing to fix. There are all rough edges and idiosyncrasies. It’s that special film that makes it from mind to screen as purely as possibly. We need more like it.

R’XMAS – Abel Ferrara – 2001

Posted in 00's with tags , , , , , on December 22, 2016 by bookofdread


Christmastime is a peculiar context for a kidnapping story, but in the hands of New York provocateur Abel Ferrara it’s not really that big a surprise. No stranger to the juxtaposition of religious atmosphere and illicit dealings, (Ms. 45, Mary, The Funeral), Ferrara uses these settings as a way to humanize his criminals. In a Ferrara picture someone is always looking for salvation.

Real life thug Lillo Brancato Jr. plays a drug-dealing husband who lives with his family in a Penthouse. He’s a bit dim witted, but clearly knows his game. Drea DeMateo plays his wife, clearly the brains and balls in the family business. They have a daughter and seem to live with two older ladies, maybe her mother and aunt. This Dominican family is very like any family at Christmas time, dancing, eating laughing.

The film begins at a kid’s school performance of A Christmas Carol. A little boy in a Lincoln beard plays Scrooge and walks by the homeless giving them money. I think we can read this as the Ghost of Christmas Past. Husband, (as he is referred to in the credits), got into the drug game most likely because he didn’t speak much English and he wanted to help his family back home. We hear his wife frequently refer to the money they send back to the Dominican Republic.

He films the play with a camcorder, as human a figure as you could ask for, we see him with his family, he seems normal until he tries to bribe a toy store employee with a wad of cash to get a doll for his daughter.

Come to find out, he’s a big time cocaine dealer. He visits a separate apartment where he meets associates who give him his cut of money. Another associate meets him, and leaves his cash with him over Christmas, because he thinks he’s being followed. This gentleman is the Ghost Of Christmas Present. He represents the paranoia and the walls closing in. If husband doesn’t quit the game, something bad is going to happen.

Something bad happens. The husband is kidnapped. Wife meets with Ice-T to discuss release. He demands all the money she has and she even finds the hidden money in the separate apartment and gives it to him. He demands that if he releases her husband that she do everything in her power to get him to quit selling drugs. She agrees. This guy is the Ghost Of Christmas Future. He’s showing her what will happen if they stay on this path.

But then comes the Abel Ferarra twist. Husband and wife discuss quitting the business. Finding a new way to earn. But she says she doesn’t want to take their daughter out of private school, and he says he wont live with her mother. Then, on TV she sees the man, arrested as part of a sting on corrupt NYD officers.

Finally, we see them at a fancy party. Some associates call the husband away to the alley. In the trunk of a car we see Ice-T with a bloody plastic bag around his head. The Ghost of Christmas future is dead.
What is Ferarra saying here? Who are the most identifiable or moral characters? The crooked cop? The immigrant drug-dealers? I’m supposed to be glad the lying cop is dead, but his argument about selling drugs to kids is also sound. Ferarra provides no easy answers. There is a card at the end about Rudolph Giuliani being elected Mayor and that the story would be continued, but I’m not sure it ever was. Clocking in at a brief 83 minutes the film feels a little light/incomplete, but still a unique effort.

Despite the normalcy the family strives for, it seems that Ferrara’s New York won’t be affording them it anytime soon. At least they all end up together, and that’s as close to a Merry X-Mas in this film as you are going to get.

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