Bizarro Masterpiece Theatre: Love Actually

Billy Mack, Being Awesome

Film: Love Actually (2003)

Director: Richard Curtis

Starring: Bill Nighy, Liam Neeson, Alan Rickman

Written by: Richard Curtis

No, I don’t like romantic comedies, and as a proud adherent of the Drop Dead Fred philosophy of Love Is Dis-Gus-Ting I didn’t expect to like this one when it was enthusiastically pushed upon me years ago.  Yet this film, which plays out as a sort of Christmas office party for American recognized British actors, has so many tangled threads that it’s easy to pick out a few favorite moments and ignore the rest.  For every lame tale involving a cameraman painfully lusting after Kiera Knightley, a guy hawking his Brit accent for sex in the States, or Laura Linney playing, well, Laura Linney, there are perfectly passable tales featuring Liam Neeson as a widowed stepfather, the decline of a marriage between Alan Rickman and Emma Thompson, and Hugh Grant playing a chronically flustered Prime Minister who lusts after a member of his staff and sings Christmas carols for excited children.


But the greatness of Love Actually comes almost entirely from the titanic performance of one man, and that man is Bill Nighy.  Though Nighy’s resume shows that the actor is unafraid to take on weird, screwball roles (see: Shawn of the Dead), his portrayal of washed up pop star Billy Mack in Love Actually may be his screwiest to date.  While the rest of the film’s ensemble goes through the usual stages of finding or losing love, Billy Mack can’t be bothered with any of that shit.  His purpose in life is to mangle his biggest hit into a Christmas song, repeatedly embarrass himself in its promotion, and somehow get the song to the top of the charts.  In this quest, he exposes himself publicly, gives stern advice to the world’s youth about the dangers of paying for drugs, and writes off Britney Spears as being crap in bed.  In short, Billy Mack is a man with nothing to lose, and he is utterly amazing in losing it.

And yet he provides the film’s most romantic moment – indeed, the most romantic moment I’ve ever seen in film.  After bumbling his way to victory, Billy Mack realizes that the love of his life is the chubby manager who has stood by his side through good times and bad, putting up with his prima donna abuse.  After awkwardly disclosing this epiphany to his platonic boyfriend, he proposes that they celebrate their totally non-sexual love for one another by getting pissed and watching porn. It’s a moment that would make the devil weep.

Billy Mack is the king of romance!  We should all follow his shining example.  Let’s all get pissed and watch porn!

Bizarro Masterpiece Theatre: National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation 2 – Uncle Eddie’s Island Adventure

Film: National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation 2 – Uncle Eddie’s Island Adventure

Director: Nick Macris

Starring: Randy Quaid, Ed Asner

Written by: Matty Simmons


This Christmas, let us honor the holiday season by celebrating National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation 2, one of its most cherished stories of all time.  Wait, I got that wrong – people HATE this film.  Many roads can bring a person to the unbridled hatred of this film: sequel abuse, the absence of Chevy Chase, its TV movie production value, a plot ripped almost directly from Gilligan’s Island, or the awkward transition of supporting characters from Christmas Vacation 1 into leads carrying an entire film.  One thing is certain, though; no matter how one comes to hate this titan of Bizarro cinema, hatred is almost inevitable.

But I refuse.  No matter how much the rest of the film may stink, there is one man who strides boldly forth and turns every scene into a masterpiece – master thespian (and recent outlaw conspiracy theorist) Randy Quaid.  As he brings Clark Griswold’s Cousin Eddie into the limelight, The Great Quaid pulls out all the stops in his quest to, well, cash a paycheck.  But also to be a comedic genius!

In Christmas Vacation 2, The Great Quaid is a man unafraid to spend an entire movie scampering about a deserted island clad in uncomfortably tight, uncomfortably white shorts.  He’s not afraid to come out second best to a nuclear-enhanced monkey; he knows he’s better than that damn ape.  He’s man enough to be both Skipper and Gilligan, and he can bring nature to its rightful place beneath his bootheel even while stumbling over that same bootheel.  Hot faux-Hawaiian babes stand no chance against his masculine wiles, but The Great Quaid chooses to keeps his torrential manliness in check and remains faithful to his movie family, magnanimously allowing his son and uncle to perv out over the babe instead.  He can build a mansion fit for royalty out of some bamboo, palm leaves, and a boar’s carcass.  And best of all, Cousin Eddie goes through this entire movie without ever soiling his pristine white shorts.

If this film is any indication of his brilliance, I think that The Great Quaid’s recent foray into paranoid insanity is all part of a master plan.  History may one day praise this beady-eyed and disheveled vagabond as the Socrates of our time.  Quaid bless us, everyone!

Bizarro Masterpiece Theatre: The Astronaut Farmer

Like this, only less reluctant.

Film: The Astronaut Farmer (2006)

Director: Michael Polish

Starring: Billy Bob Thornton, Virginia Madsen

Written by: Mark & Michael Polish


On its own merits, The Astronaut Farmer doesn’t qualify as Bizarro cinema.  It’s an overly earnest and sappy film which chronicles the obsessive quest of farmer Charles Farmer (get it?) to build a rocket and blast off into space.  Aside from a scene involving a brick thrown through a bank window, a clever quip dismissing the rocket’s potential as a Weapon of Mass Destruction (because the government wouldn’t have found it if it was one), and a cameo by Bruce Willis playing a guardedly supportive ex-astronaut, this story of a family of dreamers overcoming adversity is downright formulaic.

Yet I do have a solid reason for inducting The Astronaut Farmer into Bizarro canon, and that is because its packaging has the strangest talk-up of a film that I’ve ever seen.  Kind of a strange criterion, I know, but this is much more than a simple matter of bad, punny taglines.  The film’s description of itself is so mind-boggling that the only reasonable explanation for its existence is heavy use of hard drugs, or at least the work of a publicist who hadn’t slept for a week.  Don’t believe me?  Behold The Astronaut Farmer’s epic self-analysis, in all its glory.


“All systems are ‘Go’ for Charles Farmer.  He’s faced bank foreclosure, neighborhood naysayers and a government alarmed by his huge purchase of high-grade fuel, but now he’s ready to blast into space inside the homemade rocket he built in his barn.  Just be home in time for dinner, Charlie.

“Billy Bob Thornton portrays Charlie in this charmer about chasing dreams… and about what it means to be a family.  10,000 pounds of rocket fuel alone can’t lift Charlie into the heavens.  He needs a launch/recovery crew, and he has one of the best: his wife (Virginia Madsen) and children, dreamers all.  They have liftoff.  Our spirits have uplift.  Gravity cannot hold down our dreams.  The Astronaut Farmer is that kind of movie.”


Um… what?


Bizarro Masterpiece Theatre: Curse of the Wolf

Film: Curse of the Wolf (2006)

Director: Len Kabasinski

Starring: Lanny Poffo, Renee Porada, Brian “Blue Meanie” Heffron

Written by: Len Kabasinski

When I was a young wrestling fan, one of the wrestlers who creeped me out most was Lanny Poffo, known to me as the villainous valedictorian, The Genius.  With his Prince Valiant bowl cut, his frightening pedo-stache, and his sinister leer, Poffo cut a villainous figure on appearance alone.  Combining this with his propensities to prance around in a graduation gown and recite foppish bad guy poetry made him one of pro wrestling’s legendary creeps.

I suppose that, upon discovering Poffo’s one leading film role, I was hoping to see The Genius leering at wolfmen and reading goofy lycanthrope poetry.  It was surprising to instead see Poffo playing the straight man in an incredibly subpar, dickheaded film about a werewolf on the run from her dickheaded pack.

This exhibit contains just about everything I hate about modern horror films, which boils down to one cardinal rule: no matter the gore and violence, a film isn’t horror if the audience doesn’t give a shit about anyone in it.  By that rule, this film is highly disqualified.  If the filmmakers elected to go the Troma route of splatter slapstick, things might have ended well enough, but instead they chose to make a joyless spectacle disguised behind that humorless veil of dark irony and cool, full of shitty metal tunes and populated by obnoxiously orating wrestler-types and low-rent porn stars.  To say that the action in this film is rather well done is a cheap consolation.

Though I can’t say much for the company he keeps, Poffo’s roughneck fixer is a breath of fresh air in this cesspool.  Similarly, the actress who plays the fugitive werewolf actually seems to invest herself in her role, though the writer/director fills her mouth with the same crap that fills the mouths of all his characters.  Any scriptwriter who has a woman blame her slight sullenness on maybe being on the rag probably has some lady issues – a prejudice reinforced here by every other scene featuring a woman.

The best character of Curse of the Wolf is The Blue Meanie, a real life pro wrestler who spends his screen time as the wolf pack’s muscle.  Whether he’s rambling around clad only in heavily-stained tighty whities or punching the hearts out of fools, Meanie is the one consistent joy to be found in this film.  It’s too bad that he’s paired up with a pack of flaming douchebags.

The Blue Meanie

Indeed, the only reason to watch Curse of the Wolf is if you’re curious about the film careers of The Genius or The Blue Meanie.  If not, stay far, far away.

Bizarro Masterpiece Theatre: Seth

This is about as tame as it's going to get.

Seth (1995)

What follows is a tale of unearthed treasure.  I’m not certain of all the details of how this gem returned to the world, but I do know that the video was found in the vaults of the Warehouse Nightclub in La Crosse, where it lay dormant for roughly 15 years.  Once rediscovered, the video was quickly uploaded to YouTube by Bizarro enabler Ben Koch, who brought it to my attention.  It promptly blew my brains out with its disturbing genius.

Seth Mitchell, who with his sweet mustache and insatiable eroticism comes off as a gay Burt Reynolds, spends about six minutes leering at the camera, gyrating and writhing around in various states of undress.  There are, in fact, moments where Seth is wearing nothing at all, and while most of the shots are no more explicit than any risqué photo shoot, there is that one scene in the shower where Seth’s balls, beneath his arched back and slutty pose, are clearly in view.

This is the tasteful nude shot.

Musically – and, oh yeah, I almost forgot there was music – Seth sounds like a cross between old timey industrial clanging and perhaps a lo-fi version of the repetitive anthems of Gary Glitter.  Vocally Seth sounds a bit like Q Lazzarus, the wistful yet forceful vocalist behind the tuck-it-back anthem “Goodbye Horses.”  Though I’m not even certain of the song’s title, Seth repeats “Can you feel it?” enough times that I’m assuming this to be the title.  Indeed, the song itself is essentially a hypnotic, droning mantra which serves little beyond providing music to accompany Seth’s striptease.

What’s greatest about this long and overwhelmingly uncomfortable video clip is that it was sent to the Warehouse in hopes of setting up a gig.  Originally, I felt as though I ought to compare this to someone sending self-made softcore pornography to a prospective employer – but then I realized that this is exactly what happened.  Seth Mitchell sent softcore pornography of himself to a venue, looking for a gig.  I applaud that sense of audacity.  I wish that more people – especially in real life – had Seth’s (ahem) balls.

This man is a champ!

Here it is!  (NSFW)

Bizarro Masterpiece Theatre: Grandma’s Boy

This pretty much sums up the entire movie.

Film: Grandma’s Boy (2006)

Director: Nicholaus Goossen

Starring: Allen Covert, Nick Swardson, Doris Roberts

Written by: Barry Wernick, Allen Covert, Nick Swardson


There was a summer in my life in which my friends and I watched this film at least once a day, and the routine never grew old.  This isn’t necessarily because Grandma’s Boy is the greatest film ever, but it’s more of a comment about target audiences.  For a group of sarcastic and surly twentysomethings man-children – some of whom were pot smokers, all of whom were videogame freaks, and every last one a lover of karate monkeys – it’s hard to name a more appropriate film.

The main plot involves perennial Adam Sandler henchman Allen Covert starring as a video game tester in his late 30s.  After getting kicked out of his apartment because his roommate spent all their money on Asian hookers, he runs out of options and ends up staying at his grandma’s place.  Crazy old lady hijinks ensue.

But really, this isn’t about plot.  The reason one watches this film is to take in the bizarre characters and ridiculous situations which splatter across the screen.  Grandma’s Boy is little more than a series of high slapstick and comedy Rorschach, but somehow it incorporates all of its chaotic elements into a likeable, if not entirely coherent, mass.  This is a film in which an African witch doctor will suddenly show up, say a few ridiculous lines, and fade into the background to allow some other absurdity to follow, and somehow the viewer can roll with it.

Covert works great as the story’s tenuous anchor, bringing a wry and grudging enthusiasm to the proceedings.  His sidekick, played by Nick Swardson, is even better, cutting loose as a wide-eyed, cougar-hunting adult infant.  But the scene-stealer in Grandma’s Boy is the villainous J.P., an arrogant yet inept video game prodigy played by Joel David Moore.  J.P. is about as great a nerd as can be imagined, and his woeful attempts at asserting authority over his game testers is undermined by the fact that he honestly believes that he is a robot, and acts accordingly, down to his jerky movements and electronic voice.  Moore is an absolute treasure in this role, though you’d think that such a role would carry the danger of getting typecast as an uber-nerd.  Then again, Moore ended up starring in Avatar, so if he is to forever be a film geek, at least he’s been well compensated.

Grandma’s Boy may not be for grandmas themselves, but for the modern nerd it is fine tomfoolery.  Someday, when my generation ships out to the retirement homes and spends its last moments popping pills and playing videogames, I’m sure this film will be even more fitting.

Bizarro Masterpiece Theatre: The People under the Stairs


Film: The People under the Stairs (1991)

Written and Directed by: Wes Craven

Starring: Brandon Adams, Everett McGill, Wendy Robie


With all due respect to Freddy Krueger, I think The People under the Stairs is my favorite Wes Craven film.  It’s absurd without being moronic, disturbing without losing the plot, and best of all it has a wonderful sense of claustrophobia and dread.  Even in its silliest moments that dread is there, which is all the more punctuated by the moments when the tension gives way to silliness.  This is a great horror movie.

The story centers around a ghetto kid named Fool, who in appearance and demeanor resembles the brashly intelligent kids from The Boondocks. With his mom dying and the family facing eviction from their apartment, Fool gets taken in by a young Ving Rhames and taught the burglar’s trade.  Rumor has it that the slumlords responsible for the family’s predicament are sitting on a horde of gold coins, and Fool’s mentor intends to collect.

Problem is, the landlords are a bit more than simply greedy ghetto aristocrats.  The mom-and-pop opportunists are an awesome display of insanity.  First of all, Mom and Pop are also brother and sister.  Nice.  In fact, they come from a long and almost entirely vertical family tree, which clearly had an effect.  Their labyrinthine house is also home to a human-eating Rottweiler, a molested and perpetually terrified “daughter,” and the titular People, failed attempts at abducting a properly moral son which end up mutilated and dumped in the basement to starve when the parents get disappointed.

As a pair, they spend most of the movie running around their house, screaming “Burn in Hell!” at the top of their lungs as they try to stop poor Fool from defiling their daughter.  Individually, they’re even greater.

Mom is a monster housewife, sporting big red hair, thick-painted eyebrows, and a hooker’s crooked mouth.  Her psychotic attempts at imposing moral order may be less overtly frightening than her counterpart’s, but she’s the real terror in this story.

Dad, however, is simply amazing.  He looks every bit the perverted pastor, and he runs with the prejudice to amazing heights.  His role is to be the muscle, and much of his time on screen is spent storming through the house and blasting holes in the walls with a shotgun.  Even better, he does much of the rampaging in a full-body leather Gimp suit.  Fantastic.

As much as I got behind Fool’s desperate attempts to get out of the house, there’s no denying that Mom and Pop are the heart of this film.  The joyous terror they infuse every scene with makes this one of the best fright flicks ever.

Bizarro Masterpiece Theatre: Mega Shark versus Giant Octopus




Movie: Mega Shark Versus Giant Octopus (2009)

Director: Ace Hannah

Starring: Deborah Gibson, Vic Chao, Lorenzo Lamas

Written by: Ace Hannah

The thing I don’t like about any of the Monster versus Monster films that have popped up over the past decade is that the ending is almost invariably the same.  Some dick humans are going to get caught up in the film’s epic conflict and somehow, improbably, they’re going to come out on top.  Even if they don’t take out the combatants outright, enough innocent bystanders are going to escape the arena.  It’s the same problem I have with the shitty new Transformers movies: human beings should have no place in the plots of what are essentially gladiator films.  At best, Johnny Human should be a shocked bystander; more often, he should be cannon fodder.

Thus, while I was easily excited by the prospects of a film with such an awesome title like Mega Shark Versus Giant Octopus, I knew that some shaved ape jackoffs would inevitably stick their noses into this epic aquatic combat.  I was not disappointed.  Yet having ex-teen pop star Debbie Gibson in the title role provided an interesting way for the humans to triumph.  After all, what better way to defeat underwater monstrosities than by unleashing the Electric Youth?


Instead, she breaks out the White Lightning.


Sadly, this film does not heed by my punny strategies.  Instead, Commodore Gibson must combat the menaces at the behest of Lorenzo Lamas, the Steven Seagal of television.  Lamas plays a dickhead government functionary who forcibly recruits Gibson, her Irish mentor, and her soon to be Japanese lover (soon to be her lover, I mean, not imminently Japanese), into war against the monsters.  While her boyfriend joins his countrymen to combat the Octopus, Gibson, Lamas, and the teach board the USS Electric Youth – captained by a guy who looks disturbingly like the great Chris Penn – to go after Mr. Shark.  The humans lead the beasts into each other’s presence, and a nautical argument which might have resolved peacefully goes sour.


What Would Captain Chris Penn Do?


This movie is a titan of bad CG and absurdity, but there are two scenes which deserve special praise.  The first comes after the opening credits, which takes a panoramic view of mountains and helicopters, two places traditionally safe from sharks and octopi (in theory).  In her stolen minisub, Commodore Gibson is shown in certain shots typing with a left hand bearing black nail polish, while her right hand, in a different angle, features clear nails.  A naval code, perhaps?  Yet when her right hand is shown typing, it also has black nail polish!  Durr.

But the greatest thing in this movie?  The scene in which THE SHARK LEAPS OUT OF THE OCEAN AND DESTROYS AN AIRPLANE.


Jesus Fucking Christ.


They’re making a sequel, and Urkel’s in it.  I’m not joking.

* * *

[As a bonus, here’s how things would have really gone down.]

Bizarro Masterpiece Theatre: Chairman of the Board


Somehow, I feel as though the movie was responsible for this...


Directed By: Alex Zamm

Starring: Carrot Top, Jack Warden, Courtney Thorne-Smith

Written By: Al Septien, Turi Meyer, Alex Zamm

Even before he got all beefy and plastic-faced Carrot Top was one of the most reviled comedians in history. Only Gallagher, Sinbad, and Gilbert Gottfried draw comparable cringes (though Gilbert is a goddamn genius). So of course, it was only a matter of time before somebody gave the Propmaster General a shot at the silver screen, crammed every second of film with his wacky gadgets and inventions, and leaned back to wait for the dough to roll in. Idiot.

Chairman of the Board is one of the most savaged flicks of all time, badmouthed by Mystery Science Theater 3000 alumni Mike Nelson – a man who has seen his fair share of crap – as one of his most despised comedies. It currently ranks #66 on IMDB’s Worst Movies list. Babies cry when the movie’s case is held in front of them. But fear not, loyal crapseekers! I shall take it upon myself to defend this fine diamond of comedy from the cinematic philistines!

When I forced my similarly warped friends to watch this epic, their main complaints revolved around their intrinsic prejudices toward Mr. Top, not the humorous content of the film itself. They wanted to like the film, especially the parts where the always awesome Jack Warden shows up, surfs, dies, and stars in the greatest video will ever made, involving a flight to heaven on a winged bed. For reasons unknown to any sane person, Warden leaves his multimillion dollar empire to the gadgeteer ginger freak he met not weeks before. Top sets to work winning over striking workers with Luau Wednesdays, funding the harebrained schemes of Beetlejuice’s Otho, and bumbling his way into the heart of the blonde chick from Melrose Place. In the wings, Warden’s stuffed shirt bastard nephew schemes against Mr. Top in order to claim the company. It’s all a little bit Billy Madison by way of Pee-Wee Herman, which is fine, because both rule.

My friends, and the rest of the so-called movie media, are bigoted fools for their dismissal of the great Carrot Top. Chairman of the Board is a masterpiece of Prop-aganda! I can only wait and hope that Mr. Top will find the strength to make Chairman of the Board 2, where he goes on roid rampages and fights Gallagher Too with a boxing glove jack-in-the-box. It would be a beautiful dream come true.


Hopefully, the Chairman of the Bored will be there...



...or at least Yahoo Serious.


Bizarro Masterpiece Theatre: Warrior of the Lost World


Movie: Warrior of the Lost World (1983)

Director: David Worth

Starring: Robert Ginty, Persis Khambatta, Donald Pleasance

Written by: David Worth

This gem, made in Italy, is what I’d classify as Spaghetti Apocalypse.  Less kind folks might refer to Warrior of the Lost World as a shameless Mad Max ripoff.  But there’s so much more to this tale of dirtbags rising up against fascists and reclaiming the world!

First off, let’s get the derivatives straight.  Mad Max isn’t the only piece of work which Warrior of the Lost World draws inspiration from.  Sure, the nameless hero is a grizzled loner who rides into town and dispenses justice – though he actually looks more like Russell Crowe with really womanly lips.  Yet his ride of choice, a wiseass talking motorcycle, is more Knight Rider than Thunderdome.  The film’s villain is a direct steal from James Bond, as Donald Pleasance essentially reprises his role as 007’s nemesis Ernst Blofeld.

The kids know him as Doctor Evil.

It could also be argued that the neon punks, writhing bondage Nazis, and headband-sporting karate geeks which fill out the supporting cast are also lifted creatures: the punkers are Headroomesque, the Nazi sluts remind me of the vapid fashion plates of Liquid Sky, and the karate nerds could have come from anywhere.

After an epic Star Wars like text crawl (“The nuclear war has been fought!!!  The Earth is in ruins!!!  All governments have collapsed!!!”), the lone rider roars upon the scene.  In short order, he crashes his superbike into the side of a cliff.  Oops.  When he’s resurrected by the flashlights of a cult of creepy old people in bed sheets, our hero is told that the barrier was really the “Secret Wall of Illusion.”  Right.

The old people turn out to be members of the resistance, and the resident babe recruits the rider in order to save her old man.  After the pair bumble through an inexplicable sequence of a critter-filled cave, sexy nightclub, airport walkway, dairy, run-down warehouse, and finally, Evil Headquarters, the goof saves the girl’s dad, only to lose the girl.

The hero regains ground by participating in a Tournament of Dirtbags, in which he fights pretty much every 80s movie caricature available, including a lumberjack midget.  After he whips this dork collective into a proper army, the hero takes on the jewel of the evil army – MEGAWEAPON!

Despite its awesomeness, Megaweapon is essentially a glorified dump truck with spikes in front that shoots fire in one direction.  A kid in a big wheel could get around it, if not destroy it.  The hero slides his bike under Megaweapon, and old MW thankfully kills his annoying ride.  Unfortunately, that buys the goofball time to take it out like an imperial walker.  Boo!

Not so impressive from the side.

Ultimately, this flick is a collection of many discordant elements that somehow make a great little B-movie.  Most of the people in the story are dumb, the plot is nonsensical, but everything works!  Mad Max had to try in order to succeed; Warrior of the Lost World only had to fail.

Though Max didn't look like a novocaine addict.