Short Fiction Spotlight: “The Lothario from an Unknown Zone” by Bob McNeil

A man-sized mosquito descended on 43rd Street and 7th Avenue amid a warm afternoon. The horrific creature’s presence made me scream. However, my legs, quite inexplicably, could not flee the fearsome scene. Amazing still, I was the only person who noticed the otherworldly invader. So, as a result, I concluded the scenario was a hallucination. My confused brain felt like a strange terrain. I did not enjoy dwelling in it without the weapon of reason.

The being that defied a logical category stopped and stared at the metropolitan masses. Fascinated by the pedestrians, cars, and buildings, the creature used one of its legs and reached under its left translucent wing. Right from beneath that aeronautical appendage, the thing pulled out a camera. Fearful of its appearance and amused by its actions, I unexpectedly laughed. Taken aback, I concluded the weird winged entity was a tourist, if you will, a shutterbug.

Any notion that my day could not get more unearthly flew away when a naked woman approached the inexplicable vermin. This lady on the street was Aphrodite of Knidos incarnate. Mystifying yet true, she hugged the insect. The being, thereafter, fondled her with desire.

Unconcerned with the masses around them, they walked hand in hand towards the Hotel Retcher. Silent as a leopard, I followed them. Unfortunately, at a distance of around ten feet, I could not hear their conversation. An orchestra of car noises and crowds obscured any chance of hearing the discussion.

The bizarre pair entered an ill-famed tan-colored hotel. Known for its cheap fee, murders, suicides, bed bugs, and filth, the 24-story establishment was appropriate for them. Already registered there, neither the insect nor his mate went by the greenish-white front desk with numerous clocks above it. I, overcome with curiosity, looked at the clean pate of a pale clerk who was gazing in a westerly direction.

East of understanding what was going on, I followed the couple into a lobby that looked like the 1970s threw up all of its cheesiness on the place. The vomit was composed of a mirrored ceiling, pleather-adorned lavender couches, machine-made marble columns, and Polywood tables.

Fear prevented me from entering the same elevator with the two beings. Unconcerned with me standing outside of the closing doors, they hugged and kissed. Obsessiveness made me look at the display of ascending numbers on the wall. Staring upwards, I saw that they got off on the thirteenth floor.

Either perversion or concern, term it what you want, motivated the following action. I got on the next elevator after them, and it was surprisingly quick. It was fast enough for me to observe the couple enter room 237. Aware of my presence, they both turned around, stared at me, and slammed the door. Accepting my stalker status, I was impervious to disgrace. Undeterred, I resumed my investigation.

Hesitantly, I walked out of the elevator. A crud-and-bubblegum-dappled reddish carpet met my well-worn teal sneakers, and sneak I did. My oracular sense was Orwellian when I went to the room and got a keyhole view of their activities. No amount of bizarre internet searches or horror movies could have acclimated my mind to what I saw next.

Standing upright, the humanoid pest presented its long and erect member. Irrefutable exultation was tattooed on the female’s face while her legs bestraddled two wings. Either because of the stinger it stuck into her foot, or the phallus stuck in her orifice, she screamed in a way that reminded me of mating cats. From then on, the couple utilized just about every known position in the Kama Sutra for about an hour.

Sated with their mating, it appeared the two were ready to rest. Moments from falling into fatigue, the female turned towards her male counterpart and said in a blissful whisper, “Promise me that you will not get this buzzed for some huzzy.”

Pausing for a moment, her surreal inamorato responded in a tone that sounded similar to an electric saw. He said, “Only a bugged-out being would forsake you.”

At peace with the answer, the female cooed then fell asleep.

Amid her snores, the male got up and crept towards the door. Afraid of being discovered, I inferno-footed down the hallway by the time the thing opened its means of departure. Somewhere safely away, I saw the mosquito come out of the room.

Cupped in the odd anthropoid’s limb, something on the order of an iPod sat. He whispered, “I’m waiting for you, lovable owner of my libido, on the thirteenth floor.”

More or less, the distance between us was equivalent to 100 feet. Furthermore, I hid behind the corner of a wall that led to another section of the floor. Unluckily, my shadow revealed where I was.

Each of my eyes has hundreds of lenses, and they all see you, annoying voyeur. You want to know who I am, don’t you?” the creature said after spinning its head in my direction.

Sheepishly, I peered around to view the freakish speaker.

Let me reveal the guy behind the disguise,” the surreal spieler said as it stood up and turned into a tall nude man. That was not what amazed me. What summoned enough awe to make my heart quake in my chest was the newly made human form changed its colors over and over again. No joke, for quite a few minutes, it donned every shade known to humanity. I mean, it was black, then white and every hue in between. Obstructed by the distance, I could not make out miscreation’s facial changes.

I am as humdrum as a housefly. 20% of the male population that cheats in relationships is no different than what I am. Based on your expression, the General Social Survey (GSS) stat does not make you adore my existence. Nevertheless, you have known and will know more men of my kind.”

Pleased with his last declaration, he laughed, pitched the phone aside, and transformed into what I assumed was an English mastiff. Not being an expert, I think its skin had a brindle look to it.

No sooner had it transformed, another female trod out the elevator. This other lady reminded me of a fertility goddess I saw in a book. Aside from being nude as well as zaftig, her pallor and hair were stone-grey. Her voice, contrary to her size, was small and tinny.

My dog, are you still sugary and servile? Am I still your only mistress?”

Of course, I’m a loyal whelp,” the canine replied in a low growl.

That ended their exchange as the two took the elevator.

Fixated on information, I bolted over to the lift. Numbers above the machine indicated they went all the way down.

By way of the stairs, I ran to the ground floor and out onto the street. For my effort, all I got was sweat. The duo went somewhere beyond my two viewfinders.

The clerk peered out the entrance and asked, “Sir, is something wrong?”

I replied, “It bugs my brain the way some men are more promiscuous than dogs.”

Confused, he tilted his head leftward while I rightly questioned the saneness of mine.

The End

© Bob McNeil 2020 All Rights Reserved.

Impossible James by Danger Slater – Book Review

Impossible James

By Danger Slater

Fungasm Press, 2019

Reviewed by Gordon B. White

Impossible James, Danger Slater’s latest novel, is a book about the tensions of finding meaning in an absurd world, about tensions that rupture into paradoxes. It’s about growing larger, but also becoming smaller. It’s about fighting a system, but surrendering to it. It’s about creating a legacy and destroying history in the process. It’s also funny, gross, bizarre, and even a little touching. It’s a trip.

What is Impossible James about? The plot is simplicity itself: James Watson (soon to be James Watson, “Sr.”) is diagnosed with a malignant “black spot” in his brain that will kill him … in fifty years or so. Driven to despair, he loses his job at the multinational conglomerate Motherlove, burns his belongings, and gets a screwdriver through the brain which both pins the black spot in place and sparks his creativity such that he can clone himself through a very disgusting process and, eventually, cure death.

As James Sr. grows less and less human, his first clone, James Watson Jr., narrates the story from the end of the world, alternating between his father’s history and the imminent collapse of the universe beneath a plague known as the Gray Tide. Got it? Good.

While the above description should make it clear this is a fine and pulpy story, Slater has a way of writing that belies the danger of his underlying ideas. The plot careens forward and the writing is almost always conversational and, sometimes, willing to derail its own narrative and draw attention to the mechanics of the novelistic structure. The cumulative effect is a story told by a friend, holding on to your arm and shaking you at the good parts. To focus on just the presentation, though, hides the real heart of Impossible James.

Impossible James bears the subtitle “A book about death,” and this is no joke. At every moment, the specter of futility and the void hangs over the proceedings. It has thematic overlays of capitalism, climate catastrophe, existential dread and more. None of them fit completely, but they do so in a way that evokes the unease that all of them do. It’s about setting up Impossible Goals and Impossible Defenses, but being unable to escape the Impossible End. It’s about giving oneself to the world, but also the sheer egotism that doing so takes.

It’s a very strange book about self-centered sacrifice and catastrophes, and the human moments in the face of both, which are by turns poignant and useless. It’s a book about frustration and how as one’s goals explode, one becomes smaller and smaller. It’s about the selfishness of creating a life filled with doubt, but also the catastrophe of abandoning that doubt — and how that doubt which may be the only thing keeping us in check, or at least placated.

Because it’s that sense of doubt — that question of “What’s it all for?” — that might be keeping us from turning into unrestrained sociopaths. In fact, by abandoning that doubt, James Sr. becomes both a society and a pathology in himself. What’s that mean? Well, you’ll have to read it to see.

But all of this is the paradox of Impossible James: a way to balance these warring impulses of the insignificant and the psychotically grand; the crippling doubt against the destructive untethering. And in the end … well, James Watson Jr. has to make a decision. It’s a decision we all have to make, although it isn’t easy to make and even harder to tell if the decision is the one that’s “right.”

With Impossible James, Danger Slater continues slipping his readers existential poison pills beneath a shiny, gleefully gruesome candy coating. By turns humorous, horrifying, and even heartbreaking, Impossible James struggles to make sense of a modern world collapsing under its own bloat and the human but absurd drive to create — be it meaning, purpose, art — in the face of that catastrophe. Is it impossible? No, but it’s Impossible James.

Adventures in Modern Recording by the Buggles: An Underrated Gem

by Ben Arzate

The Buggles are the quintessential “one hit wonder” band, to the point that they’re less recognized by their name and more by “the guys that did ‘Video Killed the Radio Star.’” Their biggest claim to fame is that their music video was the first one to air on MTV.

However, they couldn’t parlay this into further success for the other singles from their debut album, The Age of Plastic, despite being a masterpiece work of new wave. The likely reason for this is that the album occupied an odd middle ground. It was too weird for mainstream success but not weird enough to gain a cult following like their contemporaries, Devo.

Further contributing to their lack of success, not long after their first album the two members, singer Trevor Horn and keyboardist Geoffrey Downes, took a break from recording their second album to join the progressive rock band Yes.

Both were long time fans of the band, but it was a strange transition. Fans of Yes thought so, too. The reception was very mixed to the point that Yes broke up after the album Drama and the subsequent tour with Horn and Downes.

Further difficulties for the second Buggles album arose when Downes left before recording began to form the band Asia, though he still did some work on the album. Because of this, Adventures in Modern Recording is closer to a Trevor Horn solo album than a proper Buggles record. Despite all of this, it remains an album excellent enough that it’s a crime that it’s been so forgotten.

As the title suggests, the first album The Age of Plastic had a loose concept about the anxieties of modern life and technology. Adventures in Modern Recording focuses on experimenting with then-new recording techniques and technologies, and includes pastiches of older genres with these recent technologies. While most of the tracks sound solidly 80’s, the top notch songwriting keeps them from sounding dated or like producer noodling.

The album opens with the title track. The lyrics are a satire of the music industry and the increasing image-centric direction it was heading. “So carefully directed / For modern mass appeal / Look just like a poster / Got yourself a deal.” It sounds like a pastiche of a teen idol song filtered through thick layers of new wave production and sets the tone for the rest of the album.

Beatnik” is another pastiche with humorous lyrics, sounding like a synthed-up rockabilly song and telling the story of a trendy wannabe rebel. “A shark tooth fin and a Chevrolet / A wild boy takes it all the way / No more charlie it’s my throat / Send the bell-boy for my coat.” This was the last single from the album and from the band itself, giving us lines like “All will be revealed before the next move” and “No more espresso” meanings that Horn likely didn’t originally intend.

Vermillion Sands” is a slower track with surreal lyrics like “My heart is an alligator / Better watch your step / This heat is an incubator / Make a diamond sweat – want to bet.” The title and chorus are a reference to the JG Ballard book by the same name, Vermillion Sands being a fictional resort.

Ballard was an inspiration for several Buggles song, including “Video Killed the Radio Star,” but this song is the most direct reference to his work. The track digresses into synthesized jazz sounds, helping to invoke the feelings of a futuristic luxury resort. I wouldn’t be surprised if several vaporwave artists have plundered this song.

I Am a Camera” was the first single off the song, and it’s easy to see why. It’s the best song on the album and one of my favorites of all time. It’s a simple love song that was originally recorded as a Yes track under the title “Into the Lens.”

While the Yes track was ten minutes long with several digressions and solos, typical of progressive rock, “I Am a Camera” is much tighter at only about five minutes on the album and the music fits the lyrics better.

Downes played keyboards here and the production by Horn is beautiful. While it’s easy to see why it failed to become a hit, it doesn’t really have any hooks, I believe it’s the best song The Buggles released.

On TV” is like a leftover song from Living in the Plastic Age, which isn’t a bad thing. It’s a catchy song mocking TV culture. It’s composed to sound like a commercial jingle with simple lines like “Ecstasy for you and me / Here at home on your TV.” It’s a fun song, though probably the least creative production wise, even if that was obviously intentional.

Inner City” is the second-best song on the album. It’s a song about middle-class angst, going to work to chase a fortune that will likely never come. “But tear the fabric off your nest / You’ll find the eggs have gone / And no one mentions / How you run.” I’m surprised this one wasn’t issued as a single as it probably has some of the best hooks on the album.

Lenny” is an upbeat synth pop song which seems to be about Galileo. “When you say that the sun does not move / Did it show you the answer.” Strangely, this was probably the most successful song on the album, becoming a top ten hit in the Netherlands. It’s a very catchy piece of nerd pop.

Rainbow Warrior” is where Horn’s influence from Yes really shows. It’s a progressive rock song with mystical lyrics. “Son of logic / Boy born of light / Is the picture drawn/ Is the harvest one.” It’s a fantastic way to wrap up the album, minus a short reprise of “Adventures in Modern Recording.”

With the commercial failure of the album and Downes leaving the band, it’s no wonder that Horn decided to end the Buggles project to focus on doing production work. It’s also no wonder why he was so successful at it. Adventures in Modern Recording really shows Horn’s ability to write and produce in a wide variety of genres. The songs are excellently crafted, they’re fun and catchy even when the subject matter is esoteric, and the production sounds great even today.

As of writing this, the album is out of print and not available on streaming services, at least in the United States. It really is a shame that this is the case. Adventures in Modern Recording really is an underrated gem from a criminally underrated band.

Books That Will Open Your Brain Basket, Part II

By Reverend Bob

Turn back.

Now move forward.

Step into a realm of cosmic slack and arcane power where politicians light each other on fire and zealots buy their own damnation at discount prices. It’s a place where you can reclaim your lost Yeti powers and vanquish the mongrels of reasoning to the abyss of cerebral pandemonium.

Join us as we venture down the Day-Glo hallway of the forgotten verbal ministry, a landscape of remote possibilities and foreboding revelations. In these volumes you will find lasting proof of what those who know don’t say and those who say don’t know.

Belly flop into the fun with us, my brethren. You’ll be happy you did and your brain’s reward system will give you a sloppy French kiss.


Who is worthy to open The Book, and to break the seals thereof?

That is the question, iddn’t it?

From one Bob to another Bob, I ask you this: Don’t you want to go beyond science, reason and orgasm, Bob? Admit it, Bobby. You know you want to!

In these hallowed pages, you will find everything you need know about humanity from the cheap initiation of the cheap initiation overmen to the best kept secrets of patriopsychotic anarchomaterialism. By the time you’ve read it cover to cover, you will be able to blow missiles out of the sky with your brain waves and satisfy the urges of the infrared woman.

The reason to buy into the Church of the Sub-Genius is quite clear—It puts more “BULL” in your BULLDADA, Bubba!

H.L. MENCKEN’S SMART SET CRITICISM (Edited by William H. Nolte, Cornell University Press)

The ideal brain enema after your induction into the Church of the Sub-Genius, H.L. Mencken’s compendium of criticism, barbs and horselaughs is a hellacious ride down the River Styx of sinfully sophisticated wit.

Mencken is remembered as a humorist, but he is also one of our finest moralists, a man who rejected pat assumptions, superstition and irrationalism of every foul stripe. Mencken was more than a critic, he was a guidepost to a future that was to be utterly free from the offal of wasted and myopic minds.

Valuing knowledge and scientific evidence over the cheap hucksterism of the times, he believed that man should not put stock in kneejerk reactions or simple dilletantes. Today his sharp asides can be taken en masse as a sort of blueprint for the satire that would come to define modernity.

Never one to suffer snake oil salesman or witch hunts, Mencken’s writing can be summed up by this passage from The Way to Happiness, his review of Thomas Dixon’s “Comrades”:

The first chapters of this intolerably amateurish and stupid quasi-novel well-nigh staggered me, and it was only by tremendous effort that I got through them all. After that, I must confess, the task became less onerous, and toward the end the very badness of the book began to exercise a nefarious fascination. I was exploring new worlds of banality, of vapidity, of melodrama, of tortured wit. I felt the thrill of the astronomer with his eye glued upon some new and inconceivable star—of the pathologist face to face with some novel and horrible coccus. So I now look back upon my two hours with Comrades, not with a shudder, but with a glow. It will lie embalmed in my memory as a composition unearthly and unique—as a novel without a single redeeming merit. It shows every weakness, fault, misdemeanor known to prose fiction, from incredible characterization to careless proofreading, and from preposterous dialogue to trashy illustrations.

No, I am not going to tell you the plot. Buy the book and read it yourself. The way to happiness lies through suffering.

CANDIDE, VOLTAIRE (Signet Classics)

I’m not gonna tell you all about Voltaire or his magnum opus because that’s why “BOB” invented the internet. I will tell you that the Signet collection of Voltaire’s work is one that you can’t afford to skip. In increasingly senseless times when fake news and derision drive our everyday lives, it’s important to remember the subtle teachings of Voltaire and his rejection of rationalization in favor of action.

In Candide, we are graced with a witty voice far removed from the dick and fart jokes that have replaced smart humor in contemporary society. This is a piece of precision prose tailored by a master craftsman who informs us that we should be tending our “gardens” rather than indulging blind optimism.

THE BOOK OF BIZARRE TRUTHS (Publications International, Ltd.)

Reality is stranger than fiction. That’s a cliché for a reason, Bob. This mammoth book compiles all of the weirdness one could hope to learn about in one handsome leather bound volume that could easily be used to crack open your neighbor’s skull for the purposes of studying his brain.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: A Polish mummy kills ten researchers when they expose his wood.

No? Well, you’ll hear all about it in this massive volume along with everything you never knew you needed to know about maggot therapy, Poop-Freeze, weed farmers, weevils, tickling and solar egg frying, to name just a few.


If Poop-Freeze seemed like the strangest thing you’d ever read about in a mass market book then you obviously didn’t know that our second U.S. president was a cerebral assassin. Chances are, if you didn’t know that then you probably weren’t aware of John F. Kennedy’s motto, “Expect death around every turn.” Kind of ironic, isn’t it? I mean, he must have really had something on his mind during that Motorcade.


If you think American presidents are just a bunch of stuffed shirts, you don’t know Jack, Bob. Author O’Brien delivers all the dirt on how the leaders of the Free World opened can after can of whoop ass.

From Thomas Jefferson’s six disparate devices of destruction to Harry S. Truman’s remarkable skill with cuss words and nose punchings, How to Fight Presidents illustrates the full might of the men of the Oval.

Keep your Andalusian eyes peeled for more brain nuggets as something weird this way comes.

Like and share this post or we will release the whirligigs and the whistle pigs.

The Weirdest Flicks That Fell Through the Cracks

by Bob Freville

Here at the Motorist, our Films That Fell Through the Cracks column has covered a number of movies that might have become cult classics if they hadn’t vanished before they had a chance to penetrate the pop culture consciousness.

Those titles have included flicks about a killer in a bunny mask, a creepy farmer and homophobic preppie murderers, among others. All of these movies are peculiar in their own ways, but today I’d like to take a look at some of the strangest flicks to ever disappear faster than a fart in a cyclone.

The following are some of the weirdest and most wonderful anti-classics to ever come out of the mainstream machine. To see the big studio logos at the head of these movies leaves one completely astonished, not just at Hollywood’s involvement in their productions but at why such entities would even bother with things that were far too bizarre for them to be able to properly market.

To be clear, these are not the kinds of movies that loan themselves to multiplex movie posters. And, yet, here they are, sterling testaments to the gnarly reality that some films are too weird to live and too rare to be relegated to development Hell.

Read ’em and weep at the foregone conclusion that such pictures could never be made today.

A DIRTY SHAME (2004, Fine Line/New Line Cinema)

John Waters fans certainly wouldn’t find the plot of A Dirty Shame to be all that shocking. Given the so-called Pope of Trash’s track record for larger-than-life characters and overall bad taste, it was a no-brainer that this one would be perverse and absurd.

After all, nothing could really out-yuck Waters’ legendary singing sphincter scene from Pink Flamingos. But that doesn’t negate the fact that A Dirty Shame was released by New Line Cinema at a time when the distributor was in financial straits.

Why they would get behind a sex comedy that served as a vehicle for the mindbogglingly mismatched Tracy Ullman and Johnny Knoxville is anyone’s guess. It’s hard to imagine the same executives who signed off on the Lord of the Rings acquiring a picture about a housewife who becomes a sex maniac after suffering a concussion.

To make matters more bizarre, the film’s risque content, which includes a sequence in which Emmy award-winner Ullman inserts a bottle into her vagina during a game of hokey pokey, required so many cuts to allude an NC-17 rating that the studio agreed to release two versions on DVD—the Neuter (read: R rated) Version and the theatrical NC-17 cut, respectively.

Standout Sequence: The Pussy Cat Song scene.

FREAKED (1993, 20th Century Fox)

At the heart of Freaked is the nefarious mad scientist Elijah C. Skuggs and the group of strangers he’s turned into hideous mutant freaks. But the real monsters in this off-the-wall satire aren’t the sideshow freaks or their batshit creator but a corporate collective known as E.E.S. or…Everything Except Shoes.

The E.E.S. brass want to reinvent their image in the wake of news reports about their chemicals being dangerous to the environment, so they pay an obnoxious washed-up TV star named Ricky Coogan five million big ones to visit their factory HQ in Santa Flan (“Santa ‘Flan’? What kind of a shitty name for a country is that?” “It is named for the patron saint of creamy desserts.”).

If that sounds ludicrous you haven’t seen nothing yet; Freaked is chock-a-block with silly, strange and idiosyncratic sights and sounds, the likes of which include an unrecognizable Keanu Reeves as Ortiz the Dog Boy, an old Rotarian in Coke bottle glasses wandering around with an “I Like Ike” sign (for no apparent reason) and yes, a giant mutant shoe.

And how weird is this? Turns out the first draft of the script, then entitled Hideous Mutant Freekz and intended to be a hardcore horror movie, was originally developed by co-directors Alex Winter (Bill S. Preston, Esq of Bill & Ted fame) and Tom Stern (Winter’s Idiot Box collaborator) along with Butthole Surfers singer Gibby Haynes.

At some point the rather straight-forward concept the three conceived of morphed into a B-movie inspired black comedy brimming with hideous celebrity cameos, outlandish sight gags and indelible lines like “To the right of the aircraft, you can see a great view of the Grand Canyon. And to the left you can see a panic-stricken little troll.”

Standout Sequence: Ricky Coogan (Winter) goes full beast mode, tearing a corporate executives head off as green toxic chemicals squirt from a pustule on his mutated forehead.

HUDSON HAWK (1991, TriStar Pictures)

In today’s post-9/11, post-Tarantino world, it would be easy to see a movie like this doing well, but when it was first dropped on an unsuspecting public back at the advent of the Nineties, no one knew what to make of it.

Equal parts live action Roadrunner cartoon and slapstick social justice warrior comedy, Hudson Hawk is like five different flicks all rolled into one. For Die Hard fans, Bruce Willis returned to the screen brimming with witty asides and action hero moves. Only there was something markedly different about Eddie “Hudson Hawk” Hawkins compared to Die Hard‘s John McClane.

Hudson Hawk isn’t a cop or a good guy, rather he’s a smooth-talking cat burglar with a yen for pork pie hats, black dusters, Bing Crosby and cappucino. In lesser hands, the character might have seemed a little fey, but this wasn’t the crinkly Mr. Potato Head Willis that we’ve grown accustomed to in the new millennium. This was old school Bruce, the man who could make mayhem funny and mocha lattes seem macho.

I’ve met lots of people familiar with the Bruce Willis body of work and only one of them—besides myself—counts this among his crowning achievements. At the time of its release, it flopped harder than a flounder in a drought. The convoluted plot, bugfuck humor and steampunk set pieces were decades before their time.

Add the hatchet-faced Sandra Bernhard and Withnail & I‘s Richard E. Grant as the serpentine villains at the dark heart of the flick and you’ve got a baffling witch’s brew on your hands. Of all the curious choices Willis has made over the years, whether we’re talking about his toupee-wearing turn in Breakfast of Champions or his affectatious performance as a drunken lech in Four Rooms, this one remains his absolute weirdest.

Standout Sequence: The ambulance scene.

I HEART HUCKABEES (2004, Fox Searchlight)

Technically this one didn’t fall through the cracks so much as paint itself into a corner of bemused notoriety. In the wake of Three Kings‘ massive critical and box office success, director David O. Russell could have made any kind of movie he wanted, likely at any budgetary level.

That he chose to make a mid-budget studio indie about existentialism and celebrity is almost as insanely admirable as it is laughably inane. The pic, which tells the story of an idealistic environmentalist (Jason Schwartzman) who hires “existential detectives” (Dustin Hoffman and Lily Tomlin) to investigate corporate malfeasance, is a rather airy-fairy indictment of corporate America and the male ego.

This is fitting considering the mind from which it sprang. David O. Russell may be known for many things, debuting with an incest flick called Spanking the Monkey chief among them, but more than anything he’s known for his massive sense of self-importance.

Today audiences don’t remember the movie so much as they do the infamous behind-the-scenes YouTube clip of director Russell flipping out on set. In the footage, veteran comedic actress Tomlin inquires about her character’s motivation, explaining that she doesn’t understand the material. Russell responds by pitching a fit and calling the screen icon a cunt.

If the clip in question sounds cringe-worthy just wait until you check out this meandering 106 minute philosophical cluster fuck.

Standout Sequence: Mud fucking with Isabelle Hubbert’s nihilist siren.

SOUTHLAND TALES (2006, Samuel Goldwyn)


Far and away the strangest movie on this list, Richard Kelly’s follow-up to the sleeper smash Donnie Darko is a lot of things…for not a lot of people. Like many of the greatest examples of auteur filmmaking, Southland Tales is, first and foremost, a film for its director. To say that this sprawling genre-defying exercise in extremes is self-indulgent is like saying Idi Amin had a little bit of a temper.

From copulating cars and neo-Marxist nutjobs to levitating ice cream trucks and a baby messiah whose farts can make the world literally quake, Kelly’s sophomore effort is nothing if not weird.

How weird?

Consider this: The intricate plot, which largely takes place within a Tangent Universe, is based loosely on the Book of Revelation. Its characters quote liberally from the poems of T.S. Eliot and Robert Frost, and the passages of the New Testament.

Given how hesitant the studio system is to take risks on original material, it’s hard to believe that someone at Samuel Goldwyn was all in on distributing a movie featuring a baby savior who’s never had a bowel movement, a Republican leading man who injects himself in the neck with “Fluid Karma” and a porn star psychic who emerges as the prophet of the End Times.

Standout Sequence: Justin Timberlake’s Pilot Abilene, a facially-scarred war veteran and turret gunner, guzzling white trash beer from the can and lip-syncing to The Killers’ “All These Things That I’ve Done” while blood pours from his chest and USO girls shake their legs atop skeet ball machines. Weird, weird, weird and wonderful.