Exquisites 2010: Joseph’s Films Of The Year

This morning, a package was left on my doorstep. It was quite heavy. There was no address, no return address, and no postage — only a small stain near the bottom, and the faint whiff of mid-priced Bourbon.

Of course, I opened it. Quickly.

Inside the box was a letter. Underneath the letter was a large object, wrapped in dusty tapestries and old “drape cut” trousers. After unwrapping everything (and trying on the trousers — a nice fit!), my eyes peered into my hands. And there, in all of its weathered glory, was a bust of W.C. Fields. But, not just any bust. THE bust. The one which was prominently perched upon the desk of Dr. T. Honest Truth (traveler, lecturer, amateur comedian, and world-renowned psychoanalyst) during our many sessions those few short years ago.

As my eyes welled with tears of happiness, I opened the letter. It said this:

“My dear Joseph,

Here lies W. C. Fields. He would rather be living in Philadelphia. But now, he will be living with you. Though my compulsory departure to Africa may have cut our work short, you and I both know that that work was complete. Please accept this trinket as an apology for my sudden egress — it’s a gift.

My close associate, Everett Fitchmueller, has kept me abreast of your and Dan’s activities with Bleeding Skull this past year. How you returned to the site after a lengthy hiatus…how you began working on a book…how you curated and hosted a jubilant event at Los Angeles’s own Cinefamily. My boy, I’m proud of you both! After all, horse sense is the thing a horse has which keeps it from betting on people. And that’s good sense, indeed.

Your friend in perpetuity,

Dr. T. Honest Truth”

In a burst of enthusiasm, my list of 2010′s most excellent Bleeding Skull discoveries was then compiled. It looked like this:

10. Bigfoot: Man Or Beast? (Lawrence Crowley, 1975)
Family Home Video, Inc. VHS / Full Review
“Bigfoot: Man Or Beast? is about a fervent man who (possibly) takes Bigfoot too seriously. And that’s why it’s a magical piece of filmmaking…a routine Bigfoot docudrama with the added gifts of awkward subtlety, chaotic technique, and touching ridiculousness. And repeated use of the term ‘Sasquash’.”

09. Death Brings Roses (Jack Weis, 197?)
Gryphon Productions VHS / Full Review
“Death Brings Roses does whatever it can to insure that we have no idea of what’s going on at any given moment. If the mindset beckons, it’s more a netherworld documentary on sleazy New Orleans bar culture rather than a ridiculous exploitation film. Future viewings will be met with fascination, sleep, and dreams of non-humiliating sex.”

08. Zombie Lake (Jean Rollin, 1980)
Image Entertainment DVD
“What happens when an assured artisan is thrown into a situation with no time to think, no clout to spread, and little room for craftsmanship? You got it: magic. Inevitably. Zombie Lake floats by on a stoned cloud of adolescent escapism, melodramatic oafishness, and spontaneous technique…residing on a regal tier where absurdity begets singularity and singularity begets lo-fi grandeur.”

07. The Force Beyond (William Sachs, 1978)
Media Home Entertainment VHS / Full Review
“The cinematic equivalent of a shoddy, cash-in UFO paperback from any point in the latter 70s. Glaringly tacky, beautifully packaged, and promptly satisfying in terms of both “facts” and laffs, this is exactly what I want in paranormal docu-junk. I wouldn’t buy a used car from Donn Davison — I’d buy the entire lot.”

06. The Iron Rose (Jean Rollin, 1973)
Redemption DVD / Full Review
“The usual ambivalence doesn’t sound (or look) very ambivalent. This goes a long way towards augmenting The Iron Rose with an intelligence and poignancy that encourages a shift from strict mood-piece to beautifully layered (and beautifully immersive) trash-art experience. Even if it may take more than one viewing to get there.”

05. Indecent Desires (Doris Wishman, 1968)
Something Weird DVD / Full Review
“Brief, unapologetic, and pervertedly abstract. It moves quickly and does little wrong…That’s Doris in the late 1960s. Urgent. Aloof. Truly not of this universe. It’s the kind of striking cinematic distinction which is worth a fifteen decade wait, let alone four. ”

04. Seventeen (Joel DeMott & Jeff Kreines, 1983)
DVD-R / Full Review
“After watching Seventeen, I felt exhausted. I felt invigorated. I didn’t know what to do with myself. Certainly one of the most powerful slices of cinéma vérité ever crafted, this is a two hour portrait of people messing up, hurting themselves (and others), attacking the world, and seeking hope in tomorrow. Right in front of our faces. Watch it forever. ”

03. .357 Magnum (Nick Millard, 1977)
World Video Pictures, Inc. VHS / Full Review
“Like a brush fire, erupting so quickly and haphazardly that the net result is almost too hot to handle…Magnum excels in presenting everyday gestures as alarmingly bizarre, anti-human events, making our engagement inevitable. Millard’s creative process is in full effect.”

02. The Last Of The American Hoboes (Titus Moede, 1967)
Moede Productions, Inc. VHS / Full Review
“A half-documentary, half-god-knows-what which delves into the sad, challenging, and ultimately inspiring plight of the American hobo circa 1967. Exquisite art is exchanged for damaged resource. In turn, we get a sincere, somewhat affecting mélange of triple flashbacks, schizo edits, gutter folk-pop, and phenomenal fake beards. Pass the brown paper bag.”

01. The Zodiac Killer (Tom Hanson, 1971)
Something Weird VHS / Full Review
“This film perceives Truth as a bent thumb-tack with which to (barely) hang all sorts of unbelievable ridiculousness…a divergent shambles of no-budget chills, laughs, and discovery. Everything we look for. Everything we want. Antithetical statements on the miserable lives of human beings will never be so flawlessly articulated again.”