Dark Backward

10 Obscure Films You Need To See Immediately — GO GO GO!

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Top ten lists are arbitrary by nature — so I’m not even going to pretend these are an actual top ten, but rather a list of films that may or may not become your all-time favorite movies and cause you to throw out your entire DVD collection. But here are some films that you may not have heard of that may become your all-time favorite movies and cause you to throw out your collection to start over.

Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession

z channel, xan cassavettes, top 10 films, documentary

It only seems appropriate to start a list about obscure films and cinephilia with a this fascinating documentary by Xan Cassavetes (daughter of filmmaker John Cassavetes) about Z Channel and the rise of modern cinephilia.

Z Channel was a very early pay-cable channel in the Los Angeles area that showed the value of treating film like an art form, being a pioneer in showing letterboxed versions of films as well as director’s cuts. In fact, Z Channel’s creator, Jerry Harvey, is responsible for the idea of the “director’s cut” as a thing when he first screened the director’s cut of Sam Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch to wide acclaim. Likewise, airing Michael Cimino’s directors cut of Heaven’s Gate on Z Channel changed the perception of that film from a notorious studio-bankrupting bomb to a modern epic.

It’s a must-see for anyone interested in film and television history.  There’s also a true crime element, as, unfortunately, the founder of Z Channel killed his wife and himself… but the real meat of the story is in Z Channel itself, and how it changed the media landscape for the better.

Funeral Parade of Roses

Funeral Parade of Roses, Bara No Soretsu, Toshio Matsumoto, Top 10 FilmsFuneral Parade of Roses is a retelling of Oedipus Rex set in Tokyo’s gay and trans bar scene of the 1960s — but it’s also so much more than that. Director Toshio Matsumoto, a member of the experimental film collection known as the Art Theatre Group, made Funeral Parade of Roses as a combination of narrative film, documentary, collage, psychedelia, fumetti and, well, just about anything else you can think of.

The traditional Oedipus story is interwoven with interviews with the actors, plus real people in the scene. Funeral Parade of Roses is as much a snapshot of a certain scene at a certain time as it is a movie.

This film is only available via import or bootleg in the US, but the British label, Masters of Cinema (sort of a UK Criterion Collection) has put out a lovely DVD of it, and if you’re flush with cash, there’s a Japanese import box set of all four of Matsumoto’s features, all but one with English subtitles. There’s also a companion box featuring all of Matsumoto’s shorts, but it’s out of print and hard to find. Luckily, UbuWeb has posted all of them.

The Dark Backward

Dark Backward,Adam Rifkin,Judd Nelson,Brat Pack

Adam Rifkin’s surreal and nightmarish comedy is about a terrible comedian who gains fame via his new third arm. In a review for the now-defunct DVD in my Pants site, reviewer John H. Felix said this film dares you to like it, and it’s as perfect a description of this film’s tone as you’re liable to find.

It’s probably the most divisive film on this list, to the point where even if you have seen and love the other nine movies on this list, I still can’t judge whether or not you’l even like this one. But whether or not you like it, you’ve gotta see it.

It’s not for everybody. Hell, it’s not even for MOST. Judd Nelson plays the initially unsuccessful comedian, he’s surrounded by half-interested friends, and the entire surreal plot stretches incredulity to its breaking point. But if you think it might be for you, definitely seek it out, particularly the feature-packed DVD, which can often be found relatively cheaply on Amazon.

Love & Pop

love and pop, hideaki anno,ryu murakami,topaz ii

This is Hideaki Anno’s (Neon Genesis Evangelion; His & Hers Circumstances) first live-action film, an adaptation of Topaz II by Ryu Murakami, a book I’ve not read. Fans of Anno’s anime work will see many of his visual trademarks (power lines; train tracks), and it’s clear Anno’s eye extends to photography.

The DVD makes it look like something you’d see late-night on Cinemax… and I’m sure this cover has severely disappointed many a horndog.  The film is about teenage girls who go into “compensated dating” – more Girlfriend Experience than straight up prostitution — and it’s not tawdry or erotic at all.

To date, Anno has only made three live-action films (the others: Ritual, unreleased in the US, but available on import from Studio Ghibli’s live-action arm, and the live-action adaptation of Cutie Honey). This is my favorite, but all three are worth a look.

Save the Green Planet!

Save the Green Planet,Korean Film,Top 10 Films,Horror

Save the Green Planet an outstanding genre film by Joon-Hwan Jang. The catch is that it’s just about EVERY genre. It’s sci-fi, horror, romance, comedy, tragedy, and a police prodcedural… all at the same time.

Any synopsis is going to be severely lacking, but here goes: The CEO of a large corporation is kidnapped and tortured by a man who believes said CEO is an alien sent to destroy Earth. Though the film does have some graphic violence, Jang usually telegraphs these scenes so you know when to look away if you’re a looking-away type of person.

Jang has only done one other feature-length film, Hwayi: A Monster Boy, which doesn’t have a US release date scheduled, but did have its North American premiere at the 2014 Fantasia Film Festival in Quebec — and an import DVD is available via Amazon.  I’ve not seen that one yet but Save the Green Planet! makes it clear that anything Jang makes must be seen — and Film School Rejects calls Hwayi “a rare example… of a nearly-perfect genre film“… so basically, I can’t wait to see it.

Real Life

Real Life, Albert Brooks, Comedy, Top 10 Films

Albert Brooks’ first feature film is bizarrely prescient. A parody of An American Family, a PBS documentary series that’s considered the very first instance of Reality TV, Real Life brings cameras into an average family’s home.

In a dark illustration of the Heisenberg principle which states that nothing can be observed without changing it, the filming ends up destroying their lives.

Real Life feels more akin to Albert Brooks’ meta-comedy stand-up work than his later film work.  In fact, I’ll let Brooks’ own innovative trailer for Real Life explain for me:

If you liked this trailer, you’ve gotta see Real Life.  In the meantime, you might just search for Albert Brooks on YouTube and look at his past TV work.  I particularly like this bit.

The American Astronaut

American Astronaut,Cory McAbee,Billy Nayer Show,Captain Ahab's Motorcycle Club

Of the films on this list, this one is probably the one I’ve seen the most  (Funeral Parade of Roses might be close though). It’s one I don’t really get sick of.

The first feature from Cory McAbee (from the band the Billy Nayer Show and his new project, Captain Ahab’s Motorcycle Club), The American Astronaut is a musical space-western. It’s a simple chain-of-trades plot, but when the trades include such things as the remains of the only man on Venus, an Actual, Real-Life Girl (actually a fetus in a funk-playing suitcase), and the Boy Who Actually Saw A Woman’s Breast, it’s a bit more interesting that than one episode of M*A*S*H where Hawkeye wants some longjohns.

The music is outstanding, as is the art design (also by McAbee, a phenomenal artist) — it’s a fun film from start to finish.  And you haven’t even wished me a happy birthday.

Mister Freedom

mister freedom,william klein,french,surrealWhen I first saw this film, it was only available on an obscure French DVD, but thankfully, Mister Freedom has been released by Criterion’s Eclipse label, so it’s much easier to find. They package it with the brilliant photographer/director William Klein’s two other fiction films.  Those films are a bit more refined and less… messy. One might say they’re better.  I don’t know. But I do know that it’s Mister Freedom that’s the one that made me fall in love with Klein’s work.

Mister Freedom is an over-the-top satire of Vietnam-era American foreign policy that, oddly enough, hasn’t become that outdated. Mister Freedom himself is a huge superhero built like a football player (and, of course, I mean AMERICAN football). He’s sent to lumber around France, protecting it from evil Communist influence and generally making things worse along the way.

Klein was originally a fashion photographer before he became a filmmaker, and like all his work, the film is absolutely beautiful to watch. It’s a mess, but it’s a glorious mess. That’s kinda the point.

World’s Greatest Dad

World's Greatest Dad,Bobcat Goldthwait,Robin Williams,dramedyI’ve seen most of Bobcat Goldthwait’s films (I still need to see Willow Creek), and Goldthwait is one of the most underrated writers and directors working today.  Honestly: Could anyone else make a film like Sleeping Dogs Lie, featuring a woman who has had sex with a dog as its emotional core, and have it be such an outstanding, tasteful film about relationships? And seriously, Shakes The Clown isn’t called the Citizen Kane of alcoholic clown movies for nothing.

World’s Greatest Dad, however, might be Goldthwait’s finest film so far, starring Robin Williams in one of his best roles as a father who discovers his terrible son’s body after a failed attempt at auto-erotic asphyxiation. To cover the shame, he poses as the son to write a suicide note that ends up being published in the newspaper. World’s Greatest Dad is a tragic, beautiful film that finds the humor in the horrible, while treating all its characters with the respect they deserve.  This is a film I cannot recommend enough.

Four Lions

Four Lions,Chris Morris,top 10 films, comedyThe list closes out with Chris Morris’ only feature film to date (but hopefully not his last one).  Like World’s Greatest Dad, it has a shocking log-line — it’s a comedy about terrorists! — that fulfills the promise that it’s not going to be pointlessly “edgy” posturing.

Those familiar with Chris Morris’ work – the brilliant TV series Brass Eye and Jam in particular – already know Morris isn’t interested in taboo topics if he doesn’t have anything intelligent to say about them.  Four Lions is a delicate balancing act, but ultimately a film that humanises terrorists while, at the same time, mocking the decisions they’ve made.

It’s a hilarious movie that also ends up being equal parts frightening and moving.  It’s the only piece of Chris Morris’ oeuvre that’s available domestically in the US — but thanks to places like Scarecrow Video, the largest video store in the world (and a newly-minted non-profit), it’s pretty easy to see the rest of his (brilliant, brilliant) work.

Matt Keeley fancies himself a reporter who thinks too much about media.  More of his ramblings can be found at Kittysneezes.com and on Twitter @kittysneezes.

  • ivan paugam

    Stone age hag with a jelly bean for a brain who doesnt get laid and cant stand that men get more action from men than she does.

  • Jay Demetrick

    Another ignorant idiot who thinks homosexuality is a “behaviour” instead of a state of being.  Does she really think a gay teacher is going to be “behaving” gay in front of the students?  They’ll bring their partner into class and start “practicing homosexual behaviour” in front of the kids?  And what the hell does that mean anyway?  Sounds like her gutter mind is the real problem.  Wow, grab a clue dumb ass.

  • Bill Landrex O

    I think you absolutely should. The time for being the bigger person is over. This has become a war, and they are going to get their asses handed to them.

  • It really surprises me that people think this…that anyone at all could think something like this. I mean, she didn’t say anything about straights who are in a 24-7 kinky relationship, or polyamorous, or asexual… There are plenty of healthy, happy people on this planet who function well and do their jobs properly while engaging (during their private life) in actions some conservative, close-minded people would consider “wrong” or “abnormal.” If you can’t keep your work life and private life separate, that’s one thing, but banning homosexuals from work because of their private practices is silly and wrong.

    Bottom line: judging a person’s competence at work based on their personal and PRIVATE life is rude, presumptuous and out-and-out wrong.

  • mu_linlin7

    I personally don’t want close-minded bigots teaching my children, but I don’t try to get them banned from their jobs, do I? Maybe I should…

  • I think anyone known to be a practicing Republican should be banned from working with children.

  • i think anybody with that sort of mentality, should be banned from life, and be banned from reproducing

  • F Michael Cooper

    what contest ever considered her a beauty????  she’s ugly in appearance, thought and deed.

  • Kids should not be put in the confusing position of having a teacher they like and respect in many ways who’s also known to be practicing bigot behavior.

  • MelanieFisher23

    I am a very out lesbian teacher and have been for 10 years. My kids respect me more because I accept myself for who I am and I help them to accept themselves, whoever they may be. I also teach my kids to respect differences in others, whether that be sexuality, gender identity, appearance, disabilities, intellect, etc. Ms. Harvey needs to speak to the many students who have thanked me over the years for helping them through some difficult years (I’ve taught mainly high school). She also needs to speak with the gay and transgender students who felt they could come out to me when they felt they had no one to talk to. I wish I’d had an openly gay teacher back in the day. Of course, Ms. Harvey would probably say that I influenced those students into homosexuality. My students may respect me, but I surely don’t have that much influence! I will continue my openness in hopes that students, both gay and straight, that I teach will not be as ignorant of and bigoted towards others as Ms. Harvey.

  • MelanieFisher23

    I am a very out lesbian teacher and have been for 10 years. My kids respect me more because I accept myself for who I am and I help them to accept themselves, whoever they may be. I also teach my kids to respect differences in others, whether that be sexuality, gender identity, appearance, disabilities, intellect, etc. Ms. Harvey needs to speak to the many students who have thanked me over the years for helping them through some difficult years (I’ve taught mainly high school). She also needs to speak with the gay and transgender students who felt they could come out to me when they felt they had no one to talk to. I wish I’d had an openly gay teacher back in the day. Of course, Ms. Harvey would probably say that I influenced those students into homosexuality. My students may respect me, but I surely don’t have that much influence! I will continue my openness in hopes that students, both gay and straight, that I teach will not be as ignorant of and bigoted towards others as Ms. Harvey.

  • Like so many, she is afraid of those who are different from her, and wishes to keep them away. It makes you wonder what she is afraid of. That children will see what she does not: that gay people are normal, able to conduct themselves in social situations, intelligent, and unlike her, tolerant of others? 

  • This lady is dumb. Thats my only thought on this.

  • I’m a gay Republican (fiscal conservative, social liberal)…Liberterian in an ideal world. Not all elephants are bad. Just the big ones in the room…for example, Linda Harvey. Keep in mind, asses can be equally distasteful, and people in general are dolts. No labels needed.

  • Sean D. Gowers ヅ

    It’s basically the same as saying women shouldn’t be given the right to vote……..

  • Sean D. Gowers ヅ

    FYI – my partner is an elementary school teacher and receives higher marks and evaluations than STRAIGHT people.  The students are not CONFUSED in anyway regarding sexuality.  How many grade school students even really think about sexual orientation except for bigmouths like you… 

  • Gillie

    So she expects us to raise ignorant, hateful and sheltered children…. ooooooooooookaaaaaaay.  *rolls eyes*

  • Gillie

    Exactly.  I didn’t discover which of many of my previous teachers were gay or straight until *after* I had graduated high school.  Why?  Because it didn’t matter!!!  I was getting a good education and I had my own stuff to worry about.  Besides, it’s rude to prod around into the private lives of other people.

  • Gillie

    I bet *she’d* say women don’t deserve the right to vote… and that they belong in the kitchen… *sigh*

  • michaelandfred

    Again I have to blame antibiotics and modern medicine. If not for all the advances, natural selection would have weeded out such ignorance years ago. What a dumb ass. 

  • Rudy Anthony Cortez

    There should be a ban on Beauty Queens being allowed to speak.  Ya didn’t win for your brains honey. 

  • I think she should not be allowed to talk and be taken seriously.

  • First being Gay is not a choice…. Like she has any choice in being female… Thats how you are born.  So “influencing” children to be gay is not possible.  However having a teacher that lives an “alternative” life style (and I use that term loosely) allows student to learn to accept themselves and the world around them.  There are many children that struggle to get that message through their head.  If these children were taught tolerance and respect for others as just people, the occurrences of bullying and suicide and children physically hurting or killing another child would drop drastically drop.  Inclusion and acceptance is the answer, not anger and hate.  Which would you like your child to learn?

  • Thomas David Hamilton

    I so totally agree let me go get my castration tools JK but she really needs to just shut her idiotic mouth and not reproduce but in all likelihood she will reproduce and then teach the child that its OK for women to be stuck in the kitchen cleaning and to cook for their man and to do what ever they tell her to do…..

  • Samantha

    What the hell? Personally, I find it more comforting to have a gay teacher – it makes me feel more secure in myself. And what does being gay have to do with ‘confusing students?’ Its just another homophobe trying to get their way through some stupid scam. The school boards applaud and defend thos people, not because they are gay, but because they are good teachers who deserve credit. Some people are just ignorant…
    Sad fact – the understanding in this comment was posted by a 16 year old. And they say kids don’t understand.

  • Kevan Boeder

    I’m sure she’s afraid that we will “recruit” children.  Of course, we all know that we are born this way.  She thinks she’s looking out for the children, but what she’s doing is disallowing the children to expand their horizons.  What she’s doing is making the children who know they are different (gay) feel alone, scared, depressed, and suppressed.  She seems unqualified to ever deal with people of any kind.

  • The good thing is that her ignorance is so vibrantly apparent; however, she is speaking with the voice of more than one.  She probably also has her “girl” working in the kitchen, Paco taking care of the yard, and Liu doing her nails.  Her husband and children are likely to be made out of, as Claree said in Steel Magnolias, cream cheese. And, the country club to which she belongs is likely to have a beige ambiance to its population.  I did notice one thing about her face, though.  She has the angry wrinkles between her brows.  Very telling, I’d say. 

    I am a private music teacher with a large student following.  They all know I am gay and they attend private lessons and classes nonetheless.  This is voluntary on both their’s and their parents’ parts.  That’s a huge statement about how people are feeling these days.  There are plenty of straight teachers out there, ya know, lady. 🙂

  • ShowMeGuy

    Who the hell is Linda Harvey and when did we vote to give her opinions any importance?

  • I wonder what happens to the bi people then…

  • Nick Neibauer

    As an openly gay teacher, I again love the interruption into my teaching by foolish garbage.  Kids want honesty over anything else, and to hide your own life from them creates distrust and an uncomfortable situation.  Sooner or later, Linda will find that the generation below her has a completely different view point on society, irregardless of what she claims or pretends to know.

  • Wow, this Linda Harvey…what a troll. Even if this is her serious opinion, that’s like dancing around naked with a big ‘kick me I’m an ignorant bigot please send me death threats’ sign to the rest of the civilized world. Maybe she’s scared she’ll get infected by the gayness and will start talking about having children get mandatory cootie shots too… that is a sad, sad woman. Even sadder is how much attention it’s getting. Heck, the fact I’m leaving a comment at all shows that she’s done some pretty effective trolling.

  • Luinne D’Llard

    I don’t know who Linda Harvey is but the man in the picture for this article is kind of ugly.

    P.S FCKH8

  • SanfordA

    You are the dumb ass, thinking sex mem with men is something they just do and cannot control. Of course it is a decision the men make, a terrible, evil decision. Yes, dumb ass is the correct word. The stick goes into the other’s dumb ass. It makes me sick!

  • Price Pace

    Not all republicans are anti gay… Now who’s being close minded?

  • Myrick Holder

    I totally agree with you!!! I am a police officer and you would not believe the amount of people that believe that gays are incompetent of performing the duties. Its ridiculous to believe that someone cant  hold a certain job because they share different opinions than everyone else!!!!   

  • Paul E

    Probably not, but they continue to support and vote for politicians that are. When anti-gay policies are an actual plank in the GOP platform and you vote for those candidates, you are supporting anti-gay causes even if you personally are not anti-gay. So, give us a break on the whole “not all of us are” – as a group, you are. Period.

  • Paul E

    As I stated in another reply, when anti-gay policies are an actual plank in the GOP platform and you vote for those candidates, you are supporting anti-gay causes even if you personally are not anti-gay. Probably a little self-loathing there, too, Katherine. These people actively seek to make you a second class citizen. Is your money so important to you that you’d vote against your own self-interest and those of your gay brothers and sisters? Sad.

  • Katie Andrews

    Linda Harvey looks like she needs to be banned from her local McDonalds, the crazy sow.  The Catholic faith has been immersed in child molestation since Heaven knows when.  Why ignorant tossers like her think that homosexuality is always automatically linked to child molestation of young boys or girls is beyond me.

  • Ivan Segovia-Jimenez

    you are an idiot

  • myk5

    Actually if you pay attention to who it is that molests children, it is never out and proud homosexuals, but always the person no one would respect because….

  • trojoe

    90% of pedophiles are men.
    Of those, 98% are heterosexual.

    So, ive got a better idea: lets ban middle-aged closeted thin lipped lesbians in bargain bin attire from hosting radio shows,

  • Latrell Brice

    what does it matter the kids dont know and if they do there old enought to know the different between straight
    and gay. so in conclusion your a retarded homophobe

  • Leslie Marbach

    Disgusting! She acts neither “Christian” nor “pro-family” because true Christians love each other, or try to anyway, and families come in all shapes and sizes. I’d be way more inclined to ban Christians from teaching than gays, and I’m a Christian!

  • Jeremy Cantrell

    where is this gays = pedophile mentality coming from?

  • Who the heck is Linda Harvey?

  • Michael Pigman

    I wish I had an LGBT teacher in high school to look up to as a role model, and I intend to be that for my future students.

  • jimself

    Why are you discussing who the teacher sleeps with anyway? Probably started by the biggest closeted gay of all -Rick Santorum.

  • donco6

    Name a couple.  I’m curious.

  • Jack P

    You seem to know an awful lot about what goes on.    Maybe it would be better for you to attend to your own sexual activities or lack there of and not worry so much about what other people are doing in their private lives and bedrooms…just saying…

  • scottrose

    The monster bigot Linblah Harpy is out of all control.  Her mouth should be sealed shut with a gigantic black butt plug and buckets full of santorum.

  • Dale Mulkey

    and linda should not be allowed to open her mouth period

  • Kimberly Heartt

    Wait, when did being gay suddenly become pedophilia? That’s what I’d really like to know, especially considering that otherwise *heterosexual* people are more likely to engage in pedophilia; people assume that if a man molests a young boy, he must be gay, but in most cases, the attraction to children is irrespective of their sexual preferences for adult partners. 

  • Here’s the thing. As a Lesbian, out and proud, and as a childcare worker, that has been in the classroom, and spent years working in childcare, and currently looking for a childcare job, nothing on my resume disqualifies me from doing my job. I have always worked with children, and every boss I have ever had, every mentor that I have ever had, have always said that I am perfect for what I do. It does not matter that I have been in a relationship with a girl for over a year. No the simple fact is I am good with kids, and I know how to do my job. I have also had amazing queer teachers. They have never once let their home life interrupt their classroom nor do they it. As a teacher or childcare worker it’s key to be who you are no matter what so those kids can learn from that, and being homosexual simply allows kids to be more aware of the real world. The only kind of people that should banned from being with kids are close minded people that would rather shame our children and shroud their world in lies. I’m not singling out a political group or any other group for that matter, I am simply saying if you want to lie to children and teach them discrimination, get the fuck out. 

  • Seán Long

    Yes because a regular occurrence in schools is that gay teachers have a good snog in front of the students. 
    My god what kind of crap is she pedalling. Next she would ban blacks from schools as they would present kids with a dangerous view non w.a.s.p. teaching styles. 

  • Spencer Bowden

    Do not judge unless you want to be by the same measure by which you judge… I think I read that in a book somewhere? which book was that? … OH YEAH THE BIBLE!!! Some people seem to have forgotten that it is god who judges us not people we where put here to live the best life each of us is possible of living and its up to the man upstairs to say if it was good enough or not lets not forget he made us the way we are so I think we will be just fine I know I am not worried


    I agree not ALL republicans are anti- gay, just like not ALL republicans are racists. But I will bet you even money that most racists and anti gays who are politically motivated are REPUBLICAN!!!!!

  • this woman is nut what a teacher does outside of school is no ones business unless it brings the school down with it no one cares if a teacher is gay or not as long as they are professional and this woman has no place telling people things about the gay community when she probably knows nothing about the gay community 

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