Dedicated to films from all over the world of the horror, thriller, sci-fi, action, experimental, and/or mash-up persuasions, Fantastic Fest is the perfect place to discover all-new weird movies of various origins. I tried to take in a little bit of everything, and I’ve come out with a list of the Top 5 Weird Movies of Fantastic Fest for 2015. Note: Due to scheduling conflicts I missed Yakuza Apocalypse, which I suspect would have made this list. I also missed Anomalisa. Oh well.
It isn’t referenced much in any well-informed critical “film” discussions. It isn’t typically put forth as a shining example of 80s cinema, or women-directed cinema, or Madonna-starring cinema. It probably isn’t used in many film classes. It isn’t especially well-remembered today, except as a kind of style footnote within the singer’s long and storied career. And yet, I would easily count Desperately Seeking Susan among my favorite films. And I consider it Important.
Set in that bygone era when downtown New York was overrun with punks and freaks and strip clubs and boomboxes and graffiti, Times Square follows the adventures of unlikely duo of Pamela Pearl (Trini Alvarado), a shy, lonely, wealthy 13-year-old girl and abrasive, anti-authority 15-year-old punk Nicky Marotta (Robin Johnson). They meet in a hospital where they are undergoing tests for seizure-related issues, but they soon break out together and decide to make it on their own in the streets of New York City. They move into an abandoned warehouse (or train station? or something?) and do well enough for themselves stealing food, taking clothes from some old trunks they found, and dancing (clothed) at a club.
Aspiring punks Bobo (Mira Barkhammar) and Klara (Mira Grosin) may only be thirteen years old, but they are ready to take on the world with their newly-formed band. At first trying to teach themselves to play bass and drums, they eventually enlist shy Christian guitarist Hedvig (Liv LeMoyne) to join the group, and the three forge a solid but sometimes tempestuous friendship. Politics, class, puberty, and music all intermingle as the girls come of age- sticking together through first crushes, first DIY haircuts, first hangovers, and their first live performance at a small-town music festival.
New wave beats and a failing family pub, elaborate pool parties and DIY sequined hot pants: Starstruck takes the excesses of the 80s entertainment industry and clashes them with a working class family struggling to stay afloat financially and emotionally, all set to a truly rockin’ soundtrack. Jackie (Jo Kennedy) works as a waitress by day but dreams of becoming a hit singer, which her fourteen-year-old cousin and manager Angus (Ross O’Donovan) tirelessly encourages. Together they connive to land a spot on their favorite music tv show, hosted by the dashing Terry Lambert (John O’May), but all their hard work may be for nothing when Jackie’s new handlers insist on changing her look, her sound, and her band.