I read Mad Magazine in the 1980s, I know this is the worst movie ever made, but what this post presupposes is… maybe it isn’t? At first I thought it’s a “bad movie” because the lead guys are playing cheesy songwriters, and people weren’t used to hearing “bad” music in a movie? Turns out it’s because behind-the-scenes drama, power struggles, and budget overruns made it a laughingstock before it even opened, a boring reason to pile on a movie.

Our guys are ditched by their girls (Tess Harper of No Country for Old Men, and Carol Kane) and take a deal to do shows in the titular city (country?), where they’re immediately accosted by spy Isabelle Adjani whose murdered boyfriend has hidden a treasure map. Beatty is helping her, while Hoffman is spying for CIA Charles Grodin. There’s an overly helpful local kid named Abdul, because it was 1987. Cute movie.

In Cinema Scope, Christoph Huber calls out the

brilliantly “believably bad” songs composed for the film by Paul Williams (whose work here rivals his inspired compositions for Brian De Palma’s Phantom of the Paradise, another long-underrated satiric dismantling of the entertainment business — though Ishtar in some ways one-ups it with its critical allegory of Hollywood colonialism via the fusion of entertainment and politics).

Apprivoisé (2017, Bertrand Mandico)

Music video with unsubtitled intro. Flamboyant feather-boa skeleton-hand guy is set loose on a dinner party, his frost breath bestowing jeweled rings and necklaces and cocks upon the guests, but he cannot be stopped, and dismembers their host. Extremely great, obviously.

Niemand (2019, Bertrand Mandico)

Another music video, this time sung in German, the story about a woman who keeps getting in car crashes, after which neon-eyed cannibal angels steal and eat whatever body part she’s injured.

Fou de Bassan (2021, Yann Gonzalez)

Checking in with Mandico’s buddy Yann. This is a bit of free-for-all perversity, a misty night scene lit by spotlights and artificial moon.

Our feelgood closing film was the opposite of Sirens, which claimed not to be a “rock doc” but was one. Castro set out to make a rock doc, but the subject dropped out, so she followed pop star Cuco’s jilted manager Doris instead, as Doris discovers a possible new star in Jacks. None of this was my kind of music, especially when played “live” (as in Sirens, we only get one concert before the pandemic hit), but the story goes to interesting places. The inter-generational immigrant experience brought back The Namesake, and Doris’s dad getting his green card was the fest’s biggest moment since the kidnapping, and the second time we heard mid-film applause. Opener Andreas Kapsalis plays classic covers on fancy acoustic guitar – I remember him from previous fests, and had the same reaction: annoyance at the Pink Floyd song, then warming up to his captivating style.

For Rotterdance this year I focused on movies that involve music, and this felt like a good opening night pick. Going for a surreal/absurd tone in the opening scene with Annie Clark in the back of a limo, then we’re treated to a big Kraftwerkian rock band performance of Fear the Future, very different from the solo version I saw.

But soon Carrie Brownstein’s “behind the scenes doc” takes over the plot, and it’s weird to watch because it’s two musicians I like whose actual personalities I don’t know, pretending to be in a fake documentary. Carrie makes Annie paranoid that she’s an uninteresting person offstage (“I can be St. Vincent all the time”), Annie summons her to the bedroom to shoot sex scenes with her “girlfriend Dakota” (Johnson of Suspiria), then starts being weird and unfriendly to Carrie, who decides to quit the tour until vaguely threatening family members convince her to stay on. “Let’s only document things I can control.” Dakota leaves Annie for being weird, Annie takes control of the movie and Carrie loses her mind. I think the movie is for bigger fans than me, daring us to care about who’s the REAL St. Vincent. Sharp photography anyway – Burr is a Portlandia director. Fake-doc enthusiast Bobcat Goldthwait worked on this, and it’s exciting to see Enon’s Toko Yasuda get a supporting part.

A house party movie without a talky main plot about some kid trying to score. Finally someone made a film where the slow-motion camera weaving through a hot dance floor isn’t a stylistic highlight in the middle of a narrative, but the whole point of the thing. Wasted dudes take over the dance floor later in the night – nothing great lasts. They still make time for a villain, and two near-wordless rescues from danger, and finally someone does score but it doesn’t feel contrived.

People whose names I figured out include lead girl Amarah-Jae St. Aubyn, her friend who ditches early Shaniqua Okwok (of new 80’s-set miniseries It’s a Sin), love interest Micheal Ward (The Old Guard) and roundfro villain Francis Lovehall.

Lemonade for children… all the Beyoncé glam you could ever desire, plus “black is beautiful” lyrics and Lion King dialogue. That said… those visuals, and costumes, and dances, all 100% all the time. So this is probably the best extended music-video of a tie-in album to a movie remake that could possibly be made.

Filmed in at least six countries, with a few special guests we recognized and plenty we did not. Segment directors include The Burial of Kojo guy, and someone who recently collaborated with Terence Nance… the cinematographers worked with Spike Lee and Solange (and John Mulaney), the production designers did Black Panther, Moonlight, and Room. Anyway, the youth of today is gonna grow up with images from this and Black Panther in their heads when they hear the word “Africa,” which is certainly a change from the “starving children on TV ads” impression I grew up with.

A cute blue psychokinetic alien child crash-lands on the farm, and Shaun and the sheep have to avoid the farmer and his dog and a government alien detection agency to send the little fella home. Movie is fully charming, and just an explosion of bright colors – I watched on the plane where everyone around me was watching dirty, dull-looking movies like Joker and Tolkien on their 4-bit seatback screens, and felt that my movie’s color on the laptop seemed radioactive by comparison. The only note I took at the time was “argh, pop songs.”