Out West (1918, Roscoe Arbuckle)

Bullets and arrows to the ass and bottles to the head are minor invonceniences, if that. Roscoe is a vagabond thief sharpshooter who takes a job at Buster’s saloon and helps fend off the invincible but highly ticklish Wild Bill Hiccup. A very silly movie.

Life is But a Dream (2022, Park Chan-wook)

Pretty good for a phone ad. Coffin maker steals wood from a famous fighter’s coffin to bury another famous fighter, the two ghosts agree to marry and be buried together. Ends on an underworld dance party, all pretty extravagant for a short.

Wrecked (2013, Benson & Moorhead)

Shitty pilot crashes/destroys his plane in desert, needs water, makes radio contact with a bizarre unhelpful individual quoting annoying platitudes, who turns out to be a stoned music festival participant. Cute, better than the Park.

The Heron and the Crane (1975, Yuri Norshteyn)

Animated birds and live-action fireworks. Crane would like to marry Heron, she refuses, then reconsiders but he refuses, then reconsiders, and so on. I thought there’d be some reconciliation and compromise, but nope, narrator says they go back and forth eternally.

Hedgehog in the Fog (1975, Yuri Norshteyn)

Hedgehog gets distracted on his way to bear’s house to count stars, when he sees a white horse in the fog. Wanders in there, gets terrified by all the creatures, but they keep helping him and he makes it out. Beautiful movie, abrupt ending. How’d they do the fog? Characters remind me of the Winnie-the-Pooh Russian shorts (Khitruk was Norshteyn’s mentor).

25 October, The First Day (1968, Yuri Norshteyn)

Ah, glorious October 1917, the people marching in one mighty red undistinguished blur while cartoon priests and fatcats run in terror. Lot of text slogans. Not my kind of thing, but neat layered images. Newsreel footage at the end with red flag waving over it, exclaiming that the people now run the country with no exploiters. Did it still feel that way fifty years later?

Cowboy Jimmy (1957, Dusan Vukotic)

Wow, exaggerated looney Wild West characters, Jimmy arrives and kills a whole table of card cheats with one shot then throws them his smoke rings as wreaths, chases down the blackhat villain, who trips Cowboy J so he falls out of the movie screen and into the audience in front of a pipsqueak fan. The kid takes J to his wild west playhouse, where the child villain brutalizes the real cowboy until the kids all lose respect for him and carry him to the kino to throw him back through the movie screen.

Cow on the Moon (1959, Dusan Vukotic)

Soccer hooligan smashes a girl’s model rocket, so she builds a full-size rocket to get even, knowing he’ll steal it, then she scares the hell out of him by pretending to be a moon person. The tormented cow thinks it was a pretty good joke. An even better frame-breaking gag than Cowboy Jimmy when she zooms out and tilts the movie’s background to get a cart up a steep hill

You Ought to be in Pictures (1940, Friz Freleng)

While the animators are at lunch, Daffy talks Porky into telling Leon Schlesinger he wants to quit and go into features. While Porky is getting chased by security and thrown off sets, Daffy is auditioning for Porky’s job in Schlesinger’s office. Terrific live/anim hybrid. Top Looney story writer Michael Maltese played the guard.

Happy Go Nutty (1944, Tex Avery)

Armed with a Napoleon hat and giant hammer, Screwy Squirrel breaks out of the nuthouse and gets chased all over by a guard dog. Good meta jokes, only one racist bit.

Lambert the Sheepish Lion (1952, Hannah & Geronimi)

Lion is raised with sheep, “he was big but he was yellow.” Rhyming narration by Sterling Holloway. More tame / less fun than the others, but very professional looking, and who doesn’t like Holloway (reprising his stork role from Dumbo).

Felix in Exile (1994, William Kentridge)

A person sits in a bare room while a bunch of others bleed to death. Ah, he is a writer, either inventing or recounting the deaths, the animation leaves half-erased trails – a cool effect when you know it’s done on purpose, less so when you’re not sure if you got a dodgy MP4. His walls become covered in paintings of a woman in water, the bleeding bodies transform into landscapes, the woman is connected to telescopes and sextant, and appears as a constellation. It’s all depressive-obsessive. Honestly I messed up watching this after Tex Avery shorts – even though I noted it was from the 1990s I had Felix the Cat in my mind when I hit play.

Wedding photographer John and bartender Levi discover supernatural phenomenon in Levi’s apartment and shoot a documentary about it. Maybe his closet is a gateway to another dimension. Finding symbols and coincidences in Los Angeles, like Silver Lake or Lodge 49, but this time it’s not just one conspiracy/coincidence, it’s ALL of them.

“Why did you play yourselves in the recreations?” Feels pandemicky, the writers/directors playing the lead roles, set in an apartment. As they start to mistrust each other, doc interviewees cast doubts on the histories and findings, and the movie we’re watching itself, speaking of visual effects tests to create the floating crystals and stuff. But it ends – in typical Benson/Moorhead fashion – with a possible callback to a previous film (someone falling inexplicably from a great height).

Anthony Mackie (currently having a superhero moment on TV) and his partner Jamie Dornan (Barb & Star) are New Orleans paramedics investigating a bad drug scene in a crazy long take. Mackie has an unusual brain tumor, dreams of flooding coffins, and as they discover a wave of deaths from the titular drug which lets you “experience time as it actually is” (?), Dornan’s teen daughter takes it and vanishes. Since Mackie is dying anyway and has a suspiciously coincidental pineal gland abnormality, he sets off trying to rescue his friend’s daughter from a series of pasts. “The past fucking sucks,” he accurately reports after every few-minutes-long jump back attempts to kill him. He even World-of-Tomorrows to the ancient tundra, very exciting. Things work out for the girl, if not for Mackie. More conventional than Benson & Moorhead’s other features, but as long as they keep making time-loop thrillers, I will keep watching them.

Our dudes go to the fair:

Can’t say that I loved Spring, but The Endless sounded enticing, and when I realized Benson & Moorhead’s first feature Resolution was a semi-prequel I went ahead and double-featured ’em. Great idea – I dug both movies and they’re even better when viewed close together.

Resolution (2012)

A tense, comic hangout movie with unusually good dialogue about two old friends, one having lost his mind on drugs in a shack on the woods, and the other one handcuffing him to a wall for a week so he’ll get clean. Mike is a normal-looking guy with mild sideburns, and Chris is an unstable beardy Jason Lee type, has a gun, rants about bugs and birds, just wants to be left alone and get high in his forest full of junkies, cultists and crazies.

Things get horrory when Mike starts to believe that he’s being given clues to a mystery, starting with the video from Chris that brought him here, which Chris says he didn’t send… the digital video leads to a book to some slides to a grave to a videotape. The first definitely supernatural discovery is a video showing what happened in their cabin minutes earlier, shot from inside the room. The clues start revealing alternate futures, showing them killed by the junkies, or by the owners of the cabin, and this somehow relates to some missing students who stayed in the cabin doing research on “manipulating light and sound waves.”

“I think it wants a story with an ending.” References to these guys being trapped inside the movie while the script is messing with them, but it’s not too blatant… edits are abrupt with a bloom of scratchy color. The inevitable happy ending, after all this adventure Chris agrees to go to rehab – then some Blair Witchy Twin Peaksy WTF mystery in the final shot.

The Endless (2017)

The movies have a different feel though they sound similar… again we’ve got two guys hanging out, smartass dialogue, receiving a mysterious tape in the mail which later the sender will claim they never sent. Directors Aaron and Justin played cultists accosting Mike in a scene of Resolution, and now they’re the leads, having left the cult a decade ago to live ordinary lives. After watching the video, young Aaron is antsy to return to their doomsday cult for a visit, and his beardy older brother Justin agrees.

“I can assure you that nothing here ends.” This movie has more of a normal setup, as we get to know various cultists with their own quirks, old resentments gradually surface (apparently Justin spread lies about the cult to the media after escaping), but the camp is surrounded by the shimmer and Mike’s wife from Resolution shows up looking for him. Timelines don’t always match up, but it turns out the movie’s whole point is time manipulation, trapping characters in looped routines, offering the illusion that they can choose their own fates then resetting back to zero. Of course our guys visit the Resolution house, stepping back into their own movie, like the View Askewniverse inside The Cabin in the Woods. There should be more of this kinda stuff.

Evan has a dying mom, is also a bit of an impulsive fuckup, and during his immediate post-mom depression he acts self-destructively to the point of having to flee the country. Off in Italy he meets a couple of drunken brits, takes a job with chill farmer Angelo, and hooks up with gorgeous local Louise (Nadia Hilker), who turns out to be an ancient cat-squid-beast, as shown through some dodgy CG.

Evan then spends the rest of the movie trying to convince Louise not to be reborn as a new identity, which is something that happens every generation or so, forcing her to disappear and make new ID documents and will herself possessions (shades of Highlander), but to remain mortal and live a normal life with a tourist loser. Someone described it as Before Sunrise as a monster movie, which is about right, and I enjoyed it even though it seems like I have nothing nice to say.

Evan is Lou Pucci, who looks like my neighbor Jared, but is actually the doomed nerd of Evil Dead Remake and bazooka kid of Southland Tales. The Moorhead/Benson duo also contributed a segment to V/H/S/3 and have made two other features which seem to be horror movies but aren’t, really. Count me in.