1. “Videodrome” (1982) dir. David Cronenberg

Number 1 on Dave’s Strange World’s all-time favorite films is David Cronenberg’s mind-blowing science-fiction / horror film about porn, technology, mind control, and government conspiracies. When “Videodrome” came out, it was treated like a cheap exploitation film due to its graphic sex and gore. Fortunately, history has been kind not only to Cronenberg as a filmmaker, but also to “Videodrome.” It’s now a part of the prestigious Criterion Collection and if any film needs rediscovery and appreciation, it’s “Videodrome.”

James Woods is perfect as the sleazy owner of an adults-only TV station looking to push the envelope for higher ratings. He encounters and becomes obsessed with an S&M flavored “snuff” TV show called Videodrome that he pursues with a vengeance. His obsession with Videodrome leads him down some very, very dark paths and not the ones you would immediately expect.

30 years later, it’s scary how much of “Videodrome” is now reality. Except that the government doesn’t need to implant a tumor-inducing mind-control growth in your brain through extreme pornography. Every time you log on to a computer, use your smart phone, send an e-mail, it’s being recorded … somewhere. And people’s constant desire to find something even more extreme and perverse to look at it is is getting easier and easier and along with consumerism, is furthering a “life is cheap” philosophy that’s getting worse and worse. And it’s all being done with your consent.

This clip is extremely surreal, but properly conveys the trippiness of this masterpiece. Deborah Harry (of Blondie) plays Nikki, Max’s partner in perversity. Not safe for work by any means.

2. “Fight Club” (1999) dir. David Fincher

Number 2 on Dave’s Strange World’s all-time favorite films is director David Fincher’s infamous, hyper-violent, extremely funny, anti-consumerist satire “Fight Club.” Sometimes, the greatest films aren’t made or released … they escape. To this day, I still find it shocking that a major corporation (in this case News Corporation who owns 20th Century Fox … and Fox News) financed and released this big-budget rock to the bloated head of consumerism. Wait, this stars Brad Pitt … so … I guess this means that if the star is big enough (ala Warren Beatty’s “Reds”), major studios will write a check for anything. By the way, no disrespect to Pitt. He’s absolutely perfect in the role of Tyler Durden and the fact that his star power got “Fight Club” made, makes me even more grateful for his presence here.

Anyway, star Ed Norton once referred to this as Generation X’s “The Graduate,” which I thought was ridiculous back in 1999, but the more I’ve grown to love and appreciate “The Graduate” over the years, the more I’ve realized that Norton’s statement is a very astute and accurate observation.

Coincidentally (or not coincidentally), “Fight Club” was released around the same time as Susan Faludi’s terrific book about the plight of modern manhood “Stiffed.” Both “Stiffed” and “Fight Club” have taken on more resonance post 9-11. Arguably, the men in both texts finally got the test of manhood their generation was waiting for and, as they say, “Be careful what you wish for …” However, I don’t think “Fight Club” promotes this attitude at all. It identifies and plays with it, but it rejects the mindless macho BS that many in our society think defines manhood, as much as it rejects the consumerism that replaced the macho BS. I’m not sure what the solution is (and I don’t think the filmmakers know either), but there is something better than beating the snot out of each other or buying objects. What that is, is up to you, your sense of intelligence, and your sense of courage to be yourself.

3. “Boogie Nights” (1997) dir. P.T. Anderson

Number 3 on Dave’s Strange World’s all-time favorite films is P.T. Anderson’s magnificent epic film the L.A. porn industry between 1977 and 1984. It still amazes me to think that Anderson was only 27 when he made this film, because it exudes an artistic confidence that is rare in most films, let alone by young filmmakers making their 2nd feature.

“Boogie Nights” combines the delirious rock-n-roll rhythms of Scorsese’s “Goodfellas,” the successful juggling of multiple quirky, memorable characters / storylines (ala Robert Altman), and “Wouldn’t it be really f–kin’ cool if I tried this?” sense of danger / bravado of Tarantino. Like “Goodfellas,” it’s a 2.5 hour film that feels like its half its length. Anderson has gone on to make other brilliant films (“Magnolia,” “Punch Drunk Love,” “There Will be Blood”), but none of them are quite as breathtaking as “Boogie Nights.”

The scene here is the bravura sequence near the end of the film where Mark Wahlberg’s Dirk Diggler character (his success as a porn actor squandered on cocaine addiction), along with his pals (played by John C. Reilly and Thomas Jane) makes a desperate attempt to rip off a drug dealer. The scene is based on the infamous Wonderland murders from 1981 that involved John Holmes. Anderson’s use of 80s pop music in this scene is extraordinary … especially the use of Night Ranger’s “Sister Christian,” which takes on a deeper meaning, because the song is about the loss of innocence and it’s an ironic and sad counterpoint to the characters in this scene, who are long past that stage.  The character with the firecrackers was a steal (with permission) from Robert Downey Sr.’s abrasively funny 1969 satire “Putney Swope.”

Because this scene involves substance abuse, graphic violence, and bad language, not safe for work or little ones.

4. “True Romance” (1993) dir. Tony Scott


This selection on my all-time favorite film list shouldn’t come as any surprise if you’ve been following the blog recently. I recently posted two clips from this film due to director Tony Scott’s recent demise. While the clip on the rooftop between Christian Slater’s and Patricia Arquette’s characters is my favorite scene from the film, this one also ranks high on the list.

Since my entry about this film on my previous blog is gone, I’ll briefly summarize why this film has so much meaning for me (and you can skip this part, if you’ve read this already on my earlier blog). I saw this movie during the fall of 1993, which at that point in my life, I was very similar to Christian Slater’s character Clarence: no girlfriend, dead end jobs, and the only beacon of light was maybe the chance I’d get accepted into a grad school program somewhere. Anyway, not only was this movie enormously entertaining, it gave me a beacon of hope, in an odd way. Granted, my personal beacon didn’t involve a suitcase full of illegal drugs, a prostitute girlfriend, and 10 million bullets, but it did put a big smile on my face back in the day … and still does.

This is my favorite Quentin Tarantino film, even though he was only the screenwriter. Tarantino has admitted that Clarence is autobiographical to a certain degree, because he was a lot like him when he was in his 20s. It’s a very special script and Tony Scott so respected it that he allowed Tarantino to be an integral part of the process of making the film (something unheard of in Hollywood). Their most passionate argument during the making of “True Romance” involved the ending. In Tarantino’s original, Clarence dies. However, Scott made an impassioned case to Tarantino to let Clarence live, not for commercial reasons, but because he said he loved Clarence and Alabama (Arguette’s character) so much, he wanted them to have a happy ending. Scott’s respect for Tarantino was such that he shot two endings, one where Clarence dies and the one where he lives. And Tarantino admitted that Scott’s ending was the better ending for the film that Scott made. A true gentleman’s agreement if there ever was one.

Yes, this is Tarantino so the attached scene is not safe for work or little ones.

5. “Slap Shot” (1977) dir. George Roy Hill


Number 5 on Dave’s Strange World’s all-time favorite films is the hysterically funny and beyond politically incorrect hockey film “Slap Shot.” This was considered a ballsy movie in its day, but nowadays, forget about it. No studio executive would dare greenlight a project this nasty, violent, and crude. It’s too bad, because Oscar-winning director George Roy Hill and Hollywood legend Paul Newman saw a lot of merit in Nancy Dowd’s foul-mouthed script about the down-and-dirty world of minor-league hockey. And yes, “Slap Shot” (like “Scarface” and “Pulp Fiction”) is considered a classic PRECISELY because it’s so over-the-top and rude.

The attached scene is Newman’s hilarious introduction to the infamous “Hanson Brothers.” I used to think the Hansons were based on the Ramones (especially based on Dowd’s interest in punk rock), until I read that the Hansons are totally REAL! Key line: “They’re too dumb to play with themselves!” Yes, my friends, NOT safe for work or little ones.