won·ky[wong-kee] Show IPA
unreliable; not trustworthy.
adjective, -ki·er, -ki·est.
British Slang .
shaky, groggy, or unsteady.
In keeping with the holiday spirit, we offer our list of wonkiest films of all time. Since the readers of this blog are highly intelligent, they aren't out pepper spraying all of creation to get a $2 waffle iron, so they need something to entertain them in the meantime, while the madness dies down.
Since we have retreated to our World Headquarters in central Borneo, and all four wives are fighting with each other over who gets to give us the massage tonight, it's a good time to whip out the credit card, steer the dish, and tune in Netflix for a decafest of film madness. So while the trained orangutan is out collecting fresh fruit at our bidding, and the wives are pulling each other's hair out, we plunk down in front of the pedal-powered plasma home theater and dial in some fun...
10) It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963) - There is no way to describe this film other than to say Stanley Kramer takes over the God Chair and orchestrates a Who's Who of comedy from the 30s through the 60s. It stars Spencer Tracey, Milton Berle, Ethel Merman, Jonathan Winters, Mickey Rooney...and on and on and on. There's cameos from the Three Stooges, William Demarest, Andy Devine, Peter Falk...it's literally a cast of thousands, and all are genuine stars. Makes us dizzy trying to spot them all. Anyway, a random group of comedians witness Jimmy Durante fly off a cliff in his jalopy. His dying words about a buried fortune sends them all on a wild chase across southern California, with Spencer Tracey as a cop on the verge of retirement who wants to jail all of them and take the loot for himself. Endless fun (about 3 hours of it).
9) Rat Race (2001) - This is IAMMMMW updated for the attention-deficit crowd, with Jerry Zucker manning the God Chair. This is one of those flicks we've watched numerous times, and still get side cramps laughing. The winch up the RADAR tower, the cow-balloon, the Hitler museum. John Cleese is the quintessential smarmy TeeVee host and Cuba Gooding turns in a very nice straight-man role. Basically, a bored multi-millionaire sets up a mad dash for cash across the southwest US by randomly selecting gamblers at a Vegas casino. The results are truly hilarious. Seth Green leaves me breathless on the floor with his tongue piercing alone. Lots of cameos and whacked out scenarios. You might even watch it twice in a row, if you can breathe...
6) Kelly's Heroes (1970) - The 70s turned out a lot of wonky film, and this is no exception. Clint Eastwood leads a stellar cast of misfits in WWII. Let's see, this is Dirty Dozen meets Catch-22 with a healthy dose of MASH (see below) and Ocean's Eleven (original). Eastwood is a disgraced officer who gets an earful from a dying Nazi about a shipment of gold bullion. He gathers up a few cronies and goes rogue to find the gold and disappear into mists of time. This is the movie Three Kings wishes it were, if Clooney weren't such a propaganda tool. Brilliant story and irreverent comedy with war satire squeezed in edge-wise. Makes a great double feature with MASH or Catch-22, and kills an anti-shopping afternoon with style and grace.
5) M*A*S*H (1970) - No, this ain't the TeeVee show. Yes, it's brilliant. And yes, Robert Altman in the God Chair is a cinematic deity! Hawkeye (Sutherland) and Trapper John (Gould) do everything they can to undermine the Korean War effort, one patient at a time. This movie is jaw-droppingly wonky, from the last supper for the dentist with the huge manhood (origin of the famous theme song), to Hot Lips and Frank lighting up the screen with screwball passion, this is one weird flick. If you're a fan of the TeeVee show, but have never seen the movie, then don't look for Klinger. Just enjoy the complete mayhem caused by two doctors with consciences who refuse to get with the program. Rober Duvall (good Texas boy) is brilliant as Frank Burns, and Roger Bowen brings a whole new level of clueless to Henry Blake, especially with his shadow Radar O'Reilly, who's the only cross-over actor to the TeeVee series. Most folks sit gap-mouthed through the credits trying to figure out what they've just watched.
4) The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976) - We've always suspected David Bowie is an alien, and this movie proves it. Nicholas Roeg fills the God Chair and guides an all-star cast through a very strange and ephemeral story of an alien come to Earth to get water for his planet, but crashes and must raise money to build a craft to get home. He does it by 'inventing' all sorts of cool gee-gaws and patenting them to create an Apple-like empire. Maybe this is the true story of Steve Jobs? Rip Torn, Buck Henry and Candy Clark round out a wonky cast for a wonky story about wonky stuff.
3) PI (1998) - Darren Aronofsky does everything behind the camera, and Sean Gullette does everything on. This is just a plain wonky flick. A math major type discovers a pattern in the value of PI that appears to be the key to Life, The Universe and Everything. He turns his New York dive into a supercomputer from spare parts, which does something weird with ants, and makes the 'hero' mega-paranoid as he digs deeper into the mystery he's found. It's got everything that Mel Gibson's 'Conspiracy Theory' wishes it had: street bums playing mendelsohn, fawning girlfriends bringing pizza, ultra-wise math professors, kabalist Jews at the Gates of Hell. The scene were he drills his brains out is great! Oh, and some really cool camera work where it's strapped to the actor's body and locked on his face, so that the world around him swirls out of control. Very cool! We want to use that for something one day! In the end, you learn the Name of God. it's in the Bible if you know where to look...
2) The Illusionist (2006) - This little gem stars Ed Norton (one of our favorites) is a classy rendition of the old Bill Bixby TeeVee show, The Magician. Ed is a master illusionist in turn-of-the-century Vienna. He gets smitten with a hoity-toity woman of the uber-klassen, who then gets engaged to the Crown Prince of Austia-Hungary. Ed proceeds to use all the magic at his disposal to confound the marriage and destroy the whole royal family. Now that's LOVE, baby! It's got an excellent score by Philip Glass and some of the scenes are shot in Cesky Krumlov, which is an incredible place in Czech Republic that has it's own magic. Lots of twists and turns, and a great way to burn an afternoon non-shopping.
Honourable Mention: Goes to Ken Russell, the recently-deceased Wonkmeister himself. His stuff was SO wonky that he deserves a list all his own. He gave us such memorable wonkiness as Altered States and Lair of the White Worm. But he is perhaps best remembered for Tommy, the film based on The Who's rock opera. Ann Margaret swimming in baked beans is forever etched in my mind, as is Elton John in massive boots. He only comes out when I drink my gin... Hat's off, oh mighty Wonk-a-nator!
So, that's it for this round. We think you'll be sufficiently wonked out by the time you choke down this list. You'll notice that the 70s figure heavily into this list. There was an explosion of wonk at that time, as the stress of moon landings and Viet Nam wars and race riots was causing everyone to get a little wonky, not unlike the current era. Wish it was producing the same kind of strangeness, though.
Hope you enjoy the selections and don't blame us it your brain oozes out of your ears by #3 or so. At least we didn't devolve into Boob Toob and Kentucky Fried Movie. We kept it somewhat high-brow...ish.
At any rate, it will definitely keep you from getting mauled in the mall. Happy viewing and write when you recover!
UPDATE: One of our faithful and highly intelligent readers has submitted a wonky nominee, which we actually have NOT seen yet! We know that sounds highly improbable, but it does rarely occur. He offers "Idiocracy" (2006) a creation of the wonk master Mike Judge, who many will recall is the creator of such wonky material as "Beavis and Butthead," "Office Space," and the animated wonkiness of "King of the Hill." On top of that, Judge is a good Texas boy, so we are compelled to mention him. At any rate, Idiocracy has Luke Owens being hibernated in a military experiment, whick gets cancelled and he is forgotten for 500 years. Now Luke's character ain't the brightest bulb in the festive holiday display, but the world he awakes in makes him look like Einstein on steroids. One can well imagine this scenario coming true, when one surveys the current mental landscape. Thanks to our great readers!