(4.20) Cinema for Stoners


Tim Burton's truly trippy Mars Attacks!
  • Tim Burton's truly trippy Mars Attacks!

In honor of the 420 holiday, we've asked film critic Ed Johnson-Ott to recommend 10 films to enjoy while high. His picks include old and new favorites that should keep you engaged whether you're in the mood to groove on aliens, philosophy or The Beatles.

Waking Life
Dreams within dreams. Richard Linklater's superb 2001 philosophical film is talky in the best way, drifting from conversation to conversation, presenting an array of intriguing ideas passionately expressed, with the mundane and the profound all jumbled up. The visuals are wonderful: live-action footage rotoscope-animated to create an enhanced reality. Waking Life is a joy to experience. Let it wash over you. And do see it again when you're in a more down-to-earth state of mind. It'll lift you back up.

Yellow Submarine
The Beatles were barely involved in the making of this 1968 cartoon treat. Their contribution to the movie is a brief, disinvolved live-action cameo at the end. The voice actors portraying The Beatles are pretty bad, and the puns are real groaners. Doesn't matter, because the fairy tale is packed with dazzling animated wonders set to Beatles' songs. Yellow Submarine is a hallucinogenic feast of sights, sounds and silly blather.

Mars Attacks!
Tim Burton's 1996 comic alien invasion movie, based on an infamous series of trading cards from the '60s, is a riotous celebration of anarchy, or maybe just interplanetary bad manners. The humans in the movie are a mess – note the fact that none of the authority figures can make a coherent speech – and the computer-animated Martians are maniacal, delightful brats. Hey, the movie has a scene where Pierce Brosnan – his disembodied head being held by mechanical tongs – flirts with Sarah Jessica Parker, whose head has been grafted onto the body of a chihuahua!

Want to know how confused the studio executives were by Zardoz? I saw it in NYC when it opened in 1974 and ushers passed out explanatory brochures to those waiting in line. It's not that complicated: In the future, effete immortals live in lush seclusion, while the barbaric hordes outside the periphery shield are controlled by the false god Zardoz, with assists from gun-toting thugs wearing red diapers. The fun begins when curious thug Zed, played by Sean Connery, sneaks past the barrier. A near-naked primitive in neo-Eden – what fun! John Boorman (Deliverance) wrote and directed this pompous, playful, often funny exercise.

Tim Burton's 1988 – why do I keep telling you the years of these movies. Years don't matter when you're high! Anyhoo dude, the film is a bizarre dark comedy about a deranged dead guy who exorcises the living. Michael Keaton stars, with Alec Baldwin, Geena Davis and Winona Ryder. Very weird, very entertaining.

The Big Lebowski
There's a music video in this beloved Coen brothers movie (did you know there are annual Big Lebowski conventions – conventions!) that involves Jeff Bridges as the Dude (who abides, in case you haven't heard), bowling, the cosmos and the song “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)” by Kenny Rogers and the First Edition. Need I say more?

Apocalypse Now
Francis Ford Coppola's masterpiece is an epic journey into insanity – in this case represented by a US Army special operations officer (Martin Sheen) sent on a secret mission into Cambodia during the Vietnam War to take out a rogue Colonel (Marlon Brando) who has established himself as a god. The mix of images, acting and music on the trip is stunning, often horrifying, and unforgettable. Best keep a copy of Yellow Submarine handy in case this freaks you out.

Altered States
Sci-fi with some seriously whacked-out visuals. William Hurt gets high in a sensory deprivation tank and we get to watch his visions. After a while, elements of the trips start manifesting themselves in the “real” world. The overwrought climax is great, so cool that a-ha ripped it off for their classic video, “Take On Me.”

They Live
This deliciously clunky John Carpenter flick about alien invaders is really a deliciously ponderous commentary on society. The secret messages will make you go “oooh.” The five-plus minutes fight scene between Roddy Piper and Keith David will make you wonder if your sense of time has been fucked-up forever. Plus you get to hear Piper say, “I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass ... and I'm all out of bubblegum.”

Run Lola Run
Red-headed tough girl Lola (Franka Potente) has 20 minutes to save her boyfriend. The film presents three runs with different outcomes. Never mind that and don't worry about the subtitles. This is one of the most kinetic movies ever made. Jump in.


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