If you’re stoned right now while reading this, it’s no surprise. People do drugs. That’s just the way it is.
However, this article is not an endorsement of pot, weed, ganja, the herb, hooch, Mary Jane, hydro, Mr Green, or even the “alternative lifestyle” as my grandmother calls it. On the advice of our legal team (Silus is our legal team and he’s not a lawyer, but he’s had to throw himself at the mercy of the courts several times and that counts as legal experience, right?), this article actually comes with an official disclaimer: don’t do drugs. Drugs are bad, okay?
But for those of you who do insist on getting high despite our best efforts to dissuade you, here’s Oscar’s latest attempt to drag us all into controversy and disrepute.
Oscar’s idea was to do a top ten list; the first draft we got was a list of 19, and it was an incoherent rambling mess. We flagged this with him and he declared they were 19 of his top ten films. The lesson: don't do drugs and don’t try to explain things to us when you do. We managed to get it down to 15… 15 of Oscar’s top 10 films.
Don’t do drugs kids.
Anyway, here’s the list:
Drugs can make a great movie majestic and an average movie watchable, although that’s not always the case, especially when it comes to Hollywood crap. Let’s face it. Hollywood thinks we’re all idiots. They have such contempt for people generally, what with Adam Sandler and Tom Cruise and that whole pack of grinning idiots, that not even drugs can help.
But, this is a list of movies on the fringes of the system, made by people who understand that a statistically significant percentage of the cinema-going public turn up at the Cineplex toasted. These people make movies for us, the people who toke.
1. Donnie Darko (Richard Kelly, 2001)
With the Rabbit and the jet engine and that crazy old lady, this movie doesn’t make much sense when you’re sober. It’s just a mess. But when you’re stoned, it’s a masterpiece.
They used to call Mary Jane a gateway drug because they thought it lead to the use of harder drugs – an idea which has since been discredited. Donnie Darko is a gateway movie; it leads to heavier movies. The box set edition should come with a health warning like the ones they put on cigarette packaging: “Watching may lead to reefer madness.”
2. Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom (Pier Paolo Pasolini, 1975)
This movie was banned in Australia for 17 years and it still is in some places. In Saudi Arabia, it’s illegal to even think about this movie. Being stoned helps this movie a lot because it takes the edge off all the sadism and kind of dampens the impact of the violence so you can actually look at how the movie was put together and think, “wow!”. There’s a lot of subtlety you’d miss if you weren’t stoned because it’s easy to get distracted by the horror of it all.
3. Jeremy Irons
Okay, he’s not a movie so this doesn’t really count, but watch anything he’s been in and you’ll understand. Sure, he’s handsome and British and all of that, but he’s the creepiest man in cinema and in Brideshead Revisited, he was the creepiest man on television. He’s either a genius at creating creepy characters or he’s just a creepy, creepy man. No wonder Cronenberg loves him.
My bet is that Jeremy Irons’ kids have some serious baggage to deal with and we’ll read about them checking into rehab under assumed names in People magazine soon. I’m putting my money on this.
4. Bliss (Ray Lawrence, 1985)
This is the only Australian movie on the list. I’m sure there are others, but who actually watches Australian cinema these days? Why are Australian movies so moribund? Why are they so self-conscious? Anyway, this was a totally brilliant movie and Barry Otto is the stoner’s actor of choice.
Talking about Australian actors, remember Colin Friels? That guy is amazing. I can’t believe he and Barry Otto didn’t go to Hollywood and become gazillionaires together.
5. The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension (Nicholas Meyer, 1984)
This movie is hard to find, but it’s worth tracking down because it’s possibly the best movie ever made (if you’re stoned). You’ve probably never heard of it and you probably won’t ever find it, but if you do, you can write letters thanking me.
6. The Royal Tenenbaums (Wes Anderson, 2001)
I know what you think about Wes Anderson because I think the same thing. Anyone born after 1988 thinks the same thing. Let’s just all give ourselves a hug and congratulate ourselves for thinking this. Let’s feel all warm and snug knowing that we know and that others don’t. Watching Wes Anderson is like being in a club populated by those cool, arty girls who look sexy even when they’re wearing those ironic, pastel floral dresses that their grandmothers wore in the ‘60s.
7. Mephisto (István Szabó, 1981)
Klaus Maria Brandauer: what the hell happened to him? Why wasn’t he in more movies? Without him this movie would be turgid crap, a lugubrious piece of European arthouse waffle.
On the subject of Eurotrash, check out Fitzacarraldo. Werner Herzog – that guy could direct in his sleep. He makes Tim Burton look like a try hard wannabe.
8. Akira (Katsuhiro Otomo, 1988)
The first time I saw this, I was actually on acid and it was superb. It’s still remarkable even when you’re stoned. Nowadays, everyone is raving about Spirited Away and Howl’s Moving Castle, and they’re fab, but this movie is in its own league. While anime has been increasingly embraced by the West, remember that it was Akira which got the ball rolling.
9. Fear and Loathing in Los Vegas (Terry Gilliam, 1998)
Like William S. Burroughs, Hunter S. Thompson was one of the most high-profile drug fiends of all time. This adaptation of the novel is a masterpiece and has to be Johnny Depp’s best work.
Tim Burton’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is also satisfactory viewing when stoned, but Johnny Depp is otherwise unbearable. In fact, I’d have to say that Johnny Depp is painful to watch. He’s the new Schwarzenegger. Why do people like Jonny Depp? Is there a straight man alive who says to himself, “Hey, Johnny Depp is in a movie. Why don’t I see it?”? I don’t think so.
10. Avatar (James Cameron, 2009)
Yes, it’s sanctimonious and tree-hugging with a Disney-ified happy ending. Yes, it represents all that’s wrong with the Hollywood machine. Yes, it’s by James Cameron who should burn in hell. But when you’re stoned and watching this in 3D, it’s brilliant. It changed my life. For three days after I watched this movie, I saw things in 3D everywhere I went. It was amazing. But then again, reality is in 3D anyway and reality is not $24 at the multiplex.
Speaking of Disney, Roman Polanski once took Andy Warhol to see Fantasia. True story. Remember that and tell it to impress your arty friends.
11. 2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968)
Kubrick is probably the best director ever. It’s a very undergrad Arts student answer, but it sucks when people don’t say something just because it’s an undergrad Arts student answer. Guess what, Mr Prententious Intellectual? You’re full of it. Kubrick rocks! Dr Strangelove is good when you’re toasted, but 2001 is a whole different deal. This movie will really mess with you.
12. Koyaanisqatsi (Godfrey Reggio, 1982)
Plots are overrated. Things don’t have to make sense. There doesn’t have to be an ending or a resolution. Endings and resolutions are for wimps. This movie has no plot, a score composed by Phillip Glass and epic scenes of a Saturn V lift-off. This is the definitive, old school stoner movie.
13. Apocalypse Now (Francis Ford Coppola, 1979)
We all know the story. Coppola was going crazy. Martin sheen was on drugs. The whole thing was a disaster. There’s been a lot written about this. I won’t contribute any more.
14. American Psycho (Mary Harron, 2000)
If you’ve ever wanted to see Christian Bale naked, covered in blood and gnawing at a woman’s leg like a dog (and let’s face it, we all have), this is the movie for you.
Christian Bale’s performances as the caped crusader, Batman, have nothing on his character, Patrick Bateman. Even that annoying Reece Witherspoon was good in this movie. You can’t fault this movie for anything – it’s all so thoughtfully understated, and when you’re stoned that helps to create all this space for you to read between the lines.
15. Repulsion (Roman Polanski, 1965)
I know what you’re going to say about Polanski, but give the man a break. This movie was genius.
Like any guy with a drug problem I can take or leave Polanski, and I mostly leave Polanski. Hipsters have given Polanski a bad name. Give a hipster a few beers and they’ll get all intellectual and artsy and tell you how Polanski rocks. But he was on fire with Repulsion. I’ve not actually seen this movie sober because I don’t want to ruin it.
And that’s the list! You were probably expecting me to go all Blade Runner and Citizen Kane on you, right? That’s not me. This was not some artsy critique for the cognoscenti. This was about having a good time when you’re stoned.
Warhol's Children's 'Chemically Assisted' series:
Check out the original series here.
Image: Salo, Passolini