God Bless the Weird | REGARDING 2018
I appreciate the original and the weird. The images and stories that are uniquely cinematic. It's for this reason that David Lynch became one of my favorite filmmakers over the past couple months. Why The Tree of Life is my favorite movie of all time.
Of course, it's not merely style that makes a great film. But great style reveals a remarkable creativity on the part of the filmmaker that isn't always utilized in popular cinema. So in Part 3 of REGARDING 2018, let's celebrate the weird.
As talked about on Wednesday ("About That Animation"), Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse celebrated being unique through its amazing story, but it also demonstrated this through its visual style. Creating shots with unfocused backgrounds to resemble live-action yet fully embracing the artificial stylization only possible in animation, this was an animated film unlike any other. By embracing the weirdness of characters and the weirdness of look, it became one of the best films of the year and one of the best superhero films of all time.
Other films thoroughly embraced an off-kilter style, too.
Thoroughbreds managed to do new things with the simple shot-reverse shot, and it had a killer long take towards the end in which we anticipate what will happen in the unseen, in the silence, but are still shocked when it comes to pass. A Simple Favor rode the line between goofy and Gone Girl to great effect with a flair of French fashion and passion. Sorry to Bother You went in a direction that nothing would have been able to prepare you for (unless you Googled it).
A Wrinkle in Time, though it fumbled with a script that felt like a Disney Channel Orignal Movie at points, totally embraced its weird qualities for the better, culminating in grand visual imagery (giant Oprah, fam!) and some of the best mise-en-scene of the year. It even withheld showing what everyone came for--the tessering--because main character Meg's journey was gaining mastery of this by embracing who she was meant to be. I thought it worked.
Even Aquaman, which had a questionable script, performances, and runtime, had some killer stylistic action scenes by James Wan that just embraced a vision that wouldn't have been available without special effects or the film medium.
And an octopus. Played. The. Drums.
And others still took a vision that merely fought against the typical. You Were Never Really Here took a classic cinema approach to presenting its violent, somber story, emulating the likes of Robert Bresson. Hereditary became divisive in its final minutes but still had unforgettable and haunting images that most filmmakers wouldn't dare show. And First Reformed had a particularly trippy sequence towards the end to, in part, explore the protagonist's wrestle with the American church.
But the most wonderfully weird of them all has to be Annihilation.
One of my favorite movies of this year, Annihilation had one of the strangest final acts I've seen in some time. As a team of scientists explore an alien fantasia of refracted evolution, they encounter the bizarre, unnatural, and disturbing as they slowly come to terms that they've all entered an expedition of self-annihilation.
And then the ending happens.
Out of fear of spoiling it, I'll be brief. I am beyond grateful that, in seeing the last showing at the theater, I was able to see something this profoundly original, visually different, and all-around weird on the big screen. It still holds up on home viewing, but, man, was seeing this on a massive screen a treasure.
There was weirdness I did not see. Madeline's Madeline comes to mind. But while some see this as merely pretentious, I'll always regard it as special, daring, and a product of a truly creative vision.
And that should be celebrated.