The Year’s Most Interestingly Strange Films

Film

However you slice it, this was the year that movies hit a fork in the road; Big budget (tentpole or fan-service or whatever you want to call them) films no longer worked, franchises and sequels lost their grip on audiences and genuinely original one-offs started popping up, often facilitated by Netflix funding. Some made money, others received critical praise. Many were obsessed with the idea of entropy. These are the ones that stuck most in my mind.

Us

What it is:

A middle-class family’s vacation becomes an eerie fantasy involving loss of identity and doppelgängers, with predominantly black casting that’s neither preachy nor clichéd.

Why it’s strange:

The expansion into a disturbing worldview. And the rabbits. So many white rabbits, and some bravely unanswered questions, enough to wonder if the director has trouble with endings.

Aniara

What is is:

High-concept Swedish SF in which an immense space station carrying thousands of passengers to Mars gets knocked off course, sparking an unsettling existential crisis.

Why it’s strange:

The idea is used to show how human flaws will destroy even the most sophisticated technology (the death of AI!) and why that may not be a bad thing after all. ‘Avenue 5’ is now exploring the same idea from a comedic point of view.

Jojo Rabbit

What it is:

A German boy in love with the idea of Fascism has his belief put to the test by a Jewish girl in Hitler’s Germany.

Why it’s strange:

The boy’s funny invisible friend is Adolph himself, who is used to help explain anti-Semitism. Critics clutched their pearls, but Mel Brooks pointed out that he did something similar 50 years ago, when the memory of Hitler was way fresher.

Climax

What it is:

A dance troupe’s after-party enthrallingly falls apart when somebody spikes the punch and passion turns to cruelty.

Why it’s strange:

Shot in a single interior, the funny, horrific action plays out like the atavistic collapse of civilisation. The cast members were introduced to each other less than 48 hours before filming began, which simply doesn’t seem possible. It reminded me a little of a forgotten film called ‘Savages’, about the rise and fall of civilisation in a single night.

Midsommar

What it is:

A young woman visits a flower-filled Nordic commune for a Pagan solstice where everything is sweetness and light. Until it’s not.

Why it’s strange:

Breathing flowers. The cliff. The bear. A heady hallucinatory atmosphere that feels like an unholy mash-up of Gardener’s World, The Wicker Man and Into The Void. The three-hour director’s cut. The use of hallucinogens to mask anxieties. And That Sex Scene.

Parasite

What it is:

An elegantly shot comedy-drama about social class, ambition and survival in a wealthy Korean household.

Why it’s strange:

The narrative split between rich and poor, the WTF twist that leaves you unsure whether to laugh or cry. The flood. The cellar. And the peach.

Uncut Gems

What it is:

A Jewish gambling addict gem dealer in New York tries to buy time while he sells a rare black opal which brings him bottomless bad luck.

Why it’s strange:

Probably the most tension-drenched film ever made, it features the world’s most annoying anti-hero (even the other characters complain how annoying he is) and takes us from the vastness of the universe to the inside of the dealer’s colon in a single shot.

 

The Lighthouse

What it is: Two Victorian old salts go slowly mad in a stormswept lighthouse.

Why it’s strange:

Willem Dafoe’s Popeye accent. Shot in monochrome, academy screen size. Plotless. Features mermaids, krakens and random gibberish. Will probably inspire a drinking game.

6 comments on “The Year’s Most Interestingly Strange Films”

  1. Bob Low says:

    A film that deserves to be on any list of recent strange films is Claire Denis’ first English language film from 2018, a deeply bizaare science fiction film called ‘High Life’. It’s set aboard a space ship manned by convicted criminals who have consented to take part in a mysterious mission into deep space. The acting is wildly inconsistent – although Robert Pattinson is very good – and a large number of quite bonkers things happen, but it’s original, and oddly fascinating.

  2. admin says:

    I rarely walk out of films but I’m afraid I did in ‘High Life’. It was original but perversely ugly and as you say, weirdly inconsistent.

  3. Bob Low says:

    The ending of the film was, unfortunately, another one of its weaknesses, so, although I mainly liked it, I can’t say you missed much by walking out!. Denis went for a sort of sub-Kubrickian mysticism, rather than anything that made any real sense. Still, undeniably strange.

  4. Roger says:

    It took some effort to see some of the films: Aniara was on for a week with one-showing a day in the small-screen cinema at the admirable Rio.

  5. admin says:

    Happily Aiara came out on a cheap-label video recently, so hopefully more will see this humanist epic.

  6. Wayne Mook says:

    I agree with the one-offs popping up but not the rest. Avenger: Endgame from 2019 became the biggest grossing film world wide, so for the 1st time since 1997 a James Cameron is not top grosser. Disney’s live action franchise The Lion King went over into the top ten all-time grossers )over 1 & half billion dollars.) Frozen 2 hit ten in the list just under 1 and a half billion dollars. Star wars 9 is the 3rd most successful Star Wars film (the other two 7 & 8) and after the disappointing 8, it also fixed many problems, it still made over a billion dollars as did as did Captain Marvel and the latest Spider-Man. The Joker is set to become DC’s 2nd highest grossing film (Number 1 is Aquaman) it’s just under 10 million behind The Dark Knight Rises. Toy Story 4 just passed number 3 to become the biggest earner in that franchise. The big box office are franchise, sequels & big budgets won.

    Note: Cats $95 mil budget has taken over $69mil so far, it probably won’t hit it’s budget but it’s not the worst failure compared to some films of the past.

    Wayne.

Comments are closed.