Tag Archives: 2020

ONLINE FILM CRITICS SOCIETY 2020 AWARDS (WITH OUR VOTES)

The 2020 Online Film Critics Society awards are out. As usual, weird films didn’t fare especially well in the nominations this year. I’m Thinking of Ending Things did the best, with noms for Best Picture, Best Actress (Jessie Buckley), and Best Adapted Screenplay. The Wolf House also managed to score a nomination for Best Animated Feature, and I suppose we could take some comfort in the fact that the marginally-strange Bacurau was recognized as one of the Best Pictures Not In the English Language. None of them won, however.

As always, I take my voting responsibility seriously. I do not put forward weird films at the expense of worthier mainstream candidates just because it’s “my thing.” I will confess, however, that the 2020 pandemic dampened my ability to see mainstream movies in theaters, and watching almost everything online meant that this year I focused even more heavily on the strange side of cinema to the detriment of the conventional. I saw fewer of the nominated features than at any time since I’ve been voting in this annual poll, which is a fault I hope to correct next year.

Here is the list of this year’s winners, along with my choices and a touch of personal commentary.

BEST PICTURE

Still from NomadlandWinner: Nomadland

Also nominated: Da 5 Bloods, First Cow, I’m Thinking of Ending Things, Minari, Never Rarely Sometimes Always, Promising Young Woman, Soul, Sound of Metal, The Trial of the Chicago 7

My pick: The Wolf House (not nominated)

Comments: Nomadland had momentum as the consensus choice before the nominations were even announced. The (true) story of a woman who chooses to live a nomadic, hobo-like existence by driving across the southwestern U.S. sleeping in her van, it’s a good film, though I’m surprised at how it dominated the voting. (On its face, it wouldn’t seem to be as ahead-of-the-field as Parasite was last year.) My favorite, The Wolf House, was also our weirdest movie of the year. Among those films that were nominated, I chose the other weird one, I’m Thinking of Ending Things. (Although there were a lot of good movies released in 2020, I didn’t see any mainstream films this year that I thought were truly timeless classics).

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE

Winner: Soul

Also nominated: Onward, Over the Moon, The Wolf House, Wolfwalkers

My pick: The Wolf House

Comments: Obviously, if I thought The Wolf House was the best overall movie of the year, I also thought it was the best animated feature. Given its experimental horror-movie aesthetics, downbeat mood, and sparse distribution, it’s a triumph that the Chilean stop-motion feature was even nominated here. I was unable to see Soul, unfortunately, but I look forward to it (I have a hard time believing it could Continue reading ONLINE FILM CRITICS SOCIETY 2020 AWARDS (WITH OUR VOTES)

APOCRYPHA CANDIDATE: SOLVE ET COAGULA (2020)

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Weirdest!

DIRECTED BY: Orryelle Defenestrate-Bascule

FEATURING: Orryelle Defenestrate-Bascule

PLOT: Orpheus’ disembodied head is rediscovered after years of contemplative solitude.

Still from Solve et Coagula (2020)

WHY IT MIGHT JOIN THE APOCRYPHA: An often dazzling combination of text, primal music, stylized vocalization, and surreal imagery, Solve et Coagula defies any conventional standards of cinema.

COMMENTS: A funny thing happened to me as I approached Solve et Coagula. I mentally began my review before even seeing it, planning on flippantly diving into a sea of glib remarks about Europeans, pornography, and art-house. About an hour into my viewing, this urge had morphed into the apologetically dismissive. However, once Orpheus’ head began lecturing a group of followers (and us) about human senses, something changed. My journey to tentative enlightenment only took two hours, but was a handy parallel to Orpheus’ journey. A third journey also took place, on the part of the director.

By any measure, “Defenestrate-Bascule” is a ridiculous name. I can’t believe it’s real, as its approximate meaning is the command, “throw the counter-balance out the window”. Experimental filmmakers are necessarily an eccentric breed, and in his own moniker Orryelle asks us to toss away our calibrated perspective. The request has merit: Solve et Coagula must be viewed unmoored from convention. Some elements are window-dressing (for example, the combination of stop-motion with live action, or the special effects that feel oh-so-very-1990s). What rips his movie from the canvass is the almost palpable energy—with two kinetic climaxes—that emerges from its Homeric narration and stylized repetition.

The first half, preceded by a sexually explicit proem to the goddess Erotica, is told cyclically, with lines expanding upon each other. The sentences are built visually on the screen in the form of the written word, while Orpheus (Orryelle Defenestrate-Bascule) wanders through woodlands, Hades, and a Maenad-infested riverside, speaking the words we see. This section ends with a nebulous cliffhanger: Orpheus’ head, chant-storytelling, floating disembodied along the water. There is some good to be found in this long introduction, but a lack of “punch” and the unwelcome anchoring of obviously real-life camera shots diminish the effect. This was the point that I became “apologetically dismissive.”

Sticking with this guide, however, proved well worth my while. Solve et Coagula is as inspired as it is flawed. Having endured the latter, I was able to soak up the former during the second half. Somehow, a headless Orpheus relating his woe of lacking a body, while demanding of his followers (and us) to use our bodies to make one for him, felt eminently more real somehow. Cinematically, Solve et Coagula hits its stride when it casts the trappings of a narrative framework aside and focuses on the physicality of the human form. In all my years I cannot recall witnessing video as palpably erotic as the long montage of bodies coalescing into one giant body for Orpheus; and the editing for the closing dance is the best job I’ve seen capturing what must have been a truly visceral experience for those filmed. When thinking on my front porch after the screening (a habit of mine), I found my brain bursting with things to talk about–and if that’s not a sign of a worthy work of art, I don’t know what is.

Solve et Coagula can currently be rented on Vimeo (adults only). More information, including details on an upcoming DVD/book release, can be found at the official site.

TOP 10 WEIRD MOVIES OF 2020

In just a few more hours, 2020 will be in the books—and we’re guessing you’re not going to miss it. Actually, for the purposes of weird movie accounting, we put 2020 to bed last month. Our annual movie calendar ends on the last day of November, to allow 366 Weird Movies Yearbooks to go out in December. We’re not missing out on much; usually, December releases are limited to DC extended universe flops and Oscar bait dramas.

The Wolf House coverAs always, there were hard cuts at the bottom of the top 10 list. Giles Edwards, in particular, fought tooth and claw for the inclusion of Cats; we had to give him a warm saucer of milk to calm him down. Lake Michigan Monster, the low, low-budget absurdist lakefaring comedy which arrived on Blu-ray in November, was endearing, but suffered from lack of exposure. The domestic horror satire Vivarium proved popular with our in-house voters, but just missed the cut. And of course, a couple of festival favorites bearing 2020 copyright dates—Labyrinth of Cinema, ‘s epic final film, and #Shakespeare’s Shistorm, which may wind up being ‘s gross-out swan song—haven’t been distributed yet and will have to wait until a future year for consideration.

I personally finalize this list. The staff here has input, but I set the voting rules, create the universe of candidates, and break all ties. Therefore, if you feel that it’s a crime that In Fabric comes in at a lousy #10 instead of the #7 any idiot can see it so obviously deserves, I am the idiot to blame. When ranking, I use a secret proprietary formula that accounts for cinematic craftsmanship, the degree of surrealism/weirdness, and the perceived prestige in the weird movie community based on buzz and reader feedback, then I shuffle them into whatever arbitrary order I momentarily feel like without regard to any of that.  As always, films are listed in random order—the weirdest of orders.

So, on to the official Weirdest Movies of 2020 List! May each successive year grow stranger and more challenging than the next… except in regard to deadly, super-infectious viruses. Screw those guys.

3. Deerskin: A middle-aged man (Jean Dujardin) becomes obsessed with his new deerskin jacket while posing as an independent filmmaker. returns after a four-year hiatus with a new movie about movies (and jackets). Considering the manic maximalism of his last major outing—2014’s Reality, which seemed like it had about fifteen interweaving subplots in a dreams-inside-of-dreams structure—Deerskin is relatively restrained, focused on only two major characters and a single absurd conceit. Perhaps he’s calming down as he himself reaches middle age? At any rate, the mad Frenchman is already at it again, with his giant fly comedy Mandibles already making the rounds and Incroyable mais vrai [Incredible but True] currently filming.

8. She Dies Tomorrow: Amy ( ) is convinced that she will Continue reading TOP 10 WEIRD MOVIES OF 2020

TOP 10 MOVIES OF 2020: MAINSTREAM EDITION

Here is my obligatory/traditional annual top 10 list of movies, ranked according to mainstream standards. In other words, weird movies are allowed in this list, but I attempt to rank the 2020 releases according to their general merit, intended for people who don’t specialize in the surrealer genres. Provocative cults film like  Jesus Shows You the Way to the Highway can (and did!) make this list, but they will not automatically be catapulted to the top. (This year, a much higher percentage of weird films made the overall list. This was based more on my pandemic-mandated change in viewing habits than on the quality of the year’s weird cinema. I took far fewer trips to the theater, which meant more time watching screeners and online rentals, which skewed my views towards the outre rather than the ordinary).  Stay tuned for the top 10 weird movies of 2020 tomorrow.

2020 honorable mentions (in alphabetical order): 76 Days, Bacurau, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, Color out of Space, The Gentlemen, Kajillionaire, Lake Michigan Monster, La Llorona, Onward, Palm Springs, The Platform, Shirley, A Trip to Greece, VHYes, Vivarium, and Why Don’t You Just Die? (The omission of Cats, Capone and Jiu Jitsu from this category is not an oversight).

There were many contenders I couldn’t (well, didn’t) fit in screenings of before this article’s deadline, including Nomadland, The Trial of the Chicago 7, Mank, The Father, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Promising Young Woman, The Sound of Metal, Da 5 Bloods, Soul, Wolfriders, and many others.

And so read on for my subjective and incomplete ranking of the best cinema the strangest year in memory had to offer…

10. Black Bear: Two stories involving a love triangle, set in the same remote cabin: which one (if either) is true? An experiment in narrative ambiguity that features a rare but remarkable dramatic performance from Aubrey Plaza in dual (?) roles. Plaza shouldn’t be overlooked come Oscar time—but almost certainly will be. Less commercially oriented awards-givers should take note, however.

Still from Black Bear (2020)

9. Beasts Clawing at Straws: A crime boss, a ruthless madam, a corrupt customs official, and a struggling sauna clerk all scheme to possess a bag stuffed with cash. An exquisitely plotted neo-noir deftly handled by first-time Korean director Kim Yong-Hoon. This twisty, out-of-sequence crime thriller is just another example of how South Korean cinema is killing it right now. With better distribution, this could have been a bigger hit stateside (pandemic theater closures certainly didn’t do it any favors).

8. Possessor: Read our review. In the near future, elite assassins carry out their work by possessing the bodies of innocent parties through a neural implant; Taysa, a top Possessor, has trouble on her latest assignment when the subject proves capable of sporadically suppressing her control and asserting his own free will. This is one dark and brutal movie that squeezes the breath out of you in its sociopathic grasp. really needs to pick up the pace and Continue reading TOP 10 MOVIES OF 2020: MAINSTREAM EDITION