If a movie is not going to show us something new, it should at least show us something different. Below are some examples, for better and certainly for worse, of some weird shit I noticed in some of my favorite and least favorite movies of 2014. (Warning: There are, I guess, spoilers below. Also, in addition to that cartoon boob is one one human boob.) Please feel free to share some of your favorite weird moments in the comments below.
It was weird to watch Patricia Arquette go from reciting her lines in that wooden, Patricia Arquette way to delivering a fully lived-in performance by the end of Boyhood, which was shot over the course of 12 years.
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It's weird that Boyhood, a summer release, is the frontrunner for the Oscars at this point. That's a good weird, though.
It's weird that Jake Gyllenhall embodies his character so fully in Nightcrawler, to the extent that he, one of the best-looking actors alive, is almost unrecognizable. That character is plenty weird himself—Louis Bloom is absurdly literal and maniacally fixated. When I saw the movie in the theater, it took the audience an hour to feel comfortable enough laughing at him... or it took them that long to realize that Lou is hilarious. (I know, I know: What if their problem wasn't that they didn't understand Lou but that they didn't like him?)
It's weird, too, for a movie to capture a city (Los Angeles) through the lens of its local news.
Fuck, I love Nightcrawler.
It's weird that Justin Simien was able to create something so funny and conversational with Dear White People in a year defined by racist events that were anything but funny and did not drive nearly enough civil conversation.
I think my favorite thing said in the movie came via protagonist Sam: "Dear white people, in a shocking reversal, using the term 'African-American' is borderline racist now. It turns out if you're too worried about political correctness to say 'black,' odds are you secretly just want to call us niggers anyway. Truth be told: I'd rather be honest about it." I love this kind of humorous, good-naturedly confrontational approach to race commentary (see also: Jezebel's Kara Brown).
It's weird that Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, a movie crafted to be a blockbuster, opens with several scenes that are sparse in human words and heavy in nonverbal ape communication. It's like the Wookiee family scene in the Star Wars Christmas Special. Though many disagree and love all of Dawn, I think the movie went off course when it allowed humans to have substantial screen time/speaking parts. They're less lifelike than the apes.
It's weird that the animated Tale of Princess Kaguya contains spontaneous lactation, more child penises I've ever seen in one place at one time, and an asshole protagonist who's a cross between Jesus Christ and Paris Hilton.
It's weird that Inherent Vice, a movie with seemingly no interest in communicating a goddamn thing in its series of overlong, unfunny, incoherent dialogue exchanges, has been so vociferously defended by movie-nerd critics. That movie doesn't give a shit about you, fool!
It's weird that Alejandro Jodorowsky's shrill, ugly, and unfunny The Dance of Reality received the overwhelmingly positive reviews that it did. I know it's the first movie in 23 years from a revered filmmaker, but more than that, it's fucking excruciating. This is the scattershot work of a visual master who is well past his prime, and no one wants to say it. Some of its special effects are sub-Birdemic, even.
It's weird that Bill Hader, a straight man, is so good at lip-synching. He's drag-queen good. It's weird that in the age of RuPaul's Drag Race, when you must not merely lip-synch but lip-synch for your life, that the "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now" scene still managed to be the centerpiece of The Skeleton Twins. (Pedro Almodóvar, a gay man directing gay men, attempted a similar stunt in last year's excruciatingly unfunny I'm So Excited, and flopped.)
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"That dog is a asshole!"
It's weird that Russian director Andrey Zvyagintsev not only was able to film a movie so critical of the Putin regime in Russia, but that he also received funding for it from the Russian Ministry of Culture. Leviathan, a sort of retelling of the Book of Job in which corrupt politicians effectively play the vengeful god role, is a hell of a movie about hell on earth, and you should see it.
It's weird that moviegoers spent $450 million worth of tickets on Lucy, effectively cosigning the fallacy it is built upon: humans only use 10 percent of their brains, and if they were to use 100 percent, they would reach a god-like status. It's weird that accepting the movie's cliched premise requires you to actually operate your brain at a diminished level—Lucy is best appreciated using 10 percent of your actual mental capacity.
It's weird that movie makeup is still so bad. All the acting chops in the world couldn't keep Steve Carell from looking like The Texas Chain Saw Massacre's Grandpa in certain shots as he played John du Pont in Foxcatcher.
Speaking of makeup, it's weird that Kevin Smith didn't realize how much the transformed Justin Long looked like Spaceballs's Pizza the Hut in Tusk, an endurance test of a movie that wondered what would happen if The Human Centipede were infused with Canadian jokes and shots at internet culture.
Ditto the weird, bad makeup thing to Tilda Swinton in The Grand Budapest Hotel.
It's weird, that Grand Budapest Hotel.
So preciously weird. That movie never stops twirling its fingers in its celluloid dimples. This exchange, though, is genius:
Dmitri: If I learn you ever once laid a finger on my mother's body, living or dead, I swear to God, I'll cut your throat! You hear me?
M. Gustave: I thought I was supposed to be a fucking faggot.
Dmitri: You are, but you're bisexual.
Horns, a movie that is howlingly funny and disgustingly gruesome over its course, is also really fucking weird.
From my Fault in Our Stars notes pic.twitter.com/jgA2qfylR4— Rich Juzwiak (@RichJuz) June 6, 2014
Says it all, and much more succinctly.
It's weird that Jennifer Aniston agreed to take a role as demeaning as the one she took in Life of Crime. In it, her character is kidnapped and her wealthy husband (Tim Robbins) hates her so much that he refuses to pay her ransom. She is peeped on by one of her kidnappers, who also attempts to rape her. Throughout the movie she is generally treated like shit. She develops a sort of Stockholm Syndrome and gravitates to the crook who's the least shitty to her. If you want to watch Jennifer Aniston get tortured for 100 minutes, Life of Crime is the movie for you.
It's weird that Jessica Chastain is settling for nothing roles in high-profile movies (a daughter in Interstellar, a wife in A Most Violent Year), and a high-profile role in a movie that poor marketing turned into nothing (The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby). Maybe much of this is out of her hands (and on the cutting room floor), but Jessie, you in danger, girl.
It's weird that Disney made an entire movie to convince us that Maleficent isn't a bitch. That was some fairy tale propaganda and for what? I wanted a bitch. Don't give me a fucking massage, just give me a fucking bitch and I'm happy.
It's weird that Guardians of the Galaxy had as much wit and heart as it did, given that it was tailored to be a blockbuster in Marvel's mega-franchise. It's weird that by the end of the movie, I cared so much about its characters down to the regenerating tree creature Groot. By now, we are all Groot, from Gawker editor-in-chief Max Read to Gawker writer Kelly Conaboy's mom, who received a Groot Christmas ornament from her daughter. But there was a time, only a few months ago, when that little lambchop wasn't yet cultural wallpaper. If you'd told me last year at this time that one of the most endearing characters in movies was going to be a wooden man of limited intelligence voiced by Vin Diesel, I would not have believed you. And yet, it happened. That's so weird, and it makes me so happy.
[Top image by Tara Jacoby]