Some films we laud because they take us to the edge of our seat, others instead plunge us backward coweringly into our couch cushions. ‘The acting was great in this movie; I loved the way they shot that movie.’ Of the many ways we discuss, evaluate, love, and measure greatness in film, one metric not considered often, or weighed nearly heavily enough, is originality.
Black Panther, based on the comic book series and the root of a new MCU branch, has captured the nation’s attention for weeks on end. Ready Player One, originally an Ernest Cline novel, is an exciting return to the exploration of childhood wonder and fantasy for Steven Spielberg. 2001: A Space Odyssey recently celebrated fifty years. It was based on an Arthur C. Clarke book. The Fugitive will celebrate twenty-five, but it was a TV show in the 1960s. In a conscious search for them, completely original films are shockingly elusive. You’d find 2017’s Oscar Best Picture field to be made up of half of them and its Top 10 highest gross list to include zero (Coco came in at #13). Including only original stories, iMDb’s Top 25 would become iMBd’s Top 6. Quite evidently, originality is a quality which should be valued at an almost extreme premium among movie fans and critics. Taking full stock and appreciation of the below auteurs is a recommended start.
Although every moment of his films, even some of the titles, are works in homage, Tarantino is undoubtedly the filmmaker of the 21st century who has brought into existence the richest assemblage of stories and characters. That he brings many to life only to then kill them off in spectacular fashion makes his nine written-and-directed films – three of them nominated for Best Picture and all of them iconic – fun in the midst of profundity.
The only adaption Anderson has captained during his brilliant career was his stop-motion animation treatment of Roald Dahl’s Fantastic Mr. Fox – hardly a creative load off. The rest has not only been original in subject matter, Anderson’s style is the kind that will forever be described by directly citing his name.
Perhaps the most significant chasm between “movie people” and the gen. pop. is the work of David Lynch. Masterpieces like Mulholland Drive and Blue Velvet are obsessively dissected in academia and podcasttopia but have found their way onto far fewer screens than equally-acclaimed contemporaries such as Scorcese’s Goodfellas (true story) and the Lord of the Rings series (Tolkien, obviously). This might have to do with the fact that, while other creators on this list carefully craft and package their own brilliance for our pleasure, Lynch more summons you into his mind space. Whether you enjoy the experience seems of little consequence to him.
An original character and one of the triumphant darlings of 2017 was Saoirse Ronan’s Lady Bird – concocted by Greta Gerwig who herself spent many years on the receiving end of Joe Swanberg and Noah Baumbach scripts. Follow this “mumblecore” wormhole and you’ll find that young people eager to cast their lot into the film pantheon on a platform of only their own star-crossed musings are plentiful.
The Safdie Brothers
Indiedom naturally breeds originality – blockbuster franchises far from mind. This writer-director pair’s days there may be numbered as they have caught exponential attention with every heart-pounding production they beget. Most recently they exposed Robert Pattinson as a veritably talented actor in Good Time. If that isn’t a fresh concept I don’t know what is.