[I’ve never created a topic on this BBS before. I hope I’m doing it right]
tl;dr What are some good (or heck, bad) recent movies that feature significant ambiguity?
I’ve recently been struck by the dearth of films that feature any significant ambiguity recently. I have some theories on why that happened
Increased media consolidation
Increased research on what puts bums in seats
I see fewer previews since I stream more
The War on Terror/Donnie’s presidency activates fear and authoritarian impulses that result in seeking greater certainty from our media
It’s this last one that is motivating me to break out of this canyon. It seems like there were a lot more ambiguous films in the 90s (like Dark City, Fight Club, Schizopolis, or Pi), with elements of things like unreliable narrators or what TVTropes calls “Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane.”
Films these days seem like they’re trying to tie up all loose ends and answer all questions. I miss movies where they didn’t do that. Am I just not paying attention to the right previews, or are these in fact genuinely less common these days?
Either way, does anyone have recommendations for ambiguous movies that came out recently?
It’s not that recent, but “The Fountain” is a good one for that.
You’ll be surprised, but “Burt’s Buzz” – a documentary – is ambiguous as heck. There’s a lot of stuff they show you that they obviously don’t know the back story of (because nobody wants to talk about it), so they just show you and let it be.
Not sure how recent you want, but I just watched Zero Theorem and I don’t really know what to make of the ending. Ambiguous, but not in a comprehensible way, to me. Maybe I need to rewatch and pay more attention (I was on a plane and pretty tired).
I have some films that fit into what you seem to be after they are not that recent but more recent then the ones you mentioned. If it helps, The Witch (2015) I have mixed feelings about it as ‘horror’ but I think it is fun. Marshland (2014) it’s Spanish and I watched as a ‘if you like True Detective Season 1 you will like this’. Enter The Void (2009) it’s by the same director as Irreversible so not necessarily enjoyable. It has the Wachowski Speed Racer look and Tibetan Book of the Dead themes.
You made me think of movies so here is a list of some that have a morally ambiguity. Hunger (2008) based on Bobby Sands hunger strike. The Woodsman (2004) it had Mos Def I didn’t expect the themes. The Whistleblower (2010) a movie based on a true story about human trafficking with a twist. 25th Hour (2002).
if it helps, gilliam stated that the film was a tragedy, not a comedy. gilliam himself referenced the following film review as representing someone who “got it” in some of his social media statements about the film–
I haven’t seen Mos Def in a lot but I remember his performance in The Italian Job (why did they remake it) as particularly standout from the depth his character had that the others did not.
Which reminds me: I gotta see Be Kind Rewind and I’m guessing it would fit on this list if it were made later. If there are questions about what is real in the movie-within-a-movie, there are probably questions in the frame story too.
Hunt for the Wilderpeople- Julian Dennison and Sam Neill. Directed by Taika Waititi, which is probably all anyone needs to know. It avoids the pitfalls you expect will wreck it, and manages to be funny and thoughtful at the same time. Not sure if it’s ambiguous, but it is good.
Let the Right One In- The best vampire movie ever made, IMO. Not new at all, and not terribly ambiguous.
Blue My Mind- Luna Wedler and a cast of Swiss actors I’ve never heard of. It’s past time to retire the adolescent-girls-as-ravenous-monsters trope, but this movie sort of redeems itself by pickling a direction and following it through to the end. Also, this is the perfect antidote for anyone whose daughter forced them to sit through four seasons of H2O: Just Add Water and Mako: Island of Secrets. Curse you, Netflix.
Not new, but entertaining:
Stranger than Fiction- Emma Thompson, Will Ferrell, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and Dustin Hoffman. Imagine Being John Malkovich done over as as a 90s romcom and you’ve got it. Leans too heavily on the manic-pixie-dream-girl thing, but is probably the best use of Will Ferrell’s awkward nitwit shtick that I’ve seen.
Punch Drunk Love - Emily Watson, Adam Sandler, Phillip Seymour Hoffman. Another film featuring a one-note SNL alumn turned ideways and rendered more interesting for it. Hasn’t aged well in a bunch of ways, but it has a harmonium as a major plot device and Emily Watson. I would watch Emily Watson read the phone book.
I enjoyed it. A bit overly Oscar-bait-y, being about an aging actor dealing with fading into irrelevance, which is… pretty thoroughly overdone, but write what you know I guess. The craft that went into presenting it as a single continuous shot is impressive. The percussion-only score, too.
I liked Birdman too, but I always felt it was like an over-stuffed sandwich version of something like Mickey Rourke’s The Wrestler. That one also dealt with all that brooding dude trying to come to terms with his mortality through late-age craft soft-of-thing, in a way that wasn’t always ironically/non-ironically dipping into making fun of pretentiousness.
Be Kind Rewind is fun it feels really innocent but also sincere. It was done by Michel Gondry who also did a movie The Science Of Sleep (2006). Both great movies that I would highly recommend as date movies.