I’m sure anyone who’s seen a movie made before the 1970s knows what a Film Noir is. We immediately get images of black and white mysteries, femme fatales, private detectives, and a worrying amount of drinking and smoking (seriously, most male characters in classic Hollywood movies are basically functioning alcoholics). Funny thing is, these movies weren’t really called Noir until decades later by some French critics – -Film Noir might sound like a sexy name, but it literally translates to “Black Movie.” At the time, they were just known as thrillers or mysteries. Anyway, this got me thinking: are there any genres alive in film today that have yet to be given a name? I can’t say for sure, but I have a couple guesses.
The Virtual Reality Movie
I’m not talking about the literal strap-some-giant-goggles-over-your-eyes-and-flail-around-like-an-idiot kind of virtual reality. Rather, these are films that are, to use a cliche, experiences. Transporting the viewer into an experiential story that doesn’t use a classical plot structure, the Virtual Reality Movie acts like an amusement park ride. Drama and character fall to the wayside in order to make room for a deep dive into a world or some sort of emotional experience.
Examples include first-person movies like “Hardcore Henry” and “Enter the Void.” “Dunkirk,” which uses its non-plot reliant nonlinear editing style to bring the audience into the mindset of a soldier, would work as well. “mother!” Darren Aronofsky’s absurdist thriller falls into this category as well: Jennifer Lawrence’s character feels more like an audience vessel than a real human being. “Gravity” is a perfect example – – the protagonist is about as paper thin as it gets. The enjoyment of the film comes from the experience of feeling like you’re floating through space. This genre shares its closest ties with video games, making it a uniquely 20th-century phenomenon.
The Action Musical
There’s been an interesting trend in action movies recently, especially the action comedies, where fights scenes are often synced up to pop songs. These kinds of movies have a really unique energy. They’re almost always tongue in cheek (it’s hard to take something seriously when Queen is playing in the background) yet not necessarily outright comedies. It’s a really interesting dynamic, one that uses the natural rhythm and structure of music to bring the intensity, while also dropping a lot of the immersiveness in the process.
“Guardians of the Galaxy” is a famous example of this type. The soundtrack is almost as popular as the movie. “Days of Future Past” has a show-stopping, slow-motion action set piece set to “Time in a Bottle,” which was then followed by another very similar scene set to “Sweet Dreams” in “Apocalypse.” However, the alpha and omega of this genre belongs to Edgar Wright. “Shaun of the Dead” probably inspired countless filmmakers of this genre with its synchronized zombie whacking set to “Don’t Stop Me Now.” Then, in 2017, he made the mother of all action musicals with “Baby Driver,” taking this genre to new heights. If any film is going to kickstart an entire genre, it’s going to be that one.
The Montage Movie
This kind of movie has really started coming to prominence ever since Terrence Malick misplaced his tripod and started making his new wave of films. I’m talking about movies like “The New World,” “The Tree of Life,” and “Song to Song.”
All three are floaty, meandering, and arty, but what really connects all of them is their unique editing style. Instead of cutting conversations using normal continuity, Malick would cut out the dead space in between words, unnecessary lines, sometimes even parts of words. There are times in his films where actors who were probably talking to each other manage to communicate through pure body language-just because Malick decided to cut out all of the words. Not only that, he’d even splice in moments from different parts of the movie in between the scene, just to bring further depth and context.
It’s a really fascinating editing style that I’m starting to see a few other filmmakers adopt. Christopher Nolan is a famous example: a lot of the flashbacks in “Inception” use a very similar approach. Indie darlings “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints” and “Upstream Color” do this as well, using these montage scenes in order to bring in a fascinating emotional depth that cinema has never really attempted before.
The Intertextual Movie
One of the biggest movie trends in recent years is, for better or worse, nostalgia. Our childhoods are basically being resealed, repackaged, and resold to us with a glossy CGI sheen. This might sound cynical (and it kind of is), but it’s a trend that’s here to stay for a while. Many of these films rely on our love and knowledge of older films, decades-old popular culture, and brand recognition.
Disney’s slew of live-action remakes of “Beauty and the Beast” and “Cinderella” are great examples of this. “Stranger Things” is basically a giant love letter to all things ’80’s. While “It Follow”s is a brilliantly executed John Carpenter homage. However, the granddaddy of all things intertextual looks to be Steven Spielberg’s upcoming “Ready Player One.” Just the trailers alone are crammed with more Easter eggs and pop culture references than I could count while the storyline, revolving around an online gamer, appeals to the adolescent within all of us. With strong critical reviews, this genre looks like it’s not slowing down anytime soon.