Once in a while a description of a film or filmmaker sticks in the head. In October of 2017 the podcast The Next Picture Show covered then-new release mother! from Darren Aronofsky. The hosts, like many groups of film people, were pretty evenly split on their opinion of Aronofsky’s filmography. I don’t remember the specifics of who was a supporter or detractor of the director’s work in general but I do remember Scott Tobias piping up with what he believed could be a common platform: “Can we all agree Aronofsky is our most annoying filmmaker?”
I’m more often a lover of Aronofsky’s movies than not (I’m lopping off his most recent venture The Whale from this assessment) and yet I can understand the meaning of Scott’s statement. Films like Requiem for a Dream, Black Swan or mother! have a prodding insistence about them that resists being ignored. Virtuosic might be the word chosen if you’re into it, but annoying is a designation I can understand without agreeing.
It’s also a criticism that seems rarer than the usual basic adjectives. The film wasn’t boring, it wasn’t incoherent, it wasn’t unoriginal. It wasn’t content to be simply be something I didn’t like. It needled me in a way that wouldn’t let me settle while it played. A quick search of letterboxd reviews shows the word gets applied to a variety of very different movies: Lost in Translation, BlackKklansman, Beetlejuice. At least three reviews for Bodies, Bodies, Bodies just say “Annoying, Annoying, Annoying.”
A search of my own contributions to Letterboxd reveals I’ve described being annoyed by scenes, characters or music choices in movies, but I find only two examples of reporting the movie itself annoying me: the experimental documentary Rat Film and the auteur-driven romcom The Holiday. Rat Film has plenty that’s stuck with me and much to recommend in its somewhat off-kilter historical and sociological description of Baltimore, and while The Holiday doesn’t do much for me it has the adoration of many people and fits into the larger aesthetic of director Nancy Meyers. I think the thing about annoying movies, like annoying songs or annoying people, is they have to have a certain amount personality to them to even qualify as annoying. It’s the difference between being a bad movie you can ignore and being a bad movie that stays in your brain past its welcome.
Your turn, Soluters! What films or filmmakers do you declare “annoying”? Fandoms and actors can make things annoying that may not be otherwise, but we’re talking about movies that kick the back of your seat while you’re watching.