James Gunn was my first favorite director. And while I know this statement is likely a testament to both my young age and not falling in love with cinema until my late teens, in many ways, I’m glad it took me so long: Gunn’s a perfect first-favorite filmmaker—and Slither (2006), his slimy high-quality B-movie about alien world-eating worms and monstrous masculinities, is arguable the first film in his filmography where his kitsch reaches something tangibly auteur. I don’t mean to use the much overused “A-word” in a qualitative or evaluative sense, but as a benchmark for a unique visual and sonic experience that gives away a Gunn movie. His art bears a certain trademark after Slither.
Much like Quentin Tarantino, David Fincher, or Sofia Coppola, the films of James Gunn are easily artistically digestible. Young viewers latch onto filmmakers like Tarantino because they see, for the first time, the effect of a low-angle or a Dutch angle—they understand the basic language of film in a way previously elusive. It’s also no coincidence, I’d argue, that these filmmakers (especially Tarantino) love talking about their own movies in revealing and vulnerable ways other directors sometimes disdain. These factors, combined with the plethora of critical material available online and their ostentatiously interesting filmmaking, are why so many film lovers start with Pulp Fiction or The Virgin Suicides. For the same reasons, I started with Slither, Super (2010), and yes, Guardians of the Galaxy (2014).
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