Blake Backlash on the pleasures and perils of looking ahead to another year mostly consisting of films.
In 2015, what might make you want to see a film? Two word answer to that question: Don Cheadle. There’s sharpness to his charisma, so when he’s in a film, interesting things happen around him. As with James Mason, his presence in a film is a good sign because you know the astuteness of the performance will be fun to watch. But you also know that you can (mostly) trust this actor to be smart enough to choose good films to be in. So, since I think the man knows what he’s about, the first film I want recommend for 2015 is Don Cheadle’s directorial debut, Miles Ahead.
That means I am recommending a biopic of Miles Davis, and recommending any music biopic feels like a risk after Walk Hard. What’s more, Cheadle has said the film starts with Davis in the 80s, about to perform again after six years of silence, and then flashes back to his ten-year marriage to Frances Taylor Davis in the 50s and 60s. This reminds me uncomfortably of the way Dewey Cox has to think back over his whole life before he goes on-stage. But the film has a great cast. Ewan McGregor and Michael Stuhlbarg are so watchable, partly because they each possess a charisma very different to the kind Cheadle has, so it’ll be interesting to see how they work off each other. And Cheadle seems interested enough in Davis’s ideas about music and performance to make me hope he’s going to explore the music itself, rather than just play the same old biopic notes.
Still, how do you know that it’s safe to look forward to seeing a film? There’s this dream I have now and then, maybe you’ve had it too. I’m at the pictures, waiting in the dark to see a film that I have great expectations for; the last time I had the dream, it was Inside Llewyn Davis. The films start and it’s… hollow. Not just bad, but bad in a way that leaves me feeling bereft. Instead of something great, I am seeing scenes that seem pointless, crass and incoherent. The dream film shuts me out and I wake up feeling forsaken.
So be careful before you read articles like this one. Because sometimes that nightmare comes true, or true enough to hurt you. When I went to see Gravity, and when I went to see There Will Be Blood, and even when I went, wide awake, to see Inside Llewyn Davis, I went with a sense of anticipation that was fatal. I had this desire to have those films wow me that I could physically feel, like something trapped inside my chest, and as they played out in front of me, the realisation that I was not enjoying them crawled through me like poison. When you don’t like a film you wanted to love, there’s nowhere to hide.
That said, now you’ve been cautioned, you should read Ron Swanson’s 2015 Preview. Ron Swanson is a pseudonym used by MostlyFilm’s film industry insider. And while he has too many bosses and drug dealers and mistresses for us to tell you his real name, he knows what he’s about when it comes to what films are coming out. His article is comprehensive and makes a point of telling you about the films other articles will miss. So go read it… but be careful, try not to get too excited.
I’m not as well informed as Ron is (no one is). So while his look at 2015 was an intelligent overview, this will be more of a grabby dash through the year ahead. I’ll cover some films everyone is looking forward to and some I’ve only heard a whisper about on Twitter. But there’s one we’ve been waiting a long time to see.
Years ago, when I first started to get excited about Mad Max: Fury Road, the idea that Mel Gibson might take the lead role was not totally crazy. That’s how long this thing took to get here. And, now that it is, it might just look exciting enough to have been worth waiting all this time for. Well, I say that, I got so excited by how much fun the trailer was that I covered my eyes for most of the last thirty seconds, so that these spectacular moments will still be exquisite and not over-familiar by the time I come to see them on the big-screen. I think someone was pole-vaulting from one car to another, through an explosion. But from what I did see… well, Locke proved that Tom Hardy can look cool behind the wheel, even in knitwear and Nicholas Hoult seems to have captured the twitchy repulsiveness that make Miller’s post-apocalyptic road punk baddies so repellent.
As for the other wannabe big-budget crowd-pleasers, I’ve spent enough Bank Holidays watching Bond to look forward to the return of Blofeld in SPECTRE. This is despite the fact that Daniel Craig, who appears to be the world’s most humourless man, has been talking about wanting to have a bit more fun with it this time, and has got the writers of Johnny English on-board to help him make you laugh. Imagine Daniel Craig doing stand-up!
And, for what’s it worth, I rather liked the trailer for The Force Awakens. I had fallen out of love with Star Wars by the time I was twelve. But when I was younger, I loved it and got the Millenium Falcon toy for my sixth birthday. My Dad told me he had to phone-up Han Solo to order it. I asked if he’d spoke to Chewbacca and my Dad said he had not but that he could ‘hear Chewbacca talking in the background’. The trailer has a hint of the charm, dash and playfulness that meant the original trilogy could inspire such lovingly irreverent goofing.
Now: from my Daddy, to Xavier Dolan’s Mommy. I adored Dolan’s Heartbeats, there was something formally delightful about nearly every shot and it was crammed with super-hot young French-Canadian men and women. Nothing else I’ve seen of his has quite hit that spot, but the reviews and trailer for Mommy suggest something gorgeous and exuberant might be happening again.
I hope that music isn’t just in the trailer. Dolan is one of those directors that can combine pop music with images that sing, so you feel like you’re hurtling into the film.
Like Scorsese, used to I guess. It’s been hard for me to get excited about any film Scorsese has done in the last ten years. Most of his recent films feel stymied by trying to be respectable in the kind of way that wins Oscars. But there’s reason to be more hopeful about Silence. Scorsese has been talking about this story of Jesuit missionaries in Japan for more than ten years and seems to feel a pull towards the source material. I remember being quietly awed by Shusaku Endo’s novel when I read it. I loved the ending and I’m not quite sure how it would work on film – but maybe that challenge will bring out the best in Scorsese. Plus, Liam Neeson hanging out with Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver has to be most intriguing grumpy-old-friar / sexy-young-friar combination since Sean Connery and Christian Slater in The Name of the Rose, because, well the young friars are sexier and there’s double the amount of them.
Bit more about Adam Driver before we move on, as well as the new Star Wars film he’s also in Noah Baumbach’s latest While We’re Young. Amanda Seyfried and him are hipsters who befriend an older couple, played by Naomi Watts and Ben Stiller. The premise and the trailer make me worry that there will be too many jokes about hats. Still, Baumbach is a director with an eye for details that can be funny, sad or cruel and sometimes all three. So he’s capable of making this premise interesting, even resonate.
And now horror films, because this is the genre I have the most love for. Trying to find out what horror movies to get excited about in 2015 can initially seem depressing. There’s a glut of sequels and reboots made by studios whose greatest ambition for the genre is to make dozens of indistinguishable trailers where dolls, old women and people in masks make the audience jump. It really must be too soon for a remake, or even a reboot, of Cabin Fever – but I’d still rather see that than another iteration of Insidious or Sinister or Paranormal Activity. Eli Roth is acting in it! And the dude who directed it, Travis Zariwny, made M is for Manicure, an entry in The ABC’s of Death 2 that has some stylish moments.
I am unreservedly looking forward to Roth’s Knock Knock. Roth has directed some great scenes but, for me, he hasn’t made a film that wasn’t patchy. This, though, is about ‘a pair of femme fatales that wreak havoc on the life of a happily married man’ and the married dude in question is played by Keanu Reeves. Keanu has that kind of blank, placid face that I long to see suffer whatever kinds of havoc and nastiness Eli Roth and two femme fatales can throw at him.
I’m also looking intrigued by the idea of Daniel Radcliffe playing Igor, alongside James McAvoy’s Victor Frankenstein. But the big gothic doozy in the calendar for next year is Guillermo del Toro’s big ole creaky haunted house movie, Crimson Peak. It’s set in 19th Century Northumbria and Burn Gorman, Charlie Hunnam and Jessica Chastain all feature in a cast headed by Tom Hiddleston, who has something of an advantage with this kind of material, because he has a willowy paleness, such that if you told me he’d been dead ever since Archipelago, I would believe you.
But I want to mention a couple of films I know very little about before I go. They’re both portmanteau films and I love horror portmanteau films. The first is a Night People, an Irish film that the director says was inspired by 80s horror anthologies like Creepshow and Cat’s Eye. I like those comparisons and although this trailer suggests this was a low (or no) budget film, there are a couple of striking shots that make me want to investigate further. The second is XX a horror-anthology, with segments directed by Sofia Carillo, Mary Harron, Karyn Kusama, Jennifer Chambers Lynch and Jovanka Vuckovi. It’s too early to tell what any of the stories will be about yet, but the idea is that as well as every segment being directed by a woman, the stories will be female led too.
I want to finish in this position of near-ignorance because… there’s another dream I have. It’s like the flipside to the one I described above. Maybe you’ve had it too. In the dream I go to the pictures and see something that dazzles me and moves me. When I wake up, I couldn’t tell you what the film was about or what it was called. That dream can (sort of) comes true too. Because for all MostlyFilm can give you a heads-up, the wonderful thing is that there’s going to be a film out there that Ron and me and you haven’t heard of yet. The one where we couldn’t tell you what it’s called or what it’s about. So here’s to the film that we don’t know a thing about yet, the one that’s out there waiting to make us fall in love with going to the pictures again. Let’s hope it finds us in 2015.