The Future Is Now: A Sneak Peek at the Year

As a critic or cultural commentator, you are required to turn the page, flip the switch, or do whatever you have to do as quickly (and as smoothly) as possible when it comes to year end/new year coverage.

Jan 7, 2015 at 1:20 pm
click to enlarge Leonardo DiCaprio stars in The Revenant.
Leonardo DiCaprio stars in The Revenant.

As a critic or cultural commentator, you are required to turn the page, flip the switch, or do whatever you have to do as quickly (and as smoothly) as possible when it comes to year end/new year coverage. There’s precious little time to waste waxing nostalgic about the recent cinematic past because the future doesn’t even bother knocking on the door; it’s got a key and has already made itself at home.

At least that’s how it feels this year. Last week I shared pleasant memories about the cinematic moments that helped to define 2014 for me, and now I find myself somehow already surrounded by question marks. What films will dominate the box office this year? How will I be able to replicate the festival/online-streaming schedule I established last year in order to guarantee that I will be in position to offer authoritative opinions about the film landscape? And what, pray tell, will the film landscape even look like in this new shared universe of screens where big and small have merged into a flat medium view?

I start off simply, seeking to answer this question: What am I looking forward to in 2015? That should be easy enough. I researched and banged out a list of names of films and directors I suspect will give shape to the wide field of vision that will be this interesting year. (This list is in no particular order.)

The Revenant (Alejandro González Iñárritu)

Silence (Martin Scorsese)

Demolition (Jean-Marc Vallée)

Life (Anton Corbijn)

Sea of Trees (Gus Van Sant)

Knight of Cups (Terrence Malick)

Joy (David O. Russell)

Triple Nine (John Hillcoat)

Partially based on recent track records (Iñárritu, Vallée), career expectations (Scorsese and, intriguingly, Russell) and in the case of Corbijn and Hillcoat, a sensibility of curiosity and creativity that inspires me to think and dream about what film (even genre-based storytelling) could be in the right hands, this list lays a solid and hopeful foundation. Even the wildcards’ names — Van Sant and Malick — whisper promises like Drugstore Cowboy, My Own Private Idaho, Gerry and Last Days, and Badlands, Days of Heaven, The Thin Red Line and The Tree of Life, respectively. It would be churlish to focus on their misfires (Van Sant’s shot-for-shot remake of Hitchcock’s Psycho and Malick’s far-too-interior fever dream To the Wonder), even when such efforts, while frustrating, prove to be more inspired and riskier bets than the working hacks could ever imagine in a thousand years with all the riches of the world at their disposal.

From a regional perspective, I would be remiss to not include Carol from Todd Haynes and Miles Ahead from Don Cheadle, since both films were shot in the area. Miles Ahead has no release date, so maybe including it in a list for 2015 smacks a bit of wishful thinking, but I’m willing to dream on. I’m also keeping an eye on Midnight Special from Jeff Nichols, who is not exactly a local guy, but I reserve a special place in my critical heart for him after Take Shelter. He’s got a key-for-life to the state of Ohio as far as I’m concerned.

Yet what I’m truly jazzed about when it comes to film is not strictly limited to film in the going-out-to-the-movie-theater sense I once was so religiously devoted to. I’m awaiting word on the Netflix release of the Marvel series Daredevil (with Jessica Jones to follow later on in 2015). Last year, Marvel Studios announced their ambitious plan for two to three feature films a year, a dedication to network television with Agents of Shield (and Agent Carter, which debuts this week during Shield’s winter hiatus), and an emerging rollout of four character-based serials on Netflix (Daredevil, A.K.A. Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist) that would culminate in a team-up mini-series (The Defenders).

In terms of the big picture, Marvel wants to establish a shared universe with the potential to have characters and/or plotlines flow across the three viewing formats, and why not? This makes perfect sense for a comic book company with such a diverse collection of interrelated characters and narratives that extend from the outer limits of the galaxy to the urban dangers of Hell’s Kitchen. With such scale and scope, it makes sense to exploit that resource.

And the real winners, I would like to believe, are not Marvel Entertainment or the Walt Disney Company (which owns Marvel), but audiences. We get access to stories, a seemingly never-ending fountain of stories that will entertain and challenge a new generation of viewers and creators.

Welcome, 2015. Make yourself at home.


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