Having just reflected on 2014’s best (and worst) movies, it’s probably a good time to look ahead to what 2015 has to offer. In short, next year is already shaping up to be a stellar year, dishing up new films from Xavier Dolan, Noah Baumbach, Oliver Assayas, Joshua Oppenheimer, Gregg Araki – some we’ve seen already, some we haven’t. We can’t wait to tuck in, so let's have a look.
Director: Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu
Released: 1 January
It’s been almost ten years since the end of his ‘Death Trilogy’ (Amores Perros, 21 Grams, Babel), and Birdman looks like both a return to form and a departure from the norm. Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu’s talismanic tale of a washed-up Michael Keaton who takes to Broadway has already been met with acclaim and loads of nominations. It’s also nice to see Ed Norton with some best supporting actor nominations again; it’s been too long. (Our review.)
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Released: 2 January (UK)
Toronto’s never looked so menacing. After Nightcrawler, Jake Gyllenhaal continues his Silent-Samurai-meets-Ned-Flanders approach with this confounding and gripping account of a lonely professor’s doppelganger. After seeing his exact double in a low-budget DVD film, Gyllenhaal seeks him out and ends up setting off a phallic psychodrama of hallucinations, spying and wife swapping. Denis Villeneuve’s architectural agro/claustrophobia is effective, and be prepared for a stellar WTF ending. (Our review.)
Director: Bennett Miller
Released: 9 January
The reviews from Cannes onward suggest that Foxcatcher is more than Carrell, Tatum and Ruffalo uglying-up for some Oscar hype. Based on the true story of the paranoid-schizophrenic wrestler Mark Schultz and his nefarious patron Mark du Pont, Foxcatcher is less interested in the sport than in its representation: class, bodies and ideals clash violently in the superb fourth feature from the director of Capote and Moneyball.
The Last of the Unjust
Director: Claude Lanzmann
Released: 9 January
30 years after Shoah – recently cited by Sight & Sound as the greatest documentary of all time – Claude Lanzmann is reflecting upon the life of Benjamin Murmelstein using, as his point of departure, an interview he conducted with him in 1975. Murmelstein was the main liaison between the Nazi’s “humane” camp in Theresienstadt and Adolf Eichmann, leading some to brand him a collaborator, others: a hero. This 3-hour, 38-minute documentary is demanding, exhaustive and rewarding. It also tells us Godard isn’t the oldest French filmmaker pushing boundaries: Lanzmann just celebrated his 89th birthday. (Our review.)
Director: Damien Chazelle
Released: 16 January
Riding a shimmering cymbal of applause through Cannes, Sundance, Toronto and (presumably) the Oscars, Whiplash is sure to make me regret giving up the drums aged 16 in favour of a turntable. It’s said to upturn all the musical-prodigy clichés and finally end J.K. Simmons tenure as mere supporting, character actor. FYI, I sold the turntable after three months. (Our review.)
Director: Charlie Lyne
Released: 23 January
Precocious blogger and insightful critic Charlie Lyne’s first feature is an essay film dedicated to that much-iconized but under-analysed genre: the teen movie. Specifically, the ten years in between the release of Clueless and Mean Girls. Lyne curates from over 200 teen films (many of which are just terrible), and is guided by an apposite narration from Fairuza Balk and an original score from Summer Camp. The party’s over, it’s time to do some homework. (Our review.)
A Most Violent Year
Director: J.C. Chandor
Released: 23 January
After the curious All is Lost, J.C. Chandor returns with a painstakingly recreated New York of 1981 – a year during which the Big Apple was rotten with crime. Oscar Isaac’s first big role since Llewyn Davis sees him dealing with the gravitational forces of crime and corruption. With a poster that looks like Goodfellas-via-Tom-Ford, this one’s got our attention. Stay tuned for an interview with Chandor in the New Year, by the way.
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Released: 30 January
Apparently this is a new film by the up-and-coming filmmaker Paul Thomas Anderson. We think he’s one to watch in 2014. We don’t know much else about it other than every news piece and feature we’ve gleefully contributed to the hype machine. This one’s for those of us who weren’t lucky enough to chill with PTA at the surprise screening at the Prince Charles cinema a few weeks ago.
The Duke of Burgundy
Director: Peter Strickland
Released: 20 February
One of our highlights from the London Film Festival, Peter Strickland’s devilishly charged re-imagining of Jean Genet’s Les Bonnes has got enough S&M to steam up the windows of a country manor before you can say, “Safety Word”. Only Strickland (Beberian Sound Studio) – with his masterful exploitation of sound – can pull of the final third, which metamorphoses into crazy Lepidoptera.
Director: David Robert Mitchell
Released: 27 February
A bugchasing demon teaches a promiscuous teenage girl that sex is never too far from death. It sounds like it could be a straight-to-DVD bit of genre fodder, but David Robert Mitchell’s It Follows impressed at Cannes by subverting the genre expectations and creating a genuinely thrilling affair that’s as indebted to Cronenberg’s libidinal nightmares as to Carpenter’s suburban slashers.
Director: Kornél Mundruczó
Released: 27 February
Although The Birds might seem like an obvious referent for Hungarian director Kornél Mundruczó’s parable about an organised canine rebellion, Samuel Fuller’s White Dog (of which the title must be a an anagrammatic pun) is probably closer to the bone. A young girl’s mutt is confiscated by the authorities (and an abiding paternal figure) and it ends up leading a Spartacan revolt against the city. Winner of the prestigious Palme Dog Award at Cannes (we’re not making that up), it’s Hungary’s entry at the Oscar’s.
White Bird in a Blizzard
Director: Gregg Araki
Released: 13 March
Shailene Woodley stars in Gregg Araki’s indie drama about youth culture and sexuality (another one of those). In it, the layers of an idyllic nuclear family are peeled back, one by one, to uncover the dark underbelly of American culture. The picture-perfect nuclear of the family of American suburbia is revealed to be something else: a fermenting dish of conformity and repression masked by a white picket fence and a nice car. (Our review.)
Director: Xavier Dolan
Released: 20 March
After just five years and five feature films, Xavier Dolan has proved why he’s one of Canada’s finest exports. His latest Montreal-set drama follows a single mom (or mommy) and her efforts to tame her ADHD-addled son Steve (Antoine Oliver-Pilon). He’s completely off the rails and on the cusp of being sent to a mental institute. How will mommy cope? What will mommy do? (We wrote about the film’s experimentation with aspect ratio.)
While We’re Young
Director: Noah Baumbach
Released: 3 April
After the dull, soporific Greenberg starring Ben Stiller, Noah Baumbach’s lo-fi comedy Frances Ha raised our hopes considerably – it didn't star Ben Stiller. But hang on, his latest film – a comedy about a middle-aged couple on the cusp of playing-it-safe joylessness – stars Ben Stiller, which is a bit of a shame. The film is enjoyable enough, despite the unoriginal gags about old people doing funny things that old people do, like dancing to rap music and donning ridiculous hats. But it’s definitely worth a watch. Why? Because Ad-Rock, that’s why. Yes, the film stars Beastie Boy Adam Horovitz and he’s actually pretty good as a bland, middle-aged New Yorker. (Our review.)
Director: Miroslav Slaboshpitsky
Released: 15 May
The trailer reads: “This film is in the sign language of deaf and dumb. There are no subtitles and no voice over. Because for love and hatred you don’t need translation.” Colour me intrigued.
Electric Boogaloo: The Wild Untold Story Of Cannon Films
Director: Mark Hartley
Released: 5 June
About an independent film production house Cannon Film Group, which produced a number of hits (and misses) from the 80s onwards. This doc is at its most interesting not as a whistle-stop tour of Cannon's mostly lowest-common-denominator output, but rather as an examination of an industry in flux whose current marketing and methodology (pre-sales financing, high output low overheads, overinflated paycheques for big-star names, etc.) Cannon itself helped create, for better or for worse. (Our review.)
The Look of Silence
Director: Joshua Oppenheimer
Released: 12 June
Deeply disturbing and thought-provoking, Joshua Oppenheimer’s The Act of Killing shone a light on the Indonesian killings of 1965–66, where, in less than a year, over one million ‘communists’ were murdered at the hands of ruthless 'death squads'. Here, in a follow up documentary, Oppenheimer serves up more disconcerting scenes of confrontation, while the result is something altogether new, perhaps more uncomfortable. It’s a stark reminder that this is still very much an open case. An injustice yet to be righted. A wound yet to be healed. (More thoughts here.)
Director: Mia Hansen-Love
Released: 24 July
On the surface, Eden charts the rise of EDM (electronic dance music) in 1990s France and its hand in birthing Daft Punk (whose fans, the director explicitly proclaims, will be sorely underwhelmed by the film and its disinterest in the French dance titans). But the story is a lot closer to home for the 33-year-old director than first meets the eye. It was penned by her brother, one of the DJs from the scene. (Our review.)
Director: David Gordon Green
Released: 7 August
Al Pacino plays Manglehorn, a shambling, gone-to-seed locksmith. He’s surrounded by keys (the symbolism ain’t subtle), but this marginal figure seems a million miles away from unlocking himself. Eking out a day-to-day existence in his shabby flat, Manglehorn’s only real friend is his beloved cat, and he spends much of his time writing maudlin letters (“I’m a wounded man…”) to Clara, the woman of his dreams who ditched him 40 years ago. With his hunched posture, greased-down coif, and incongruous earring, Manglehorn comes on like Frank Serpico’s vaguely piratical uncle. (From our review.)
Straight Outta Compton
Director: F. Gary Gray
Released: 14 August
In the making since 2009, director F. Gary Gray’s biopic follows N.W.A.'s rise to stardom, from the impoverished areas of LA's Compton to the group’s bitter demise, while touching on the birth of Death Row Records, Ice Cube’s solo career and Easy E’s death from AIDS.
Jane Got a Gun
Director: Gavin O'Connor
Released: 25 September
We mainly want to see this because of all the chaos surrounding it. It’s the film that Lynne Ramsay was initially meant to direct, but she was fired after turning up late (there were other reasons). After that, Michael Fassbender swiftly exited the project and Gavin “Warrior” O'Connor took the reigns. Who knows how they’ll pull this troubled film off.
Director: Don Cheadle
Released: December, TBC
Directed by actor Don Cheadle (Crash) and previously titled Kill The Trumpet Player, the film's new and presumably final title is Shoot The Trumpeter, in what seems like a nod to Francois Truffaut's Shoot the Piano Player. Like Truffaut's film, Cheadle's is said to be closer to a gangster movie than a conventional biopic.
And guess what else? Herbie Hancock is onboard as executive producer and musical supervisor and Ewan McGregor and Zoe Saldana are in talks to join the cast.