The Movie Club is a weeklong conversation about the year in film. Read all the entries here.
Between the Sony hacks we were discussing at the beginning of this year’s Club and the awful violence in Paris that accompanies its end, this week has felt like a weird, yet important, time to be writing and arguing about movies as if they mattered—an act which in itself, I like to believe, helps them to continue mattering. If nothing else, this year has given movie critics and audiences many chances to confront the same wrenching questions on screen that we keep coming back to in the headlines: How can injustice and inequality continue to persist at the degree they currently do without perennial eruptions of revolutionary violence, and how are we to understand the limits, function and purpose of that violence? (Snowpiercer, Selma, and in its way Mockingjay Part I.) What is the fate of privacy—or for that matter, the human body—in the digital age, when our very identities are available to be stolen, hacked, surveilled, and uploaded? (Citizenfour, Lucy, The Congress.) Are there any limits to the freedom of the press? (The Interview, Nightcrawler, Citizenfour again.) There was no way to write about film in 2014 without colliding violently into current events, like Mark Schultz slamming into an opponent. I hope for just as many interesting confluences on screen in 2015, but far fewer violent collisions in real life.
There are many things you all have said over the past few days that I want to respond to, either because you made me rethink a movie I thought I was done with or just because you made me LOL. Amy, you describe beautifully how the ribald humanism and deeply sad silliness of Ralph Fiennes’ performance as Monsieur Gustave serves to lift Wes Anderson’s unlikely marzipan contraption The Grand Budapest Hotel into a higher realm of historical and even moral perspective than Anderson’s ever taken on the world before. It isn’t my favorite Wes Anderson movie—like Stephanie, I remain loyal to Fantastic Mr. Fox, along with my first crush Rushmore—but it may be both his most ambitious and his most profound to date.
I could also write a whole post in response to Stephanie and Amy’s cowgirl whoops of praise for Seth MacFarlane’s A Million Ways to Die in the West, and Seth MacFarlane in general. But that would require an exploration of my lifelong indifference to fart jokes, scatology, and MacFarlane-style humor in general, which would in turn call not only for years of old-school Freudian psychoanalysis, but for actually seeing A Million Ways to Die in the West. So I’ll just discreetly back out the door of this year’s Club, pointing you two in the direction of the whoopee-cushion-inflating news that Seth McFarlane will be back next summer with Ted 2, an opportunity to dig deeper into Mark Wahlberg’s relationship with his outspoken id/teddy bear.
And in the spirit of looking forward, here are five movies slated to come out next year—one for each of us, plus one for the readers who stuck with us through all this—that I for one am waiting for with fingers crossed:
Carol, Todd Haynes’ adaptation of a 1952 Patricia Highsmith novel about a forbidden lesbian affair between a wealthy housewife and a lonely shopgirl in the 1950s, starring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara. Haynes’ Mildred Pierce was one of the most distinctively voiced TV series of recent years—I love when this meticulous, cerebral director takes on the genre of high melodrama, and Highsmith has proved in the past a good candidate for adaptation to the screen.
Macbeth, with Michael Fassbender as the ambitious thane and Marion Cotillard as his hand-scrubbing lady. My hopes are so high for this apparently very raw adaptation (directed by the Australian Justin Kurzel, who made The Snowtown Murders) that I feel like I should start referring to it as “the Scottish movie” to avoid jinxing it.
Inside Out, Pixar’s first movie to be directed by Pete Docter since Up, a story not only about a girl but set inside the brain of one, with different voice actors embodying her competing emotions, including Amy Poehler as Joy, Bill Hader as Fear, and Mindy Kaling as Disgust.
Crimson Peak. Guillermo del Toro directs. Tom Hiddleston, Jessica Chastain, and Mia Wasikowska play a 19th-century trio living in a possibly haunted mansion. Said to contain elements of Gothic horror and what the director has obliquely described as “kinkiness.” Do you really need any more descriptors than that to look forward to this movie?
Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens. You can be a full partisan of the view that George Lucas’ sci-fi franchise long ago disappeared up its creator’s own … wormhole, and still be stoked for J.J. Abrams’ reinvention of the series in his upcoming chapter of the Star Wars saga. Abrams—like the designated director of the following episode, Rian Johnson—has a proven knack for taking genre conventions and well-worn archetypes to a new place that’s self-aware without being tiresomely citational. And the cast (whose names have been released without, for the most part, being associated yet with specific character names) includes some exciting up-and-coming faces, including John Boyega, Adam Driver, Domhnall Gleeson, and Lupita Nyong’o.
Despite his almost immediate retraction of the sentiment with a brusque “Ah, fuck it,” the Grand Budapest’s M. Gustave was right: There are still faint glimmers of civilization left in this barbaric slaughterhouse that was once known as humanity. Thanks for sharing your own inimitable glimmers with me this week, and onward into 2015!