Filmreel’s preview of 2015 is unashamedly mainstream-flavoured, some will be relieved to hear. Others will find this to be in direct contradiction with the dominant approach of this section. I say: think of it as a kind of healthy counterpoint. First and foremost, let’s rewind. Because we can’t look forward without a knowing glance back, […]

Filmreel’s preview of 2015 is unashamedly mainstream-flavoured, some will be relieved to hear. Others will find this to be in direct contradiction with the dominant approach of this section. I say: think of it as a kind of healthy counterpoint.

First and foremost, let’s rewind.

Because we can’t look forward without a knowing glance back, here’s my baffling yet beautiful 2014 two-headed beast with an unexpected appendix: Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy and Jonathan Glazer’s Under the Skin. Celestially-themed as this double choice may be, there’s nothing truly ‘interstellar’ about them – which can only be a good thing, as the term has been forever tainted by the latest outing from the most overrated filmmaker around, Christopher Nolan.

Whilst the latter works as a juxtaposition of conceptual sci-fi with cinema vérité in an exploration of the abstract ‘otherness’ of the human flesh, the former injects a peripheral comic title with our shared nostalgia for all things analogue, from audio tapes to Kevin Bacon.

Under the Skin has featured a great deal here in Filmreel. Although its flawed cult classic status has been instantly granted, I consider it to be the most uncompromisingly authentic film of the year. Although a mainstream ingredient in the form of (a very naked) Scarlett Johansson will continue to work both in favour and against its intentions, Glazer’s film very successfully confines its cosmic gaze within the limited boundaries of human existence.

Guardians of the Galaxy is a different matter altogether. The highest-grossing film of the year took everyone by surprise. What was initially an odd note in the coherent expanded universe of Marvel cinematic adaptations has become evidence of the studio’s razor-sharp risk-taking strategy. It’s an auteur film masquerading as entertainment. The unlikely archetypes it employs throughout are given a gritty, textured treatment which makes them more tangible than most so-called realistic indies. The ripples radiating from its impact will be far-reaching.

Equally hyperbolic, but directly opposed in style, content and genre is another worthy title of 2014 – the aforementioned appendix, which surprised me in various ways. The presence of Ben Affleck nearly made me boycott David Fincher’s Gone Girl, but when watching it I realised the cleverness of his casting.

An incisive critique of American culture (via the innate opaqueness of marriage) could only work with an unsubtle, square-jawed and soulless leading-man, up for being vilified one moment and forgiven the next. The sensationalism of American media informs the film’s out-of-control narrative, which in turn is mirrored in the desperate acts of its characters.

Criticism has been directed at the way the plot seems to abandon plausibility in favour of a crescendo of outrageous twists. I’d argue that the fabrication of convenient truths that the film sets out to expose is very well-served by this and by a string of excellent performances from an interesting cast.

Enter 2015, seen from the dubious perspective of trailers. I’m either hallucinating or film trailers are becoming rather good.

Judging by its second trailer, Mad Max Fury Road shows how a known and revered mythology can be refined and perfected, whilst Terminator Genisys is evidence of the opposite in its exhausted, contrived re-enactments of the original material.

The Disney-acquired Star Wars looks as promising as it does fresh, with the teaser for The Force Awakens alternating in great style between the new and the iconic. It could just be J.J. Abrams showing he can do the impossible (again), after injecting quality and originality into other much-loved franchises (Mission Impossible and Star Trek).

My award for best edited piece goes to the extended trailer for Avengers: The Age of Ultron. In reaction to a leak of the original trailer, Marvel responded with something quite special, which benefits from an informal opening scene featuring the Avengers relaxing as buddies and the sudden appearance of man-made evil – the titular Ultron, wonderfully voiced by the outstanding James Spader. What ensues is the rigorous trailer itself, which I dare to say hasn’t got a single shot out of place.

Other slices of mainstream cinema that I’m genuinely looking forward to – and which, for me, wouldn’t have to rely on well-constructed trailers – include:

Michael Mann’s Blackhat – large-scale cyber crime in the hands of the most reliable mainstream director. Expect a deeply-researched, nuanced and muscular slice of proper cinema.

Spectre (the 24th Bond film) – strictly because it’s another one in the right hands. With the previous Skyfall, Sam Mendes delivered not just the finest James Bond outing, but one of the best and most important British films ever made, unafraid to question the role of Britain in the world and expose the fallacy of a virtual empire.

Alex Garland’s Ex Machina – from an author turned filmmaker, who’s been poorly served by his association to the rather mediocre Danny Boyle, but now seems to have made a thought-provoking chamber piece with great precision.

In cinematic terms, 2015 will be prosperous for some, defining for others and a complete disaster for many more. As has become the norm, success will be mostly judged on profit, but even within the franchise-driven, mass entertainment end of Film, authenticity can be found.

João Paulo Simões