Get more Mail & Guardian
Subscribe or Login

Film & TV: We don’t need more heroes, baby

Fewer superheroes, some singing and a bit more weirdness are just some of the things the Guardian's film critics are hoping to see on the big screen in the next 12 months.

Peter Bradshaw: Naturalistic TV-type acting, old-fashioned musicals and funnier superheroes
With the conclusion of Breaking Bad
in 2013, we saw a revival of the “boxset-TV-is-better-than-the-movies" issue, promoted by pundits who are of an age when leaving the house to go to the cinema is becoming a trial. 

Undoubtedly, box-set TV offers huge opportunities for an actor to develop a role over hours of screen time – more difficult in the movies, although Bruce Dern and June Squibb in Alexander Payne's excellent Nebraska showed us that the old-fashioned pleasures of the actorly performance are not dead. I should love to see some more of this tasty, organically grown, line-fished naturalistic movie acting in 2014.

Soon we shall see the Coens' tremendous new film Inside Llewyn Davis, which features some great songs. It reminded me of something I always want, but rarely get: an old-fashioned musical. Of course Les Miserables in the “sung-through" style was a triumph. But I still yearn for a regular musical with conventional dramatic scenes interspersed with people bursting into song. 

In 2013, I hosted an event with Danny Boyle, who told me that his family movie Millions was originally to be a musical with songs by Noel Gallagher. It didn't work out. Can someone in 2014 please give me an old-fashioned musical?

What I really want in 2014 is a moratorium on superhero franchise sequels. That isn't going to happen. So I'd like to see more like Iron Man 3 – films with funny scripts. Can't Adam McKay and Judd Apatow write Batman vs Superman?

Steve Rose: Mainstream experimentalism
What I'd really like is a new David Lynch film, but he's busy being a musician these days, so that's not going to happen. 

Much recent cinema tends towards either rigorous realism or effects-driven escapism, and sometimes I crave those in-between tones – reality but not as we know it. The nearest thing could be Richard Ayoade's The Double, a bracingly bizarre blend of Eraserhead, Terry Gilliam, Russian literature, Japanese pop and British surrealism. I can't wait to see it again. 

In a similar vein, it's encouraging to hear that Alejandro Jodorowsky, mystical master of the brain-melt, has made a new film after 23 years. The Dance of Reality is supposedly an “autobiography" but he's a reliably unreliable narrator. There's also a new documentary on Jodorowsky's failed attempt to make Dune – so that's a midnight double bill I'm hoping someone will put on. Another alternative reality I'm always happy to visit is Wes Anderson's world, and  The Grand Budapest Hotel  is shaping up to be another immaculately designed caper. I have a theory that no one has ever made a good movie set in a hotel, but if Anderson's running the joint, check me in.

Xan Brooks: Shorter films
At the risk of demanding more of less and less of more, I'd like to see the return of the stripped-down, no-frills, 90-minute motion picture in 2014. More concision, more editing. Fewer bloated pictures.

“The length of a film should be directly related to the endurance of the human bladder," reasoned Alfred Hitchcock, although some viewers possess better plumbing than others. 

Let's put it another way: the length of a film should be directly related to the length of a story. I have no issue with lengthy stories, or with films that move at a leisurely pace, so long as the rhythm is natural and best serves the plot. That's why The Great Beauty (142 minutes) and Blue Is the Warmest Colour (179 minutes) feel exactly right, built for purpose, whereas Oscar contenders such as American Hustle (138 minutes) and The Wolf of Wall Street (179 minutes) feel overstretched and padded out, gussied up in bad disguises.   

They're bracing hardball B-movies desperately trying to pass as the great American novel. 

Hollywood, I think, confuses length with breadth. It has started to employ an elephantine running time as a kind of shortcut to quality and posterity. That's my theory and I'd like to say more. But I have exceeded my word count and outstayed my welcome. In conclusion: more short movies.

David Cox: Fewer gender and generational stereotypes
A revamp of gender stereotypes would be welcome. We may be leaving behind the dippiness of romcom blondes and the passivity of Twilight's Bella, but reverence for the savagery displayed by Hanna and Hit Girl, the heroism of the likes of Princess Merida and the pluckiness of a Katniss Everdeen is proving equally wearisome. 

At the same time, the metamorphosis of the Schwarzenegger man of action into the Michael Cera wimp hardly counts as progress. The likes of Before Midnight and Enough Said show more complex portrayals of both genders are perfectly possible. 

Something of the same can be said for generational boilerplates. Later life was largely ignored until older people began to return to the cinemas. Then they were quickly indulged by filmmakers but patronised to death. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and Quartet reassured us, like Space Cowboys or The Straight Story, that the old are feisty but lovable. Philomena showed they can be feisty, lovable and roguish as well. We need more films like Amour and Nebraska that suggest they can also be real people.

Ryan Gilbey: Bring on the pop-music movie|
For anyone who is a fan of the pop- music movie, 2013 was a reminder that the gods of cinema giveth (One Direction: This Is Us) and they also taketh away (Bula Quo!). Directioners were not the only ones with whom their idols' film found favour, whereas it's hard to imagine even the most devoted Quovians thrilling to that denim-clad dud. 

Still, I remain hopeful that today's musicians can turn out movies as deranged and insightful about the business of being a pop idol as The Monkees' Head or In Bed with Madonna

Early glimpses indicate that Justin Bieber's forthcoming second movie, Believe, will be a more intriguingly conflicted affair than his first (the trailer features the director asking the tattooed poppet: “Are you aware you could be the next train wreck?"). 

It will surely be a waste if Rizzle Kicks, Daft Punk or the Flaming Lips never make it to cinema screens, or if Arcade Fire can't be tempted to risk their cool with a caper comedy. And I'll throw in the first tenner to crowd-fund a sequel to the Pet Shop Boys' It Couldn't Happen Here. –  © Guardian News & Media 2014

Subscribe for R500/year

Thanks for enjoying the Mail & Guardian, we’re proud of our 36 year history, throughout which we have delivered to readers the most important, unbiased stories in South Africa. Good journalism costs, though, and right from our very first edition we’ve relied on reader subscriptions to protect our independence.

Digital subscribers get access to all of our award-winning journalism, including premium features, as well as exclusive events, newsletters, webinars and the cryptic crossword. Click here to find out how to join them and get a 57% discount in your first year.

David Cox
David Cox works from On a plane, probably. Director, MIT-IBM Watson AI Lab @MITIBMLab @IBMResearch (tweets don't represent my employer). Machine learning, Vision, Comp Neuro. ex-Harvard Prof David Cox has over 6774 followers on Twitter.

Related stories


If you’re reading this, you clearly have great taste

If you haven’t already, you can subscribe to the Mail & Guardian for less than the cost of a cup of coffee a week, and get more great reads.

Already a subscriber? Sign in here


Subscribers only

Hawkish Reserve Bank sees South Africa edge towards a rates...

Analysts say the Reserve Bank could start tightening monetary policy as early as next month

Coko vs S ruling: The case against a subjective test...

Acting judge Tembeka Ngcukaitobi’s acquittal of a rape suspect has raised controversy, but legal experts say the fault lay with legislators and not the court

More top stories

Hawkish Reserve Bank sees South Africa edge towards a rates...

Analysts say the Reserve Bank could start tightening monetary policy as early as next month

Lucas Radebe: ‘My football career began behind my parents’ back’

Soccer legend Lucas ‘Rhoo’ Radebe is a busy man, but he made time in his hectic schedule to speak to Ntombizodwa Makhoba about his fondest childhood memories, how his soccer career began, and, as a father of eight, his legacy

Coko vs S ruling: The case against a subjective test...

Acting judge Tembeka Ngcukaitobi’s acquittal of a rape suspect has raised controversy, but legal experts say the fault lay with legislators and not the court

Defend journalists and media freedom in Eswatini

Journalists are censored through cruel and illegitimate detention, torture and the removal of means to disseminate information to citizens crying – and dying – for it

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…